How to Embroider Ribbon Hair Bows with a Machine

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With the school year in full swing again, I’ve been embroidering ribbon hair bows with my daughter’s initials and other cute, small designs.

Now, while I enjoy crafting, bow making itself is not my forte. I prefer to use premade ribbon hair bows and simply add embroidery to them. 

Making embroidered hair bows took some experimentation, but I finally perfected the process of embroidering on ribbon without puckering. Now, I can make these bows easily in bulk. 

Follow along for this easy tutorial to learn more!

how to monogram hair bows

Hair Bow Embroidery Supplies

Here are the exact supplies that I used to monogram my hair bows.

Stabilizing Grosgrain Ribbon Bows

If you use a premade bow, you will need to float the bow. It is thus very important that the ribbon be secured well to stabilizer while embroidering. 

I tried both a wash-away stabilizer and PolyMesh stabilizer with temporary fabric adhesive, but the grip between the stabilizer and ribbon was not good enough to prevent puckering. (See below.)

how to keep ribbon from puckering with stitches

I also used a very tiny basting box in one trial but didn’t like the remaining holes after the stitches were removed. 

Ultimately, self-adhesive sticky stabilizer gave the best stitch out. The strong adhesive surface provided the best grip on the ribbon, meaning less movement while stitching. While I used tear-away, any type of self-adhesive stabilizer (sticky wash-away or cut-away) will work. 

I also found that starching and pressing the ribbon tails before embroidering gave it more rigidity. And, when I noticed designs sinking into the ridges of the grosgrain ribbon, a layer of water-soluble topping over the ribbon fixed that issue.

Embroidery Design Selection & Stitch Density

Embroidering on a ribbon bow takes a very small design!

If your design has too high of a stitch count, the ribbon will pucker and curl. Thus, shrinking a larger design without adjusting the stitch count will end up with bad results. 

In terms of monogramming, with the built-in fonts on my Brother SE1900 embroidery machine, even the smallest letters were too big for my hair bow. So, I used my embroidery software and a font digitized to be small to make my monogram. 

Choosing a Hoop Size

choose a bigger hoop size for the bow

At first, I used the smallest hoop available for my machine to save stabilizer and make centering the bow easier. This did not produce the best results.

Because the hoop was so small, the bow rested on the side of the hoop and didn’t have as secure of a grip to the stabilizer underneath. (See above.)

The best results came from using a hoop where the entire ribbon tail and bow fit within the edges of the hoop frame. (This was accomplished with my 4″x4″ hoop.)

How to Embroider Ribbon Hair Bows: Tutorial

Now, let’s get into the full tutorial on how to make monogrammed hair bows using premade bows!

1. Prepping the Hair Bow

First, mark the bow where you want the center of the design to go.

I used a water-soluble  pen to make a vertical and horizontal line on the bow to denote design placement. For my dark bows, I used a chalk wheel since the pen wouldn’t show up.

While you can eyeball or measure with a ruler, printing out a template from your embroidery software can also be helpful. Positioning is a personal preference, but I prefer my monograms closer to the bottom of the ribbon.

2. Preparing the Hoop & Floating the Bow

hoop sticky self-adhesive stabilizer

Next, hoop one layer of sticky self-adhesive stabilizer.

The rougher, papery part of the stabilizer will face down, and the slick, white backing will face up. (Read: how to hoop in embroidery for tips and tricks if you need help!)

Then, take the tip of a sharp pin and run it around the edge of the stabilizer inside the hoop making sure not to poke through the stabilizer. This is called scoring and will help you remove the paper backing.

score the top off the stabilizer and mark the center with a pencil

Next, remove the paper backing off the stabilizer to reveal the sticky surface. This step doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty! 

If you’d like, this is a good time to make pencil marks on the stabilizer where the center of the hoop is. (This makes centering the bow in the hoop easier, and the lines will be just visible.)

how to hoop a ribbon hair bow

Now, press the ribbon tail of the hair bow onto the center of the stabilizer. Make sure the marked lines of the bow line up with the marked lines of the stabilizer.

I found it easiest if I floated the bow with the largest part facing away from the inside of the machine. If your machine embroidery arm has a different orientation, you may want to play with finding the best direction.

3. Embroidering the Hair Bow

line up the center of the hair bow with the embroidery fot

Next, gently place your hoop into the arm of your embroidery machine. Line up the embroidery foot and needle with the center of the marked area on the bow.

If your design will stitch better with a water-soluble topper, add this now. 

make sure to orient the line the right way

Load your design, and make sure it is oriented in the correct direction. Do a quick check to make sure you have the right needle, the right top thread, and the right bobbin thread. I didn’t care what the back of the bow looked like, so I kept my white bobbin thread loaded.

Then, make sure you preview the design to make sure the bow is not going to run into the machine head or presser foot during stitching.

If all looks good, press start, and watch the ribbon be embroidered!

4. Finishing Touches

remove the bow and stabilizer from the hoop

Once the bow has been embroidered, remove the stabilizer from the hoop. Then, gently tear it away from the back of the grosgrain ribbon.

I had the best results when I gently held the center of the monogram with one hand to keep it from distorting or being pulled by the pressure of ripping away the stabilizer.

Lastly, trim any jump stitches with a small pair of embroidery scissors, and remove the markings from your bow. For me, this meant running the bow underwater for a couple of seconds. Once the bow dried, it was perfect!

How to Embroider Hair Bows – Final Notes

I hope you’ve now learned how to make DIY monogrammed hair bows!

These are an inexpensive, cute, and fairly easy embroidered Christmas gift idea for the girls in my family as well as a fun back-to-school embroidery idea. I’m hooked!

how to monogram hair bows

4 Comments

  1. Evette Hollaway-Glenn says:

    Thank you for your step by step tutorial. I hope to be able to do this soon.

  2. Hello! What is a great beginner embroidery machine which will be able to monogram? I’d like to not pay too much since I’m just in the experimental stages.
    Thank you!

    1. The Brother PE535 has a 4″×4″ hoop size, and the Brother PE800 has a 5″×7″ hoop size. Those are two of the less expensive models that are great for beginners, in my opinion!

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