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One easy way to personalize a store-bought fleece or knit beanie is to add your own embroidery design. Take that boring, solid-colored beanie, stitch your favorite design, and boom, you have a new DIY embroidered beanie for your winter wardrobe!
Because beanies are so stretchy, they are notoriously difficult, but not impossible, to machine embroider. To help you master your next beanie embroidery project, let’s talk about how to embroider a beanie hat with your embroidery machine and how to troubleshoot any issues that arise.
DIY Beanie Embroidery Accessories & Supplies
Here’s what I used for this project!
- Embroidery machine (used my Brother SE1900) with the smallest possible hoop
- Machine embroidery thread (I used 40wt 100% polyester thread for the top & 60wt white bobbin thread)
- 75/11 Schmetz embroidery needle (You can also try a ballpoint needle if troubleshooting poor stitch quality.)
- PolyMesh cut-away stabilizer
- Water-soluble stabilizer topping (Sulky Solvy is my favorite!)
- Embroidery scissors or snips
- Pins and clips
- Fabric marking tools and ruler
What’s the best stabilizer for a beanie?
Whether you are embroidering a fleece or a knit beanie, the best stabilizer for beanies is a cut-away or PolyMesh stabilizer. This stabilizer keeps stretchy beanies from distorting during the stitching process and also provides the best support for designs with a higher stitch count.
However, this type of stabilizer also remains on the inside of the beanie once you’re done embroidering. If you’ve chosen a beanie with a fold at the base, no one will ever be the wiser! However, if you’re embroidering a single-layer one, though, you’ll have to weigh your options.
You may be able to get away with tear-away or wash-away stabilizer if you have a very lightly stitched design on a beanie that is secured to the hoop very well. For instance, a self-adhesive tear-away can provide decent results on fleece beanies (more so than knitted ones) and works best with designs with a lower stitch count. That being said, if you’re troubleshooting a poor stitch out and were using tear-away stabilizer, I recommend giving cut-away a try before changing any other parameters.
I also recommend a water-soluble topper for this project. This light film layer will also support the stitches better and keep them from sinking into the beanie ribbing!
Beanie Embroidery Ideas and Design Considerations
Because embroidering on a ribbed beanie can be difficult, it’s important to pick a design that’s going to work with you and not against you!
Fun things to add to beanies are your company’s logo, a person’s initial, name, or monogram, an applique, a fun phrase, or even a holiday-themed design. In the picture above, I used fluffy fabric and did a heart applique.
When selecting a design, first, make sure to check the density of your design. If you’ve taken a bigger design and resized it without adjusting the number of stitches, you’ll end up with a thick, puckered mess. I also like to slightly reduce the number of stitches when possible. Either that or I use the Auto Fabric function in my Hatch 2 embroidery software to make adjustments.
Designs that have less square-shaped features to them are more forgiving. If you embroider a rectangular logo on your beanie, for instance, and you’re a few mm off in placement, it will be so obvious that the sides don’t run parallel to the ribbing or the top cuff of the beanie. Choosing a less angular design with more complexity to the edges can better camouflage errors in design placement.
And, if your design keeps sinking into the ribbing of the beanie even when you’re using water-soluble topping, try adding a knockdown stitch underneath your design. Digitize it to be only a few millimeters bigger than your design, and stitch in the closest matching thread color for your beanie. I still use a topper when adding a knockdown stitch, but you can usually eliminate the topping with this method!
How to Embroider a Beanie
Let’s get into the step-by-step process so you can get the best results during the embroidery process. These steps work if you’re learning how to embroider a fleece beanie or a ribbed, knit beanie.
Marking and Design Placement
I like designs to the right of the horizontal center and stitched vertically in the center of the fold. However, this is up to your preference! If you’re unsure how you want to place your design, use basic embroidery software to print a template to help you get ideas. (Here are some great free embroidery software options!)
Then, make a long vertical and horizontal line where you want the center of your design to go. Luckily, on ribbed beanies, marking the vertical line just means following the ribbing!
Now, this one tip has also saved me multiple times: Also make a mark at the top of the outside of the fold of the beanie. I like to use the letter T, which stands for top. Once you start unfolding and hooping the beanie, things can get turned around. Unfortunately, I’ve embroidered a few upside-down beanies and designs on the wrong side. So, I ALWAYS mark them now, and I’ve had no problems since!
How to Float a Beanie for Embroidery
While I’m a huge fan of hooping fabric for machine embroidery, beanies are one of those items that I prefer to float, which means to secure the beanie outside the hoop. (If you have a multi-needle machine with a more robust hoop, you might be able to more successfully hoop a beanie.)
So, first, hoop a piece of your selected stabilizer.
There are then several ways to secure the beanie to your hooped stabilizer. My favorite way is to add a light layer of temporary fabric adhesive (like Odif 505) to the stabilizer and then pin the beanie in place if needed. If I think the beanie is going to move around, I’ll then embroider a basting box to check placement. This is helpful in making sure the ribs line up with the edges of the basting box, which lines up with your design. Below, you’ll see the basting box I added to using Hatch 2 software.
Now, to stretch or not to stretch the beanie when floating or hooping? This has long been a quandary for me. For one, if you don’t stretch the beanie and embroider with the ribbing at its most contracted state, when you go to wear the beanie, the ribbing stretches but the design does not. This leads to odd-looking distortion around the design. On the other hand, if you float a stretched beanie, it looks pretty good when worn! However, when it’s contracted at rest, it doesn’t look its best. So, my solution is to float with about 10% uniform stretch from the resting state to the stretched head-sized state. (Is there any scientific basis for this? Nope, I made it up from my experiences, and you can choose whatever you want to do also!)
After you’ve floated your beanie, place your water-soluble topping on the top of the beanie. If you want to prevent movement, use Odif 505 or a dab of water on the edges of the topping. It will also be held in place if you choose to use a basting box!
Setting Up Your Embroidery Machine
Next. load your hoop onto your embroidery arm, and load your design. Center your embroidery foot with the center of the marked beanie by moving around your design onscreen.
You then have to move all the excess fabric from underneath the hoop or you’ll end up stitching the two sides of your beanie together! You can use painter’s tape, clips, pins, or whatever your favorite method is!
Then, double-check these things:
- Do you have the right color bobbin and upper thread?
- Are you using the correct needle?
- Is the beanie oriented the right way, and is all the excess fabric removed from the bottom?
- Is the design oriented in the right direction relative to the beanie?
- Did you add water-soluble topper?
If everything looks great, press go, and watch your machine embroider your beanie! I’d recommend sticking close by and monitoring during the embroidery process. Beanies are sneaky little things and can magically move around.
If you used a basting box, this will stitch first and give you the opportunity to preview your beanie placement in the hoop. When the sides of your box align parallel with the ribbing, you know you’ll get an aligned stitch out! If not, start the floating and aligning process over before you start adding the actual design to your beanie. My basting box below was a pretty good success!
Once your embroidery is finished, remove the stabilizer and beanie from the hoop. Trim the stabilizer from the back using your favorite scissors. I like duckbill scissors to keep me from accidentally snipping the fabric.
Then, remove any basting stitches you added and remove the water-soluble stabilizer. Dip your beanie in water to remove the remaining topping and the pen marks.
Let your hat dry, and then you have a beautiful machine embroidered beanie cap!
How to Machine Embroider a Beanie – Conclusion
I hope this tutorial has shown you how to embroider a beanie hat and also given you some insight into troubleshooting. Beanies are so fun to embroider once you have the hang of things, so happy embroidering!