How to Embroider a T-Shirt with the Machine

T-shirts are a staple for everyone’s wardrobe; irrespective of age or gender. These are considered the most versatile clothing that can serve all settings including formal, semi-formal, or casual. Apart from being a versatile clothing option, t-shirts are also preferred for the comfort, coziness, and ease of movement that keeps the wearer going all day long.

Today, t-shirts can be found in all different colors, textures, and patterns. However, for the most part, plain tees make up the bulk of clothing lines from major manufacturers. While, these plain tees do bring in elegance, and style, still, at times these may seem a little underdone for the liking of some people.

That’s where embroidery design for t-shirts comes in.

Interestingly, the simple t-shirt may prove challenging for embroidering to get the design done correctly. If you, too, are interested in updating your t-shirt with some exquisite embroidery design, this article is for you. Below, we will be discussing how to embroidery a t-shirt with a machine masterfully along with some tips to help you dominate the art!

So, let’s get started…

Step 1: Get yourself a good T-shirt

As mentioned above, tees are available in a wide variety of makes, styles, and colors. Now, besides the aesthetics, the make (specifically the fabric and manufacturing quality) should be a key feature considered for the selection of a t-shirt.

Cotton is the most widely used fabric for t-shirts. However, you may find tees made from other fabrics as well, including, polyester, linen, rayon, Lycra, and various other blends. Each type comes with its unique properties and quality grades. For instance, amongst the cotton fabric, tees made with combed cotton are softer and finer compared to other types of cotton (Pima cotton, basic cotton, etc.). Going with a finer grade fabric won’t just improve the overall feel and aesthetics of the tee, but also ensure less pucker and better embroidery results.

Step 2: Pre-launder 

Once you have purchased your favored t-shirt for the embroidery work, the next step is to get it pre-laundered. Remember, most fabrics especially cotton shrink on washing. This means that an embroidery design without pre-laundering will badly distort the design. Thereby, make sure you pre-launder the t-shirt before starting with the embroidery process.

Step 3: Choose a good backing

T-shirts are the most frequently used clothing item. This also means that these are the most washed basic clothing wear and thereby should have a stab stiff enough to hold the shape of the embroidery design and not make the garment too uncomfortable for the wearer. For this reason, most machine embroidery experts prefer to go with a Cutaway stabilizer, which doesn’t deteriorate quickly compared to others like a tear-away stabilizer. Personally, we do recommend the fusible mesh as the best stabilizer for machine embroidery on t-shirts.

Now, to correctly hoop the tee, always cut a larger piece of stab, as compared to the hoop. Also, spray temporary adhesive over the stab and press the tee to it before hooping. Another important aspect to remember is to never drum-tight a stretchy fabric in the hoop. If you feel uncomfortable with hoop burn, you can first hoop the stab before using adhesive and attaching the t-shirt to it.

Once you are done with the process of machine embroidery, you can remove excess stabilizer by cutting close to the stitches. You can cover the backside with a fusible tricot interface to protect your skin during the process.

Step 4: Use a topper 

While in most cases, using the right stabilizer will suffice the process of embroidering a t-shirt, you can use additional stabilization to come up with crispier and better embroidery. To add a topper, you can use a thin-water soluble film to cover the embroidery and paste it. This additional film can later be conveniently removed simply by rinsing with water.

Step 5: Do a test-stitch

Until you are a professional embroider for t-shirts and have complete command over the equipment, fabric, and consumables used in the process, we recommend always running a test-stitch. While this may seem an additional step, this will ensure that you have taken all the right decisions for an aesthetically pleasing and durable embroidery design for a t-shirt.

Step 6: Go with a lighter design

If you ask us the best tip regarding how to embroider t-shirts with a machine, we would definitely recommend going with a lighter design. That’s because the vast majority of t-shirts are thin and delicate knitted clothing that isn’t suited for dense stitching. Going with an unnecessarily heavy embroidery design with a high stitch count will only bring wrinkles to the tee, which won’t even go aware after ironing.

Step 7: Choose the correct needles and threads

Another important aspect to consider when embroidering t-shirts is choosing the right needle. We recommend going with a ballpoint needle since these are beginner friendly and don’t cut through the fabrics. For lightweight fabrics like t-shirts, the ideal needle would be a 70/30 needle, whereas 80/20 is considered the best needle option for t-shirt embroidery.

When it comes to thread, the choices vary greatly as well. While there is no thumb rule to choosing the best thread, the idea should be to go with a durable thread that had the quality and durability to withstand repeated washes day after day.

Step 8: Tack before the embroidery

Basting is considered a great option to add to the stabilization of the t-shirt embroidery project. By basting the t-shirt with water-soluble topping, you can lower the shifting of the stabilizer.

Step 9: Pressing the Embroidery

Lastly, once you are done with the embroidery design, you can simply iron the t-shirt from the backside with gentle pressure. Just make sure the iron isn’t too hot and you always use a pressing cloth.