How to embroider knitted garments

As we move into autumn/ winter and start to prepare for some cooler weather, what better time to address some of the issues that can arise when embroidering knitted garments. Here Natalie Greetham, senior marketing co-ordinator at Madeira UK, explains the hows, the whats and the whys.

Many embroiderers would consider knitwear a ‘difficult fabric’, let’s take a beanie hat for example, there’s no getting away from the fact that they are incredibly stretchy, and the ribbed texture can cause stitches to sink into the pile, never to be seen again!

Thankfully with the correct hooping, digitising and some useful products, these problems can easily be solved.


Knits lack stability, so selecting the correct backing fabric for support is crucial and with some clever digitising, underlay can be added to create a stable foundation on which to embroider.

Don’t run the risk of distorting the embroidery by using a tear-away backing fabric, instead opt for a soft cut away backing, such as 051PS89 a soft 80g from Madeira’s range. Another option is a no-show stabiliser like Weblon, offering high stability that will aid embroidery on fabrics that stretch by reducing the chances of the design distorting or puckering.

Ensuring the garment is hooped with the correct amount of tension, taught but not over stretched, will also go a long way to stop the finished design looking distorted.


If you do not digitise in-house, always inform your digitiser which type of fabric you intend to embroider, the design can then be created accordingly.

For knitwear, pull compensation needs to be adjusted and designs with fewer, slightly longer stitches, will run better. Adding underlay stitches, particularly for text, will also improve the quality of the finished embroidery. As knits often have a slightly matt appearance, for less visible underlay stitches, try using a matt embroidery thread.

Disappearing stitches

Sinking stitches can also be a problem on fabrics such as fleece, toweling or knits, the easy solution here is to use a water-soluble topping. This fine, transparent film is laid on top of the fabric before hooping creating a stable surface to help stitches stand proud and help keep details and text crisp and clear, again, improving the quality of the finished design.

For knitted fabrics it’s also important to select the correct style of needle, a ball point needle is a must. Designed to push the fibres of the fabric aside, a ball point needle will reduce the chance of any holes appearing or the fabric laddering.


One way to avoid most of the problems embroidery directly onto knits can cause, and a particularly good option for beanies, is to use an appliqué technique. Your embroidered badge or patch can be created first, then simply hoop your beanie without over-stretching and run a line of stitches, slightly smaller than the appliqué patch to mark the placement.

Use a small amount of temporary adhesive to hold the patch in place and permanently attach it with either a double line of running stitches for a finished edge patch or for a raw edged patch, add a 3mm satin stitch border. Another advantage of using this technique, is that only the border stitches will be showing on the inside of the hat, reducing the risk of skin irritation.

Don’t be put off embroidering onto knits, with some careful preparation, the correct foundation, needles and application, these garments don’t need to be avoided.

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