Tips for successful embroidery on towels

Rayon embroidery thread

In this month’s embroidery column, Natalie Greetham, marketing manager at Madeira UK, provides some sound advice for getting your embroidery onto towels right first time.

Fabrics with a high pile like towels and bathrobes can be difficult to embroider as the stitches can easily disappear among the loops of the fabric so it’s important to choose an appropriate design.

Not all designs will be successful on all fabric types, for example, small designs with thin elements or small lettering will not work particularly well on this type of fabric. There are however a few options to prevent this problem.

Standard fill area

You can start with a standard fill area in the same colour as the towel to give a nice clean foundation for the embroidery. Alternatively, decrease the density of the stitches and create a light grid area stitched in opposite directions. This will flatten down the loops creating a smoother surface for the rest of the design to sit on.

Using a water-soluble topping is also highly recommended, this lightweight clear film is placed on top of the towel and designed to help the embroidered stitches stand out from the pile.

Once the embroidery is complete, the film is easily torn away, and any remnants will disappear with the first wash.

Thread type

When selecting which type of thread to use think about the end use of the towel or garment.

Avalon water-soluble topping

Rayon thread is much softer, more pliable and the most suitable for coloured towels that will not be bleached. If the towels are white or for a hotel where they will be frequently laundered and may well meet bleach or whitening agents, then polyester thread must be used as these threads will remain colourfast even when bleached.

Remember the bobbin thread will be visible on the back of the towel, winding bobbin thread to match the top thread is an option here.


Personalised hooded towels are also a popular baby gift so using threads that are certified safe for use on baby items is an absolute must. Look for, and only use threads that carry the Oeko-Tex Standard Class I certification, these are guaranteed not to contain any harmful or toxic substances.

The fabric must also be stabilised sufficiently, good quality towels tend to be quite stable and a cut away backing will remain on the reverse of the towel, so if you don’t want to have any backing visible use either a soft tear away or a water-soluble backing that will disappear when washed.

Framing and hooping

Hooping properly is an important step in the embroidery process, very thick items like towels can be tricky to frame.

A magnetic frame lends itself brilliantly to this this type of item. With a magnetic frame the fabric is sandwiched between the two rings, rather than being compressed, the fabric isn’t over stretched and the hoop mark, or burn as it is referred to, is eliminated.

Stitched underlay to flatten loops

Another option is to not hoop the fabric at all, instead hoop a single piece of adhesive backing with the backing side down, score the protective sheet and peel away to reveal the sticky side then place the fabric on top. Some stick-on peel away backings, have gridlines to assist with garment alignment. The final option is to use a backing that’s not sticky, in this case simply hoop the backing and then use a temporary adhesive spray to ensure the towel stays in place while being embroidered.

Great option

Don’t forget to consider the placement of the design when the towel is folded ideally you want the embroidery to be visible and in a uniform position when stacked or rolled on a shelf.

Whether you are offering towels for personalised gifts or supplying the hospitality industry with branded items, embroidery is a great option as it adds value and unlike like some other decoration methods it’s extremely durable and won’t wear off over time.

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