Embroidery at Balmoral Knitwear
For the last 80 years of Balmoral Knitwear’s 120 year history, embroidery of garments has been a key part of our business.
Embroidery first started here in the early 1930s when the fashion for colourful embroidered waistcoats was popular.
In the 1920s (*Yapp, 1998)
“Like women, men embraced clothing styles that enhanced or increased their youthful appearance. Sports stars such as golfer Bobby Jones and tennis player Bill Tilden became fashion trendsetters whom their fans tried to emulate. Well-dressed young men might wear golfing knickers and a sweater or loose, white flannel trousers and V-necked sweater vests over a collared shirt, whether or not they actually played golf or tennis”
Original Waistcoat with wool embroidery with original Balmoral label.
This embroidery process involved using a Cornely embroidery machine that manually added chain and moss-stitch embroidery by carefully moving a hooped fabric under the needle to create even stitches from wool. It required highly skilled sewing machine operators using both of their hands, knees and feet to control the sewing machine head to create these wonderful designs! Thousands were exported to the Canadian market and our exclusive agent sold them to retailers all over the country.
An original Cornely embroidery machine unearthed from our attic.
We also used Uniart machines. One of our most popular designs was to fill in a line knitted into a garment by a drop needle pattern with a coloured run of chain stitch embroidery stitches to create a pin-stripe effect.
In the 1960s, we used Zang machines with paper patterns to control the movement of the needle. We had 2 x 3 embroidered head machines. Fluorescent lights helped the operator by shining the pattern to be embroidered onto the fabric. The paper patterns had to be re-wound by hand to reload them into the machine for each use. This was such a time consuming process embroidering 1000s of Heather motifs in particular, that our current Chairman, Ian Mackie, came up with the idea of creating a joined up tape that was on a continuous loop, fed in from above the machine.
As the years passed by embroidery machinery became more automated. The first major technical advance came in the 1970’s when we had Barudan machines. These were mechanically operated using punched jacquard patterns cards to control the movement of the sewing head. Our finishing machine mechanic Robin remembers travelling to Nottingham to be trained on how to maintain them. Their introduction hugely increased the speed at which embroidery designs could be sewn. At the same time machines with multiple sewing heads were developed allowing the same design to be sewn onto numerous garments (usually 12 or 24) simultaneously. A pantograph or framework moves the garments around the static sewing machine heads to create the desired design or logo.
The 1980’s and 90’s saw the emergence of computerised electronic embroidery machines which further speeded up the embroidery process resulting in sewing rates of over 1000 stitches per minute.
Coloured embroidery threads loaded on one of our Tajima machines.
Today Balmoral Knitwear is equipped with 5 multi head computerised Tajima embroidery machines giving us a total of 50 sewing heads. These are used to apply a vast range of monograms, logos and emblems onto all different kinds of clothing such as corporate uniform, schoolwear and teamwear.
Tajima machine stitching one of our standard Bowls logos.
There still remains a high degree of skill in the selection of thread colours, the correct positioning of the design, the framing of garments and setting the right thread tension to suit the fabric being embroidered.
We now also add designs and can personalise garments by Heat Press which is ideally suited to larger designs and is best on flat surfaced items such as T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies.
Our full time embroidery team of 3 ladies have a total of 86 years of experience between them so you can rely on us to get your design right. You can choose from one of our stock designs or your own logo through our embroidery module on our website www.balmoralmill.com
Michelle, our most experienced embroiderer, at one of our 12 head Tajima machine.
You can also contact Andrea at Balmoral Knitwear on 01563 820213 for details and prices.
*Yapp, N. The 1920s (Decades of the 20th Century)