Perfect Embroidery Design Placement: Single Designs

Do you struggle with getting designs stitched on your projects where you want them to be? We have all been there. Let me show you just how easy it is to achieve perfect embroidery design placement!

Make Sure Hoop Marks Are True Center 

The first thing we need to do when we're getting ready for design placement is get our hoops ready. This is a Baby Lock/Brother hoop but this applies to any hoop. There is a top and bottom to your hoop. Mine has arrows and notches that line up on the inner and outer hoops.


Double check and make sure your hoop marks are perfectly centered. On my hoop, there are four notches which appear to show where the center of the hoop would be if you were to draw a horizontal and a vertical line.

Manufacturers supply templates with your hoops. I highly recommend that you take the template and lay it on top of your inner hoop and make sure that you have it right side up. This one has an ABC on it. I know that if I'm reading the ABC correctly, I have it right side up.


If you look at this carefully, you will see that the horizontal line is, in fact, along the horizontal center of the hoop but the vertical line is to the side of those two notches. In this instance, if you were to go by the two notches on the hoop for center alignment, you would be about an eighth of an inch off.

I like to put a mark on both my inner and outer hoops to match the marks from my template. Since the horizontal markings on this particular hoop line up perfectly, I only have to extend the vertical line. Don’t be afraid to put a mark on your hoop. It comes off easily with rubbing alcohol.

Design Placement for Quilt Blocks

If this was a quilt block, you could draw vertical and horizontal lines on the block with a water-soluble pen or one that erased. I use FriXion pens, by Pilot. When I put a hot iron to it, the line goes away. (Note: Always test on a piece of scrap fabric from your project prior to using any product.)

I like to hoop stabilizer with my fabric, that's just something I like to do. I think you get less puckering that way but some people float in the hoop, just basting around the design, and have no issues whatsoever.


Position the fabric and stabilizer under the inner hoop, lining up the centering lines on the hoop to the lines drawn on the fabric.

Grasp the inner hoop while holding the fabric and stabilizer in place and seat it in the outer hoop.


Always hoop on a flat, hard surface while standing up. I always start where the two arrows meet at the top of the hoop. Then, I push the backside of the hoop down.

Tighten the hoop as desired to "set", then take the fabric and stabilizer out of the hoop and do it one more time except, this time, do not retighten the hoop. You don’t want it super tight; you want it drum tight, nice and snug. (Tip: Gently run your fingernail across the top of the fabric that's hooped; if it moves like snow in front of a snow plow, your fabric is too loose and you'll need to repeat the hooping process.)

Preparing a Template

If the design has to be stitched on a specific spot, I like to use paper templates for design placement. All of your software, no matter how expensive or inexpensive it is, allows you to print out a design template.

This design is from our Airplane Adventures series. Be sure to print the template at 100% (actual size) and include the horizontal and vertical crosshair lines. Unless it is obvious, also mark which side of the template is up. Rough cut the paper template with paper scissors and extend the vertical and horizontal lines to the edges.

Specific Design Placement

Not all designs are going to be stitched on your project at a straight 90-degree angle. In fact, probably most of them won't. Having a paper template really helps give you a visual of how your design will look before you actually sew it out.


If the project needs perfect design placement, the template will show you exactly where to hoop. If it is a shirt or garment, try it on. Use the paper template to find the best area for embroidery. When you find the right spot, tape the template in place.

Hoop an appropriate stabilizer for the item you are embroidering. Mark the center and draw horizontal and vertical centering lines on the stabilizer.

Sometimes, to help with hooping, I get out my cutting mat. Because this is a sweatshirt, I've hooped some cutaway stabilizer. You can see through the stabilizer and use the horizontal and vertical lines of the cutting mat to draw the hoop’s centering lines on the stabilizer.

Then, add a little spray adhesive on the stabilizer. It doesn't take a lot, just enough to get your project to your machine. (Note: Since this is a bulky sweatshirt, I'll be "floating" the project and not actually hooping the garment. I'll also avoid "hoop burn".)

Fold the garment in half along the horizontal line of the template. Mark the crosshair center on the garment with a dot using a vanishing pen.

Line this up on the center with lines drawn on the hoop and stabilizer. Open it up and smooth it in place on the stabilizer, feeling for the hoop notches to keep the garment positioned properly. 

When you attach your hoop to the machine, you may have to nudge the needle position a smidge so that it is, in fact, directly over the design template's center point. Some machines, like Baby Lock and Brother, use the snowman sticker. Put a snowman right over the center crosshairs and use your machine’s scanner to scan it and put it in place.

When you are satisfied with the centering of your item in the hoop, remove the template and begin embroidery. For this shirt, I add a topper and basted the shirt in the hoop. (Note: I always baste in the hoop when I "float" a project to make sure everything is secure.)

Positioning Unbalanced Designs


Not every design is symmetrical and balanced, another reason that templates are a tremendous help.  Let's say you have a design that's not really centered. This design from my Airplane Adventures series has the bulk of the design off to one side and a little trail of smoke on the other.

Your center, as far as the computer is concerned, is between the outermost edges of the design. If you look at the template for this design, you will see that it looks way off center and that's because our eyes focus in on the bulk of the design, the airplane. In instances like this, it's best to place your templates in a pleasing manner visually focusing on the bulk of the design. 

Matching up the vertical and horizontal lines of the template with the horizontal and vertical lines on your hoop and stabilizer help ensure that designs stitch out exactly where you want them.

You can watch the video here. Check back and I will show you how to stitch out multiple designs so that they line up right.

May your day be blessed with perfect stitches and GlitterFlex!

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  • Bonnie Welsh - December 04, 2018

    Sarah—I like your tip! =)

  • Sarah Hamilton - December 03, 2018

    Thank you this is a very old way of marking. Add one thing. Circle the inter part of the hoop with disappearing pen.

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