Stitching on Knits

A few weeks ago, we received many comments requesting information on stitching on knits. Well, knits is a pretty large category! So I’ll give you some general guidelines on stabilizing t-shirt knits.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery BlogEliminate the Stretch

The number one goal of hooping and stabilizing knits is to eliminate the stretch during the embroidery process. My favorite stabilizer for knits is a permanent cut-away, polymesh stabilizer. Polymesh is strong, translucent and comfortable next to the skin. Since it’s a cut-away, its permanent properties will provide stability to the embroidery throughout the life of the knit fabric. This is an important feature since knit fabrics are not as durable as wovens.

I prefer to adhere the polymesh to the knit by using a temporary spray adhesive or selecting a fusible polymesh. Cut the stabilizer large enough to extend beyond the hoop’s dimensions. Hoop the knit with the stabilizer firmly fused or adhered to the design area. When you run your finger along the knit fabric, it should not separate from the polymesh. If it does, take the time to fuse it properly.

Toppers help keep the edges of an embroidery design crisp. Use a lightweight water soluble stabilizer that will be easy to remove.

Design Selection

Eileen's Machine Embroidery BlogHeavy, dense embroidery designs will appear to be ‘bullet proof’ on most knit fabrics. Test your embroidery design on a similar knit fabric and give it this test. Roll the embroidered knit fabric onto itself, jellyroll style. If the embroidery appears stiff and boxy, the design is too dense. Reduce the density in embroidery software.

Proper underlay is key to beautiful embroidery on knit fabrics. Inadequate underlay will not provide the foundation required for the stretchy knit fibers. Don’t skimp on underlay to reduce the stitch count. Instead, adjust the density of the fill stitches to space the stitches further apart resulting in less stitches.

Delicate running stitch outlines can sink into knits so avoid these fragile stitches if possible.


When stitching on knits, I like to use caution and set up as many safety nets as possible. Hoop the entire knit fabric in a standard hoop, Magna-Hoop or Snap-Hoop. Use the machine’s basting feature and add a topper. Stitch the design in polyester thread (as most knits launder easily, polyester thread is colorfast and very durable).

After the embroidery is complete, remove the basting stitches from the back. The stabilizer will protect the knit from the seam ripper. If you used a fusible polymesh, press the fabric from the wrong side to reactive the adhesive. Gently release and trim the excess polymesh from the fabric. Leave at least ½” stabilizer around the embroidery. Press the stabilizer from the back to adhere it again to the fabric. Let cool.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Eileen's Machine Embroidery BlogWe love embroidering on blanks! There’s always the last minute gifts needed for baby showers, house warming gifts, hostess gifts or birthdays. Nothing is easier or more heartfelt than stitching a blank for someone special. Let’s be honest– no one needs to know it didn’t take you hours to stitch! We want to know what your favorite embroidery blanks are. How do you jazz them up and make them extra special?

Leave a comment on the above topic and you’ll be entered into our drawing to win Contemporary Machine-Embroidered Fashions!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Last week we asked…Who do you know in your life that would do cartwheels to have a machine? What would they make? The winner of the $25.00 coupon on is…Danyl!

“My daughters would love to have a machine so that they could make anything they wanted. Right now they have to share mine and are only allowed to use it with my supervision.”

Congratulations, Danyl!

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35 Comments on Stitching on Knits

  1. Diane Hilton
    October 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm (9 years ago)

    I love having extra gifts around..This past weekend I was a co-hostess for a bridal shower..I had failed to get the communication about the hostess gift…There wasn’t a hostess gift…We were to bring individual gifts..Luckily I had a beautiful apron that already had a design on the top..As it turned out , the colors were perfect for her kitchen..
    Towels,aprons bibs and burp towels are a staple in my embroidery closet…

  2. Enis
    October 22, 2010 at 12:12 am (9 years ago)

    I think hands down I love to embroider on linen kitchen and tea towels. Not only are they easy to stitch up in a hot minute, but they are perfect for adding to baskets with other kitchen essentials or food items to make a complete gift.

  3. Karen Trott
    October 22, 2010 at 12:40 am (9 years ago)

    Cloth napkins, and burp cloths (cloth diapers) are my stand-bys. In the hoop drink coaster are great too but, take a bit more time if you’re doing a custom design.

    I’m always watching for cloth napkins on sale and in a variety of colors and fabric patterns. They can make a very special gift in less time than it takes to go shopping for a gift.

  4. Karin
    October 22, 2010 at 1:26 am (9 years ago)

    I love to embroider on towels, terrycloth or linen, and then to make ’em more special, I add a trim….a thin band of contrast fabric and a wider one of complimentary. Fold back the edges, Fray-check & then glue, and presto! Looks like hours of work, even for simple designs.

    (click on my name to see my etsy shop – I have a couple examples in there!)

    • eileen
      October 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm (9 years ago)

      Great ideas! Loved your Etsy page.

  5. Peggy Schroeder
    October 22, 2010 at 3:24 am (9 years ago)

    Hi Eileen,

    My favorite blanks are dish and tea towels, with tee shirts close behind. I love to embroider tea pots and cups on them, trim with lace and ribbon; then I give them with a porcelain tea cup and a package of tea. They make a really nice gift if someone is feeling a little “down”, has a birthday, or just needs something to perk them up. My grand kids all love the tee shirts, and that is the 3rd thing they ask for when they come. First and second of course are”did you make me any carmels, or did you make me any chocolates? If the answer is no, then they want their tee shirt! The kids all like to pick out their own design, and then go through the thread cabinet and get all of the needed thread ready. They are great about putting all the thread back in the right place, I have all the slots numbered to match the number on the thread.

    Thank you so much for all of your good information, it is really helpful.

  6. Rose
    October 22, 2010 at 3:49 am (9 years ago)

    I love to have a set of white towels on hand. They make wonderful shower, wedding, birthday gifts, etc.

    I either embroider the initials of the couple, or in some cases where the woman does not take the man’s surname, I embroider “His/Hers” on the large bath towels, than each of their first names on the hand towels. Works great either way.

    I Love, Love, Love my embroidery machine.

  7. Gracia Borchard
    October 22, 2010 at 3:58 am (9 years ago)

    Hi Eileen

    I love to embroider on towels and burp cloths. I’ve been able to personalize several of those to give as gifts. I’ve also recently started practising embroidering on re-usable shopping bags.
    There’s a whole world out there – just waiting to be embroidered!

  8. Marsha
    October 22, 2010 at 4:56 am (9 years ago)

    Thank you for the info. for embroidering on knits. I have had some great success and not so great success on knits.

    I really like to embroider on towels, pillow cases, and blankets for gifts. Onsies and bibs are nice for the babies. Tee shirts and sweat shirts for the grand kids and hankies for the ladies. Just about anything that begs for design and color. Thanks again. Marsha

  9. Susan Spiers
    October 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm (9 years ago)

    My favorite blank would be a throw pillow cover. Personalize with a machine embroidered name & add either a hand embroidered design or one from an embroidery machine. Also adding a beaded, fringe or basic hand embroidered blanket stitch along the edges always looks professional. I will be making 3 this XMAS as gifts!

  10. Jan Boggan Henson
    October 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm (9 years ago)

    My favorite blank to date was doing my own luggage tags purchased from All About Blanks. There were several colors to choose from and they match my luggage. Easy!!

  11. Becky Mackey
    October 22, 2010 at 10:27 pm (9 years ago)

    At the present time, my favorite blank is a medium-sized fleece throw which I purchase pre-made (less expensive than buying fabric and making my own and they come with a blanket stitch around the edge). I do these for friends and family who are facing a hospital stay since rooms (especially the waiting rooms) can be chilly. I embroider their name along with an appropriate short message–sometimes humorous, sometimes encouraging, etc. Several friends who are undergoing chemo take theirs with them to their treatment appointments. Children love getting one of these cuddly blankets with their name and a cute design on it.

  12. Gail Beam
    October 22, 2010 at 10:40 pm (9 years ago)

    My favoite blanks are zip up sweatshirts, tee shirts, towels, fleece throws, and pillowcases. My grandchildren still like these things embroidered. As they have gotten older, they are not interested in the cutesy things, and these are items that they still enjoy.

  13. Jean Hollis
    October 22, 2010 at 11:16 pm (9 years ago)

    I love plain, pastel colored baby bibs. Babies name or a cute saying can be added in no time at all and make a perfect gift for just dropping in on a new mom with a meal for the family.

    I recently sent a blanket and 2 bibs each in a personalized packet for babies in Sweden and Thailand. In the late 90’s, we hosted high school exchange students in our home for a school year; 5 girls over 5 years from 4 countries. Three had babies in the last year and we’re still trying to get info on baby #3 from Brazil.

    The bibs include a baby & toddler sized bib, each with their name and the blankets had “With Love from your American Grandmother” embroidered on one corner.

  14. Mitzi Barker
    October 23, 2010 at 2:33 am (9 years ago)

    I enjoy creating very personalized t-shirts, working from 50/50 blank shirts – your tip on decreasing the density of the design solves a problem for me! Thank you for the great ideas, tips, and inspiration I get from your newsletters, magazine and blog.

  15. Paule-Marie
    October 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm (9 years ago)

    I have embroidered on kitchen towels and napkins, but I don’t do blanks a lot. I get really nervous about centering the designs correctly. I really need to practice more.

    • eileen
      October 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm (9 years ago)

      It’s all about measuring and marking. Find the center, mark it clearly with a target sticker and center the needle over the mark after hooping. Printing templates of your embroidery designs also gives you a clear view of what the finished project will look like. Place the templates on the item and use them as a your mark. You’ll gain confidence the more do these tasks. Most important – just keep stitching, you’ll be an expert in no time!

  16. Devora OLson
    October 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm (9 years ago)

    I love using dish towel blanks. I keep them on hand for housewarming, shower, wedding, hostess gifts and as a cover over a basket of muffins for a new neighbor. I use day of the week designs for shower and wedding gifts many others, depending on the occasion. My favorite for a hostess gift or as a basket cover is to embroider a recipe on the towel. There are so many different occasions that these towels can be used for.

  17. Cassie B
    October 26, 2010 at 10:59 am (9 years ago)

    I love to stitch one of those soft & cuddly blankets no matter who its for, I will usually put a small heart with their name but if it is to pull someone thru a rough spot I try to find a appropriate saying to let them know I am thinking of them

  18. Penny Kitzmiller
    October 27, 2010 at 12:20 am (9 years ago)

    I enjoy reading your blog and I now feel like I can embroider on my sweater thanks to you…thank you for all the tips.

  19. grammiegae
    March 3, 2011 at 2:06 am (9 years ago)

    I stock up for baby showers when fleece goes on sale, buying a yard each of the best baby designs and a yard of solid fleece to match.

    I cut the print in two, each 30 inches wide, and use my serger to finish the edges for two soft, warm receiving blankets.

    With the solid fabric I make sleepers with embroidery to match the design on the print, or at least a design that goes along with the theme of the print.

    Needless to say, they’re always a big hit!

  20. Deb Knapp
    November 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm (8 years ago)

    Swearshirts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have 6 grandaughters, the oldest is 6 and youngest is 15 months. We love all things purple and princess
    related. The embroidery then buttons, lace, rickrack and sequins. What fun we have.

  21. la
    February 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm (8 years ago)

    just tried this and it WORKED! thanks

  22. Viola Powell
    December 16, 2012 at 1:10 am (7 years ago)

    I have a Janome MC9700 for 3 years have not done any embroidery as i lack confidence. Do you have a step by step embroidery dvd video that i can buy to teach myself? love your blog, first time i’m here.

  23. Rachel Ruth
    July 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm (7 years ago)

    I keep a stash of composition notebooks on hand. I make reusable fabric covers for them with custom embroidery – name, custom graphics…etc. Last year I gave them to my nieces for Christmas and they loved them; Each was embroidered with their favorite cartoon character.

  24. Cheryl
    November 16, 2013 at 6:11 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for all the good information it’s very helpful .

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    October 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm (5 years ago)

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    October 16, 2014 at 6:09 pm (5 years ago)

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  27. Barbara
    December 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm (5 years ago)

    Your instructions are excellent and clear. My preference for embroidering blanks are nice napkins.

  28. Lynette Wilson
    January 23, 2015 at 8:14 pm (5 years ago)

    I enjoy embroidering on towels, sweatshirts converted into cardigans, and kitchen towels. I embroidered one of my mother’s recipes on a kitchen towel as a gift for myself,my sister, and daughters. This was a great memory-maker for all of us.
    This is my first time to check your blog out and I loved it.

  29. nicole
    February 28, 2015 at 8:02 pm (5 years ago)

    Why no snap hoops for the Janome. FOR accuracy and percision embroidery it is the best.

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    May 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm (5 years ago)

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    August 29, 2017 at 6:57 pm (2 years ago)

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