7 Helpful Tips for Embroidery on Flannel

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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!

flannel embroidery

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.  

stiffen fabric

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. 

best stabilizer for flannel is fusible no-show mesh

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. 

there should be margin for the flannel

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

a good embroidery design for flannel embroidery

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.)

Looking for seasonal ideas for your flannel? Here’s where to find free Christmas embroidery designs and free Fall embroidery designs

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. 

mark where design should go

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. 

remove cut-away

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

hoop the flannel

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. 



how to embroider on flannel

Final Notes

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!


  1. Thank you for all these advices!I found all really usefull!
    I want to embroid microfiber and i think it has the same behavior with flannel.
    What you think?
    Thanks again!!!!

    1. Yes, I think flannel and microfiber are fairly similar. If you notice stitches sinking into the microfiber, though, I recommend adding a water-soluble topping before you start embroidering.

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