Have you ever wondered how to embroider clothes? It’s really pretty simple! In this post, I’ll go over some tips and tricks to get you stitching in no time.
Hand embroidery on clothes is a fun way to give an old shirt or pants new life. It’s not too different from embroidering in a hoop. In fact, I recommend using a hoop when you are stitching to make sure the fabric stays nice and flat, and doesn’t tug or wrinkle the fabric.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you purchase a product through it. I only recommend products I would use/love!
Types of Fabric
The easiest fabric to embroider on is something that is medium weight and doesn’t contain much stretch. It will be easier to embroider on and it won’t have the tendency to shrink or warp as much over time. I recommend linen, linen blends, cotton canvas, and denim material.
It’s also possible to embroider on knitting, but there are some different techniques and considerations to keep in mind. Check out this post for more information.
However, if you’re set on a piece of clothing that has elastic in it, you can read this post that has some ways to make it easer to embroider on stretchy fabric.
Preparing Your Clothes
If you’ve never worn the clothes before and they’re brand new, I recommend washing them first, just in case they shrink a little bit. If you use the embroidery floss I recommend, DMC Floss, the floss is colorfast meaning the colors shouldn’t bleed. This floss is really good quality, and in my experience can stand the test of time, so I wouldn’t use anything off brand for this project.
How to Embroider Onto Clothes
You will need pretty much everything you normally need to embroider. However, transferring patterns via tracing can be hard to do because of the thickness of fabric clothing is made out of.
This is why I highly recommend using Stick N Washaway Stabilizer, which is what I used for this project. The sheets come in standard printer paper sizes, so you can easily print off your pattern and stick it onto the fabric! Simply download the pattern you’d like to use, place the stabilizer in the printer, and print it off!
One additional thing I’d recommend you do before you start is to test out a piece of the printed stabilizer on the clothing. Stick it somewhere discreet like the inside of the clothing and rinse it off to make sure that the ink on the stabilizer doesn’t bleed and stain the fabric.
Check out this post for additional tips for using it.
- Print off and cut out your pattern. Peel off the backing of the stabilizer and place it onto the spot you want to embroider.
- Place your embroidery hoop around the design and pull the fabric tight.
- Depending on the clothing, the stabilizer may move when you first start stitching. It helps to do a basting stitch (a loose running stitch you can take out after) to keep the stabilizer extra secure.
- Now, you’re ready to stitch! I used this strawberry plant pattern that you can find in the shop. The three patterns below would be perfect to stitch onto clothes.
- Make sure all your knots are tight – even double or triple knot to make sure none of your stitches fall out while you’re wearing your clothes.
- When you’re done with the pattern, simply run it under cool water and rub the stabilizer. It will dissolve in your hands, leaving only your embroidery!
If you don’t have the stick and stitch stabilizer, another way to transfer a design to fabric is by using a water soluble marker!
Patterns and Designs To Use
Here is the strawberry embroidery pattern that I used for the shorts pictured in this post. I also have an embroidery design eBook that has over 50 designs, which would look great embroidered on clothing!
50+ Embroidery Designs
Sometimes figuring out what to stitch is the hardest part. This E-book features 50+ modern embroidery designs that you can download, print out, and trace. Put your own spin on each design with your choice of stitches and colors. Get your creative juices flowing and get started stitching!
If you’re looking for small designs, I have a bunch of mini embroidery design tutorials to choose from.
Stick N Stitch Packs
Stick and Stitch Designs
Available at Matryoshka Doll Shop on Etsy
Stick and stitch packs are perfect for embroidering on clothes. They use the same or similar Stick and Wash Away stabilizer that is featured in this post, but they’re already printed and cut out for you to use. You can find many available from different embroidery artists on Etsy, like this cute pack by Matryoshka Doll Shop!
TLDR Summary Of Some Helpful Tips
- Make sure you pre-wash the clothing you are going to stitch on. Just in case it shrinks!
- Use thread that is colorfast so that it won’t fade or bleed when the clothes are washed.
- Be mindful of how long you are making your stitches. Stitches such as the satin stitch can become loose once you take the embroidery out of the hoop. If you are covering a large area with long satin stitches, opt for another stitch, such as the long and short stitch to fill it in.
- Always test out whatever marker or stabilizer you are using on a discreet area first! You always want to make sure whatever materials you are using won’t ruin or stain your clothes.
- Use an embroidery hoop – the tension of an embroidery hoop on the fabric will make it much easier to keep your stitches looking neat and even and prevent the fabric from puckering.
- Make sure to knot your stitches when you end them to ensure your embroidery doesn’t fall out.
Care of Embroidered Clothing
After you’ve embroidered onto the clothes, I recommend hand washing (or using the delicate/hand wash setting on your washing machine) and hang drying. As with anything that contains color, you should avoid bleach. Here are some tips for washing and caring for embroidered clothes.
Pocket Embroidery Tutorial
In the embroidery examples in this post, I didn’t remove the pocket before I embroidered on it. This of course meant that I sewed the pocket shut! While it’s totally fine to do that, I have another tutorial that shows you how you can safely remove the pocket and embroider a design on it here if you’re interested learning more.
I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial! Check out this tutorial on how to stitch words onto clothing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can! If you are stitching on a piece of clothing that is somewhat fragile or stretchy, using a stabilizer on the back of the garment will help to preserve the fabric and make it easier to stitch on. The easiest materials to stitch on are articles of clothing that are made of cotton, linen, or denim.
You can use stitch in, iron on, or adhesive stabilizer on the back of clothing if you feel that the clothing needs a bit more stabilizing when you stitch on it. Check out this post all about the different stabilizers for hand embroidery to learn more about the different types.
You can, but the washing machine can be rough on embroidery. To preserve your embroidery for as long as possible, it is recommended to hand wash and air dry. But if you absolutely have to, wash the piece of clothing on a gentle/hand wash cycle by itself and hang dry.
Yes! It never hurts to wash a shirt before stitching on it. This will allow the shirt to shrink if it contains a material that tends to shrink in the washer and dryer. If the embroidery is on the clothing before you put it in the wash and it shrinks, the embroidery will not look as nice and may pucker.
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.