10 Tips for Terrific T-Shirt Embroidery

T-shirts are so comfortable, they are a staple in most of our wardrobes. That doesn’t mean they have to be casual, though. I’ll show you 10 tips for creating professional-looking shirts that will be the envy of friends and family!

Crafty Diva shirt

Photo via SweetJasmine in Machine Embroidery With Knits

You name it, we will embroider on everything from onesies to quilts, pillows and purses. Probably one of the most utilized items to embellish is a T-shirt. 

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Transform your T-shirts

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Here are 10 ways to achieve beautiful machine embroidery on T-shirts:

1. Choose quality

Here, you get what you pay for. Start with quality shirts. Heavier cotton blends stitch much better and pucker less than lightweight shirts.

2. Pre-wash

Even the best no-shrink cotton clothing can shrink, so wash and dry the shirt before you embroider. The most perfect embroidery design will pucker if the fabric under it shrinks even the slightest amount.

emblibrary.com paisley

Embroidery with no-show cutaway mesh (top), and tear-away stabilizer (bottom). Photos via EmbLibrary.com.

3. Stabilize properly

If you wear it, don’t tear it. That is a key rule of stabilizing clothing. Use cut-away stabilizer, preferably a fusible no-show mesh. They keep knits from stretching out of shape and keeps embroidery where it belongs.

dzgns.com stabilized tshirt

Photo via Eileen Roche

Turn the shirt inside out and fuse a piece of no-show mesh significantly larger than the hoop size. Turn right side out, find your center point and hoop the stabilized shirt. It needs to be snug in the hoop, but not pulled.

4. Use the correct needle and thread

Use ball point needles when embroidering on T-shirts and sweat shirts. Always use the smallest needle for the job. Eileen Roche recommends a 70/10 needle for lighter knits and 80/12 for sweat shirts.

Because shirts are worn and washed often, polyester thread is a good choice since it doesn’t fade and is bleach resistant.

tshirt light embroidery designs

Photos via Embroidery Super Deal (left) and Sew Beautiful 4 U (right)

5. Choose a light design

Embroidery designs with open areas work best on T-shirt knits. Heavy designs make shirts stiff and lumpy, often puckering around the edges because the fabric can’t support the dense stitches.


Photos via Craftsy’s The Machine Embroidered Sweater class.

6. Add a topper

Using a water-soluble topper helps perfect your embroidery on knits. Place a layer of thin water-soluble film over the embroidery area and pin or baste it in place. It helps keep thread on top of the knits for a professional presentation. When finished, remove the excess and either rinse or wash the rest away.

7. Baste in the hoop

If your embroidery machine has a basting stitch, use it. That will secure the water-soluble topping in place and tack the shirt to the stabilizer to help prevent any design shift.

8. Test Stitch

Keep stained shirts to use for test stitching. Make sure they are a similar weight as the new shirt you want to embroider. You can hoop a test shirt several times before it is not useful any more, and it lets you try out your stabilizer, thread and design combinations before stitching on the real thing.

sew crafty emblibrary.com embroidery

Photos via EmbLibrary.com

9. Remove excess stabilizer

When embroidery is done, carefully trim stabilizer close to the stitches and round edges. If you are worried about the thread and stabilizer irritating sensitive skin, cover it with a fusible tricot.

10. Press from the back

When embroidery is done, you can gently press the back of the embroidery area using a press cloth to release any hoop marks and wrinkles that occurred from handling.

Transform your T-shirts

Transform your T-shirts

Go from casual to chic with machine-embroidered embellishments. Enroll Now »

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2 Responses to “10 Tips for Terrific T-Shirt Embroidery”

  1. Joan

    Thank you so much, this has helped me a lot.

  2. Marge

    Love your helpful ideas