Four Tips for Stitching on Knits

Airplane Adventures machine embroidered applique by Sew Inspired by Bonnie

Does your t-shirt and sweatshirt embroidery pucker? These tips will help!

Because we love to wear them, they are easy to find, and are typically pretty affordable, t-shirts and sweatshirts are a favorite choice among machine embroiderers. The design may look great in the hoop, but when you remove it, you have puckers everywhere. Why?

There are several reasons that this can happen and these tips will help avoid all of them.

Add a Fusible on the Backside

Even though many sweatshirts and t-shirts are made of cotton, it is a cotton knit, which means that it stretches. Many also include polyester in the blend, making them even more unstable.

I like to add a piece of fusible mesh or fusible tearaway stabilizer on the back side (inside) of the shirt where I am embroidering. That helps to keep the knit from stretching as you hoop it. It can be easily trimmed or removed after embroidery.

Use a Cutaway in the Hoop

Most wearables dictate using a cutaway stabilizer in the hoop. That is especially true with stretchable fabrics. Cutaway stabilizer helps to keep everything in place.

Don’t Pull in the Hoop

Once hooped, it is tempting to tug on the shirt to get it snug. What really happens is that you put stress on the fabric. It will look great in the hoop, but when you release the tension by taking it out of the hoop, the fibers will snap back and puckers will show up everywhere.

Stitch with a Topper

Knits do have some depth to them, certainly more than quilting cottons.

Picture of machine embroidered applied airplane on sweatshirt with topper.

Using a topper helps to keep the embroidery from sinking into the shirt. You can tear-away a water-soluble topper, and what is left underneath the stitches will eventually wash away when laundered. Even multi-layered applique toppers remove cleanly. There is also an easy way to remove toppers that are too small to tear away. 

Sweatshirt picture with machine embroidered airplane applied on back.

Bonnie's Airplane Adventures embroidery is perfection, even with solid lettering. 

Debbie Henry
Sew Inspired by Bonnie

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  • Bonnie Welsh - September 07, 2022

    Barbara—Yes iron away would help to hold up stitches as well. Great idea!

  • Bonnie Welsh - September 07, 2022

    Becca—Toppers do help the stitches to stand above and pop rather than sink in.

  • Barbara LEE - September 07, 2022

    Hi Bonnie, I use an iron away topper because it never washes out from under the embroidery and therefore the stitching never sinks into the garment or towels after washing. It irons off very easily. x x x Barb

  • Becca Watts - September 07, 2022

    I use the fusible web on the back however never thought of a topper…thank you

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