10 Embroidery Tips That Take Your T-Shirts from Blah to "Hello, Gorgeous"

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Raise your hand if you wear T-shirts every single day, or wish you could. We hear you. T-shirts are so comfy, many of us just want to live in them. But let's face it: Plain old T-shirts can get a little boring. They need attitude and style. They need embroidery.

Check out these 10 tips for creating T-shirts with beautiful machine embroidery and soon random strangers will be stopping you to ask, "Where did you get that?"

1. Don't skimp on quality

You know the saying, "You get what you pay for"? It definitely applies to T-shirts. Buy ones made with quality materials. Heavier cotton blends stitch much better and pucker less than lightweight shirts.

2. Pre-wash

Yes, it's true: Even the best no-shrink cotton clothing can shrink. So make sure to wash and dry your T-shirt before you embroider it. The most perfect embroidery design will pucker if the fabric under it shrinks even the tiniest bit.

3. Stabilize properly

If you wear it, don’t tear it. That's a key rule: Use cut-away instead of tear-away stabilizer when you're embroidering clothing. A fusible no-show mesh is best. It keeps your knits from stretching out and keeps embroidery where it belongs.

Turn your T-shirt inside out and fuse a piece of no-show mesh that's significantly larger than the hoop size. Then turn it 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 right needle and thread

You want ball point needles when you're embroidering on T-shirts and sweatshirts. Always use the smallest needle for the job. Bluprint instructor Eileen Roche recommends a 70/10 needle for lighter knits and 80/12 for sweatshirts.

As for thread: If you're embroidering a shirt you plan to wear and wash often, opt for polyester thread if you can. It's bleach-resistant and won't fade.

5. Choose a light design

Embroidery designs with open areas work best on T-shirt knits. Heavy designs make shirts stiff and lumpy. They also tend to pucker around the edges, since the fabric can’t support the dense stitches.

6. Add a topper

Using a water-soluble topper helps perfect your embroidery when you're working with knits. Place a layer of thin water-soluble film over the embroidery area and pin or baste it in place. The topper helps keep thread on top of the knits for a more polished look. When you're done, 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 will tack the shirt to the stabilizer to help prevent any design shift.

8. Test stitch

Instead of throwing out your stained T-shirts with a sigh, keep them around for test stitching. Make sure you test on a shirt that has a similar weight as the one you want to embroider. You can hoop a test shirt several times before it's not useful anymore, and this way you can try out your stabilizer, thread and design combinations before you start stitching on the real thing.

9. Remove excess stabilizer

When you're done embroidering, carefully trim the stabilizer close to the stitches and round edges. If you're worried about the thread and stabilizer irritating sensitive skin, cover the area with a fusible tricot.

10. Press from the back

Now that you're finished, you can gently press the back of the embroidered area using a press cloth. This releases any hoop marks and wrinkles so everything will look extra nice.

Now you've got the hang of it, and best of all, you now possess a fabulous new T-shirt. Time to start the next one!

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10 Embroidery Tips That Take Your T-Shirts from Blah to "Hello, Gorgeous"