Fashion embroidery requires a very different sensibility than most other types of commercial embroidery. When we create logoed embroidery we are bound by a long list of absolutes. The colors, design and in many cases, even the stitch types are already predetermined for us, and all we have to do is reproduce the design in embroidery. When we create fashion embroidery, however, we usually start with a much less finite point of departure. We might start with a pre-assembled garment in need of a little more personality, or a garment screaming to be monogrammed, or even a bolt of fabric waiting to be transformed into that absolutely perfect and unique outfit. All of these starting points offer many more options and, at the same time, many more decisions. I feel that the most important place to start is with the motivation for using embroidery.
The Embroidered Design
Embroidery can be used to create a focal point on a garment, or it can be used to lend both interest and texture in a much more subtle application. Depending on which of these effects you wish to achieve, your approach will differ. To create a focal point, your color palette would probably be bold and contrast with the base fabric of your garment. If you choose the more subtle approach, your color choices would probably contain different values of the same color family, or a collection of pastels on lighter fabrics, or rich colors on dark fabrics. Another choice to be made is the overall shape of your embroidered design. This step is probably the one that is most often ignored in the design process. Thumbing through a stock design catalog, you will probably notice that many of the available designs are created with overall square, rectangular, round or oval shapes, as this makes it very easy to personalize them by adding lettering. These designs can, however, be difficult to use in fashion embroidery and can give your end product a generic look. Using your editing tools to remove either the border or background of the stock design, thus giving it a much more natural and irregular shape, can often solve this problem. Irregular shapes allow the design to blend more seamlessly with the garment, as opposed to more geometric and regular shapes.
Another underexplored element crucial to successful fashion embroidery is density. When creating garments, especially those made of knits and lighter fabrics, the drape of the fabric is very important. If the stitch density within your embroidered design is too heavy, it can interfere with this drape and ruin the lines of the garment. When working with lighter fabrics, it is often better to rely on underlay to make your stitching more opaque rather than increasing your density.
Picking the right designs, colors, placement and configuration makes embroidery fit as an indispensable and integral design element.