This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.
When Fall and Winter roll around, our family gets out the flannel clothing for pumpkin patch pictures, holiday gatherings, and Christmas pajamas.
I also start frantically trying to check gifts off my Christmas list and make as many things as possible before the holiday.
As I’ve been crafting, I put together these tips for successful embroidery on flannel.
So, follow along if you want to learn how to machine embroider on flannel!
Tips for Embroidery on Flannel
Right now, I’m sewing flannel hand warmers from old plaid shirts and personalizing them with embroidered Christmas trees.
Whether you’re embroidering shirts, blankets, quilts, or other blanks, these tips will still apply to your flannel project, though.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind!
1. Choose Good-Quality Flannel
Not all flannel is created equal.
For instance, I had this super cute llama flannel I purchased from JOANN to make matching family PJs. Well, the first time my husband sat down in those flannel shorts, a big crack opened in the rear at the serged seam.
Then, the flannel around my daughter’s nightgown binding started shredding after the first wash.
All that to say, choose good-quality flannel before you embroider on it.
The poor-quality stuff can’t stand up to normal wear and tear, let alone support repeated needle penetrations with an embroidery machine.
Also, flannel with less stretch, more thickness, and a tighter weave will better support denser, more intricate designs.
2. Prewash Fabric and Dry as Intended
Like most cotton fabrics, flannel also shrinks when washed and dried.
Thus, if you embroider on flannel that you eventually plan to launder, save yourself heartache by prewashing and drying it before you hoop and embroider.
I also like to press my fabric after with Best Press (or a starch equivalent, if you prefer) to stiffen it before embroidering.
And, if you notice your flannel isn’t supporting the embroidery design well, another option for added stiffness is ironing on a layer of interfacing to the back of the fabric. Pellon SF101 is my favorite option of the moment, but pick your interfacing based on the weight of the fabric.
3. Stabilize Appropriately
If your flannel has stretch to it or you are picking a design with a higher stitch count or density, steer clear of tear-away stabilizer.
A good-quality cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer will support the design better and decrease puckering and pulling at the edges of the embroidery design.
Fusible no-show is my favorite when I embroider on flannel. In addition to providing more stability, ironing on the stabilizer makes hooping easier, too.
Just ensure you fuse on enough stabilizer on the back to encompass the entire hoop area.
You could try tear-away stabilizer if you have a low stitch-count design or excellent quality, stable flannel. I like the soft tear-away stabilizer better for this than the firm, as it provides a little more support but still tears cleanly enough away.
Lastly, if you plan to embroider on a flannel shirt or other item that will be worn, consider adding an embroidery backing on the backside of the design. This will prevent it from scratching the wearer.
4. Consider a Topper
While not necessary in most cases, if your flannel has a little fluff on the top and you notice stitches getting lost in it, consider adding a water-soluble topping like Sulky Solvy before starting to embroider.
5. Pick a Suitable Design
Applique designs, monograms, and other lower stitch count embroidery designs are definitely suitable for flannel embroidery projects.
Thick, fill-stitch designs? Well, you might not always get the outcome you want.
If you do want to use a dense design, consider using an embroidery program to decrease stitch count.
You can do this by editing the design yourself or using the Auto Fabric settings in your software (not all programs do this, but my Hatch 3 Digitizer does.)
6. Use the Right Supplies
First, choose your favorite machine embroidery thread: rayon, polyester, cotton, or even specialty thread.
Unless the backside of the flannel will be visible, you can use a neutral color of machine embroidery bobbin thread.
Then, select the right needle to correspond with your thread and flannel weight.
A 75/11 embroidery needle is my go-to for most embroidery projects. If I’m using metallic thread or another specialty thread, I might change to a topstitching or metallic needle in a bigger size.
Also, make sure you have a plan for marking where you want your design to go.
I used a placement sticker for the project featured in this tutorial, but you can opt for a water-soluble marker, chalk wheel, or your favorite marking utensil.
Last, don’t forget to have scissors to trim threads and cut off the stabilizer after you finish embroidering.
Duckbill applique scissors are my favorite because the shape of the blade on the side closest to the fabric makes it very, very difficult to cut through your fabric accidentally.
7. Hoop When Possible
I think flannel is best embroidered when hooped, especially if it has any stretch to it.
I also prefer to hoop more stable flannel to prevent puckering and movement during embroidery.
While you could float your flannel outside the hoop or rig things with a magnetic hoop, at least consider sticky stabilizer, a basting box, or pinning the flannel to prevent movement during embroidery.
So, what are you waiting for?
With these tips for embroidering on flannel, you can now hopefully start personalizing your favorite plaid flannel shirt, scarf, baby quilt, or Winter gear.
And just remember, embroidered flannel items make perfect Christmas embroidery gift ideas!