How to Embroider a Backpack With a Machine

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My daughter made it 4 months of kindergarten before her backpack sprung a hole in the bottom. She needed a new backpack, and the winter holidays weren’t the time to find many options for cute backpacks. 

So, I dug into my stash of unused bags and found a quilted backpack I’d received as a DSW freebie. It was perfect to personalize with embroidery!

Now, she’s rocking her new, custom embroidered backpack, and we’ll see how long this one lasts.

Want to see how I did it? Follow along in this tutorial for how to embroider a backpack with a machine.

embroider a backpack

Tools and Supplies

Here’s my supplies list for this project:

  • Embroidery machine and hoop
  • Backpack to embroider
  • Embroidery design (mine was from Blasto Stitch.)
  • Stabilizer: Adhesive tear-away stabilizer and topper
  • Thread: Polyester embroidery thread (DIME Exquisite thread is incredible!)
  • Needle: 75/11 embroidery needle
  • Scissors, measuring tools, and marking tools

Which Parts of a Backpack Can Be Embroidered?

If you have a multi-needle embroidery machine with a free arm, you have more flexibility in location when embroidering your backpack. 

If you have a single-needle, flat-bed machine as I do, you are more limited. Here are some considerations before choosing where to embroider the backpack. 

how to position the backpack in your embroidery hoop

First, you have to isolate the desired embroidery area in a single, flat layer. The hoop also has to fit below this area and still connect to your machine. 

Furthermore, the bulk of the backpack needs to face away from your machine’s throat space and not crowd the machine head.

Don’t forget that a seam ripper can be your friend if you need to open up a seam for a pocket, etc. to flatten a portion of the backpack out. Just restitch with your sewing machine after embroidering!

Lastly, the backpack needs to be a material that your machine can stitch through. If using vinyl or a very thick backpack, pay special attention to the design and other supplies you use. 

Stabilizer Choice for Backpacks

For durable, non-stretchy backpacks, choose an adhesive tear-away stabilizer or use a layer of adhesive spray on regular tear-away. 

For extra security, consider pinning the backpack to the stabilizer or using a basting box to hold it in place. 

If you have a thin, stretchy backpack, use a cut-away or no-show mesh on the inside. Make sure to find a suitable method for holding the backpack in place if you float it. 

For corduroy backpacks, fluffy backpacks, or even quilted backpacks, add a layer of water-soluble topping on top to support the stitches and keep them from sinking into the fluff.

When embroidering on quilted fabric, I’ve found that my machine’s needle will snag the pre-quilted stitches (or sometimes they’ll show through the design) if I don’t have that topper. 

Design Selection

floral embroidered backpack

Appliques, names, monograms, initials, and fill-stitch character designs are just some of the cute things to embroider on a backpack. 

Just make sure all designs are not too dense or have a too-high stitch count that causes the backpack to pucker or curl. Keeping the backpack feeling soft is an important goal after the embroidery process is done!

Also, while it’s all the rage at my daughter’s school to have a backpack with a name embroidered on it, remember, don’t give away too much personal information about your child to strangers at the pick-up line! (For example, embroidering their first name on the backpack and the last name on their lunchbox. There are crazies everywhere.)

how to embroider a backpack with machine

How to Embroider a Backpack with a Machine

Now, follow along step-by-step to make a custom, personalized backpack! 

1. Mark the Backpack to Be Embroidered. 

mark the backpack for embroidery

First, mark the backpack where the center of your design will go. I like using water-soluble markers on light colors and a chalk wheel or placement stickers on darker colors. 

If you can’t visualize your design’s appearance, print a template from your embroidery software to decide placement that way. 

2. Hoop the Stabilizer. 

Next, hoop one layer of self-adhesive tear-away stabilizer or your stabilizer of choice.

peel off the top of the stabilizer

Then, remove the paper top layer to reveal the sticky surface. 

make pencil marks for the center

For ease with lining up my embroidery blank, I always mark my stabilizer with a pencil at the center point. 

3. Position the Backpack on the Stabilizer.

fold the backpack and press down on the stabilizer

Next, gently push to adhere the backpack to the stabilizer, matching the center of the marked backpack with the stabilizer’s center. 

Sometimes, this is easier if you fold the backpack in half, place one half against the corresponding line, and then unroll the other half. 

4. Set Up the Machine and Start Stitching. 

add a layer of water soluble topper

Then, position the backpack and hoop in your embroidery machine. It helps to have the bulk of the backpack pointing away from the machine body. 

Also, if you need a topper, go ahead and place that on top now. You can secure it with pins, a little dab of water on the edges, or temporary adhesive spray. Or, you can leave it loose and keep an eye on it. 

orient the embroidery design correctly

Next, preview the embroidery design to ensure the backpack will not bump up against the needle, presser foot, or machine head. Previewing beforehand also ensures the design will stitch in the place you think it will! 

Lastly, check that you have the right threads and needle and the design is oriented in the correct direction. Forgetting to rotate a design is one of my most common careless embroidery mistakes. 

all done stitching!

After all the prep is done, press go, and watch your machine embroider the backpack. Keep an eye on it to make sure the backpack isn’t shifting around and you’re not stitching parts together that shouldn’t be! 

5. Tidy Up.

how to machine embroider a backpack

Last, remove the hoop from the machine, and release the stabilizer. 

Gently tear the stabilizer from the back of the backpack and clean up any loose jump stitches on the front or threads on the back. 

Then, remove any water-soluble stabilizer by handpicking or running the backpack quickly under tap water. 

Final Notes

Well, that’s how to machine embroider a backpack! Let me know if you have any questions. 

And, like school-themed embroidery? Check out some of my favorite back-to-school embroidery projects!

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