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With new babies everywhere these days, I’ve been crafting baby gifts left and right to mail to new mom friends. As I was embroidering a bib for our neighbor this last week, I put together this easy tutorial to show you how to embroider a bib with an embroidery machine.
Adding embroidery to a store-bought or handcrafted bib is so easy, and it makes an affordable, thoughtful gift! In this post, I’ll show you step-by-step how to embroider a bib. We’ll talk stabilizer, hooping, and even troubleshooting problems along the way.
Bib Embroidery Supplies
Here’s what I used for this project!
- Embroidery machine and hoop
- Baby bibs
- Thread (I used 100% polyester embroidery thread)
- Needle: 75/11 embroidery machine needle (mine was a Schmetz gold 75/11 embroidery needle.)
- Stabilizer: cut-away or no-show mesh stabilizer and water-soluble topping (more about this below)
- Embroidery scissors
- Marking tools
- Optional: temporary spray adhesive (ex Odif 505) and Tender Touch backing
My Favorite Bibs to Embroider + Types that Work Well
Without a doubt, my favorite bibs to embroider are Neat Solutions bibs, which are knit terry cloth on the front and back. I get them off Amazon for less than $1 per bib. They even have colored bibs that I’ll occasionally purchase.
They have a slight stretch to them, and the fastener on the back isn’t a typical hook and loop fastener that wears out over time. I used them for my girls, and they hold up well after repeated washings.
There are also bibs made from knit fabrics without the terry cloth nap that work great for embroidery, and of course, you can stitch your own bibs from scrap fabric to embroider on. The biggest thing to remember when adding embroidery to your chosen bib is to consider the fabric when picking stabilizer and deciding how to hoop.
Embroidery Design Selection
Designs that work great on baby bibs are applique designs, light- or medium-density fill-stitch designs, and even text designs, to name a few. Check out my list of where to find free embroidery machine designs if you don’t already have an idea in mind!
If you’re embroidering on a terry cloth bib or other fabric with nap on top, make sure you’re not choosing a thin linework design that will get lost in the fluff.
Also, avoid very dense designs. Even if you get them to stitch out well, I’ve found they are more likely to pucker after repeated washings if not stabilized perfectly. Also, be careful if you shrink a design. Make sure the stitch count has decreased with the shrink. You don’t want to end up with an accidental high-density design!
Best Stabilizer for a Bib
The best stabilizer choice for a bib depends largely on two factors: how densely stitched the design is and the fabric from which the bib is made. Some bib varieties will need a stabilizer on both the front and back of the bib. Here’s how you’ll determine what you need to stitch your bib! (And if you’re completely new to embroidery, here are two helpful tutorials I’ve written: how to use an embroidery machine and how to pick the best stabilizer for your embroidery project.)
Stabilizer on the Back
If you are embroidering on a stretchy and thus “unstable” knit bib, your best bet is going to be a cut-away or PolyMesh stabilizer. This will provide stability for the bib during the embroidery process and keep it from curling and puckering after repeated washings.
If you are using a stable, woven fabric for your bib (ex: quilting cotton), you have your choice of stabilizers! You can try a tear-away or even wash-away stabilizer on the back.
If you’re going to use a very dense design with a larger stitch count, you should use PolyMesh or cut-away stabilizer regardless of the bib fabric type. If one layer of cut-away isn’t enough, you can try two layers or float an extra layer of stabilizer underneath one hooped piece. For bibs, I like to use PolyMesh stabilizer because it is a little sheerer than cut-away and less obtrusive on the back. When using two layers, it helps to arrange the two pieces perpendicular to each other to get the best stabilization.
Topping on the Front
If you’re embroidering on a terry cloth bib or even a squishy knit bib, you will want to add a layer of water-soluble topping on the front of the bib. This will prevent stitches from sinking into the front of the bib. This stabilizer will wash away after embroidering. My favorite type of topping for this case is the film-like Sulky Solvy water-soluble topping.
How to Machine Embroider a Bib
Now, let’s get started on the step-by-step bib embroidery tutorial!
How to Mark a Bib for Embroidery
It’s important to mark where on your bib you want the center of your embroidery design to go. To mark darker bibs, I use a chalk wheel, and to mark lighter bibs, I use a water-soluble marking pen and ruler.
To find the center of the bib, fold the bib in half and mark that area. Then, decide where along the vertical axis of the bib you want your design to go. You can center it or pick what you like best visually. It helps to print a template of your design from your embroidery software to help with lining up the design if you don’t want to center it vertically.
Make long horizontal and vertical lines. These will help you line up the design with your hoop later.
How to Hoop a Bib
While I am a BIG fan of hooping anything I can in my embroidery hoop, bibs are one thing that I have better luck embroidering outside the hoop. The binding on the edge of the bibs makes hooping a little dicey. That’s why I prefer floating the bib.
To float a bib, first, hoop your selected stabilizer in your embroidery hoop. (Read: how to hoop for embroidery if you need help!)
You have several ways you can now attach the bib to the hooped stabilizer. I like to use a light layer of temporary spray adhesive on the stabilizer. Odif 505 is my current favorite type! (Read: ways to secure fabric out of the embroidery hoop if you need other suggestions!) You can also use a fusible stabilizer or sticky stabilizer if you prefer.
Then, place the bib onto the stabilizer, making sure to line up the center of the bib with the center of the hoop. Add a piece of water-soluble topping over the bib. You can adhere this with a temporary fabric glue stick on the sides, a bit of Odif 505 on the sides, dabbing the sides with water, pinning, taping, etc!
If you feel like your adhesive won’t hold your bib and topping well enough, consider pinning the sides of the bib to the stabilizer. Or, use a basting box to hold it during the embroidery process. Movement during the embroidery process can lead to a messy finished product!
Embroidering the Bib
Next, place your hoop and bib on your machine. Load your design. Double-check your needle, upper thread and bobbin thread, and the orientation of your design relative to the bib.
Line up the center of your marked lines with the embroidery foot.
Press start, and sit back and watch your machine embroider on the bib!
Once the stitching is finished, remove the hoop from the embroidery machine.
Then, trim any jump stitches if your machine doesn’t do that automatically. I’ve found it easier to trim jump stitches before I remove the water-soluble topping. My double-curved embroidery scissors are AWESOME for getting close to jump stitches!
Next, tear off the water-soluble topping from the front of the bib. Don’t worry if you can’t get it all.
Using a pair of scissors, trim the stabilizer close to the edges of the design. I LOVE using duckbill applique scissors to do this. These have cut down on the number of projects I’ve accidentally snipped over the years from carelessness.
The last thing you need to do is run the front of the bib under water, spritz with a spray bottle, or even dab with a wet baby wipe. This will remove the water-soluble topping and the fabric marker. Then, lay the bib out to dry.
If you think you’ll be gifting the bib to a baby who will wear it unclothed, consider ironing on a layer of Tender Touch backing. This is a soft backing from Sulky that will protect the baby’s chest from the scratchy back of the embroidery. It doesn’t adhere as prettily to terry cloth bibs as knit bibs. This is why I skipped it in this specific bib embroidery tutorial!
Conclusion – How to Embroider a Bib
I hope you enjoyed learning how to embroider a bib as a baby gift and can start embroidering some of your own now.
But before you go, check out the companion tutorials to this one: how to machine embroider a burp cloth and how to embroider a baby onesie. I also have a list of machine embroidery baby gift ideas if you’re looking for other inspiration!