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The evolution of machine embroidered scrub suits and uniforms

Some our medical scrub embroidery machinesEmbroidery - and in particular embroidered scrubs and medical clothing - has come a long way since traditional hand embroidery was first challenged by mechanical solutions in the mid-19th century.

Although the earliest examples of hand-embroidered garments date back to 30,000 BC, it wasn't until 1828 that Josué Heilmann created a machine that could do the work of four people.

The early machines

Although the first of its kind, Heilmann's machine perfectly replicated the work of embroidery made by hand, rather than being a crude imitation. The significant output of these early machines is not always recognised.

However, Heilmann's invention was revolutionary and over the next century mechanized embroidery would become popular across the globe.

Following on from Heilmann's innovation the next major development was the introduction of “Shuttle Embroiders” made in Switzerland. By the 1870s machine embroidery had reached America and not long after the first Schiffli machine was introduced.

The Schiffli machine – built on the technology of the sewing machines that were becoming popular around that time – combined a needle which was continuously threaded with a shuttle containing a bobbin of thread. The shuttle's resemblance to the hull of a sailboat earned the machine the name “Schiffli”, meaning little boat in German.

The machine embroidery industry grew until the outbreak of World War Two, with no additional machines being made until the 1950s.

The digital influenceHi vis workwear embroidered jackets by AWB Textiles

It didn't take long for the popularity of embroidery machines to grow in the post-war years, especially those for use in the home.

By the 1980s computers had started to influence the technology with Wilcom bringing the first computerised designs for home and small business embroiderers to the market.

The growth of home computing and advances in technology mean that embroiderers are now able to create their own designs digitally, offering a level of personalisation that's not always possible by hand. Pictured above are some hi vis workwear jackets being embroidered here at AWB Textiles.

Machine embroidery today

Today embroidery is still flourishing, especially when it comes to personalised clothing – in particular uniforms. There's no limit to the designs that can be created, particularly for healthcare professionals where there are strict guidelines about uniforms and this kind of personalisation can really help to give its wearer a sense of identity.

With the introduction of medical scrubs in the 1960s (sometimes referred to as ‘theatre blues’), which replaced traditional nurses uniforms, the scrub’s simple design was intended to be easy to clean, cheap to replace, and minimise the places contaminants could hide. They also gave those working in hospitals a blank canvas that was easier to embroider and personalise.

Here at AWB Textiles we take great pride in personalising uniforms through embroidery, creating designs up to 10cm x 4cm. Pictured below is one of our 4-head machines.

With a range of fonts available, and a broad selection of colours, it's possible to embroider any logo, symbol or design. We can also include people’s names.The AWB Textiles 4-head embroidery machines

We have over 60 years experience working as a leading supplier of medical uniforms, having witnessed many innovations in the embroidery industry first-hand. We also offer a friendly service that leaves medical professionals feeling confident in the uniforms they wear.

Click to read more about our embroidery service

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