Sunday, November 27, 2011

Embroidery stitching

For the past few months I have been immersed in developing an Embroidery module for our Charting Companions. Our customers will be able to stitch a family tree on a T-shirt, which they can proudly wear at family reunions.

The embroidered charts are fan-shaped. They come in quarter-circle, half- or full-circle. They are available as Ancestor charts, or Descendant charts. Click here for actual examples.

The project was quite a challenge. In order to stitch a letter, the thread has to follow a pattern called a "satin stitch", a left-to-right zig-zag that completely fills the area of the letter.

Digital embroidery can be stitched on home sewing machines made by companies like Singer, Janome, Husqvarna, Brother, Pfaff, and many others. You can also have your family treee stitched at the local embroidery shop on machines made by Barudan, Tajima or Toyota.

The stitches made by embroidery machines are limited as to length, typically 12 mm (1/2"). To cover a span longer than 12 mm requires breaking it down into multiple steps.

Letters are created by drawing a line through a series of dots that form the outline of the letter, sort of like "connect-the-dots". This forms a polygon or multi-sided shape. Covering a polygon with a zig-zag stitch may seem intuitively obvious, but it is more complicated than it seems. Starting at the foot of the letter 'A', for example, seems simple. What do you do when you arrive at the horizontal bar? You can't continue zig-zagging horizontally, because it will require too wide a span. If you constrain yourself to the same width until you rejoin the rest of the vertical part, how do you remember to come back to the horizontal bar?

Very tricky. Design decisions which make sense for some letters, turn out to fail for other letters.

Anyway, after multiple false starts, we are pleased to offer our customers the ability to proudly display their research on a vest or T-shirt. Great for family reunions and genealogy conferences!

The embroidery feature is available for all Charting Companions: Family Tree Maker, Legacy,,, OneGreatFamily, Ancestral Quest. For PAF, use PAF*Embroider.

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