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 wardrobe.
If you want to create embroidered hoodies, here’s how to embroider a sweatshirt with a machine!
I’ll talk about stabilizers and 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 Supplies
Here’s what you need to get together before starting.
- Embroidery machine
- Thread (I used polyester embroidery thread…read more about how to choose an embroidery thread)
- Embroidery needle (75/11 embroidery needle)
- Cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer (I used this medium-weight cut-away)
- Water-soluble topping like Sulky Solvy
- Temporary fabric adhesive (optional)
- Marking tools (example: fabric marking pen or chalk)
- Sharp embroidery scissors
- Embroidery design (Mine came from Embroideres; check out my list of where to find free embroidery designs if you haven’t picked a design yet!)
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 not too stretchy, 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’m using 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.
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 to this guide for standard placement locations.
Another 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.
I prefer using 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 or Float 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 or the sweatshirt won’t fit with the two frames of the hoop.
(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.)
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.
If you can hoop a layer of water-soluble topping along with your sweatshirt and stabilizer, 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 above.
And then here’s me adding that layer of water-soluble topping before I pulled it taut. 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!
Observe at first to make sure everything is stitching as it should be.
4. Finish Up
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.
Then, trim away the excess stabilizer from the back of the sweatshirt using small, sharp embroidery scissors.
This stabilizer is permanent but softens up after the first wash.
Because I don’t like immediately washing my projects after embroidering, I’ve had great luck using Magic Spray sizing to remove hoop marks and residual chalk that don’t wash away with a spritz of water.
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 soft, flexible covering 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.
Thank you for such clear instructions. As a newbie , I need all the help.
Probably the most useful posting I’ve ever seen for this type of project. Thank you
This really was a great post because it was clear and to the point without the stories and fluff that many sites and YT videos have. Thank you
I’ve seen alot of videos on DIY SWEATSHIRTS and by far yours is the best. Thank you for your time and effort making this video and sharing it with those of us that need easy to follow instructions.
I really enjoyed your clear, concise intructions – one point – do you you bobbin thread in the bobbin, or match the bobbin thread to the top thread?
I use embroidery bobbin thread on the bottom. (I only have white or black bobbin thread, so I make the closest match, ha.) If the back of a project will be seen, or if I’m embroidering something like FSL or jewelry, I do use the same thread in the top and bobbin threads.
My new machine arrived today but nowhere did it say how to embroider straight onto a finished article. I thought I was going to have to appliqué everything. Your article is so clear and easy to follow I have every confidence to have a go now.
Thanks, and I hope your first project goes well!
Your instructions are wonderful. I am curious how you hopp the sweatshirt so the hoop slides into the machine?
Three things I do, depending on the size of the sweatshirt:
1. Find an area of the hoop that doesn’t have much of the sweatshirt bunched up, and slide the hoop in from that side/angle.
2. Hoop the sweatshirt, attach it to the machine, and then bring over the underside of the sweatshirt and secure it once the hoop’s already in the machine.
3. Remove the embroidery presser foot to give extra space, attach the hoop, and then reattach the presser foot.
I hope that answers your question?
Hi, can I ask what tension you use for sweatshirts? For comparison, what would you recommend for a t-shirt?
I use the normal tension on my embroidery machine for both. The only time I change tension is when I’m stitching with specialty threads.