Machine Embroidery Tips and Tricks

By Kathy Jones - Last updated: Monday, March 15, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

If you are a new embroiderer or perhaps consider yourself an “expert” there are always tips and tricks we can learn to perfect our machine embroidery techniques.  

Prewash Fabric

Always prewash your fabric whenever possible. If the fabric content is 100% cotton and you embroider on it before it is washed, the fabric will shrink around the design, causing puckering and warping.

Thread Trimming
Although it may seem tedious, we recommend clipping thread jumps in between color changes. It is often easier and produces a better result than waiting until the design is completed and many of the jump stitches are partly stitched over.


Never stretch the fabric when hooping because when the embroidery is completed and the hoop removed the fabric will return to its original shape, causing puckering around the outer areas of the design. Use the smallest hoop that will accommodate the design. If you use a hoop too large this will also result in fabric distortion and puckering. Always remember to hoop the fabric tightly but not taut and never tighten the screws on the hoop after the fabric is hooped.

Test Sewing

Because of the sheer number of factors which can negatively impact the quality of your embroidered designs, we highly recommend that you first test sew each design on a scrap piece of the same type of material that you plan to use for your project. By doing this you will be able to make adjustments, (stabilizer, hooping, thread tension, etc…) if needed, to assure that the design will stitch out correctly on the material that you intend to use for your project.

Choosing the Right Design for the Fabric and Project

Many embroiderers forget that some designs work better than others on certain types of fabric. Choosing an appropriate design for the fabric and application can make a huge difference in the quality of the finished project.

As a general rule, lighter-weight fabrics and fabrics that need to drape require lighter, more open designs to avoid drooping and puckering. Fabrics with a high nap, like thick towels, require more dense designs so that the stitches don’t get lost in the fabric.

Choosing the Right Needle and Thread for the Fabric

Don’t use sewing thread or standard sewing needles for embroidery as they may harm the embroidery machine and produce undesirable stitchouts.

Using the right needle is almost as important as using the right stabilizer. For most fabrics, a medium-sized (75/11 or 90/14) embroidery, universal, or sharp needle will work well. More delicate fabrics require a smaller needle. For stretchy fabrics, always use a ball-point needle to avoid runs in the fabric around the design. For specialty applications like leather and denim, use a special needle that is designed for that purpose. There are also special needles for thicker threads and metallic threads that will minimize thread breakage and shredding.

Using Spray Adhesive for Embroidery

It seems that people will avoid using spray adhesives because of horror stories they’ve heard about clogging up machines. This is very far from the truth about some spray adhesives. Conversely, not every spray adhesive which can be purchased is good for your machine. However, there are a few good ones on the market that have been recognized in the industry as not only working very well but do not clog up your machine. Always choose a brand name spray adhesive that is clearly marked for embroidery machine use.
If you have a paper pattern for your applique, you can use spray adhesive to keep your pattern secure to the fabric during cutting and placing. This allows you to spray the adhesive on the back of the pattern and place it on the right side of your fabric. Once your fabric is cut, leave the pattern on the fabric to give your fabric more stability while placing it on the stitching line of your applique. Just spray the wrong side of the fabric, place it on the stitching line and gently pull the pattern off the fabric. The fabric will stay in place and you haven’t stretched it out of shape.

Spray adhesive can also be used to position garments or items that cannot be hooped. These can include caps, purses, bags or small items that are smaller than your smallest hoop. Simply hoop a piece of stabilizer, preferably a cut-away, and spray your item to be sewn. Place it in the hoop just as you would if you had hooped it and sew as usual. Your item should stay in place as you sew.

Posted in Digitizing Tips and Hints, Embroidery and Sewing Projects • • Top Of Page

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