Digitizing and Embroidering on Caps

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A 6 panel cap with the seam down the middle
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A 5 panel cap (no seam in front)

Digitizing and Embroidering on Caps is done very differently from most other garments. This is particularly due to the cap dome shape and the seam in front of the cap.

6 Panel Cap with 3D Puff Lettering
6 Panel Cap with Puff 3D Embroidery

Types of Caps

5 Panel caps
5 Panel caps are made out of 5 pieces of materials (excluding the bill). These types of caps are not as common now as the 6 panel caps. 5 panel caps DO NOT have a seam that is in the front of the cap but are instead just one piece for the front where the embroidery goes.
6 Panel caps
6 Panel caps are made out of 6 pieces of materials (excluding the bill). These types of caps are much more common. 6 panel caps have a seam that run right down the front middle of the cap. This seam can cause problems for inexperienced digitizers and operators.
Unfinished caps
Unfinished caps are a digitizers and embroiderers dream to work with. An unfinished cap is just the front panel of the cap. The front panel piece is embroidered flat and then sent off for assembly. With unfinished cap panels, the operate can run the machine at high speeds and the digitizing is not such a factor. Also because the panels are just raw materials, the materials costs are inexpensive and mistakes are not as expensive.

Digitizing for Caps

Digitizing for Caps is done COMPLETELY different from any other garment. It is highly discouraged to use the same digitizing techniques or use designs digitized for flat goods (such as shirts) for caps. When digitizing for caps, the digitizer must keep in mind that most caps are 6 panel caps and have a large seam that run down the middle. This seam is a very thick part of material and there should be as few stitch on top of it. Too many stitches on the seam will cause many thread breaks and needle breaks even on the worlds best tuned machine.

With the cap being dome shaped and not perfectly flat there are a lot of other things to take in consideration. For example, embroidery on a cap should be done from the front center of the cap and out. For example, if the word "EMBROIDERY" is to be embroidered on a cap, then the digitizer should digitizer the middle letters first and then go out from there. In this example the letters 'DIERY' of EMBROIDERY should embroider first. After completing those letters, the machine should go back to the O and then embroider the letter 'O', then 'R', 'B', 'M' and then finally 'E'. In other words, the EMBRO part of Embroidery but from the O to the letter E.

Because caps are dome shaped, they have a tendency to "buckle up" when embroidering. This means that as the machine is embroidering, part of the panels might bunch up at a point. The solution to that is digitizing from the center out as mentioned above. Ideally the embroidery should start at the center of the cap/logo and then slowly embroidery out from there as mentioned above.

Generally one cannot use regular designs because they are not digitized from the center out.

Caps are also very limited on embroidery space. Most caps only have a 50MM height embroidery area by 120MM width. When the embroidery is beyond the 50 millimeters at the top of the cap, it will end up pooping out of the cap frame because the top of the cap will hit the throat of the machine (where the bobbin case goes). At the bottom of the cap there is a lip where the bill meets the cap from. When designs get too low on the cap they hit this lip and break needles. Always keep designs less than 50mm x 120mm when doing caps.

Most caps are heavy duty and made with thick materials. Having too many stitches in one area will cause many threads breaks and needle breaks. Caps are much less forgiving for digitizers who are not conservative with their stitch counts. More than one needle penetration in a 1/4 mm area will probably cause a thread break.

Caps also tend to "puff up" in the area that is being embroidered. The pressure foot on the machine is supposed to hold the cap down when embroidering. However, if a stitch is very wide or very short the needle might not get out of the cap in time and might cause a needle or thread break.

Embroidering for Caps

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270 degree cap system ready to embroider

When embroidery caps, the cap frame and the cap need to be as tight and flat as possible. Some operators find creative ways to make the cap flat such as using bungee cords to hold the back, etc.

Most machines will not embroidery caps very well at speeds faster than 500 stitches per minute. Because the cap is dome shaped, it tends to "puff up" in the middle and is not perfectly flat to the needle plate. This means that when the pressure foot raises and is not longer holding down the cap, the cap puff up as the needle is exiting and might puff up with the needle still inside. While the needle is still inside the cap, the machine will move to the next point to make the stitch and drag the needle with it causing a needle break. It is not recommended to do caps faster than 500 SPM unless the machine runs fine at higher speeds. 500 SPM is generally the standard speed amongst ALL MAKES AND MODELS of embroidery machines.

It is very important to use quality thread with caps as caps are much less forgiving to poor thread

The embroidery on the cap should be minimum about 1 cm or about 1 finger width from the top of the bill and about the same distance down form where the cap starts to curve. If the machine embroiders outside these areas there are high chances for thread and needle breaks

Cap limitations

Most caps are limited to an embroidery area of 50mm x 120mm. 270 cap frames only increase the width. Generally a 270 Cap System can embroider in a area of 50mm height and from ear to ear.

Cap embroidery should be done 1 finger width up from the bill and 1 finger width down from where the front of the cap starts curving. This area is approximately 50mm.

Most caps are limited to approximately 5000 stitches. After approximately 5000 stitches the design becomes over saturated with stitches and begins to break threads. The sewing area of a cap is very small so less stitches the better.

Caps must be embroidered much slower than any other garment. A speed of 500 is recommended.

See also