How To Embroider a Towel – Tutorial and Tips for Monogramming

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Let’s talk about how to embroider a towel using an embroidery machine! I’ll cover how to pick a design and stabilizer and even how to place a monogram on towels if you’re going that route.

I think embroidering on towels is one of the easiest beginner embroidery projects because towels aren’t stretchy and thus are easy to prepare.  With towels, you do need to know a few key tips to ensure success, though.  I’ll teach you those things in this tutorial, so let’s get started!

Towel Embroidery Supplies

choosing stabilizer to embroider towel

First, you need to get together all your embroidery supplies.  

  • Terry cloth towel
  • Embroidery machine (I am using my Brother SE625 combination machine)
  • Embroidery needle (75/11 embroidery needle for thinner towels, but you may need to size up if you have a thicker towel.  Make sure the needle is not an old, dull needle.)
  • Stabilizer (cut-away, tear-away, or wash-away. I’ll give you tips for deciding which one below.)
  • Water-soluble topper (I LOVE Sulky Solvy stabilizer.)
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Embroidery thread for the top thread and bobbin thread (I used 100% polyester embroidery machine thread.)
  • Water-soluble fabric pen (or another way to mark your fabric)
  • Embroidery design (make one with embroidery software, purchase one, or use your machine’s built-in fonts or designs)
  • Optional: Adhesive spray, if not using fusible stabilizer (I use quilt basting spray or Odif 505 usually.)

Now, this tutorial will specifically focus on embroidering a terry cloth towel.  Terry cloth is a woven fabric with loops of thread on top and is the type of towel you’ll find if you’re trying to embroider a hand towel, beach towel, washcloth, etc.  If you’re wanting to embroider on a more delicate dishcloth or tea towel, try this tutorial instead.

Choosing an Embroidery Design for Your Towel

why you need to choose a dense design to keep designs showing

Above is my very first embroidery project ever. I wanted to embroider a blanket for my husband that said “Daddy Bear.”  So, I used built-in fonts on my machine and started embroidering. 

What I didn’t realize until about later was if you are using a fluffy fabric with depth (like a towel or this huge sherpa blanket), you need to choose a design with wide, thick letters!  

Because towels have nap or pile (the fuzzy surface on top), your design needs to be dense enough to show up amidst the loops of terry cloth.  

If you absolutely want a thin, delicate design or have a very fluffy towel, you CAN use a knockdown stitch underneath it to flatten the towel loops before adding a design that may get lost otherwise. Below is a robe I embroidered with a knockdown stitch first. If you want to learn more, check out the post what is an embroidery knockdown design and how to use one.

knockdown stitch for blankets or towels

Recommendations for Monogramming Placement

If you plan to monogram a towel or add an initial to the towel, you need to think about design placement.  These are the general rules I follow for monogram placement:

  • Hand Towels: for towels with bands, the bottoms of the letters go 1.5″ above the border and for towels without borders, go closer to 2.5.”  You can center monograms in the middle of the towel or place them at the right edge.
  • Bath Towels: the bottom of the monogram starts 2″ above the center of the bottom hem for a towel with no borders and 4″ above for towels with borders.  Center the monogram on the towel. 
  • Washcloths: the base of the monogram starts around 1″ above the border or 1.5″ from the edge of washcloths without borders.  Put the monogram around on the right edge of the washcloth.  You could also center it at an angle.

Three Letter Monogram Letter Order

If you’re doing a three-letter monogram for one person with a middle letter larger, the middle letter is the last name initial, the first is the first name initial, and the last letter is the last initial.  If you’re doing all letters the same size, line them up first, middle, and last name initial.

A three-letter monogram for a couple has their last name initial in the middle, the wife’s first name initial first, and the man’s first name initial last.

How to Embroider a Towel: Picture Tutorial

Now that we have some boring details out of the way, let’s get to embroidering! (And, if you’re completely new to embroidery, check out my how to use an embroidery machine tutorial for a tips!)

1. Preparing Your Towel and Marking the Design

It is important to prewash, and thus preshrink, your towel.  Since I wash my towels on hot and dry on medium, this is how I washed my towel in preparation.

If your towel has a tag on it, remove it or let it be on the back of the towel on the opposite side you decide to embroider on.

You also need to determine where on your towel you want your design.  For an involved design, you can print the design out from software, cut it, and then place it on the top of the towel to help determine design location.  Since I embroidered initials and a monogram on my towels in this tutorial, I just marked the location by doing simple math and marking the center.

I mark the center with a blue fabric pen, which will wash out with water after the embroidery is done.  The intersection of my two lines below will be the center of my monogram.

mark your towel for design placement

2. Stabilizing the Towels

The choice of stabilizer depends on your intended use of the towel, the thickness of the towel, and the design you choose.  In my experience, the best stabilizer for machine embroidery on towels is medium-weight tearaway stabilizer.  Here’s more information, though. 

Stabilizer Types

For thin and medium-weight towels without much stretch, a tearaway stabilizer is all you need.  When looking at the back of your towel, you won’t have any visible stabilizer remaining after your towel embroidery is complete.

Now, if you’re embroidering a beach towel or other towel that’s unstable, you may want to consider a cutaway stabilizer or PolyMesh.  It’s going to provide more support and protect the integrity of your stitches more.  The only issue with cutaway is you have to trim it away from the back of your design, and it will be visible from the back. 

You also have the option of a wash-away stabilizer for the back.

Stabilizer Weight

You also have to consider the weight of the stabilizer you’ll need: lightweight, mediumweight, or heavyweight.  Pick the stabilizer weight based on your towel thickness and sturdiness as well as your design density.  I used a mediumweight stabilizer for my towels in this tutorial.

Fusible vs Adhesive vs Non-Fusible Stabilizer

Fusible stabilizers are adhered to the back of your towel with an iron. 

There’s also sticky adhesive stabilizer, which sticks to the back like a sticker. This sometimes injures the towel loops when I remove it, so I don’t like it for this purpose. 

Non-fusible stabilizer can be adhered using a temporary fabric adhesive.  I prefer non-fusible stabilizer with temporary fabric adhesive, but every embroiderer has different preferences, and this is NOT a set-in-stone rule. 

3. Adding Water-Soluble Topping

how to line up the towel and water-soluble stabilizer

Any terry towel or towel with nap needs a water-soluble topping or stabilizer on top of it. 

This will stabilize the stitches and prevent them from sinking into the nap of the towel.  And, one of the reasons you need a nice, sharp needle for this project is so it will pierce through this topping well.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m a huge fan of Sulky Solvy stabilizer.

4. How to Hoop a Towel: Option 1

embroidering the towel

If I can fit an item into my hoop, I always hoop it.  In my experience, hooping provides more stability, and it is easier for me to line up an embroidery design inside the hoop.  (Check out my how to hoop fabric for embroidery tutorial if you need extra help.) Hooping only works for thin towels, though.

To hoop everything, I first adhered my tearaway stabilizer to the back of the towel using a very light layer of temporary fabric adhesive.  Be careful not to drench the stabilizer or towel in adhesive or you will end up pulling some of the loops on the back when you remove your tearaway later. You don’t have to use adhesive and some embroidery enthusiasts hate it, but I find it keeps things from shifting and gives better results.

Hoop the stabilizer on the bottom, then the towel, and then the water-soluble topper as the uppermost layer.  If you can’t get the topping hooped, you can always just place it on top of the hoop later.

5. How to Float a Towel: Option 2

If you are unable to hoop your towel due to thickness or preference, you can place it on top of your hooped stabilizer. 

Ways to then keep the floated towel from moving during embroidery are using self-adhesive sticky stabilizer, adding a basting box, or even pinning in place, for example.  (Read: how to float fabric for machine embroidery for tips!)

6. Embroidering the Towel

Attach your hoop to your embroidery machine and get everything set up. Make sure the part of the towel not being embroidered is not underneath any part of your hoop.

I like to preview my design first with my machine to see where it is going to stitch.  This confirms I have hooped the design properly.  Every once in a while, after previewing, I’ll realize I measured incorrectly.  

If all looks good, go ahead and start embroidering your towel!

embroider on the towel!

7. Clean Up

Once your towel is done, remove it from the hoop.  You will probably see hoop marks on the side if you hooped it securely.  Don’t worry, towels are very resilient fabrics!  These marks will wash out, can be fluffed out, or pressed out with Magic Spray sizing.

hoop marks left on the towel

If you have any jump stitches like the ones below, go ahead and trim them if your machine doesn’t automatically. Sometimes, removing the jump stitches is easier when the water-soluble topping is on the towel still.

trim any jump stitches

Then, to remove the water-soluble topping, just tear it off.  No need to be perfect about this.  The rest will dissolve when you place your towel in water or in its first wash cycle.

remove the water soluble topping from the towel

To remove the tearaway stabilizer, gently tear it away from the back.  It may take a little more effort if you adhered the stabilizer to the back of the towel.  It will be a cleaner tear after your first wash if you want to save the little pieces to tear off then. Below is what the back of my embroidered towel looks like. 

remove tearaway stabilizer

And lastly, if you marked with a water-soluble pen, this disappears when you dip your towel in water or launder it again.

Conclusion: Enjoy Your Embroidered Towel!

Congratulations!  You now have successfully embroidered a terry cloth towel.  Go hang it in your house proudly or save it to gift! 

I love to embroider monogrammed towels as wedding gifts.  Being mid-30’s, my husband and I know a LOT of people who are getting married (and having babies) and thus find ourselves in need of frequent gifts.

How to embroider a towel

4 Comments

  1. This was a very informative article. I appreciate it very much. I’m a beginner, and was very confused about what i should use. Thank you so much!!! Robin Clark

  2. This was so helpful for a beginner! Do you clip all the jump threads on the back of the towel as well?

    1. I don’t usually since the backs of my projects aren’t often visible. You do have to be careful what you clip on the back, too, as some stitches there may help keep parts of your design from later unraveling.

  3. Question: I’ve just embroidered a couple of towels and the wrong side looks better than the right.

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