How to Embroider on Clothing

children's shirts embroidered with words
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20
What You'll Need
Embroidery floss
Embroidery hoop
Clothing to sew on
Fabric pen (optional)

To embroider clothing, you first need to carefully select your fabric/the type of clothing you want to start with. Beginners should avoid stretchy knit fabrics with a lot of give or bounce—these fabrics are temperamental and very difficult to embroider. Cotton or a cotton blend fabric is the best place to start

It’s also important to look out for seams and pockets. If you want to embroider on a shirt or pants with a pocket the embroidery will stitch that area closed. Though not impossible to navigate around, the best place to start for your first time embroidering clothes is nowhere near any pockets or seams on jeans. In fact, jeans, in general, should probably wait till you’ve given this fun DIY two or three tries.

Embroidering Supplies

You will need a small embroidery hoop, a basic needle, small embroidery scissors, and embroidery floss in the color of your choosing. You can also use a fabric pen with ink that washes away. The fabric pen can be used to draw the pattern or word out so you know exactly where to stitch.

ring,thread,clothing embroidery project - needle, first sewing

You may also want to scrounge up some scrap paper and pen and practice your design beforehand. If you are embroidering a name or a word, you can write it in either cursive or print. You’ll want a little practice doing so though before you start sewing.

clothing embroidery project - ring securing fabric with needle sewing letters

Embroidering Clothing

The first thing you need to do to start embroidering is to thread your needle with the embroidery floss. Embroidery floss comes with six strands and you will want to use all six to embroider clothes. It can be hard to thread a needle with floss so use a needle with a larger opening and lick the end of the thread and pull it to a point with your fingers.

clothing embroidery project - needle and thread

Cut a long piece of thread and pull it through the needle so there is a decent sized tail. As you sew watch the tail and make sure that it is always pulling through the fabric as you stitch. You will have to shorten the tail as you sew by pulling it through the needle. The tail ensures that your needle stays threaded while you sew.

embroidery project, needle with long tail of thread

Next, place the embroidery hoop on the clothing item. Unscrew the hoop at the top and place the bottom hoop under the garment and the top hoop (with the screw) on top. Make sure that you place the back hoop inside of the clothing item, not outside on the back. If you place it outside you will sew the clothing shut.

clothing embroidery project - inserting wooden ring

Once the hoop is in a good spot, tighten the screw at the top and secure the fabric nice and tight.

clothing embroidery project - ring securing fabric of a shirt

Now draw your design on the fabric with a fabric pen if you don't want to freehand.

With the design drawn or envisioned, tie a knot in your thread and start sewing from underneath. You will want to backstitch for more connected looking letters. To backstitch, make your first stitch as you normally would in the fabric. Take the needle and start your second stitch not connected to your first stitch. Then finish the second stitch by using the hole created by the end of the first stitch. Continue this method as you embroider.

clothing embroidery project - sewing letters from the back

If you make a mistake with a stitch, use the needle to gently pull the stitch up out of the fabric and slowly unstitch until you are at a good spot to start over.

clothing embroidery project - ring securing fabric from back with needle putting in thread

Once you are done with your word or pattern, use the stitches on the back of the fabric to help you tie a solid knot in the fabric. Instead of trying to tie a knot with your fingers, sew through the loop created by a nearby stitch and then tie a knot in the tread.

clothing embroidery project - ring securing fabric from back

Trim up the excess thread any admire your handiwork. If you use a pen with washable ink, read the instructions on how to remove any visible ink still showing on the clothes.

Ready for your next embroidery DIY project? Add a personal touch to stockings with a needle and thread or test out whitework embroidery with this easy DIY dream pillow tutorial.