How to Embroider a Shirt (Easy Tutorial!)

For many, including myself, personalizing a t-shirt with embroidery has become an endearing hobby. Remember those cute designs and playful monograms I added to my daughter’s shirts for special occasions like Valentine’s Day? I started right from my home using an embroidery machine, and I’m thrilled to guide you through the process!

Stitch Your Style: Easy Embroidery Tutorial for Custom Shirts!

Materials and Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Embroidery machine specifically for shirts and an appropriate hoop (Opt for the smallest size suitable for your chosen design)
  • Embroidery design (For instance, I once selected a delightful monster design from
  • Thread: A preferred choice is the 40 wt polyester embroidery thread
  • Needle: My go-to is the 75/11 embroidery needle
  • Stabilizers: Both the no-show mesh stabilizer and water-soluble ones like Sulky Solvy come highly recommended
  • Soft backing such as Sulky Tender Touch
  • Fabric marking tools, and essentials like temporary fabric adhesive (Odif 505 is a good option), fusible stabilizer, and a pair of scissors

Choosing the Right Stabilizer

T-shirts have a stretchy nature, hence the cut-away stabilizer is ideal. Particularly, I’m fond of the no-show mesh stabilizer because it’s discreet, especially on light t-shirts. While it’s lighter than the traditional cut-away, sometimes dense designs might require an additional layer. It’s important to note, though, that tear-away stabilizers might not be the best for intricate or larger designs as they can distort the stitching.

Should You Hoop or Float Your Shirt?

In most projects, including shirts, I lean towards hooping. It offers optimum stability ensuring a flawless stitch out. Whether you decide to hoop or float, make sure the fabric is securely fastened to prevent puckering.

Design Placement and Handy Tools

While some trust their instincts to place a design, there are structured ways to get it right. Some sewers refer to an embroidery placement guide, while others print out a design template from embroidery software for better visualization. Moreover, tools like center-finding tools or the Embroiderer’s Helper can make design placement a breeze.

Embroidering Your Shirt: Step by Step

  1. Prepare the Shirt: Mark the center of where you want the design. Turn the shirt inside out and attach the stabilizer to the back. Using temporary fabric adhesive or fusible stabilizer can make this process smoother.
  2. Ready the Hoop: Align the center of your marked spot with your hoop’s center. Consider investing in a hooping station if you find this step challenging.
  3. Machine Set-Up: Ensure you have the correct bobbin thread, needle, and embroidery thread. Attach the hoop to the machine, ensuring only a single layer of the shirt is isolated. A tip: use claw hair clips or painter’s tape to keep undesired shirt parts away from the embroidery area. Before you start, overlay a water-soluble topping for a neat finish and then load your design into the machine.
  4. Final Touches: Once done, gently remove the water-soluble topping and trim the stabilizer close to the design’s edge. Lastly, to prevent itchiness from the embroidery’s back, always press a layer of Tender Touch backing to it. This is especially important for kids or those with sensitive skin.

Seeking more insights? Dive into my tutorials on embroidering stretchy fabrics and general clothing embroidering for in-depth guidance!

At a Glance:

Material/Tool Description
Embroidery Machine and Hoop Specific for shirts, choose a size based on design
Thread 40 wt polyester embroidery thread
Needle 75/11 embroidery needle
Stabilizers No-show mesh and water-soluble (e.g., Sulky Solvy)
Soft Backing Sulky Tender Touch
Fabric Marking Tools For precise design placement


Complement the information with the following video: