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How To Embroider Your Clothes: Tips and Tutorials For Beginners

If you fancy upcycling your clothes and adding a personalised touch to your wardrobe, then embroidery is your friend! If you want to get started in a really easy way, then why not grab one of my Stitch Your Clothes embroidery kits?

I've included a whole host of tips and tutorials below to help you embroider your clothes, from how to print on to soluble stabilizer, stitch and garment choice and after care. Hope it helps!

Before you start stitching:

There are a few things to consider before you start embroidering garments:

  1. Check your threads are colour fast! You don’t want to spend ages stitching your clothes to find out the hard way the thread ink runs when it’s washed. DMC threads are colourfast but I would always do a little test first by stitching on some white scrap fabric and saturating it with water. This is especially important if you’re working with red thread and/or white fabric!

  2. If you’re embroidering onto a new garment, wash it first. Sometimes clothes shrink or stretch when washed and if they do this after you’ve embroidered them, your stitches will be distorted.

  3. Not all fabrics are made equal and anything delicate like silk, chiffon or lace may not fair well when punctured with a needle or handled a lot. Garments made from cotton, denim, linen or poplin are great choices to upcycle with some stitching. T-shirts and knitwear are also decent choices, but you will need to take care not to over-stretch the fabric as you stitch (so not to distort your work) and they may benefit from adding some iron-on interfacing to the back before you start as extra stability. I’ve found that just using the stick and stitch patches can add enough stability for a jersey t-shirt. Which brings me onto...

  4. To hoop or not to hoop. I always prefer to work in an embroidery hoop, and found if the hoop was small enough this worked with 95% of my garment choices. The only times I chose to work without a hoop was when working on knitwear as it stretched too much or if a hoop wouldn’t physically fit. If your fabric is stretchy and you use a hoop, try not to pull your garment too taut and consider adding some extra stability with some interfacing at the back.

  5. Stitch choice. The instructions overleaf are designed with clothes in mind, but if you go rogue, avoid long and loose stitches. If you make the designs bigger, choose long and short stitch instead of satin stitch, and granitos stitch instead of lazy daisies. Avoid 3D stitches like woven wheels and turkey work as they won’t fair well in the wash or if they get caught on things. Also secure your stitches with a couple of knots to make sure they last.

Stick and stitch daisy chain embroidery patch

Working With Soluble Stabilizer:

If you’ve bought a Stitch Your Clothes kits or stick and stitch patches, you can skip steps 1-3 and head straight to step 5.

  1. If you need to buy some soluble paper to work with, I recommend Sulky Fabri-Solvy, or Pellon Stick-N-Washaway, making sure you get the A4 options.

  2. Print your designs. I recommend printing in draft mode and doing a test run of soaking away one of the patches on some scrap fabric - I’ve heard accounts of some printer inks running when soaked away.

  3. Cut out the designs leaving a centimetre or so of space around them. Don’t use your fabric or embroidery scissors, you might blunt them. Any normal scissors will do.

  4. Measure and mark where you want the design to go with tailors chalk or an erasable pen. This is especially important if you’re aiming for central or symmetrical placement!

  5. Peel off the paper backing and stick the soluble patch to your fabric. I like to do this before my fabric is in the hoop when working with clothes to help with any stretching or tension issues.

  6. Optional: Before you start stitching, do a long running stitch around your piece (going through the stabiliser and fabric), especially if it’s a bigger design. Soluble embroidery paper is sticky but it isn’t going to hold like super glue so tack it down with some stitches to stop movement mid-project.

  7. Stitch! Pretend the soluble paper isn’t there and work as you normally would using the embroidery guides on pages 6 and 7. If you want to check how colours are looking and find it hard to tell, peek at the back. If your needle is getting sticky, clean it with a baby wipe or some rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth.

An embroidered bumbag under a running tap

After You’ve Finished Stitching:

  1. Snip off the running stitch around your design, and also any excess stabiliser that is easy to remove. Again, don’t use your fabric or embroidery scissors!

  2. Soak off the soluble paper. Submerge the part of your garment with the soluble paper on in slightly warm water for at least 15 minutes. Once it has all soaked away, give your project a really good rinse in barely-lukewarm water and then gently roll your project in a clean, dry towel to remove as much as excess water as you can without squeezing it too hard.

  3. If your thread still feels a little sticky or stiff, repeat step 2.

  4. Optional: pop your garment in the washing machine (see info below) to wash or at least on a rinse cycle to remove some excess water.

  5. Let your garment dry. I always choose to line dry or dry flat on a clothes horse as opposed to tumble drying.

  6. Back your embroidery with iron on interfacing. This is optional but recommended, especially if the stitching is on a piece that gets handled a lot. 

Using iron on interfacing:

  1. Cut out a piece of interfacing that is big enough to cover your embroidery, and place it on the back of your embroidery glue-side down. The glue side is the shinier side that feels bumpy

  2. Place a clean piece of fabric like a tea towel over the interfacing so you don’t get glue on your iron. Set your iron to a low temperature and, if you can, to a setting which does not use steam.

  3. Press your iron down section by section (don’t use a sweeping motion as you normally would to iron) for 10-15 seconds at a time. If it isn’t sticking, turn the temperature on your iron up.

After care:

I tend to wash my embroidered garments on a gentle, low temperature cycle using a delicates bag, but honestly if your stitching is well secured, you can just wash as normal following the garment’s usual care instructions. If you iron your garment, place a towel under the right side of the stitching to avoid flattening it.


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