How to Embroider a Sweatshirt or Hoodie With A Machine

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DIY embroidered sweatshirts are easy to make and fun to gift.  I love to embroider sweatshirts and hoodies as Christmas gifts and add a touch of personalization to my own wardrobe.

So, let’s learn how to embroider a sweatshirt with a machine.   I’ll talk stabilizers, designs, and then go through a step-by-step example with pictures.  You’ll then be ready to start stitching your own projects!

Sweatshirt Embroidery Tutorial

Sweatshirt Embroidery Supplies

Here’s what you need to get together before starting!

Best Embroidery Stabilizer for Sweatshirts

The best stabilizer for embroidering a sweatshirt, especially one that is stretchy or unstable, is cut-away or no-show mesh cut-away stabilizer. 

Can you have success with just tear-away?  If your design is not dense or complex and your sweatshirt is on the more stable side, you can use tear-away and likely end up with a good enough stitch out.  

On the other hand, if you’re embroidering a dense fill-stitch design with a large stitch count, you might consider two layers of cut-away stabilizer for extra stabilization.

You can choose a sticky stabilizer, fusible stabilizer, or regular stabilizer. I’ll be using a regular stabilizer with a light layer of temporary fabric adhesive for this tutorial.

(Read: how to choose stabilizers for machine embroidery if you want to learn more and get a printable chart!)

How to Embroider a Sweatshirt or Hoodie

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial of the process.

1. Prep the Sweatshirt

First, you need to mark the placement of your embroidery design on your sweatshirt.

mark the sweatshirt for the embroidery design

I usually mark fabric with a water-soluble fabric pen, but because this was a black sweatshirt, I used a chalk wheel to mark the vertical and horizontal center for my design.  (Ignore how I’m in major need of a lint roller!)

If you need help with design placement, head on over to this guide for standard placement locations

One other helpful way to mark designs is to print a template from your embroidery software to lay on your sweatshirt.  This will help you visualize how your design will look in different locations.

Next, it’s time to add your stabilizer to the back of your sweatshirt. 

attach a layer of cutaway stabilizer to the back of the sweatshirt with spray

My preference is to use temporary fabric adhesive (like Odif 505) to adhere the piece of stabilizer to make hooping easier. 

A little fabric spray adhesive goes a long way, so use it sparingly! Also, always spray the stabilizer rather than your sweatshirt.

Lastly, make sure your piece of stabilizer is at least 1″ larger than your hoop size on each side, too.

2. Hoop the Sweatshirt

Now, it’s time to hoop your sweatshirt and stabilizer. 

I’m a big fan of hooping all fabrics when possible, but you can float the sweatshirt instead if you don’t like hooping.  If you decide to float, all you need to do is hoop regular stabilizer, give it a gentle spray with adhesive, and smooth your sweatshirt down onto the stabilizer.)

line up your design

Make sure to line up the center of your hoop with the center of the marked spot on your sweatshirt.  If you can’t get it perfect and your machine allows you to move your design around within the embroidery area before stitching, that’s ok.

use the plastic template to line up the design

If you’re able to hoop a layer of water-soluble topping along with your sweatshirt and stabilizer, go ahead and do this.  However, if it’s too difficult, you can float it on top of the hoop. 

I ended up floating it because it was too hard to see through to line up my design properly on my machine!  Plus, things were a bit bulky.

3. Set Up Your Machine + Start to Stitch

Attach the embroidery hoop to your machine, and pull the back of the sweatshirt out from under the hoop. 

Secure it away from the embroidery area.  You don’t want to stitch the two sides of your project together!  I like to secure with hair clips, clothespins, or painter’s tape.

Then, load your design and line it up with your markings.  Here’s me lining up the design below.

line up your design!

And then here’s me adding that layer of water-soluble topping before I pulled it taught. 

place a layer of water-soluble topping over the sweatshirt

Water-soluble topping keeps the stitches from sinking into the soft, squishy fabric and gives a better design stitch out on the sweatshirt.

Next, double-check that you have the correct design orientation, needle, and thread colors.

Then, start your embroidery machine!  Watch very carefully at first to make sure everything is stitching as it should be.

4. Finish Up

remove the water soluble topping from the embroidered sweatshirt design

When you’re done embroidering, remove the water-soluble topping by tearing it off your embroidered sweatshirt. Any excess stabilizer pieces you can remove with water later.

Next, remove the sweatshirt from your embroidery hoop. 

trim the cut-away stabilizer off

Then, using small, sharp embroidery scissors, trim away the excess stabilizer from the back of the sweatshirt. This stabilizer is permanent, but it will soften up after the first wash.

magic spray sizing to get rid of chalk marks or hoop burn!

Because I don’t like immediately washing my projects after embroidering, I’ve had great luck using Magic Spray sizing to remove any hoop marks and residual chalk that don’t wash away with a spritz of water.

magic sprause tender touch backing to keep the design from rubbing chestsy sizing to get rid of chalk marks or hoop burn!

And lastly, if you’re embroidering for a child or have a dense design that will be itchy when placed against the skin, consider ironing a layer of Tender Touch backing over the design’s back. 

This is a soft, flexible covering that keeps the design from irritating skin.  (I do this every single time I embroider onesies!)

DIY Embroidered Sweatshirt – Done!

And that’s it!  You’ve successfully embroidered a sweatshirt with your embroidery machine.  Enjoy wearing it out this Fall and Winter, or get snuggly around your house in it. 

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for such clear instructions. As a newbie , I need all the help.

  2. Probably the most useful posting I’ve ever seen for this type of project. Thank you

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