Why (we think) Watakala's the first-ever to embroider dive mask straps
AS FAR as we know, we're the first one's in the world embroidering dive mask straps. For this idea, we need to thank Jeff Chin, a diver himself, for trying out the initial prototypes and setting us off on this journey.
This painful, but oh so rewarding journey.
Because we soon found out WHY dive mask straps aren't often embroidered - because it's very, very difficult.
The first design we ever embroidered was this Nembrotha, done by Malaysian designer Milkberry.
The second we laid eyes on the beautiful, now textured lines... it was as if the already beautiful design had popped into a 3d world, now with bumps we could feel, and a beautiful contrast to the dark black cloth we originally embroidered it on as a test.
That was cloth.
Once we eventually migrated to cloth-coated neoprene, we soon found other issues. Older embroidering machines couldn't puncture reliably, and so we wasted quite a few metres of the material. Because once the machine hangs halfway, you can't 'resume' the embroidery.
Eventually we figured out which machines worked, but then we moved on to the next design, which is this coral one that seems to be very popular with our customers.
Each of those white dots needs the machine to cut the thread, and start again, spooling up each time. You can see how long it takes to get up to speed in this video of our embroidered logo.
So because of the thread cuts (not the absolute thread COUNT itself), the design can take up to 30 minutes EACH to embroider. Sure it's being done by a machine, but it still takes up a sizable amount of our poor embroiderer's machine time.
On top of that, for the initial design, it isn't just a matter of pasting an Illustrator file into the program. Our talented embroiderers have to actually program EVERY SINGLE thread into another program, to match our design. This tells the machine when to use which thread, for what distance, and when to cut it. Here's what it looks like.
As you can tell, it's a painstaking process, and it doesn't end there. Sometimes, when the thread count is too high in a certain area, we learnt that it can also cause the thick, quality neoprene to crumple. Each needle press bends the cloth eve so slightly, but when you have hundreds of sometimes even overlapping threads, the thickness of the neoprene has a tendency to deform. This is ALSO something we had to take into account, and only found out when we were very close to launch.
So then, BACK to the designer, and back to the drawing board, to remove some lines without compromising the overall design feel, and then BACK to the embroidery machine to see if the crumpling is within acceptable margins. This happens a few times.
FINALLY, once it's all done, there are still sometimes hiccups in the machines, and these can ruin entire production lines, and take up precious production time.
Why are we telling you all this? So together with us, you can truly appreciate the effort that went into creating what we think are the most gorgeous dive mask straps we've ever seen.
After all this, we think they're a bargain :)