How to Embroider Hair Bows – Machine Embroidery Tutorial

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It’s Christmas crafting time over here, which means coming up with as many presents that can be made with my sewing machine, embroidery machine, or Cricut Maker. I always prefer handmade gifts because they’re inexpensive, more thoughtful, and people can’t return them! (We all have that family member, right?!) Plus, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so browsing stores is out of the question.

For my daughters, their friends, and my niece, I’ve been working on embroidering hair bows with their initials or other cute, small designs. While I could have monogrammed the ribbon for the bows and then made the bows myself, I’m all about saving time. I found a monster bag of premade hair bows on Amazon for less than $10 for 30 of them, and boom! All the young girls are getting embroidered hair bows!

This took a little bit of experimentation, but I finally figure out how to embroider hair bows without puckering on the ribbon. I’ll show you how in this easy tutorial!

how to monogram hair bows

Hair Bow Embroidery Supplies

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

Best Stabilizer for Grosgrain Ribbon Bows

The most important thing with grosgrain ribbon bows is that you have the ribbon held very securely to the stabilizer while you embroider. If you’re using a premade bow, there’s no way you’ll be able to hoop the bow to provide stability. Thus, when you float the bow, you need to do so securely.

When learning how to embroider hair bows, I first tried wash-away stabilizer and then PolyMesh stabilizer, both times using Odif 505 temporary fabric adhesive. The grip between the stabilizer and ribbon was just not good enough to keep the stitches from puckering in around the edges. (See below.)

how to keep ribbon from puckering with stitches

I also used a very tiny basting box on one trial, but I didn’t like the marks that remained when I removed the stitches.

Ultimately, I had the best luck with self-adhesive sticky tear-away stabilizer. The strong adhesive surface had the best grip on the ribbon, meaning less movement while stitching. If you have any type of self-adhesive stabilizer (sticky wash-away or cut-away), these will work as well. For dense designs, you can add an extra layer of tear-away or even a layer of cut-away if you need more stability.

Something else to consider is that starching and pressing your bow tail beforehand can give the grosgrain ribbon more rigidity. And, if you notice your design sinking into your bow, try a layer of water-soluble topping over the ribbon.

Lost and don’t know what all these stabilizers are? Check out my guide to embroidery stabilizers!

Embroidery Design Selection & Stitch Density

Embroidering on a ribbon bow takes a very small design! And, if your design has too high of a stitch count, then the ribbon will pucker and curl up on itself. If you go to shrink a larger design, make sure you have your embroidery software scale the number of stitches to a smaller number as well. Shrinking a design without paying attention to the new stitch density will not end up with good results!

When I tried to use the built-in fonts on my Brother SE1900 embroidery machine, I found that the smallest letters available were still too big for my hair bow. So, I had to take a font I had already downloaded and then use software to decrease design size and recalculate the number of stitches. It turned out to be a very small, sparsely stitched monogram!

Choosing a Hoop Size

choose a bigger hoop size for the bow

At first, my plan was to use the smallest hoop I have available for my machine to save on stabilizer and also make centering the bow easier. As it turns out, this did not produce my best results. Because the hoop was so small, the bow rested on the side of the hoop. This meant it didn’t have as secure of a grip to the stabilizer underneath. (See above.)

My best results came from using a hoop where the entire ribbon tail and bow would fit within the edges of the hoop frame. (This was done with a 4″x4″ hoop since my bows were pretty small.)

How to Embroider Hair Bows: Step-By-Step Tutorial

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

Prepping the Hair Bow

The first thing you need to do is mark the bow where you want the center of the design to go. While you can eyeball this or measure with a ruler, sometimes printing out a template from your embroidery software can be helpful! It’s a matter of personal preference, but I like my monograms closer to the bottom of the ribbon rather than near the center of the bow.

I used a water-soluble fabric marking 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.

Preparing the Hoop & Floating the Bow

Next, hoop one layer of sticky self-adhesive stabilizer. The rougher, papery part of the stabilizer will be facing down, and the slick, white backing will be facing up. (Read: how to hoop in embroidery for tips and tricks if you need!) If you need another layer of stabilizer for your design, you can hoop that now or float it underneath the hoop later.

hoop sticky self-adhesive stabilizer

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.

Now, remove the paper backing off the top of the stabilizer to reveal the sticky surface. It’s easiest if you start removing the backing from one of the corners where you scored it and pull. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty! As long as the area where you plan to stick the bow has no backing. And if you’d like, this is a good time to draw pencil marks on the stabilizer where the center of the hoop is. (This makes centering the bow in the hoop easier. Just make sure not to poke through the stabilizer. The lines will be just visible.)

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

Now, press the ribbon part 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 of it facing away from the inside of the machine. If your machine embroidery arm has a different orientation, you may want to play with hooping to find the best direction.

how to hoop a ribbon hair bow

Embroidering the Hair Bow

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

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

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

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.

make sure to orient the line the right way

Then, make sure you preview the design on your machine at all four corners to make sure the bow is not going to run into the machine head or presser foot during stitching.

Finishing Touches

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 from the pressure of ripping away the stabilizer.

remove the bow and stabilizer from the hoop

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

And that’s it!

How to Embroider Hair Bows – Final Notes

I hope this embroidery machine tutorial has taught you everything you need to know about making monogrammed bows. These are cute, easy, and inexpensive gifts for friends and family!

And, if you’re new to embroidery, check out how to use an embroidery machine to learn more about the process and find more cute project ideas!

how to monogram hair bows

One Comment

  1. Evette Hollaway-Glenn says:

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

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