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Professional Tips for Embellishing Knits with Machine Embroidery

Add machine embroidery to enliven and enhance knits.
Threads #191, June/July 2017
A feather motif is appropriately light on matte jersey. Learn to pair embroidery and fabric on the following pages. Pattern: The Delila, Angela Wolf Patterns. Fabric: ITY (interlock twist yarn) knit, the author’s stash. Embroidery design: “Peacock Feathers,” MomoDini.com.

Whether you are upcycling an older garment or sewing from scratch, embroidery is a great way to embellish knits. You may have a garment or yardage that you want to enliven or enhance, and embroidery adds a luxe touch. The very factors that make knits so wonderful to wear, however, also make them tricky to embroider. You don’t want to lose the drape or softness, or change the fabric’s density and stretch any more than necessary to carry an embroidered design.

As a veteran of many embroidery projects—not all of them successful—I have guidance to offer, from practical advice on thread and stabilizer choices to design ideas. Successful results depend on assembling a team of elements that work together: the right thread, the correct stabilizer, a considered embroidery design, and the perfect knit fabric to carry it off. Here are my tips for embroidery success.

Choose a knit and a design to go with it

There are many types of knits to choose from. Consider the fiber content, thickness, stretch, and texture when selecting an embroidery design for each variation.

Popular knits

Rayon knit is breathable and soft on the skin, available in various thicknesses. It tends to become thinner after the first washing.

cotton knits
Cotton knit

Cotton knit is also breathable and soft on the skin. It is available in a wide range of weights, from tissue knits to “beefy” knits.

matte jersey
Matte jersey

Matte jersey drapes beautifully and available in vibrant colors. It is wrinkle-free and typically made with polyester.

ponte knits
Ponte knit

Ponte knit is thicker than rayon and cotton knits. It is better for structured garments.

Polyester fleece is thick and comfy, but prone to permanent marks from hooping and stitches sinking into the fabric pile.

Design density

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