Tips for Embroidering on Special Fabrics

Do you want to embroider some outfits or projects, but are not sure about embroidering on different types of fabrics? It is always good to do a test sew-out first before stitching on your final fabric, especially if you haven’t sewn on that type of fabric before. Let’s look at some of the ways we can work with these fabrics.


To embroider on velvet, you will need two types of stabilizers, one for underneath and one for on top of the fabric. You generally don’t want to hoop velvet, because the hooping process can crush the velvet fibers and leave a permanent mark. Embroiderers sometimes call this “hoop burn”. Instead, hoop your base stabilizer and adhere the velvet to it using a temporary spray adhesive. Or, you can use a stabilizer that has an adhesive built in. A lot of velvet today has some stretch, so you will probably want to use a cutaway stabilizer to keep the fabric from shifting and to ensure that the embroidery stays nice with wear. Also, use a 75/11 ballpoint needle.

For the top, use a lightweight water-soluble washaway stabilizer. This keeps the stitching on top of the velvet fibers. Otherwise, the embroidery stitches will sink into the pile of the fabric. Even if your velvet is dry clean only, you can use water-soluble on top. Simply tear away the majority of your stabilizer and then remove any little excess pieces with a damp cloth – no need to get the whole piece wet! [Featured design: Whitework Monograms #12507-28]


When stitching on satin, use a slightly smaller needle, such as a 75/11 sharp. Using too large of a needle can cause holes or “runs” in your satin fabric. A smaller needle means a smaller hole and neater embroidery. For most satin fabrics, use a medium weight tearaway stabilizer underneath the fabric. Depending on the design, determine if a washaway on top of the fabric is also needed. If the design is an outline design, the stabilizer helps the stitches stay on top of the fabric and not sink in. Remove the topping as above in the tips for embroidering on velvet. Depending on the design, determine how many layers to use on the underneath of the fabric. For simple and outline designs, use one layer, but if the design has more stitches, use two layers. You don’t want to hoop satin, because the hooping process can crush the nap and leave a “hoop burn”. Instead, hoop your base stabilizer and adhere the satin to it using a temporary spray adhesive. [Featured design: Fresh Greens #12508-17]


Embroidering on fleece is an easy task with the following tips:

  • Use a mesh cutaway stabilizer for the backing. Most fleece has some stretch to it, so use a cutaway stabilizer to make sure the design looks nice and smooth, especially on garments.
  • Hoop your cutaway stabilizer, spray with temporary spray adhesive, and adhere the fleece to the sprayed stabilizer in the hoop. Most embroiderers don’t hoop the fleece because of “hoop burns”.
  • Use a light weight washaway stabilizer on top of the fleece to keep the stitches from sinking into the fabric. Because of its high loft, fleece will “swallow” the design without using a washaway on top. Remove as much of the washaway as possible by tearing it away as fleece tends to "grab onto" the washaway. It doesn’t rinse away as easily as with other fabrics and can cause the fleece to look matted if not washed out completely.
  • Use a 75/11 or 80/12 ballpoint needle when embroidering on fleece since it has some stretch to it.

[Featured design: Chic Embellishments #12528-07]

Lycra/Spandex and Sweaters

When embroidering on fabrics such as lycra/spandex or sweaters, use a 70/10, 75/11, or 80/12 ballpoint needle depending on the weight of the fabric. For heavier weights, use a larger needle, and for lighter weights use a smaller needle.

Lycra is actually just a brand name for the fabric spandex. Spandex is made to expand/stretch and is most often worn in the “stretched” position. Since this is the case, it is necessary to embroider the fabric in the same “stretched” position. The best method is to turn the garment inside out, put the garment on, then spray the appropriate stabilizer with the temporary spray adhesive and place it on the area to be embroidered. This will hold the fabric in the stretched position. Take the garment off and hoop stabilizer and fabric together. The best stabilizer is a mesh cutaway. Also, depending on the nap or weave of the knit and the design, determine if a washaway stabilizer used on the top would keep the stitches of the design from sinking into the fabric.

Since sweaters can be particularly shifty, it is best to secure them to the stabilizer before embroidering. A fusible mesh cutaway stabilizer is an excellent choice for sweaters. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to adhere the fusible side of the stabilizer to the fabric. Then use a tearaway stabilizer in the hoop since sweaters are not generally hooped because of “hoop burns”. Turn the sweater inside out and then adhere to the sprayed stabilizer in the hoop. Sweater knits also need a washaway stabilizer on top to keep the stitches from sinking into the knit. Pictured here is the sweater hooped and ready for the wash away stabilizer.

Pen Markings

Another helpful tip when embroidering on specialty fabrics is to lightly spray starch on your fabric before using a water-soluble marking pen. The pen markings don’t “settle” into the fabric and are more easily removed with a bit of water.


Remember to do a test sewout of your design on its fabric. Have a scrap basket of a variety of fabrics from old t-shirts, sweaters, and other clothing. Whenever you want to stitch a new design, grab a scrap from the basket to test it out before stitching on the real thing. This gives you a chance to test the stabilizer, needle size, and thread choice before putting it on your final project.

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