How to master the art of embroidering onto sportswear

93% of people wear sportswear for leisure

In this month’s article Danielle Park and Natalie Greetham of Madeira UK tackle the tricky subject of embroidering onto sportswear. Read on to find out more.

More than nine out of 10 (93%) consumers wear their sportswear for activities other than exercising. “This is not a fashion trend, it is a lifestyle trend. There is functionality mixed with fashion,” explains Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst at market research firm The NPD Group New York.

This explains why the performancewear portion of the apparel industry is growing faster globally than any other segment, so if you haven’t already encountered performancewear fabrics you will soon. These fabrics need to have moisture wicking, compression, and ultra-lightweight properties, however they are also slippery, shiny, unusually stretchy and super skinny making them notoriously difficult to embroider.

Problems often encountered include; puckering, holes forming and fabric slipping but by taking these pre-emptive actions embroidering them will be made easier.

Keep it light

Digitise your embroidery with the lowest stitch count possible. Loosening thread tensions can help to reduce stress on the fabric.

Keep it stable

By using a light, but super strong backing (such as Weblon) you can achieve optimum stabilisation while ensuring your embroidery process complements the functionality of the garment. When hooping, do not over stretch your fabric.


Ensure you use a ball point needle (for relaxed weave fabrics) to help eliminate holes.

Using the correct size needle i.e. a needle that is as small as the thread allows, will reduce needle damage and stress on the garment.

Encourage simplified embroidery-friendly designs


A common misconception is that polyester embroidery threads would work best with synthetic performance fabrics, yet the naturally occurring fibres in Rayon Viscose are equally able to be washed at high temperatures and will produce a softer finish. However Rayon is not bleach resistant therefore Polyester threads should be used when bleach resistance is required such as on swimwear.


For ultimate comfort apply a soft finishing fabric to the reverse of your embroidery. These fabrics have a soft feel on one side and heat activated glue on the other so they can be heat pressed onto the garment after embroidering.

Managing your customers’ expectations is key, as some designs cannot be replicated successfully and encouraging a simplified embroidery-friendly design will reduce the likelihood of encountering the above difficulties.

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