Embroidery Tips and Techniques

Fabric Needle Size Backing Topping Tips
Lt. Weight T-shirts 70-75 Ball Med. Cutaway or High Density Tearaway or Polymesh and Tearaway Detail-Yes Light T-shirts may not hold some embroidery well, problems may not show until laundered. Add extra backing to give strength.
Sweat Shirts 75-80 Ball Med. Cutaway Detail-Yes High stitch density or running on tubular frames may require more or heavier backing.
Cotton Interlock 70-75 Ball Lt./Med.Cutaway or Polymesh and Tearaway Detail-Yes Hoop smooth, don't distort knit.
Pique Knit 70-75 Ball Lt./Med.Cutaway or Polymesh and Tearaway Yes Hoop smooth, don't distort knit.
Dress Cotton Shirting 70 Sharp Med. Tearaway, Light Cutaway None  
Oxford Shirting 70-75 Sharp Med. Tearaway None  
Caps, Woven 75-80 Sharp Med. to Heavy Tearaway None Caps with fused buchram may not need any backing. Backing should completely cover the sewing area and be hooped with the cap.
Lt Weight Denim 70-75 Sharp Tearaway None Hoop Tight
Med. Denim 75-80 Sharp Tearaway/None None Hoop Tight
Heavy Denim 80 Sharp Tearaway/None None Hoop Tight
Terry Cloth 70-75 Sharp Med. Tearaway Yes Extra Underlay
Canvas 75-80 Sharp, maybe 90, depending on weight of canvas. Tearaway or None None Hoop tight
Cordura/Coated Fabrics Same, maybe teflon or titanium coated Tearaway or None None Watch for build up of the coating on needles.

Experiment: Embroidery designs on scraps that can later be made into a quilt or a center design on a pillow front. This will allow you to experiment on a variety of fabrics without ruining a garment and build your confidence.

Finishing: Cutting away and tearing away stabilizer can end up being a disaster if you cut the fabric. Take your time and cut carefully. Cut way traveling threads first and then the stabilizer.

Hooping Alternative: Hooping stretchy fabric may cause the fabric to stretch in the process of hooping. some items may become distorted in the process of hooping.

Hoop Sizes: Machine embroidery hoops are available in a variety of sizes. They are machine specific and must be designed for the machine you are using.

The size of the hoop you use will be determined by the design you are embroidering. The closer the hoop size is to the design, the less likely there will be any movement of the fabric. Movement of the fabric can result in the final stitches being poorly located on the design.

Placement: Placement templates are available and often come with machine embroidery hoops. Often it is helpful to print the design and play with the placement before hopping the design.

Machine embroidery hoops include placement marks on the inner ring of the hoop to assist in placement.

Stabilizing: Stabilizing is used to add rigidity to the fabric while it is being stitched. The fabric needs to be held stable so that all parts of the design will be in their proper position.

One of the most common tell-tale signs that the fabric was not properly stabilized is that the outline does not align with the rest of the design.

Stabilizing Stable Fabric: Stable fabric is a fabric which does not stretch and has some rigidity on it's own. This type of fabric can be successfully machine embroidered with tear away stabilizer. More than one layer of stabilizer may be used, depending on the amount of stability the fabric has on it's own. If the design is very dense use cut away stabilizer of weight that will support the design and withstand laundering.

Stabilizing Unstable Fabric: Unstable fabric is fabric that will stretch or is loosely woven. The conventional treatment for hooping unstable fabric is use cut away stabilizer and hoop all layers.

In these incidents, it is best to hoop the stabilizer and then adhere the fabric to be embroidered to the stabilizer. Sticky backed stabilizer is a perfect solution. Be sure to totally smooth the fabric that is going to be embroidered.

Top Stabilizer: Trying to embroider loop terry cloth is a perfect example of why you might need stabilizer on top of the fabric. Water soluble stabilizer or Heat Away stabilizer are perfect solutions. Both of these type of stabilizer do the job of holding nap or fabric loops allowing the embroidery to stitch without the fabric poking up throughout the design.