Archive for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ Category

Fridays At The Office

Behind the scenes peeks at life and work at the Urban Threads office

Our head digitizer Danielle and her little unicorn buddy working on digitizing a new series. Given that this photo features skulls and unicorns, I’d say it sums up the Urban Threads office pretty well. Happy Friday everyone!

Want more sneak peeks, office life, and behind the scenes? Follow us on Instagram at urbanthreadsemb

The Design Process- From Sketch To Embroidery


The process that created that magical design stitching out on your machine may not seem readily apparent while it’s stitching. It sort of just comes into being, stitch by stitch, as your machine sews it out. But here at Urban Threads, we create all our designs in-house, from concept to completion, and a lot of steps go from making that idea into an embroidered reality. More, sometimes, than you might imagine.

To give you a bit of a peek at that process, we’re going to visit the steps of a design created by resident artist Taylor, so you can see the process a design goes through. It all begins with a simple concept, and a bunch of rough sketches…


This Death Before Decaf design was originally released back in January. Really, the process starts with one of our design meetings, where we all get together to decide the next group of designs we want to make. We bring customer requests, inspiration, and our own sketches to these meetings. This was part of our January monthly batch planning, and I guess we were all thinking about coffee. Not such an odd thought in meetings…

Once the idea came to be, there were a number of things Taylor had to consider while working on it. The concept was for a light-stitching, tattoo-inspired “tough” looking design for those hardcore coffee enthusiasts. This can mean a lot of things to an artist, and also offers a lot of different imagery to work with. Taylor started by sketching what we call “thumbnails,” small sketches to try out lots of different ideas.


The top right design was eventually chosen as the rough to pursue.


Next the artist turns the design into a “tight” rough. This means all details are worked out and the composition tightened up. This stage may take a few revisions, depending on the art. Urban Threads designs go through anywhere from 1-4 revisions from thumbnail to approved final to get the art just right.


After that the rough design is brought into Illustrator, where Taylor draws a clean pass on top of his rough. The design might go through a few extra changes during this time, making small tweaks with text size and other details.


The final design is finished in Illustrator. The design is then printed out and handed over to one our digitizers. All our work is designed and digitized in-house by our team. Many of our designs are worked on by our head of digitizing, Danielle.


The digitizing for this design is a bit more straightforward than some, as there are no stitch-filled areas or shading to complicate the layers. Just a nice, clean light-stitching design. Once the design is ready, it’s sent back to one of our embroidery machines to sew a sample, so we know the file will sew out on a machine just the way we expect. This is also the part of the process where we’ll tweak colors and other stitching details, because colors on screen don’t always match what you can do with color in thread.


So there it is! From an idea in a meeting, to a rough sketch, to a polished piece of art, to a machine embroidery design!

Along the way, artists work out not only ideas like art style, but work to reduce trims, try color schemes, and consider how and what it might stitch on. Then digitiziers carefully figure out how to piece the design together, to make it sew a seamlessly as possible on your own machine, and sew it out as many times as needed to test its compatibility on fabric and make sure it’s not doing anything that will ruin your project. Density is removed, trims reduced, fills pulled and pushed to make sure it all stitches out like it should, and of course, a large amount of artistry goes into making a drawn design look just as good in stitches.

Countless tweaks and corrections are made all along the way by the team, to get you the best darn hardcore coffee design possible. From ideation to stitches, there’s a lot that goes into an Urban Threads design, but hopefully all you’re thinking while you’re stitching your favorite is, “Yeah! This is going to make an awesome project!”

Because then the design has really done its job.

Overheard at the UT Office…



Our meetings get a little strange sometimes…

Overheard at the UT Office…


Our meetings get a little strange sometimes…

In Memory

Of the beloved and indelible Mr. Gear. We all aspire to one day be anywhere near as cool as he was. Your crafty and offbeat spirit will be remembered fondly, as well as being the coolest guy with an embroidery machine.

To you Mr Gear, we dedicate the newest design and your favorite request…


If you want to know more about this awesome man, check out the original post that introduced us all to the Indelible Mr. Gear.

Machine Shaming

Maybe you’ve been seeing the particularly hilarious meme of Dog Shaming, where owners add signs recounting the shameful misdeeds of guilty pets. Well, on a day where my machine was being particularly difficult, I thought it time for a little public payback…

machine shaming

What is your machine guilty of? Post a captioned photo of your machine’s worst crimes on our facebook page or upload it to our flickr group and we’ll collect the best! 

*UPDATE – You have responded. Your machines have been shamed*

The Steampunk Type Specimen

Having already gotten a taste for the fun of Lab projects, artist Caitlin teamed up with our newest addition to the team, fellow artist Danielle! As the two artists designed the new Steampunk Alphabet together, they wanted to create a special project to show it off in both a traditional and distinctly UT style.

Type specimen posters have long been a way for typography designers to showcase a new font. As we had done just that, it seemed the perfect way to celebrate our newest alphabet collection. Danielle schemed up this amazing poster design, and then Caitlin went Spoonflower crazy and got it printed up as a giant fabric piece she could customize with embroidered letters and hand stitches to really let it shine in a larger than life way.

I’ll let the girls tell you all about what schemes and shenanigans went into this fun project…



“When I first heard we were doing a Steampunk Alphabet, I foamed at the mouth at the thought of doing an embroidered type specimen poster. For those who aren’t giant design and typography dorks like I am, a type specimen poster is usually a type of printed publication that designers and typographers use to see how a typeface functions at different weights and sizes. Essentially, it is a piece of work that showcases a typeface in its purest form.

My background is in printed typography and design, so throwing embroidery into the mix was new and exciting! I knew we were using Spoonflower to print the poster on a fabric we could embroider on, so I naturally wanted to print it on the biggest swath of fabric that was possible. Go big or go home! Which, in this case was 36”x 54”. This meant I could get away with using huge letters that would become dimensional once we embroidered over them. (Huge, dimensional letters are every designer’s secret fantasy.)


As per the nature of a type specimen poster, I wanted to showcase the beauty of the alphabets and how they functioned together in a physical setting. When Caitlin and I were planning the alphabet, we drew inspiration from Victorian design that would fit in a steampunk realm. However, Victorian design is a hodgepodge of drastically different styles, so we had to streamline the look. We decided on a mix of art noveau and woodblock, perhaps giving into my embarrassing love of pointy serifs. Combined with Caitlin’s beautiful gears and wings, it became an elegant steampunk alphabet that made my job of creating an awesome type specimen poster way easier.

When I started creating the poster, I let the shapes and forms of the typefaces inform the design. I drew upon the wings and gears in both uppercase and lowercase to create accents that tied the poster together. I felt like I was still missing the delicate swirls that Victorian design liked to utilize, so I added some simple gold filigree as background detail.


In the end, I’m really happy with how this turned out, and Caitlin seriously pulled through by embroidering the heck out of the giant poster I insisted on.  Also, a pangram with a fox jumping over zombies with his motorcycle is WAY cooler than a lazy dog. Just saying.”



“In a previous life, I did a lot of analog artwork creation, also known as painting. I was excited to collaborate with Danielle in a way that could use her awesome type specimen design, and bring it into a multimedia 3-d embroidery extravaganza.


On Spoonflower, there are many different qualities of fabric you can order, from light weight and gauzy, to the heavier cotton twill which we chose for this piece. Danielle sized the letters precisely so I could use the 4, 3, 2, and 1 inch versions of our alphabets.  I had to make sure I hooped the fabric just right, or the letters would skew or stretch and the embroidery would line up incorrectly.  Luckily I’ve had some practice hooping fabric, so the process was pretty painless.


One slight miscalculation in my measurements, was that we would have a printed piece of fabric that was 54×36 inches, and canvas stretcher bars that were 54×36 inches. Sounds perfect! But that left me no room for stretching and stapling the fabric on the stretcher bars. I ordered some heavy cotton twill of the Steampunk Gears fabric to sew a border that would give me the fabric I needed to stretch the poster properly.  It was a little wonky, but that is the beauty of human-made items. Machines are precise, and humans are wonky!


I like to take risks and have happy accidents while creating art, but I also like to prepare. So I did make a smaller test poster, where I did some experiments with embroidery and tea dye to make sure I was going somewhere awesome. Above top: you see the smaller test poster, and bottom left: the raw canvas with the gear border fabric, and bottom right: me applying tea dye with a sponge! It worked great, if you ever find yourself about to tea dye a large piece of fabric and don’t have big brushes lying around.”


The two crafty and creative UT artists that made it happen, Caitlin on the left and Danielle on the right!

It was so much fun to see the girls work together to pull of this giant spectacle of embroidery/typography and printing all in one. The mix of printed and embroidered areas really gives the piece a great dimensional quality when seen in person. You think it’s printed… then you think it’s embroidered. Then you’re just not sure of anything except that it looks really cool.

It’s such a fun mix, and such a fun reminder to have around the office showing off the rad Steampunk Alphabet collection. It’s also a great addition to our other Lab experiments seeing just what fun we can have with stitches when we really push the envelope. You can be sure we have even more experiments in our future!

This project is part of The Lab, a UT initiative to experiment, collaborate and innovate to see just what can be done with the art of embroidery.
Check out our other projects by searching for the UT Lab tag.


Want to dive into the Steampunk Alphabet in your own way? We have a big glorious set of steampunk upper case letters and spiky, elegant lower case to bring your embroidered type to life in whatever way you choose. You don’t have to go poster crazy like we did, but if you do feel like going big and bold on a project, we have these letters and numbers in sizes from 1 inch to 5 inches tall! That’s sure to suit all occasions where you need to make a big written statement in extra cool letters.


Looking for the perfect fabric to complement your new steampunk project? We have a new collection of Spoonflower fabrics that match! Grab either our new Steampunk Alphabet fabric, or the Steampunk Gears fabric, in either brown or white to make any project extra gear-tastic.

Check out the whole fabric collection over on our Spoonflower page!


Finally, what if you want to recreate what the girls from the Lab did, but on a slightly more manageable scale? Well, instead of working huge, why not buy this little tea towel sized version of our type specimen poster!

It’s also available through Spoonflower, and is perfect as a towel or as a mini wall hanging itself. You can even do what we did and embroider on top of some of the printed letters to add that extra stitch-y dimension. The fabric comes with a pre-tea stained look so you don’t have to do the extra work. Back it with some matching gear fabric and you have a great little showcase piece!


So have fun exploring all the projects ideas you can dream up using the new Steampunk Alphabet embroidery collection, and the new fabric designs.