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One of my first “aha” moments with my embroidery machine was that embroidery was NOT as fast as I thought it would be.
In my mind, I’d load my design, press start, and watch my embroidery machine speed through a design.
Turns out, some of these 100,000 stitch designs took hours for my single-needle embroidery machine to stitch.
So, let’s talk about how long embroidery takes to finish!
Knowing how to estimate and precisely calculate time is helpful for business owners calculating customer turnaround time and hobbyist users knowing if they can complete a project in an evening, for instance!
And, if you’re a customer, you can know a little more about what to expect when you order custom machine embroidered items.
How long does it take to embroider something?
Whether you’re embroidering a logo, name, or random design on a shirt, hat, or another blank, it’s impossible to estimate the required time without knowing parameters like design size and machine speed.
However, if you know these values, several methods I’ll discuss below will accurately estimate the time required.
Factors Affecting Time It Takes to Embroider a Design
Before getting into exact calculations, it’s important to cover parameters affecting embroidery duration.
1. Number of Stitches (Size of Design) and Type
The more stitches you have in an embroidery design, the more times the needle will have to penetrate your embroidery blank, which means more time the machine will spend embroidering.
Some stitches also take longer to create than others, and techniques like applique or 3D foam embroidery require more user input and take longer.
2. Type of Embroidery Machine
Multi-needle embroidery machines don’t require users to switch thread colors manually. Instead, you thread multiple needles, the machine switches between colors without significant time loss.
In contrast, single-needle embroidery machines cannot change embroidery threads themselves. I have to stand near my machine or monitor it on my embroidery app to know when to pop back in and change threads, which adds time to the stitching process.
One other important factor is whether your embroidery machine automatically cuts jump threads. Each time the machine jumps from location to location in the design, it takes a few seconds to trim beforehand.
In contrast, if the machine doesn’t cut jump stitches and moves from place to place with the thread tracking, you still have to factor in the time after the design is completed to cut these stitches manually.
3. Embroidery Machine Max Speed
Embroidery machines are differentiated by the maximum speed they can stitch (in terms of stitches per minute, or spm.)
My Luminaire embroidery machine has a maximum speed of 1,050 spm, but this doesn’t mean all stitches are created that fast.
For example, my machine cannot quickly create wide, horizontal satin stitches. They stitch at less than half of the max speed.
Commercial embroidery machines (multi-needle or multi-head machines) often have faster maximum embroidery speeds. Sturdier, more professional machines can create trickier stitches (like those wide, horizontal satins or wide, horizontal running stitches) at faster speeds than home embroidery machines.
Even if you have a fast machine, though, some embroidery designs (like those using metallic threads) and embroidery blanks (like hats or other not flat items) require a slower embroidery speed for the best results.
4. Set Up Required
Sometimes, a 1,000-stitch design that will embroider in 3 minutes can take 10 minutes to set up!
Setting up a machine to begin embroidering requires marking the embroidery blank where you want to place the design, hooping or floating your embroidery blank and stabilizer, and loading it into the machine.
And, not all blanks are easy to work with. For instance, my embroidery machine doesn’t have a hat hoop for easy ballcap embroidery, so setting up my cap to embroider takes much more time than simply hooping a towel.
5. Clean-Up Required
Don’t forget that stabilizer has to be trimmed or torn off, and water-soluble topping has to be removed.
Loose threads need to also be clipped and any markings removed.
These finishing touches can add several minutes to each embroidery project.
6. Order Size
Whether you’re a customer or an embroidery business order, the size of the embroidery order affects the turnaround time.
If you need to embroider one shirt, you can have that done in half an hour. However, an order of 100 shirts is a different story!
Estimating How Long an Embroidery Design Takes to Embroider
Now, here are two ways to estimate exactly how long a design will take to embroider on your blank.
1. Use Your Machine
If you load your embroidery machine with the design, the machine will often display the expected embroidery duration.
This is the estimated active stitching time, which does NOT cover thread change time for single-needer users.
Thus, take this time and add a minute for each extra thread change to get a better estimate of the total time required. If you are doing applique, 3D foam embroidery, shadow work, cutwork, or another technique that requires more input, add several minutes for each instance you need to intervene.
2. Use Embroidery Software
What happens if you’re not near your machine to plug a design in but still need to calculate embroidery time?
You can estimate time using embroidery software.
If you already own software, simply load your design into your software and consult your manual to discover how to access the stitching time.
If you don’t have software, you can download the free Embroidery ToolShed from dime to calculate production time.
To calculate, first load your embroidery design into the software.
Then, click “File” and “Design Analysis.”
Click on the “Production” tab.
Click “Edit” and input parameters for your embroidery machine.
Click “OK” and check the estimated sewing time!
Add in the estimated time for hooping and preparation, and multiply by the number of items you need to embroider to get an idea of the total turnaround time.
Approximate Time Estimates
Just for those curious, using an average stitching speed of 700 stitches per minute and a single-thread color embroidery design:
- 1,000 stitches take 1.43 mi minutes to embroider.
- 10,000 stitches take 14.3 minutes to embroider.
- A 100,000 stitch embroidery design takes 143 minutes to stitch.
Adding extra colors, using a slower average speed, and adding preparation and finishing time will change these estimates.
Custom Embroidery Turnaround Time
I’m a hobby embroiderer, so I called local commercial embroidery shops to determine their turnaround time for custom orders.
Some embroidery businesses (my local Lids, for one) had same-day turnaround for single items. No one else (outside of the mall area) had same-day turnaround, but all of the embroidery businesses promised less than or equal to a one-week turnaround for custom orders.
How Long Does Embroidery Take? (Final Notes)
In conclusion, factors like order size, design size, number of thread colors, and maximum embroidery speed influence the time it takes to finish an embroidery design or order.
Since there’s no answer that fits all, though, I hope the different ways I covered to estimate how long it takes to machine embroider have given you clarity for your specific circumstances!