In 1975 we became the British national distributor for the Tokaido company while their uniforms were still being made in Japan, and soon afterwards, their second-largest foreign distributor. As we have always been 50% Japanese-owned, we started importing custom-made embroidered belts from Tokaido around 1978. Unfortunately, they took a long time to arrive, they were costly, and the factory still did not have the commercial machines capable of embroidering all the way through the belt.
We decided to “do-it-ourselves” and spent months researching but found no answers. The new computer-controlled embroidery machines did not have the large Japanese fonts we needed, and what computer software there was tended to be primitive and expensive. Custom embroidery, we discovered, was a secretive world, and the inhabitants wanted it to stay that way!
Coming from a graphics/book publishing background, we were able to modify existing, stable software to meet our needs. Then we reference point scanned every character in the Japanese ‘alphabet” by hand, creating a collection of around 2,500 images in two distinct fonts at about double the size of our largest anticipated work output. After a certain amount of tweaking, we found the right combination of stitch density, sewing speed and thread tensions that gave excellent results consistently whenh using the very best materials.