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A few months ago, I ran across a booth selling keychains with sublimated QR codes at our local farmer’s market.
I had NEVER seen anything like this before, and I was intrigued.
Since QR codes can link to a website, email address, social media account, image, or even text selection, this idea has many applications.
So, I started wondering if I could embroider a QR code for the fun of it.
After a few failed attempts, I perfected the process and put together this tutorial to show you how to embroider a QR code with a machine!
Generating a QR Code for FREE
There are tons of free QR code generators online, so you can generate a code for free in less than a minute.
I used the first generator I found on Google, QR Code Generator.
It was free to create and download a QR code in PNG format, which is all I needed.
For grins, I quickly generated the above QR code for my website address.
I then tested it with my phone to ensure the QR code would work. Success!
Digitizing a QR Code To an Embroidery Design
Manual digitizing isn’t for everyone, so I wanted to test auto-digitizing using my embroidery software, Hatch 3.
While this was partly an experiment to check the accuracy of auto-digitizing, I also wanted to make sure this tutorial was accessible for embroiderers without access to fancy software.
Hatch is pricey for users who aren’t invested in manually digitizing, but it does have a 30-day free trial.
A much less expensive auto-digitizing software, however, is SewArt, which has a free trial and many YouTube videos teaching how to use it.
Here are the basic steps for auto-digitizing a QR code.
1. Import Image and Resize
Load the image into your embroidery software canvas, and resize the image to the desired embroidered QR code dimensions.
According to Scanova, QR codes must be at least 1″x1″ for smartphones to read.
While troubleshooting this tutorial, I tried several sizes of codes–the minimum I could get a 100% successful readable embroidered code with was a 1.5″ square minimum size.
Obviously, the larger you make your code, the better definition you’ll see and the less careful you have to be with ensuring a perfect stitch out.
2. Digitize It: Manually or Auto
Again, I used auto-digitizing here just for grins because I wanted to see if it would work, and it also free up 10 minutes of tracing all those tiny rectangles.
Turns out, auto-digitizing wasn’t a bad idea at all!
Above is the QR code it generated from my image.
I double-checked scanning with my phone to ensure it was a reasonable replication of my QR code image. Success again, even at the 1″x1″ size in this instance.
3. Export and Transfer
Last, export the design in your machine’s preferred file format, and load the design to the machine.
Embroidering the QR Code
Here, I’ll cover how to embroider the QR code and discuss the troubleshooting steps to get a readable, embroidered QR code.
1. Select Supplies
The supplies you need for embroidering the code depend on the item you plan to embroider.
A. Stabilizer + Decreasing Movement
Stretchy materials need a cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer, while stable, woven blanks can work with tear-away or wash-away.
However, I still used no-show mesh cut-away on my stable blank, as a perfect stitch out with no distortion or puckering is crucial to embroidering a readable code.
Tear-away doesn’t provide the best support for dense designs and can also distort stitches when torn from the back.
I also used Pellon SF101 on the back of my fabrics to add more stability and discourage distortion.
And, I attached my no-show mesh to the interfaced fabric with Odif 505 to decrease movement a little more.
B. Needle and Thread
You can use your usual 40wt polyester embroidery thread and 75/11 machine embroidery needle if embroidering a larger QR code.
However, switching to 60wt or 90wt embroidery thread may give cleaner edges and a higher success of the code being read successfully for smaller designs.
And, using a smaller needle will also make smaller penetrations.
I also recommend matching your embroidery bobbin thread to the top thread color so you don’t have to worry about bobbin thread showing on top, affecting the integrity of your QR code at the corners.
C. Hoop Size
I like using my smallest hoop for each design size, as there’s less fabric in the center to sag and cause distortion.
2. Hoop Fabric and Load Machine
Hoop the necessary layers. (I prefer hooping instead of floating when accuracy of a stitch out is essential.)
Then, load the hoop onto the machine, and set it up for embroidery.
3. Embroider the Code
Press start, and watch your machine embroider!
It took 3 minutes to embroider a roughly 1″x1″ QR code on my embroidery machine and 7 minutes for a 2″x2″ code.
4. Tidy Up the Threads
Because there are many isolated stitch areas in a QR code, you’ll have many jump stitches. The above picture is the back of my embroidery design, showing how often my machine tied off and trimmed before jumping.
This is a nice time to have a machine that cuts jump stitches for you, by the way!
My machine trims most jump stitches, but there’s a minimum length that they have to be for a trim. So, I still had many jump stitches for each iteration of QR codes I embroidered.
Your QR code will not be readable with most of those jump stitches obscuring empty spaces.
Thus, trim any jump stitches on the front of the embroidered QR code.
If the stitches are too small to get to with scissors and the code won’t read, you can go back into your embroidery software and add stops to the embroidery design.
Then, your machine will pause before the jump, and you won’t have to worry about a minuscule jump stitch.
5. Check the Code
Once you’ve cleaned up your embroidered QR code, get out your phone and test it out.
Mine was perfect–happy dance!
Enjoy your new creation!
I hope you enjoyed this unique embroidery project idea. What ideas do you have for this application?