There is a contract embroidery shop near Seattle that we have used once or twice when we have needed extra production capacity. That shop charges less than what we charge as a contract rate. Mostly that is because of their larger capacity, but we discovered that it is also a little bit due to that shop’s material inputs.
Of the thread we use for our embroidered apparel, 99% of it is manufactured by a company called Madeira. Madeira is a premium label for embroidery thread. We like the fact that Madeira has a thread color selection of about 750 options, enabling us to do that much better of a job matching a customer’s graphic standards.
But what we like most about Madeira’s thread is that its high tensile strength minimizes thread breaks during machine runs. Thread breaks mean machine down time, which embroidery shops hate. It’s like being at an airport gate watching your aircraft sit on the tarmac while mechanics fix a clogged toilet issue that is now endangering your connecting flight somewhere else.
So one way this other contract embroidery shop keeps its costs lower is by using an inferior thread. Because we were curious whether we could lower our own production input costs a bit, we ordered a couple of cones of that thread. We used those cones and battle tested the thread that the other shop favored over the course of a year on some garments we used internally. What did we find?
We found that it was inferior thread to what we used. What happened and what is visible in the attached photo is black lettering was stitched on top of a white background. The white background was the inferior thread. The inferior thread abraded much more easily than the Madeira thread we use. We were not trying to achieve that result either – we would have been delighted to find a way to lower a cost if no one could tell the difference. There was just no denying that the cheaper thread frayed more quickly and eventually took on a “fuzzy” look.
To be honest, most customers won’t notice the difference in the thread quality at time of purchase. What customers notice at time of purchase is the quality of the garment and of the actual embroidery work. They are not going to notice the thread fraying until months later.
But because we know that the inferior thread will abrade, we believe that using (selling) poor quality thread in our products will create a negative impression over time that our customers would associate with us without really even being able to quite put a finger on why. Pun intended.
We like the other contract shop. They’re honest folks and their equipment is solid and produces nice work. So we would be willing to work with them again, if we need to do so. However, if/when we outsource embroidery work to this other contract shop again, we will supply them with Madeira thread for the job and stipulate that they must use it. Why? Because we want our embroidery work to outlast the underlying garments!