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Made in Britain

July 28, 2020

Woven or Embroidered? Choosing the best label type

By: Peter Gregory

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Woven labels or embroidered labels: which should you go for? It’s a common question we’re often asked by our new customers. In this guide, we’ll explain the difference between woven and embroidered labels, and give you a steer on which label choice is going to be best for your brand. 

What’s the difference between Embroidery and Weaving?

In simple terms, embroidery and weaving are two different ways of putting a design onto a piece of fabric. With embroidery, a pattern gets stitched onto a base material, whereas with weaving, the design is a part of the material itself.

Weaving: The Basics

Weaving is where two sets of thread are interlaced at right angles on a loom to create a piece of material. It’s one of the oldest forms of textile making.1 Woven fabrics are versatile, long-lasting materials that come in a wide range of finishes. Using a commercial production loom, a skilled narrow fabrics weaver can pack a high level of detail into a very small amount of space, making it the perfect choice for most fashion and apparel labels. Modern woven labels are usually made from polyester thread (polyester thread is very fine and colours stay vivid for longer). Here at GB Labels, we have the ability to offer cotton and organic woven alternatives if necessary.

Embroidery: The Basics

Embroidery is the process of stitching thread on top of a pre-existing piece of material (usually a cotton twill fabric). It’s a popular choice for branded workwear (staff uniforms in garden centres and gyms, for instance), and it has a unique feel under the thumb. Embroidered labels are thicker and more rigid than a woven label, however.

What are the differences between embroidered labels and woven labels?

You can make a bespoke label using either technique, but woven labels are by far the most popular choice. On our site, for instance, less than 1% of new business enquiries are for embroidered labels 2

It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your label, but woven labels are usually the best choice. With a woven label, you can pack in more detail and achieve both matte and gloss effects. Woven labels last longer too, and they take less time to mass-produce. Let’s take a quick look at the individual differences…

Thread Count

The more threads you have in a label, the more detail you can pack into your design. Narrow fabric weaving uses a very fine thread, which boosts the thread count considerably. For instance, our standard damask labels achieve a 500 thread count. This means there could be as many as 500 individual threads in a 25mm x 25mm (square inch) label.

The thread count on embroidered labels is much lower, because the embroidery technique uses much thicker thread. A thread count of 28 isn’t uncommon in embroidered garments, but a talented embroiderer can still achieve a decent level of detail. It all depends on the stitching techniques they use in the label making process.  An embroidered label won’t suit you if your fashion brand uses a florid font or you have a logo that’s rich in fine detail. Embroidery does give you a good sense of depth and it has a unique tactile texture.

An example of a four-colour woven label. This damask woven label feels smooth to the touch — there’s no raised stitching anywhere.

Depth and Texture

Embroidered labels are stitched onto a base material, so the threads are always slightly raised and the label can feel three-dimensional. If you run your thumb over a piece of embroidery, you’ll often feel ridges and valleys in the design, and your thumb will be drawn along the direction of the thread. If this is the effect you’re looking for then great, but for most of our customers, they want a sharp, long-lasting logo on a label that the garment owner can’t feel on their skin. 

A woven label is flatter, because you’re not dealing with multiple layers of fabric (the weave is the fabric). Most die-cut woven badges will have a thick border stitched on at the end of the weaving process, so you can put in a bit of depth if you want it, but it’s nothing like what you’ll get with an embroidered badge. 

What a woven label loses in depth it more than makes up for in texture. With a woven label, you can achieve a high-sheen silk effect or a rich matte luster just by changing the weave pattern on the loom. You just can’t achieve the same thing with an embroidered badge. 

We group our woven textures into three main categories: satin, taffeta and damask: 

Label Lifespan

The way we see it, your fashion label is your business card. The label should last as long as the garment does — it shouldn’t fade or tarnish in a domestic wash cycle and, in an ideal world, it should never come off. A lot of that has to do with the way in which the label is secured to the garment.

Embroidered badges and labels tend to be stuck on, rather than stitched on, either with an iron-on or self-adhesive backing. Stick-on labels are a great option for handbags and leather goods, but they’re not a good choice for fine fabrics and everyday fashion. We use the best adhesives on the market, but there’s no getting around the fact that an embroidered label is a stiff, inflexible item, and most clothes are loose, flowing, flexible fabrics. The more times you run a garment through the wash, the more likely it is that the forces at work inside your laundry machine will start to pull a stuck-on label away from the base fabric. 

Another problem, with iron-on labels in particular, is that your iron has to be at the right temperature for the adhesive to stick properly. If your team rushes an order and they aren’t paying attention, you could lose a lifetime of free advertising just because the iron wasn’t hot enough!

Woven labels, on the other hand, can almost always be stitched onto garments, and they stand up to normal wear and tear much better. Because woven labels have no visible loops, bumps or protrusions, the tightly-packed threads won’t catch on anything in the wash, and your label will stay where you want it for decades. 

Woven labels are the go-to for fashion products of all types, from wedding dresses to blue denim jeans. 

Production Time

All of our woven labels are made in the UK on looms in south-west Wales, so we can turn around a full run of 500 woven badges in 10-14 days. Embroidered labels can take a little longer, depending on the complexity of the job. 

First, we convert your logo and text into a format that can be woven or embroidered. We then produce a few sample pieces and post them out to you. You can then hold the label in your hand, inspect it and make sure you’re happy. Once you sign off on it, we add your label to our production queue. We then get your labels manufactured and sent out to you as fast as possible. 

What’s the industry standard?

In the fashion industry, woven labels are the norm. It’s very rare to see an embroidered label on a couture dress or blouse. The wearer would be able to feel the embroidery brushing their neckline or hip, and the added weight of the embroidered item could ruin the line of the garment over time. Even in the embroidered workwear and branded apparel markets, woven labels are the go-to for any neckline branding and wash care tags. 

Every labelling project is different

In my 36+ years in the narrow fabric weaving industry, I’ve learned a lot about what can and can’t be achieved with a woven and an embroidered label. I’m a narrow fabrics weaver by trade, so of course I’m a little biased, but at GB Labels our customer’s needs always come first. If an embroidered solution is the best way to achieve the look and feel you’re going for, we’ll let you know. 

Another thing to mention is that there are lots of choices available to you — you don’t have to choose between just ‘woven’ or ‘embroidered’. We work with printed satin, embossed Jacron, vegan leather and even metal and silicon labels — it all depends on what you need. 

If you have any questions, just give us a call. We’re a friendly team and we’re always ready and willing to support new customers. You can give us a ring on 01332 460 664 or request a free sample pack.

Thanks for reading!

– Pete


Footnote 1:

There’s evidence to suggest that humans were weaving as far back as 25,000 years ago. In 2008, archaeologists found evidence of textiles buried alongside mammoth tusks in Dolní Věstonice in the Czech Republic. You can read all about it on the village website at https://www.obecdolnivestonice.cz/uvod/ (you’ll need Google Translate) or http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/790569.stm .

Footnote 2:

To arrive at the 1% figure, we took a look at our website enquiries data. Data was recorded by Google Analytics for the time period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.

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