Hat embroidery machine: what is this?

By on April 8th, 2021
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I recently saw a question in  one of my Facebook embroidery groups where a woman was asking about where she could get a hat embroidery machine. This had me very confused. I have never heard of such a machine, and frankly, I didn’t actually think one existed. So, I did a bit of digging and reaching out to all of my machine embroidery pros in attempt to better understand what, exactly she meant by a “hat embroidery machine.”

But first…

Why would you need a special machine just to embroider on hats?

Hats are challenging to embroider on for a couple of reasons. First, the area inside of a hat is difficult to access, because the opening is quite small. Hats (especially trucker-style baseball caps) are also rigid, so they are difficult to flatten to float on hooped stabilizer or hoop using traditional embroidery hooping techniques. 

The curve of the hat also presents a challenge for design placement. Sometimes people want a design to curve with the shape of the hat.  Therefore, you need to keep the cap in a non-deformed state while you are doing your embroidery.

For all of these reasons, it makes sense why you would want to have equipment designed specifically for this task, aka, a hat embroidery machine.

So, Is there such a thing as a hat embroidery machine?

Turns out, no.

However, when people refer to a hat embroidery machine most they are most likely referring to a multi head embroidery machine with a cap driver that attaches to the machine and a round cap frame, that allows you to easily embroider on hats.

hat embroidery machine
Photo provided by Matt Dennison and used with his permission.

Many multi-needle embroidery machines come with an optional “cap package,” which are these aforementioned accessories that work with the machine.

But, to be clear, these special parts are an attachment to the machine and NOT the machine itself.  There is no such thing as a hat embroidery machine.

Can you use this type of attachment with any multi needle machine?

So maybe you already own a multi-needle machine but don’t have such an accessory. In some cases you can add it on after fact. For example, you can buy a standalone “cap package” that will work with  Unfortunately, no. Only certain multi needle machines will work with this type of attachment. One type of multi-needle emboridery machine that does not have a compatable cap driver is the Janome MB-7 (and actually all of the Janome MB machines).

How can you tell if your multi needle machine can work with this type of attachment?

This question is best answered by your dealer, or you can go to any website that sells multi needle machines and search for the product. For example Sewing Machines Plus sells the Cap Frame and Driver Set for the Brother PR Multi-needle Series embroidery machines.

If you are currently in the market for a used multi-needle embroidery machine, this is a good question to keep in mind. If you are interested in embroidering on hats, you will want to ask if the cap frame and driver set comes with the machine.

Caps for embroidery

Is a hat embroidery machine expensive?

Any multi needle machine will cost at least a few thousand dollars and the cap frame and driver set will be around $1000. You may be able to get it at a better price, if you buy it all together and/or if you buy it used.

Do you have to have a cap frame and driver set in order to embroider on hats?

Absolutely not. Many single needle and multi-needle embroidery machines have a hat hoop that will help you embroider on a hat.

Embroidering a hat on a multi needle machine with a hat hoop

My friend Ellie owns a Janome MB-7, and although this machine is not technically a hat embroidery machine (a multi-needle embroidery machine with a cap frame and driver set), she has been cranking out some great looking monogrammed hats using a hat embroidery hoop with her machine.

A hat hoop is not quite as nice as a cap frame and drive set because you need to flatten the front of the hat in order to get it on the hoop. With the former, you will be able to access more of the hat by using the specific attachment rather than a hat embroidery hoop.

To secure a hat in a hat hoop, you first float in a piece of stabilizer.  I would suggest using cutaway stabilizer for permanent stabilization.  Then spray the cutaway with temporary adhesive. Finally, clip bill of the hat onto the hoop and flatten the hat onto the stabilizer.

hat on hat hoop
Photo provided by Ellie Yuska of Gracefully Stitched STL and used with her permission.
hat on hat hoop on multi-needle machine
Photo provided by Ellie Yuska of Gracefully Stitched STL and used with her permission.

See? The monogrammed hat looks great even without using a “hat embroidery machine.”

monogrammed hat
Photo provided by Ellie Yuska of Gracefully Stitched STL and used with her permission.

Embroidering a hat on a single needle home embroidery machine

A multi-needle embroidery machine is definitely not a requirement to be able to embroider on a hat. I have embroidered all types of hats on my embroidery machine, from beanies, to straw hats, visors and baseball caps. While your area of access might not be quite as large as it would be if you had a multi needle, you can still accomplish quite a lot.

Some people who do embroider a lot of hats on a single needle home machine have developed their own hacks to make it a little bit easier. For example, I’ve seen people trim the outside of a wooden clipboard so that it fits snug into their hoop, then they cut out the center for the embroidery area. They will rest this device on a piece of floated stabilizer and use the clip of the clipboard to secure the hat brim in place. While you need a pretty large hoop to be able to pull this hack off, I do think it’s pretty genius.

If you find that embroidering on hats is becoming a more frequent project, especially if you are selling a lot of embroidered hats, you may be able to justify upgrading to a hat embroidery machine, or at least a multi-needle with a hat hoop.

Ready to embroider some cute hats?

I hope that by reading this, you now understand that there really is no such thing as a hat embroidery machine. There are just different levels of embroidery machines with different types of attachments that make embroidering on a hat a bit easier.

Now that you know how to do it, the only question you should have is: what should I embroider on a hat?

Enjoy and happy stitching!

xo

Julie

Hat embroidery hoops

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