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My neighbor is having a baby soon, so it is time to get to work embroidering baby gifts!
My three favorite things to embroider for new parents and babies are onesies, burp cloths, and bibs.
That being said, onesies are notoriously difficult to embroider. They’re difficult to hoop for one, and they’re often made of thin fabrics that can stretch or pucker during embroidery.
So today, let’s discuss how to embroider a onesie with a single-needle embroidery machine.
I’ll go through step-by-step what you should think about when picking the best stabilizer, designs, and even type of onesie. Then you’ll be ready to tackle your own!
Supplies to Embroider a Baby Onesie
Here’s the list of embroidery supplies I use to embroider a onesie.
- Embroidery machine and smallest hoop you can fit your design in
- Onesie or bodysuit (ideally at least 6 months size)
- Thread (I use 40wt 100% polyester embroidery thread for most projects; learn more about types of embroidery thread!)
- Needle: 75/11 embroidery machine needle (I used a Schmetz gold 75/11 embroidery needle.)
- Stabilizer: fusible no-show mesh stabilizer and water-soluble topping
- Tender Touch backing
- Embroidery scissors
- Temporary fabric marking pen
The Best Stabilizer for Baby Clothes
Since baby clothes like onesies are small, stretchy, and notoriously difficult to embroider, use a cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer for best results.
To prevent movement and puckering, I prefer FUSIBLE no-show mesh stabilizer. You iron this onto the back of the onesie before hooping; after embroidery, you easily cut it away.
While you can also purchase fusible cut-away stabilizer, no-show mesh is my preference because it is sheerer and less likely to show through the front of a thin, white onesie.
Using temporary spray adhesive (ex Odif 505) on a piece of stabilizer is also a viable option. However, I’m more likely to get puckering or have difficulty with perfect hooping compared to using fusible stabilizer.
If you have a very dense or ornate design (I recommend against this), you might need two layers of stabilizer. If using no-show mesh, orient them perpendicular to each other for best results. You could also float a layer of tear-away stabilizer underneath your hooped onesie if it looks like you’ll need extra support after you start stitching.
I also use water-soluble topping on the front. It supports the stitches and keeps them from sinking into the fabric of soft, squishy onesies.
Confused about stabilizers? Read my guide on how to pick the best embroidery stabilizer!
How to Embroider a Onesie Without Hooping
If you want to embroider a traditional bodysuit with snaps at the crotch, it’s VERY difficult, if not impossible, to get the embroidery done correctly without hooping.
If you hate the hooping process, though, but still want to embroider bodysuits, I highly recommend side-snap bodysuits as an alternative!
These unsnap at the side so you can open the outfit up and embroider without worrying about removing excess fabric from the back. These are a little less “traditional,” but if you’re frustrated with traditional onesie hooping, try this type out!
While I still recommend trying to hoop if you can avoid the snaps, all you need to do to float the onesie is to secure it using one of many methods. (Read: how to float and secure fabric for embroidery!)
Types and Sizes to Use
While newborn onesies are so cute and small, embroidering on preemie- or newborn-sized onesies is just not worth the effort if you use a traditional onesie! (Use a Cricut instead to put heat-transfer vinyl on small onesies if you want to personalize them!)
Picking a bigger-sized onesie will make hooping easier, especially when it comes time to pull the back fabric of the onesie out of the way of the hoop.
Unless I’m using a side-snap bodysuit, the minimum size I embroider is 6 months. Plus, some babies don’t enter this world small enough for newborn clothes. So, picking a slightly larger onesie will also mean it gets more wear time.
If you have a smaller hoop, like my small Brother one below, and can use a very tiny design, try a smaller-sized bodysuit and see if you can get it hooped and prepped easily enough.
Don’t use a densely-filled design. Onesies don’t support dense designs, which can pucker or feel uncomfortable against delicate baby skin.
Also, avoid anything too large. Large designs require larger hoops, making removing excess fabric from under the hoop more difficult. If you really want to embroider large designs, consider investing in an embroidery machine with a free arm.
As for what to embroider on onesies? There are so many options! If you’re feeling particularly industrious, stitching month numbers on 12 different onesies is a cute idea! I love looking back at all my daughters’ monthly photos. (Here’s a list of where to find free baby embroidery designs.)
Monograms are always a favorite, and appliques are perfect, too! I like cute little sayings and animal-themed or character-based designs if I’m embroidering for a family I’m not too familiar with.
How to Embroider a Onesie – Tutorial
1. Prepping the Onesie for Embroidery
Before embroidering, I always prefer to prewash my bodysuits. Those little 100% cotton onesies can shrink a ton! I also always wash in a free & clear laundry detergent.
Now, it’s time to decide on design placement for the onesie.
I almost always center the design horizontally on the onesie, so I’ll first fold the onesie in half and mark the center. My favorite way to then decide on vertical placement is to print a template from my embroidery software and visually place it on the onesie. Sometimes, I’ll eyeball it, too.
While you can just mark the outside of the area you plan to embroider with hash marks, I’ve gotten more comfortable with long lines to help me line up the onesie straighter in the hoop. For dark-colored bodysuits, I use a chalk wheel. I mark lighter-colored onesies with a water-soluble marking pen.
2. How to Hoop a Onesie for Embroidery
First, fuse your iron-on stabilizer to the inside back of the onesie. To do this, turn the bodysuit inside out and use your iron. Press, don’t iron, and avoid that back-and-forth motion that will stretch the fabric. Also, I’ve seen some fabric markers that become permanent with heat, so test yours out before ironing!
Pick the smallest hoop you own that will accommodate your chosen design.
Turn the onesie back right side out and place the bottom frame of the hoop inside the onesie and the top frame on top of the onesie.
This was a large enough onesie that it didn’t matter the direction I put my hoop. Sometimes it’s easier to hoop the onesie with the part of the hoop that connects to the embroidery arm coming out of the neck or the crotch. Try your hoop a few different ways to see what will work best for you.
Center the marked onesie with the center of the hoop. (It can help to use the plastic grid template that comes with your machine.)
Press to hoop, paying attention that the onesie is taut and there is no stretching or distortion of the fabric.
If you have problems hooping a onesie, there are great aids like the above hooping station to help!
3. Removing the Excess Fabric from the Back of the Bodysuit
This is one of the hardest parts of embroidering a bodysuit! You need to now take the back of the onesie and pull it over and around the hoop.
There are then multiple ways that you can secure the excess fabric. You can use masking tape, painter’s tape, hair clips, thread huggers, pins, clothespins, etc. Try some options out and see what works best for you!
For this tutorial, I opted for thread huggers and hair clips. The MOST important thing is the items holding the hoop will be out of the way of the embroidery foot once the hoop starts moving.
4. Setting the Embroidery Machine Up
Next, place your hoop onto your embroidery arm. This might be difficult if you mounded your onesie too much on the sides. Sometimes it is easier to place the hoop on the machine and then roll the excess fabric out of the way.
Once things are situated, place your layer of (somewhat optional) water-soluble topping on the top. You can pin it, tape it, spray a light layer of adhesive on the sides, or even dab the sides with a bit of water to adhere it.
Line up the center of the marked area with your embroidery foot using the buttons on your machine. Rotate your design to match the orientation of the onesie, if needed, and check that you have the right needle, upper thread, and bobbin thread.
Then, PREVIEW THE DESIGN. This means checking the boundaries of the design with your machine to ensure your machine head will NOT run into the mounded onesie. Below is the screen on my Brother SE1900 that previews the boundaries of the design.
5. Embroidering The Onesie
Press start, and watch the onesie start to embroider! While I feel (relatively) comfortable leaving some projects embroidering while I’m in another room, onesies are one thing I watch like a hawk the whole time. Every once in a while, a clip will pull free, or it will look like the embroidery foot will get caught.
If this happens, NEVER place your fingers near the machine! I like to instead use my That Purple Thang to hold fabric out of the way to prevent issues without having to stop the machine.
6. Finishing Touches
Remove the hoop from the machine and gently release the bodysuit.
Trim any remaining jump stitches using small, sharp scissors. (My favorites are double-curved embroidery scissors!) Then, tear the water-soluble topping off the front of the onesie.
Turn the onesie inside out and trim off the excess stabilizer. I like to use duckbill applique scissors to get a close cut without accidentally snipping the onesie fabric.
Place the onesie under running water or wet it with your preferred method to remove the residual water-soluble topping and the marking pen.
Once dry, iron a layer of soft backing (like Tender Touch) onto the inside of the onesie. This will cover the rough stitches and prevent them from rubbing on the baby’s sensitive chest.
Tips for Embroidering on Thin Onesies
If you are having some difficulties, here are some things you can try to get better results when embroidering on a thin onesie.
- Spray starch. If you use heavy spray starch on the front of the onesie and press beforehand, this will make the onesie more rigid and less likely to stretch. This helps minimize stretch or distortion during hooping and prevents movement during stitching. I’ve heard people use Terial Magic also, but starch works well enough for me!
- A thin layer of sewing interfacing. If you’re still having issues, consider adding a layer of interfacing to the back of the onesie. Then, hoop with the cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer on the back and topping on the front as usual. One drawback of this option, though, is interfacing is permanent. If you use a white onesie and iron a square of white interfacing, you might not like how it looks or feels afterward.
- No dense designs. A thinner onesie cannot hold a dense fill-stitch design. If you can adjust your embroidery design in embroidery software, you can also edit a design for a knit onesie.
- Smaller design and smaller hoop. If you can use a smaller hoop, that’s less extra fabric that can move during stitching. Smaller hoops make hooping easier, also!
Any other solutions you’ve found when troubleshooting onesie embroidery problems? I’m always curious to hear how fellow embroiderers are getting things to work out!
I also have some more tips in my article about embroidering stretchy fabric if you need additional troubleshooting!