How To Embroider a Hat or Baseball Cap with a Machine

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Since summer is upon us, I’ve been embroidering hats and baseball caps lately.  While it can be tricky to embroider a curved hat with a flat hoop on a single-needle embroidery machine, with a few tips and some trial and error, you can be stitching professional-level caps in no time.

I wanted to put together this tutorial to show you how to embroider a hat with a single-needle embroidery machine.  I used to have a hat hoop to hold my caps, but I find it easier to not use the cap hoop now that I’ve switched embroidery machines.   So, no fancy gadgets needed for this beginner embroidery tutorial.

Let’s get started!

How to Machine Embroider Hats

Supplies Needed to Machine Embroider a Hat

First, it’s important to get together all the necessary supplies if this is your first time embroidering a baseball cap.

  • Embroidery machine, sturdy thread, and hoop
  • Blank baseball cap
  • Stabilizer: sticky self-adhesive stabilizer (I used this one here)
  • Needle: I used a 75/11 embroidery needle (if you have a thick hat, you will likely need a thicker, sharper needle)
  • Pins
  • Painter’s tape
  • Embroidery design

Best Stabilizer for a Hat or Cap

I use tear-away stabilizer because it leaves no trace on the interior of the cap.  While I prefer to use self-adhesive sticky stabilizer (basically just tear-away stabilizer with one sticky side) for minimum mess and maximum success, there are other options.

You could choose a fusible tearaway, but you will need to take great care with ironing it to the inside of the cap.  Or, you could use a piece of basic tearaway and a temporary fabric adhesive spray (like Odif 505).  This isn’t my first choice for hat embroidery because there just isn’t enough stick, in my opinion, to get the cap adhered well.  And, it’s much messier!

What Can You Embroider On a Baseball Cap?

One of my favorite things to embroider on a hat for women or kids is a monogram.  I use my embroidery software to create simple monograms or monogram appliques and then stitch cute hats.   I also like to embroider logos, characters, and even the occasional saying on hats.  Check out some of my favorite websites to download free embroidery designs if you’re looking for the perfect design for your cap!

Embroidery Design Limitations

Not all embroidery designs will work well on a baseball cap.  For instance, designs that are too wide will be difficult to fit on the front of the hat. While there is a large area on the front of a cap waiting for your embroidery, you will need a bit of margin between the inside of your hoop and your usable embroidery area.  This is the space where you will pin your cap to the stabilizer.

Also, lightly stitched designs (like redwork) get lost easily and have less room for error when stitching.

What part of a hat can be embroidered?

With a single needle embroidery machine, you should be able to embroider on the front of the cap, the back of the cap, and likely even the sides with some creative hooping.  The bill, however, is something that’s going to be very difficult to embroider after the cap is already constructed!  I’m focusing on embroidering the front of the hat with my single-needle machine since this is by far the most common location to embroider.

How to Choose a Good Baseball Cap

There are so many types of baseball caps available!

LINDO Trucker Hat - Great Outdoors Collection (Black/Graphite)

Trucker hats that are very thick and large and may be difficult to flatten adequately using a single-needle embroidery machine hoop.  If you have a center seam on a very thick hat, this is not the best choice of hat for a beginner to learn with.

Baseball Cap Hat Men Women - Classic Adjustable Plain Blank, BLK

A less rigid hat will be the better choice.  A softer hat flattens more in your hoop, providing better results.  I like the softer caps from Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  I do like to buy my hats in person so I can touch them first and determine the inside construction, for example, whether there is a laminated backing.  However, there are a lot of websites that sell hats specifically geared towards embroidery if you do prefer to shop online.

Do You Need a Hat Hoop to Embroider On a Hat?

hat hoop for 4"x4" embroidery hoop

No, you can embroider a hat on a single-needle embroidery machine without a cap hoop!  My experience with my hat hoop for my Brother SE625 was only ok.  (This is it above.)  It was just as easy to use my regular hoop and stabilize the cap with pins.  Overall, it took time to learn how to use the hat hoop, and it just wasn’t worth it for me.  However, I know some users swear by a cap hoop, so if you have problems with stitching your hats, give a specialized hoop a try!

How to Embroider A Hat – Tutorial

1. Now that you’ve selected the perfect cap and perfect design as described above, it’s time to get going!  First, decide where on the hat you want your design to go, and mark your hat.  To help determine design placement, I print my designs on paper, cut them out, and then decide on placement.  Designs don’t have to be centered in the middle of the hat, so get creative.

2. Next, to keep from stitching over the flap behind the brim, use painter’s tape, masking tape, or pins to hold the flap out of the way.

pull the flap out of the way and tape on the cap

3. Then, hoop a piece of sticky self-adhesive stabilizer.  The rougher part of the stabilizer will go on the bottom of the hoop, and the shiny top will go towards the top.  When hooping, make sure the stabilizer is taut and evenly hooped.

hoop sticky stabilizer by itself

4. Score the stabilizer with a pin, and remove the backing layer.  You do this by gently running the sharp end of a sewing pin around the edge of the hooped stabilizer to separate the inside area from the outside.  Then, use your fingers to pull the inside backing off the stabilizer to expose the stickiness.  If you have a hard time getting it up, use the pin to help raise the backing.  No need to remove the backing perfectly, though.  Just make sure it’s gone from within your embroidery area.

remove the adhesive backing

Go ahead and mark the center of the stabilizer with a pencil, too, to help you line up your hat better.

5. Position your hat inside the hoop, lining it up the center of the stabilizer with the center of where your design will go.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  (Most embroidery machines allow you to rotate a design and move it around a little to line up with the center of your cap.)

Flatten the cap to the best of your ability, pressing it evenly against the stabilizer.  It’s especially important that the center seam is pressed flat! You will likely have some distortion or lost stitches at the seam, so we want to minimize this!

When positioning the hat, I place the bill facing toward me.  If you face it toward the inside of your machine, it may bang up against the machine when the carriage is moving.

6. Because hats don’t want to lie flat and instead like to curve, I pin mine on all 4 sides to keep them stable during the embroidery process.  I’m using T-pins in this tutorial because they don’t bend easily, but you can try any long, straight pin or safety pin.  I’ve never had them leave a permanent hole in my hats, but make sure to test your hat with a pin before pinning all 4 quadrants!

The most important thing is to make sure the pins are NOT inside the embroidery area.

pin the cap evenly and flatly!

7.  Place your hoop on your embroidery arm.  Line up your design loaded onto your machine with where you marked your baseball cap.  If your cap is not aligned with bill down, don’t forget to rotate your design to match!

embroidery on a baseball cap - lining it up

My preference when embroidering new materials is to also decrease embroidery speed until I make sure everything’s going to work out.

8.  Press start, and watch your machine embroider your hat! When it’s done, remove the hoop and release the stabilizer and hat.  Then, gently tear the stabilizer off from the design.

Clip any jump stitches, remove the painter’s tape from the flap, and reshape your hat back to its original look.  If you used a water-soluble marking pen, gently dab with water to remove the ink.  All done!

how to machine embroider hats (1)

Single-Needle vs Multi-Needle Machine: Notes

Since I own the Brother SE1900 combo machine (it’s the same as the PE800 for embroidery but also sews), this tutorial is for cap embroidery using a single-needle embroidery machine.  I used to have a Brother SE625 sewing and embroidery machine, and this method will work for the SE625, SE600, SE400, and most other small embroidery machines, too.

Using a single-needle machine is not the most time-efficient or easiest way to embroider hats in bulk.  If you love the process and do want to start a home embroidery business or embroider hats in bulk, a multi-needle embroidery machine with a specialized cap frame is the way to go.  For embroiderers looking to make a profit, embroidering on hats does have a large profit margin.  Hat blanks are inexpensive, and embroidered hats sell for nice prices!

How to Embroider Hats – Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed learning how to embroider a hat with your embroidery machine.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Happy embroidering!

6 Comments

  1. Julie Ann Crookston says:

    Thank you for the tips on how to embroider baseball caps. I have a Brother Innov-is NV990D and am looking forward to trying this.

    1. Hope everything goes well with your stitch out!

  2. Cathy Farlow says:

    This is great. I’ve been contemplating doing a few hats but didn’t want to buy the special hoop. Thank you. I do have a question. You say you slow the speed down when you first do a design. How do you do that on the Brother SE625?

  3. Thank you so much. I really didn’t want to buy the special hoop. How do you turn the speed of the Brother SE625 down?

    1. On the right of the machine below the touchscreen, click on the settings icon (it looks like a paper with bullet points on it). Then press the right arrow until you see a “Max Embroidery Speed” setting. Go ahead and touch the minus sign, and this will decrease the speed. After you’re done embroidering your hat, don’t forget to increase it again for your other projects!

  4. Excelente!! Muy bién explicado y muy fácil de entender. Muchas felicidades!! Gracias por su aporte a las personas que nos gusta bordar. Saludos!!

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