Digitizing – Easy as Apple Pie

Homespun Country Apple - Moonlight's Design Shoppe

My hubby set fresh picked apples on the counter and asked for pie. I sighed. Business has picked up with holiday custom orders, so domestic things take a back seat. I try to keep a little holiday cheer going this time of year, but things like baking from scratch have to be scheduled, because if it’s not on the white board, it won’t happen. I just can’t think about that sort of fun until custom orders are delivered by holiday deadlines, usually the first part of December.

Can’t we just stick with Sara Lee® this time of year, please?

As if he heard my thoughts, he announced, “I’ll do it, just tell me how.”   Visions of a floured floor and sugar-speckled kitchen flashed through my mind.  I think not.   But, if I didn’t bake them into something, these tart apples would only be good for squirrel food.  Anyhow, I hadn’t baked an apple pie for awhile, so perhaps it was a good time to refresh my memory.

I had a double-crust, ready-to-bake crust in the freezer, so I didn’t need to worry about rolling out dough – half the battle. But, first I had to hunt down my grandmother’s apple filling recipe, which is actually a list of basic ingredients with a few instructions: “some of this and some of that – and it depends on how many apples you have and their size, and what kind of apples they are to know how much of ‘this and that’ the pie needs”.    Grandma was a “dumper” – eye-balling measurements and judging the unbaked taste and texture before putting it in the oven. Not everyone would chance baking without a measuring cup; baking requires a specific science.  Grandma was a pro at baking. I am not.

Long ago I had jotted additional notes on those instructions after experimentation with various combinations of apples and amounts to determine default measurements.  So, I began digging through the jungle of books, papers and cards I keep stashed in an antique pie cabinet (that ironically never gets used for its original purpose of keeping fresh baked pies), but when the recipe didn’t immediately surface, I headed online for the basic ingredients of any apple pie, hoping it would jump start my memory.  I found one that sounded similar, and the fact it was named “Apple Pie by Grandma Ople” sold me – until I got distracted by another recipe of Food Network‘s Paula Deen whose recipe included applesauce. I had an opened jar of applesauce aging in the fridge, so I figured it would be worth combining it with the first recipe I found, which would work if I compensated for the extra liquid and sweetness by adding a little more flour and reduced the amount of sugar.

Paula’s recipe suggested a crunch topping, that sounded worth a try, and considering I had enough apples for one high double-crusted pie, if I spent a little time making the crunch topping, I could make two pies – and perhaps even get more than one piece (Kevin loves pie).

After the pies were baked, I was only disappointed with the topping that I thought would be crunchy like yet another recipe I’d found.  Mine lacked enough crunch – perhaps, a bit too much butter. (I should have known. Paula Deen is the Butter Queen.) I considered drizzling a vanilla icing over the top, but hubby stopped me with a smile, claiming, “It’s perfect” – the main objective.

Digitizing is very much like baking apple pie. First you need to plan and calculate the ingredients: consider what kind of fabric and/or garment it will be sewn on and what weight/type of threads will be used. Then a preliminary plan is done by mapping the path on the artwork, decide stitch types, calculate whatever automatics can be used for efficiency, punch with compensation for push and pull, and choose the best values for parameters like density, stitch length and column width.  After digitizing, the design file is then test-sewn to be sure the results are what’s intended; and if not, time is taken to polish it for results of a smooth running design that meets with the customer’s satisfaction.

Each design comes with different requirements.  If designs were consistently the same, digitizing would be easy – easy to quote, calculate and do.  Specific steps and parameter values for each type of art, fabric and stitch types would be memorized via repetitive action. But just like the ingredients that have to be considered for pie, the ingredients for a design have to be carefully measured.  The next design will be completely different, and the next; it could be years before the specific needs discovered in one design will come around again. When you find a digitizing recipe that works for a particular art/fabric/thread/stitch type combination, write the parameter values down in a notebook and keep it close to your design system (as I refer to in “Software is a Tool – You Control the Digitizing!“)  Having a collection of these technical recipes to reach for exactly when needed will save hours of digitizing time – time that you can use to bake pie.

Baked Apple Pie Design by Concord Collections at EmbroideryDesigns.com

6 thoughts on “Digitizing – Easy as Apple Pie

    • Me too Kristine — love crumble topping on apple pie, but I rarely find time to bake one. I wouldn’t do it at all anymore if I had to roll my own dough; sometimes those “automatic features” like frozen pie shells come in handy. ;-)

  1. Great commentary on digitizing, and I whole-heartedly agree. The best digitizer is one who knoes the fundamentasl and has built up a recipe, but who has used that foundation as a platform for experimentation and innovation. Fantastic post, Bonnie!

    • Thanks Erich! Digitizing can appear so relatively simple, and in a way it is when all those basics for specific needs are observed, but with so many different recipes to recall at the right time, it’s actually complex. I think many new digitizers become discouraged because they haven’t yet become aware of this, believing what worked well in one situation should work in another. If that were even possible, there would be no need to adjust default settings, and it would be very difficult to be creative!

  2. Pingback: The Friday Blog Round-Up 11/4/11 » EnMart Embroidery Talk

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