How to Embroider a Store-Bought Potholder

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It’s not anywhere near Christmas yet, but I like to work on gifts in advance as the ideas come to me.

When I saw a cute kitchen-themed design from one of my favorite design websites, I knew it was perfect for my aunt, who adores our local Nothing Bundt Cakes store. 

And what better to embroider it on than something she can use while cooking?

Hence, this tutorial for making embroidered potholders!

Now, while embroidering cotton fabric and then sewing the potholder yourself (or evening making an in-the-hoop potholder) might be the neatest way to accomplish this task, I’m all about simplicity and like to embroider store-bought potholders. (Plus, potholders are one of many Dollar Tree embroidery blanks, so they’re a perfect inexpensive embroidery gift idea!)

The trickiest part about store-bought potholders is figuring out what to do about the backside of the embroidery. Otherwise, these are a straightforward embroidery project as you’ll soon see!

Potholder Machine Embroidery Tutorial

Embroidered Potholder Considerations

Here are several things to think about when planning your project!

Thread Choice

Potholders come into contact with high temperatures, so choose a thread that will not melt with extreme heat. My go-to is 30wt cotton embroidery thread.

Needle Selection

For 40wt thread, a 75/11 embroidery needle should do the trick.

If you’re using a thicker 30wt thread, consider switching to a larger needle such as an 80/12 or 90/14 embroidery needle to accommodate the wider thread and minimize potential issues.

Best Stabilizer Options

best stabilizer for embroidering potholders

The best stabilizer for a potholder is one you won’t see on the back after the embroidery is finished. 

As such, choose a wash-away or tear-away stabilizer.

I prefer sticky, self-adhesive tear-away or fusible tear-away because they also decrease movement of the potholder during the embroidery process. While you could also use temporary fabric adhesive, I’m a little weird about chemicals on things that will be heated. 

Tear-away stabilizer (especially sticky tear-away) will be more challenging to remove from the back of intricate designs, so if this is an issue for you, consider a wash-away stabilizer.

And, if you notice your needle disrupting any of the stitches that form the quilted appearance of the potholder, try placing a layer of water-soluble topping over the potholder before starting to embroider. 

Design Considerations

If you put a very dense design on a potholder, it’s not going to bend like it should when used. 

To prevent this issue, I decreased the number of stitches in my design, which came from Embroidery Super Deal.

This also worked well because I used a thicker 30wt thread instead of the typical 40wt thread the design was digitized for. Ways to reduce the stitch count include lengthening existing stitches or changing the stitch density, for example.  

Floating vs. Hooping a Potholder

If you’re embroidering on a store-bought potholder, it’s going to be difficult to hoop. As such, consider floating it on top of the stabilizer. 

add a basting stitch

When floating, for extra stability, consider adding a basting box. This series of stitches is removed quickly after the project is completed but is very helpful for preventing shifting during the embroidery process. 

Potholder Back: Ideas for Concealing It

When choosing to embroider a store-bought potholder, the most significant consideration is what to do about the back. Here are some ideas! 

  1. Match the bobbin thread to the color of the potholder. Some of the top threads will still show on the back, but the dominant threads will be the same color as the pot holder. 
  2. For designs with only a few color changes, match the bobbin thread to the top thread for each color. This is what I do when embroidering free-standing lace. This also is fun if you choose a design that will look similar from the front and back. 
  3. Stitch two potholders together after the first is embroidered. This is my favorite method as it also provides a thicker potholder. Dollar Tree potholders aren’t Williams Sonoma quality after all. To sew, stitch along the existing seam on the bindings of the two holders. 
  4. Add an extra layer of fabric on the back of the potholder as a pocket for your hand. Construct it as you would a shirt pocket and stitch it on along the existing potholder binding seam.

How to Embroider a Potholder

Now, here’s a quick step-by-step tutorial of my latest embroidered potholder if you need a little extra assistance!

First, mark your potholder where the center of the design should go.

In most cases, this will be in the center of the potholder. Since my potholder was black, I used my chalk wheel for a temporary mark. Placement stickers are another option, and for lighter-colored potholders, air-soluble or water-soluble pens work great. 

how to stabilizer the potholder

Next, hoop your selected stabilizer.

Then, attach your potholder using your chosen method. I preferred sticky self-adhesive stabilizer, so I hooped it with the paper side up and then scored the paper and tore it off before sticking my potholder on. 

Next, load your design and orient it properly related to the potholder. Double-check your bobbin thread, upper thread, and needle choices. 

Press start, and go! 

embroidering on a potholder

After the embroidery is done, remove the basting stitches with a seam ripper.

Then, tear or wash away your stabilizer. Finally, trim any remaining jump stitches and clean up the back of the design. 

remove basting stitch and stabilizer from back of potholder

If you want to make a double-layered potholder, stitch right along the seam of the binding for both potholders using a cotton thread of the same color as the potholder. 

how to embroider on store bought potholders

And that’s it! I hope my aunt enjoys her embroidered potholder and that you have one more idea for fun things you can embroider with your machine. 


  1. I just ran across your site and am having a lot of fun reading your posts. I warn you about the $ Tree potholders though. They say 100% cotton, but they melt away instantly! I was very excited to find the cotton ones, but I think they’re lying LOL. Great posts & info! Thanks for taking the time to write all this up!

  2. Just ran across your site while looking for a way to finish the backs of store-bought round braided placemats that I embroidered. I have used tear-away stabilizer but removing stabilizer in small areas is tedious. One site suggested leaving it on and cutting it neatly around outside of the design but I don’t like the look. Any suggestions (these are not washable)? Any ideas will be appreciated, thanks.

    1. Are they a material where you could attach a round piece of backing fabric completely over the back of the placemat to cover the area?

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