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Saturday, October 30, 2010

ASDP Annual Conference -- Deerbrook Fabrics

Our next stop was Deerbrook Fabrics in Fairview, NJ. Some of us thought we were going fabric shopping, but Deerbrook Fabrics is a large-scale machine embroidery operation.
By large scale, I mean their newest machine embroiders 30 yards of fabric at one time. Deerbrook Fabrics operates 3 machines, all Swiss made, all "Schiffli" machines. In Swiss German, schiffli means "little boat", referring to the boat shape of the bobbin cases used by the machines. The 2 older machines (1950's--pictured at right) are double-decker (two lengths of fabric are embroidered with the same pattern at the same time) and the design is read from a loop of punch tape, not very different from the punch cards once used to load code onto computers. The older machines do one color at a time and must be completely re-threaded and reset for color changes.
The newer machine (pictured at left) is single-deck and completely computerized. When a thread breaks the machine stops, a red light turns on where the broken thread is, the computer screen displays the # of the broken thread, and a bell rings. The older, slower machines are usually re-thread while they are running. This machine holds 1000 needles, and depending on the size of the design can be loaded with 20 colors which are changed automatically as the design is worked.

The range of work they do here is amazing--from embroidered stars for high-end American flags to delicate floral embroidery for lingerie, dense all-over designs to eyelet. (Small square knives under the needles work the threads apart to form the holes before the edges are embroidered.)

Run by father and son, Ed and Steve Parseghian, it is encouraging to see some things are still made in the US, though this industry, like so many similar ones is shrinking. Mr. Parseghian noted that at the turn of the last century there were hundreds of businesses like theirs, and now they are some of the last survivors of globalization. As he put it, it is up to all consumers to make buying decisions that support local industries whenever possible.

Many thanks to Mr. Parseghian and his son--they we gracious hosts!

..Next up--my first hand experience as a finalist in the Threads Magazine Challenge.

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