How to Embroider a T-shirt

Embroidery is a quick and fun way to add an elegant touch to your t-shirt. With some basic embroidery skills, you can give your t-shirt a touch of your creativity using simple yet standout patterns. You can also try out pre-loaded machine embroidery designs if you don’t have any in mind. 

The best thing about embroidering a t-shirt is that it works for various materials and sizes, including stretchable ones.

If you have tried embroidering a t-shirt before, you probably found out that the design doesn’t sit as you would want it, and it often becomes distorted if the fabric stretches or you pull the stitches too tight. Well, there’s a solution to that as well. Just keep reading about machine embroidery!

Have the Right Tools 

Before you can start your project, you need to have all your tools gathered and properly organized. It saves you the trouble of going to look for items while you’re in the middle of embroidering. Here are some of the tools you will need: 

  • Embroidery hoop 
  • Needle (preferably round end)
  • Iron
  • Embroidery floss 
  • Stabilizer 

Use a Stabilizer 

A stabilizer solves all the challenges most new embroiderers face. With a stabilizer, you can stick to the lines for a clean and neat pattern. It also helps to ensure the stitches have the perfect tension, and once complete, your pattern isn’t disfigured. If you’re working on a t-shirt with stretchable fabric, then you need the stabilizer even more.

You can choose from various types of stabilizers. Some are temporary, and others are permanent. Some you have to tear away while others will effortlessly dissolve in water. What you pick depends on your end goal. For starters, you can pick a stabilizer that you can stick to the t-shirt with basting stitches or the easier and faster options that you can iron on.  The stabilizer’s role is to keep the fabric from stretching, which can distort the pattern once complete. You can also transfer your pattern on to the stabilizer to make it easier and faster to embroider without straying.


  • Stabilize the fabric 

Once you have all your tools and your selected stabilizer, you can start working on your t-shirt embroidering process. Turn the t-shirt inside out and slide a piece of paper between the layers of fabric. Place the stabilizer in the area you will be embroidering and baste it into place.

Once you’re done positioning the stabilizer and pinning it into place, turn the t-shirt right side out. 

How you attach the stabilizer depends on which one you pick. You can baste it, iron it on, or press it to stick. 

  • Hoop the fabric without stretching 

Start hooping the material with a slightly loose outer hoop. Place the inner hoop inside the t-shirt, and under the area you will be working on. Press the outer and inner hoops with inner pressure taking care not to stretch the fabric.

You can use the rest of the t-shirt to tell if your fabric is stretched or misshapen. If it is, try re-hooping.

  • Stitching

 For stitching, you can use a tapestry or a counted-cross stitch needle. But, round-end needles are the best because they don’t pull or snag the material of the t-shirt. 

Start embroidering as you would ensuring you securely weave the beginning and the end of the pattern and avoid tying knots because it can pull on the fabric. Even though the stabilizer will do a decent job, prevent pulling the stitches too tight. 

  • Remove the stabilizer

Once you complete embroidering your pattern on the t-shirt, you can remove the stabilizer. How you remove it depends on the type you used. Some don’t require any action at this point, while others require you to remove the basting stitches or tear it away.

If you used the water-soluble option, be sure to dry the t-shirt after removing the stabilizer before proceeding with the next step.

  • Clean up the finish 

Your project is almost complete. You only need to clean up any loose strings then gently iron the finished embroidery from the backside to smooth out the wrinkles and blend the hoop markings. 

Your embroidered t-shirt is ready to wear! 


It’s always a good idea to measure the size of your pattern and carefully mark out where you would like to place it. When complete, the pattern is not only symmetrical, but it’s also upright. Without measuring, you might find that the pattern is slanting, which affects the final look of the project.

When ironing, use a steam iron. If not, you can spray some water. Not too much to drench the t-shirt but just enough to set the embroidery in and give it a perfect final look. 

3 thoughts on “How to Embroider a T-shirt

  1. Appreciating the time and effort you put into your website and in-depth information you offer. Thank you so much for these patterns – and thank you to the OPs too. Delightful and lovely ideas, I’d never have thought of them myself! Really looking forward to digging out the sewing machine.

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