T-shirt and Sweatshirt Embroidery: The Right Combination

T-shirts and sweatshirts make great last-minute gifts, perfect for Mother's Day and other special occasions. With a little bit of care, you can nearly guarantee professional results that will have people asking, "Where did you buy that?" Imagine their surprise when you say that you made it!

The Shirt

Quality does matter, so choose a good quality brand. The difference will be particularly evident with sweat shirts as the lesser quality types will pill, causing a rough, fuzzy surface.

Many embroiderers recommend laundering shirts before embroidery, citing that even the best "no-shrink" cottons will shrink after being washed.

The Right Needle

Typical embroidery needles cut through fabric. Ball point needles push fibers out of the way and are the best choice for embroidering on t-shirts and sweatshirts.


If you wear it, don’t tear it. That means using a cut-away stabilizer. Fusible no-show mesh is at the top of my list and works well in the hoop.

In addition, the use of a water-soluble topper is essential. It keeps thread from sinking into the knits, even t-shirts.

Read this blog to see how toppings work when embroidering on other fabrics as well. Get Deborah Jones’ tips on easy ways to remove water-soluble toppers here.

The T-shirt Transformation Ruler and Pressing Cloth will help with positioning. Most of the time, I hoop the cut-away stabilizer and float the shirt in the hoop, holding it in place with a basting stitch.


Because the items will (hopefully) be worn and laundered often, use polyester embroidery threads. They hold up well to wear, don't fade, and are even bleach resistant.


Choose designs that do not have a lot of fill stitching. Applique edges are fine, but large areas of embroidery fill are likely to pucker when embroidered on knits despite being stabilized. Here are some designs that will work quite well. Some are free and the others are almost free – on sale for 99 cents. Click on the photos for the link.

Go make something pretty!

Debbie SewBlest

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