Machine embroidery on children’s clothes – tips for the beginner

By on January 22nd, 2022
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10 tips for machine embroidery on children's clothing
free machine embroidery designs
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An embroidery machine is an ideal tool for making one-of-a-kind children’s clothing without YOU having to make the item from scratch.  You can easily buy some adorable blanks and then customize the garment with a name, monogram or embroidery design. My embroidery machine has been a secret weapon over the years when I needed to come up with a birthday gift in a pinch – especially when my kids were little.  But machine embroidery on children’s clothes doesn’t always go the way you plan.  It helps to take a few precautions in order to achieve the best results.  

So…. I’ve racked my brain a bit and talked to the pros to come up with 10 tips for machine embroidery on children’s clothes to help you hit a home run on every project you make. 

Buy high quality blanks

When I was first getting started with machine embroidery, I didn’t pay much attention to where I bought my blanks.  In fact, one time I even purchased t-shirts for $1 at Walgreens that I decided to personalize on my embroidery machine for my little girls.  Oh my goodness these were terrible shirts.  Not only were they completely see through, they puckered like crazy and got all distorted after I embroidered on them.  I also actually almost created holes in the areas where I embroidered. 

It’s not worth your time to machine embroider on super cheap clothing or accessories – unless you are just experimenting and really don’t care how it turns out.  

Many blanks retailers offer high quality garments that hold up well to machine embroidery.   Recently I embroidered my cousin’s son’s initials on these adorable FANCY and SOFT shirts from Stylizeit.com. They held up like a dream and the formal style looks perfectly appropriate for a dressier occasion – especially with an embroidered monogram.   

high quality knits from stylizeit.com

Float your knits

And speaking of knits… a lot of children’s clothing is made from knit fabrics. So, if you are going to be embroidering on kid’s clothing, you need to get comfortable embroidering on knits. 

This can be intimidating for newbies, but knits really are nothing to fear.  The key is to float the knit fabric and not hoop it.  Floating means that you hoop the stabilizer and then stick the project on to the hooped stabilizer.   When you hoop a knit garment, it tends to stretch, so your design will be puckered once you remove the project from the hoop.  Hooped knits can also get hoop burn which just looks terrible. 

Use the right stabilizer

Have you heard the saying “if you wear it, don’t tear it?” (It’s a good one).  What it means is that if you are are embroidering on a wearable item – you should incorporate some type of permanent stabilization. With soft, delicate baby clothes, however, you don’t want to use a piece of stiff and rough tear away stabilizer. In most cases, I will iron on a piece of fusible poly mesh stabilizer onto the inside of the garment.  Then – I float the the item on sticky back tear away stabilizer.  Oftentimes I will lay a piece of water soluble topper over the garment – even if it’s just a knit t-shirt.  And, that, my friends, is pretty much it.  

positioning fusible poly mesh on inside of sweatshirt
A piece of fusible poly mesh provides permanent stabilization on a kid’s sweatshirt.
folding sweatshirt onto hooped stabilizer for appliqué
Floating the sweatshirt (with fusible poly mesh) on a piece of sticky back stabilizer. The folding method helps you properly center the design. 
water soluble topper on top of sweatshirt prior to appliqué
Water soluble topper on top of sweatshirt

Keep your excess fabric out of the way and babysit your embroidery machine

Children’s clothing can be tiny, especially baby clothes, and the front of the garment can be difficult to access.  Once you do properly position the garment you have to make sure that the area you are trying to embroider stays clear.  You also need to make sure that other areas of the garment are not getting sucked in under the hoop.  (Trust me – I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.)  When you are embroidering on children’s clothes, especially the teeny tiny variety – you should always babysit the machine to make sure nothing gets sucked into the machine by mistake. 

There are many clever techniques you can use to keep your excess fabric out of the way when you are embroidering. There are also a couple devices designed specifically for this purpose.  DIME offers a hoop guard which clips onto the side of their magnetic hoops and helps you keep your excess fabric out of the way.  There is also a fan-favorite product called JT Hoop-it-up which is a device that pushes excess fabric away from your embroidery area, and they are made for a large variety of different single needle embroidery machine hoops.

Keep the backside soft

When you are done embroidering, the back of the embroidery can be quite rough.  And, you certainly don’t want that rough texture abrading a baby or toddler’s skin. Fortunately, there’s a product you can use to prevent that from happening.  I absolutely love DIME’s Fuse So Soft.  It is truly a game changer in creating a nice soft surface on the back of your embroidery.  You can also get the generic Cloud Cover from Amazon

fusing cloud cover on inside of t-shirt

Choose an appropriate design 

If you don’t have a school-aged child, you may not be fully aware of what the kids are wearing these days.  When my son was little, he asked that I make him a birthday shirt for every new age he turned.  So I would appliqué that number on a shirt with some unique design variation.  You know when this stopped?  Age 8.  After that he was too cool for my silly birthday shirts.  

applique 4 t-shirt
And here he is in his number 4 birthday shirt, and some angry bird undies… those were the days.

Now that he is almost a teenager, he would wear other types of embroidered items.  He actually likes to dress up, so a monogrammed dress shirt (either with a monogram on the cuff or the shirt pocket) would be right in his wheelhouse. 

I have embroidered and appliquéd countless princess and unicorn sweatshirts for little girls. But again, by about grade 3, they are pretty much done with princesses.  Nevertheless, there are tons of things you can embroidery and appliqué for teens and tweens, but I would stick with more grown up designs.  My teenage daughter actually took over my bee sweater that I would have loved to wear, myself! 

Choose an appropriate typeface 

If you are adding a name or monogram to children’s clothing, choose your typeface wisely. The style of type you choose will create a distinct character for your finished project.  Serif typefaces (the ones with the feet at the end) tend to have a more formal look, while sans serif fonts look much more contemporary. 

My sister uses the elegant and whimsical fishtail font for just about everything. But I don’t think it works all the time.  For example, she monogrammed my son’s dopp kit with fishtail letters.  To me, it looks much more appropriate on cocktail napkins – not a pre-teen boy accessory. 

A lot of people use delicate chain stitch embroidery fonts on baby and toddler clothes which I think looks super age appropriate.  It’s light and casual which is why I think it suits kids’ clothing so well. 

Trust your instinct when it comes to choosing an embroidery typeface. Before you embroider with any typeface, ask yourself if the typeface has the right vibe for the clothes. 

Oh – and one more very important factor when it comes to choosing an embroidery typeface for children’s clothes.  If the clothing fabric is fuzzy or nappy (like a sherpa) – be sure to choose a typeface that has thicker stokes.  You don’t want the letters getting lost in the nap of the fabric. 

Consider a single initial for personalization

You know what bugs me about monogrammed children’s clothing?  The fact that when they grow out of the item, hardly anyone else can ever wear it again! I mean – what is the likelihood that you will find another kid with the same initials?  My preference is to personalize children’s clothing with a single initial monogram  – which makes it much more likely that the clothing will have a life beyond the current owner. 

a personalized hoodie makes a great gift
I stitched out this single letter on a sweatshirt as a gift for my son’s friend.

Prewash your clothing and appliqué fabrics

Once again – We have learned this lesson the hard way.  My sister made my toddler-aged daughter an adorable brown corduroy dress with a scottie dog Burberry fabric appliqué on the front.  Sounds cute, right?  Well – the problem was that she had not washed the corduroy or the appliqué fabric.  After the first washing, the two different fabrics shrank different amounts so the resulting appliqué was puckered and looked terrible.   

Never tried appliqué? Check out these tips. 

Get creative! 

If you really want to make embroidered children’s clothing that your recipient will love, think about what that kid is into. Is she a gymnast? Then consider combining a kid’s a name with a gymnast embroidery design.  I’ve made custom hoodies for almost every one of my kids’ friends: a paw bring sweatshirt for a dog lover, a microphone for a singer, and a swimmer design for the swim team devotee. The fact that I would see these kids frequently wearing their personalized hoodies on the school playground convinces me that they were a hit! 

personalized sweatshirt for a swimmer

Ready to machine embroider some children’s clothes? 

I hope these tips have helped.  Embroidering silly designs, names and monograms on kids’ clothing has given me a lot of joy and (I hope) the recipients. I hope it will for you and your crew as well. 

xo

Julie

Note: this post was sponsored by Stylizeit.com, a company that offers high end blanks for machine embroidery.  Be sure to check them out! 

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