How do those machines at Disneyland that write your name on the mouse-ear hats work?


Normally I’d assume that the machine just knows how to make cursive letters and connects them one-by-one. But I’m perplexed by a detail with my name. My name is Ingrid, and on my hat, the tail of the d loops back up around and dots the lowercase i. How does it sense the letter i, which somehow changes the behavior of the letter d, and gets it to loop back around the exact distance to dot the i? Also I don’t believe my sisters hat has this effect and her name is Erica.


Magic! Just kidding. It’s an electronic embroidery machine. They can embroider anything, like even logos. They aren’t unique to Disney World. In regards to the cursive, the software probably has all of the letter transitions programmed in.

The machine itself can just follow pretty much any pattern, and it’s all in the computer unit driving it.

Some fonts have ‘ligatures’, special glyphs for particular combinations of two letters. E.g. classically for ‘fi’, the dot of the i might be swallowed up by the end of the curve of the f.

It sounds like the font they use has a ligature for ‘id’.

Well, the embroidering machine probably has a pattern for every letter, but it probably also has a pattern for various combinations of letters. This is called a ligature, and it’s somewhat common in fancy typography. So, in the computer’s memory, a special pattern is saved for “id”, but not “ic.” As a general rule, you don’t want too many ligatures, but “fi” and “ff” are common ones, as well as letters that form special sounds, like “ch” and “th.” Disney just happened to make one for “id.”

The following Wikipedia article pretty much sums the basic idea up: