Tips for Embroidering on T-Shirts

There is no single correct way to stabilize a T-shirt. Most embroiderers experiment to find the best weight or combination that works for them. One proven type is a medium-weight cutaway, which gives the embroidery something to attach to. Be sure and trim carefully, otherwise you will see a big square of stabilizer through the shirt.

If you prefer a tearaway, consider making a sandwich out of two or three pieces for extra stability. A sandwich made of one layer of cutaway and one layer of tearaway is another method that embroiderers have had success with. You’ll want to tear away the outside of the tearaway and trim the cutaway to within a eighth of an inch.

Another type of stabilizer that works well with T-shirts is No Show Mesh. This backing has no stretch and is very lightweight. Also, because it’s synthetic, you don’t have to worry about the 100% cotton T-shirt shrinking after the embroidery is applied because the fabric is nailed down to the stabilizer. No Show mesh only requires a single layer.

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Embroidery on Towels Tip

Creating an underlay takes a bit longer to stitch out but produces better results. Underlay mats down loops, stabilizes stitching, and creates loft. For example, if you’re doing a leaf design, you could deliberately put down extra underlay in the center to create loft. The light hitting that thread creates the dimension, and by raising the design’s dimension in certain areas, the light hits those areas differently.

Cap Embroidery Troubleshooting

Challenge. You are trying to sew on an unstructured cap and it is puckering when embroidered.

Solution Number 1. Make sure the cap is hooped as tightly and flat as possible. Make sure that your hoops have a good grip to keep them tight.

Solution Number 2. Use cap backing. An unstructured cap definitely needs the reinforcement that backing will provide.

Solution Number 3. If the design is still puckering, try making a backing sandwich using more than one piece.

How To Minimize Looping

Each time a needle moves up and down through the fabric, it experiences friction. When all things are not in harmony, this friction can cause thread to stretch forming unsightly loops in an embroidered piece. If you are having problems with looping, here are a few tricks to try:
1.    Have the loosest practical tension balance between the bobbin and top thread.
2.    Check your stitch density. When density is too high, loops can form as thread rubs against previous stitches.
3.    Try a larger needle (larger eye or diameter) to assure smooth thread flow through the needle’s eye, groove, and hole in the goods.
4.    Increase the thread’s lubrication. This can be done by spraying silicone on thread or installing a silicone lubricator.
Whenever you find a solution to a problem, document it.

Cap Embroidery Troubleshooting

Headwear is not the easiest thing in the world to decorate. What most veteran embroiderers recommend is to find certain brands of cap that work well on your machine and stick with them. Here I address some of the common issues that come up with some possible solutions.

Challenge.  On corduroy and fleece caps, the embroidery isn’t sufficiently covering the cap.

Solution. Use a water soluble topping. This is a priceless product when it comes to embroidering on napped fabrics. The topping prevents the embroidery thread from sinking into the nap resulting in a clean finished look. Depending on the fabric, this is often enough without adding an underlay.

Top Tip for Embroidering on Towels

For consistency in the design’s appearance, always embroider towels from the same end–the end opposite of the permanent tag. If the stitch goes in different directions, it creates mesmerism (when a color shifts shades depending on the kind of light that is hitting it).

Needle Know-How

One of the biggest causes of thread breaks is related to your needle. It needs to be the proper size and point type for the thread and fabric, and it needs to be inserted correctly. If it is worn with a burr or a chip on it or the point is dull, this also will break thread. Sometimes if it is too sharp, it can put a hole or run in the fabric, ruin the embroidery, or break the machine.

You’ll know its time to change out your needles by an increased number of thread breaks, frayed thread or sometimes the needle will break before you can replace it.  The trick is to change the needle as soon as you notice these symptoms and before you touch the timing or anything else more complicated.

Heavy, coarse materials are harder on your needles. You should change out your needles based on wear, not by the clock. By changing your needles at the appropriate times, you will improve or sustain the quality of your embroidery.

Trouble-Shooting Tips
1. If the eye is too small, it can give the embroidery a scuffed look; if the eye is too big, you can end up with sloppy-looking stitches.

2. Simply cleaning the needle can solve some sewing troubles. Use a 10x linen tester, a jeweler’s loupe, or good magnifying glass to check your system and size numbers as well as to determine the presence of dirt buildup or wear and tear on the needles. Remember that a dull needle doesn’t pick up thread—whether it started off as a sharp or a ballpoint.