Mastering Small Lettering - Part III

Part III: Column Widths and Sharp Corners

by Daniel Fucci of Sierra Technology Group

Here are some of the most common editing tweaks that will greatly improve the quality of your small lettering.

Minimum Column Width of 1 mm

It is strongly recommended that your satin stitches be at least 1 mm wide so they will lay flat on top of the fabric.  Why the need to stress “on top”, you may ask.

If your satin stitch columns are any narrower than 1 mm, you will enter troubled waters.  When your columns are narrower than 1 mm, the needle penetrations are so close together that your satin stitches will congregate in a bird-nest party to take place underneath the fabric.

Sure, using Pull Compensation will certainly make your columns wider.  But it will also make everything else wider, including those segments that may not need the extra width.

Also, simply piling pull comp on, may cause holes to start closing up, where the “e” looks like an “o”, or the crossbar of an “A” merges into the two legs, resembling a triangle instead of a letter.

So, sometimes it may be just as practical to specifically target whichever segments of a column need the extra help to reach the 1 mm goal.

Below is an example of how to edit a few nodes on a 5-mm Helvetica “E” to achieve 1-mm columns only where needed:


Sharp Corners

Stock letters will normally have the least number of nodes needed to achieve whatever shapes make up each character.

When the letter is big enough, this simple distribution of nodes is usually effective enough for achieving sharp corners.  When there isn’t a lot of room to go around however, like on small lettering, corners don’t come out as sharp.

Take, for instance, the top bar of the “E” from the picture above.  Notice how every stitch across the top pulls differently from the next stitch.  Having such a variation between just a few stitches in such a short segment may produce some tapering off towards the corners instead of producing sharp turns.

Sure, the stitches look all lined up and perfectly straight on the screen, but because each and every stitch on that segment pulls a bit more than the next one due to the varying angles, the finished result produces what’s displayed on the sample below.


One way to address such an issue is to add nodes before and after a corner and make them parallel to the end nodes, so you can have parallel stitches for as much of that segment as you can, which in turn will produce stitches that will pull consistently throughout that section, instead of at different angles.

Use this method in conjunction with Short Stitches to get sharp corners.


So, instead of having to custom digitize this 5-mm letter, we were able to use a stock font, thanks to… a) a few node tweaks to get 1-mm columns, plus… b) a few nodes added to achieve consistent pull thus avoiding tapering off, plus… c) the use of Short Stitches to accentuate the corners, and… d) while we’re at it, as the sample below shows, adding Underlay to globally optimize our letter.


Coming up on the next installment of the Mastering Small Lettering series:

Part IV: Dealing with serifs

  1. gunold posted this