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Embroidery Tips & Techniques Wearables

Embroidering on Children’s T-shirts

We received a message from Melinda on our Facebook page asking for some tips for embroidering on children’s shirts. Here are my top 10 tips for embellishing children’s shirts with machine embroidery.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

1. Keep it light. Kids hate stiff, itchy embroidery so select embroidery designs that have a low-stitch count.

2. Use applique to add impact. Fun colors and funky fabrics infuse a lot of spunk into plain t-shirts without adding the dreaded bullet-proof embroidered shield!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

3. Look for applique designs that are on the small size – under 3” x 3”. Jumbo designs overwhelm a small figure.

4. Get the placement right. Depend on the Children’s Perfect Placement Kit to help with locating the correct position for designs on children’s garments, size infant to youth large.

5. Ask the child (if old enough) for input on favorite colors, shapes, characters and designs. If they help design it, they’ll love wearing it.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

6. Rely on fusible polymesh stabilizer to eliminate the stretch in knits. It’s a strong cut-away and very comfortable.

7. Don’t be afraid to slit a side seam to make hooping easier. Knits don’t ravel so you won’t have to worry about frayed edges if you don’t have a serger.

8. After all embroidery is complete, add a fusible lightweight, tricot knit interfacing to the wrong side of the embroidery. This delicate, sheer cover-up will camouflage the bobbin threads and eliminate the ‘itch’ factor.

9. Lighten up your expectations. Kids are not only finicky but they grow so fast! Save the heirloom techniques for really memorable occasions when the effort will be worth it.

10. Look for ways to extend an active child’s wardrobe by adding embroidered borders to lengthen hemlines and cover stains. You’ll be glad you did if the child gets another season out of a garment.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog This week we’re giving away a great bundle!  One lucky winner will get the Children’s Perfect Placement Kit and Machine Embroidery for Babies and Tots written by Marie Zinno!  We’re going to ask you to do two things this week to be entered into the drawing.

1.  Subscribe to the blog by entering your email address and following the instructions to subscribe.  You’ll find the subscribe to box on the top right corner of the blog.

2.  Leave a comment here telling us your experience with embroidery for children.  Did you get a funny reaction from the recipient of an embroidered item?  What are some of the items you’ve embroidered for children?  Maybe you have a technical question about embroidering for kids.  We’d love to discuss!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Last week we wanted to know what embroidery machine you own.  The winner of the Perfect Alignment Software is…Mitzi!

“I have a Bernina 730E, and a Snap Hoop and a Magna-Hoop, but still lack confidence in putting it all together on the kind of larger projects I dream about. Would love to win the perfect alignment software to take the mystery out of making things line up right.”

Congratulations, Mitzi!




  • Susan

    My granddaughter (age 4) thinks everything I sent to her home which is embroidered is for her!! She is my # 1 fan, which is not bad since I’m still a beginner!!

  • Tonia Jeffery

    I haven’t done anything yet for my two daughters, but I’m thinking about adding lullaby lyrics to the bottoms of their night gowns.

  • Rose-Marie

    have just started to do embroideries 😀 thanks for the tips on placement an what to use 😀 since I’ve learned how to … everything the kids have will have some sort of embroidery or appliqué on it now 😀 lol

  • Susan Wilson

    I’m just beginning to do embroidery machine applique and I LOVE it!!! My first attempt was on a size 4T tshirt and it was way too big for the area – LOL. I stitched it out in a smaller size on another tshirt and it was great – just a little too off center for me. I’m sure the Children’s Perfect Placement kit would be a great help, but then I can use all the help I can get. Thanks so much for these helpful tips.

  • Beth

    I did a baby blanket for my new grandson last year with his name, birth date, and weight. Also, I’ve done names across the back of diaper covers. That was tricky trying to get centered.

  • Robbie Oros

    I have embroidered many things for my grandchildren in my short embroidery career, but the kids favorite has been the fleece blankets I made for each of them. Some were appliqued, and some were just embroidered. All were a big hit!

  • Melinda

    Thank you so much for responding to my post with this blog.. It means a lot that people want to help newbies like me.. I love making Birthday shirts for children. I could use the placement guide so much. That is the biggest issue I am having.. I am also losing stiches in the fabric. I just recently started using the heavy water soluble stabilizer and it seems to help..

    • Eileen Roche

      Hi Melinda, stitching on children’s items can be tricky but it is worthwhile. Give the fusible polymesh a try and pair it with regular weight water soluble. You’ll be pleased with the results – and it holds up to repeated laundering. Also, try light weight designs – they make all the difference.

  • Sharon Mim

    I love to embellish children’s clothing and have done so to many items for neices and nephews.
    I also love to make keepsake items for Baptisms and First Communions and any other special occasion.

  • Nancy S

    I’m just getting my feet wet with machine embroidery and I love it! I have 4-year-old twin grandchildren–a girl and a boy–and I embroidered a sweater for her with a ballerina, and a sweatshirt for him with a crazy robot. I did pretty well on the placements, but they took me a long time and a lot of fussing. I would love to have the advantage of your two give-aways!

  • Peggy

    I love making gifts for baby showers, especially towels. I can usually find a design to coordinate with the bedroom theme. I haven’t done much embroidering for children but I plan to start. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Cheryl Ruhnke

    I have done baby bibs, Easter sweatshirsts but realize it was allott of work just for one holiday, I have a hard time deciding what design to use so they get the maximum amount of time to wear it ,plus I don’t put names on clothing or bags for children,too many weirdo’s out there (it’s a shame)I made burb cloths for a baby shower also.I sent my niece t-shirts for her kids(9monthsand 4yo) with butterflies,cupcakes,bear in an airplane and a cartoon car)

  • Beth Shelton

    I love to embroider the dresses I make for our grandchildren. The tips were great and helpful, some I’m already doing, but the girls love getting on my computer and looking over what they want to “decorate” their dressess, tops and we’ve even made little purses to match. Thanks for the tips in an area that I’m busy in.

  • Rhonda

    I love to embroider for children…Especially my grandchildren..They love grandma to make their friend an embroidered gift for birthday parties…I embroider personalized aprons, pillowcases, toddler pillowcases, towels, t- shirts, onesies and bibs…I love applique work the most..I especially love In-The-Hoop projects…When I give an embroidered gift people are genuinely surprised and happy..The gifts are truely One-Of-A-Kind…

  • Shirley R

    I’ve embroidered some burp cloths so far. A friend of mine gave me 2 boxes of flannel pieces left over from projects she has sewn which I plan to use for various baby projects to give to charity. We have no babies or young children in our family right now, so anything I make/embroider with my own fabrics, etc., will be given to others also.

  • Deanne

    My daughter and I have done names on hand towels for b-day party gifts, appliques with our own creative sayings on onsies for a baby shower – now have orders for more. Names, birth info on baby blankets for gifts. Name and ballet shoes on a dance bag. Having 5 grand children I am excited to do lots of goodies for them. i am always looking for new ideas and designs to be successfully creative.

  • Becky Rudolph

    Would love to win this weeks giveaway. I have had my embroidery machine for 4 years now and love it. I make pj bottoms for my grandchildren and always embroider in the sewing mode a note to them in the waistband before I stitch the casing. That’s the first thing they check out and say “what did you write this time Nanny”! I recently started appliqueing tshirts to go with the bottoms. The pj bottom takes no time to whip up, but aligning the t’s, nightmare for me.

    • Eileen Roche

      I love the ‘note in the waistband’! Great idea and what a thrill for your grandchildren.

  • karin

    I’ve been following your blog for some time now & have loved reading all your tips and everyone’s responses. I think the best received item I’ve embroidered was a blanket I did for my very first grandchild. It was one of the first items I embroidered & I put little deer designs all around the edges. He loved it & I love making it!

    I’ve certainly grown with him & now I make all sorts of embroidered clothing items for him & his sister, plus I’ve made lots of towels as gifts for new moms.

    • Eileen Roche

      Karin, thanks for reading! I love reading the responses too – and always learn something new!

  • Deb Cosby

    I love making things for babies and young children. Onesies have been a challenge in the hooping area, but my best tip is to check the spelling of a child`s name before adding it to your embroidery project. More than once I put embroidery on a shirt or bib as a “surprise” only to find that the surprise was on me!

    • Eileen Roche

      Great advice, Deb!

  • Sue Bolen

    I love seeing children’s faces when they see something I have made for them. They are not shy about letting me know if they love it…..or don’t!

    I made shirts for my dh, myself and 2 grandsons for our recent trip to Disney World. For 3 of us I embroidered “Magical Memories 2011 and added fireworks.

    For our 5 yr. old gs, I embroidered “My first visit to Disney World 2011” and I thought it was pretty cute.

    He said he liked the other design better! Well, I didn’t have another matching shirt so the night before we left for DW I put that design on the back of his “first visit” shirt and that made him happy!

    Thanks for the helpful tips!

  • Sharron P

    I have enjoyed embroidering items for all of my 13 grandchildern for several years. Anything from embroidered “blessing blankets, polos, sweatshirts, etc. I usually sew or embroidery something for them for Christmas. I have two of them in Louisiana and this Christmas I didnt make any thing for the older ones 19 and 21. I thought they were too old and wouldnt want anything like that. Boy was I wrong, my daughter told me that with every present they opened one of the boys kept saying, I’ll bet this one is my Nonnies’ blanket. It made me very sad and also very proud when I heard this so we went right to work to send him his still “special” present. I guess that goes to show they never outgrow those things made with love. Now we are expecting our first Great Grandchild and I get to start all over again. God is Good.

  • Carol Seavitt

    Making embroidery gifts for friends’ kids has been my latest and most rewarding ‘hobby’ lately. Most recently, my friend Christine invited me to her grandson’s baptism at her home. I placed a cross on a hankerchief from her father (great keepsake) and then made a prayer pillow for Gavin. Gavin is one and he absolutely loved the pillow. Sewing is so rewarding:)

  • Becky

    I really enjoy sewing for my grandchildren. They love everything. One of my favorite things I’ve made for my granddaughter was the Hope Yoder designs you have on your blog on the sweater/skirt set. I did the designs on a sweatshirt I turned into a jacket per Mary Mulari’s instructions. It turned out sooo cute and she loved wearing it. I agree that applique is a great embellishment for kids clothing. Thanks for all of your ideas today.

  • Edith

    I love doing bibs and stuffed animals (where you take the belly out). They are a great hit!
    I like realistic giraffes for my DD who just turned 8 – they are her FAVORITE animal!

  • Patty

    I love doing baby quilts and throws but I hve to be careful about letting my grandkids in my sewing room…they want whatever it is I may be working on. Recently embroidered lots of felt hairclips for my granddaughters. My grandson helped himself to a couple of owls before they made it to the clips and played with them like minature stuffed animals…even made them a nest.

  • Cheryl

    Oh, my! Itchy, dense embroidery designs! I thought I’d done everything well so it wouldn’t itch. I used a fairly dense design of a popular kids character on a pair of jeans I’d cut off due to ripped knees. On the other leg, I spelled out the characters name in a fun, funky font. When complete, I ironed on the fusible mesh interfacing, and washed them using lots of fabric softener. Everything looked and felt great! Then my grandson refused to wear them! Ugh! When I asked him to wear them just for me, he obliged, but when he returned home, I found that he’d removed the mesh interfacing so that he could complain about them being “itchy!” Needless to say, he never wore them again so I donated them to a local charity. I do hope that some little boy found them fun to wear! My granddaughter, however, brings me her clothes with specific requirements as to what to embroider and where! I’d love to have a child’s placement guide! She’s a tiny 6 year old and her clothes are difficult to get the correct placement. Thanks for offering this opportunity!

  • Jane Waite

    I haven’t embroidered anything on children’s clothing yet. I have the first grandchild on the way in November and hope to start embroidering on children’s clothing at that time.

  • Mary Haggenmaker

    By the time I finally got to start embroidering 11 years ago, with a Viking Designer 1 my children were all grown. Now I have 18 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren and everything I have done is greeted with much appreciation…oo’s and aa’s. I have gone from baby blankets to first communion dresses.

  • Gail Beam

    I love to embroider things for my grandchildren. They love having their names embroidered on just about anything. They also like their beach towels personalized with special designs. Sweatshirts and jean jackets are items that they like gramma to embroider on too. Thanks for the chance to win the correct placement package!

  • Mary Anne

    I agree with Deb about getting the spelling correct! Can you guess how many ways there are to spell “Mimi”? More than one I can assure you!

    The most difficult item I embroider are the frilly diaper covers, not alot of maneuver room, any hints?

  • Nancy

    You are right about keeping the size small. I’ve embroidered on an infant onesie and the design was overwhelmingly large on the baby.

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    One of my proudest “mama” moments was embroidering the poodle and leash on my 7-year old daughter’s “poodle skirt” that I made for her for the school “Father/Daughter Dance.” The theme was the 50’s style, and she wore a pink poodle skirt (with the embroidery) and matching pink sweater, including bobbie socks and saddle shoes, and my husband went James Dean style with jeans, black leather jacket and slicked back hair. You should have seen my daughter’s eye pop when she first saw the completed skirt! She is crazy about animals anyway, and to have a poodle embroidered on her swimg skirt just made her laugh for joy!

  • Mary S

    I plan on making a wardrobe for our granddaughter for school and could certainly use the helps from the kit and book. She loves receiving clothes from her grandparents. Keep those ideas coming.

  • Vicky

    I embroidered my new nephew’s name, “Mason” on the sating binding on the blankie I made for him. His mom, my sister, liked it and sent me a photo of him with it.

  • Nancy Nebeker

    I tried monogramming the shirt of three play sets ( 12, 18,24 months sizes) for a baby gift for parents who have everything.

    I selected those sizes because you never know if the baby is going to be on the big size and they all get lots of newborn clothes because they are cuter than the larger sizes.

    All three initials were way to big even using a small font on that size of shirt. Is there any relationship to keep in mind as a rule of thumb on what size is appropriate? Like 1/10th of the half width of the shirt?

    By the way the copy of Machine Embroidered Quilting and Applique arrived today and it is beautiful- my hands are itching to get stitching! Thanks

  • Diana Cleary

    I have embroidered on items for granddaughter, now 4, since she was born. Have a younger grandson but am trying to decide what to embroider for him now that he is getting older. Got ideas from the Two Sisters seminar I attended this last weekend. It was fantastic, gave lots of ideas and technical information, and best of all was FUN. Thanks so much.

  • Martha

    Don’t have any small children till now. My cousin will be having twins and I can’t wait to try doing some embroidery on onesies. I have to admit I’ve had the onesies for awhile but I’m worried about messing up. Can’t procrastinate too much longer, babies due next month.

  • Vicky Morrow

    I’ve decorated t shirts for my oldest granddaughter, along with some really fun designs on the bottoms of her pants. My new granddaughter was born at the end of February, so I’ll be embroidering summer ‘bubbles’ and fall clothes for her. I recently made a chef’s apron and hat for my oldest granddaughter – complete with embroidered (burned) food on the grill ( I found the spots in the embroidery designs where the highlights and shadows were added, and I reversed color schemes so it looked burned instead of cooked. She loved it!!

  • Deb Rosol

    I have a grand daughter that I just love! to spoil. I have made her several quilts and blankets and a wild colored chicken she drag along with long legs.

    I like to buy her cute clothes and have not had the courage to machine embroider on them because a 4T intimidating due to it’s small size.

    This would be perfect to embelish purchase and made clothing and items for her!!

    Just one more way to spoil my sweet grand daughter!!


  • Leslie

    I am a novice embroiderer. I just got a 10-needle machine and I LOVE it! I’m not really sure how to plan and place (or combine) designs yet so I’m thinking it is good to start with kids items first (small designs). I have embroidered baby blankets, burp cloths, and a lace Easter basket for my newborn granddaughter and am presently working on a baby book for her. I did a onesie for her with a small but very dense design and it didn’t turn out like I expected but her parents thought it was great! I’m am looking forward to making the onesie miniskirt from the June 2011 issue for all three of my granddaughters.

  • Greta

    I embroider hundreds of baby and children’s items a year, mostly burp cloths, but also blankets, towels and shirts. Just completed an order for 22 tee-shirts for 3 Girl Scout troops. They were really cute, they had dangling ribbon legs with shoes embroidered on the ends. I am still a hobbyist embroiderer and have many things to learn, and look forward to your blog every week, thank you for all the tips and tricks you give us!


  • Deane

    I got my embroidery machine in late April and immediately started working on things for my kids. My 7 yr old little girl loves anything that has her name on it. I have also been able to make gift baskets to be auctioned off at our church. I used to love to sew but homemade clothes just aren’t that hip anymore. Now i can embellish t’s and tanks for my kids all day long and they love them. I just finished making them all hooded beach towels for a vacation we are planning. I love that no matter I’m working on they are excited about it!

  • Cathy

    While off work for surgery I was still able to complete 10 reversible Saints/LSU rompers and jumpers for “the kids” to wear for Superbowl 44 in which the Saints were the winners. Both the kids and their parents were thrilled by my RAC. But the most memoriable event was when I gave my daughter-in-law six embroidered crib size reversible minkie blankets, burp cloths, and binky holders each with matching designs as a welcoming gift for my 1st grandson. She cried! I sew for girls at work who have young children and they have all been overjoyed by the items I have created for them. The joy comes from creating something that pleases someone else.

  • kids shirts


    The tips which you had mentioned about who to make embroidery on kids shirts machine embroidery are really useful.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

  • Segway Scotland

    You surely were also reading the same passage as I, “No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road turn back..”.

  • Shelly

    I just found your blog and I love it, I have been embroidering on my small Brother SE270D for the past 5 years and recently purchased a PR650e. I love to embroider for my grandkids, I have 15, 12 boys and 3 girls, and two more boys are expected this spring. I love to make them t shirts for the holidays and I try to make each new grandchild a baby quilt. I made all the kids and grand kids christmas stockings last December also. I love to create embroidered items and the kids love them. I made one of my granddaughters a lap quilt for her birthday last July and when we took it to her she was not to excited until she saw the Princess’s and the dragon. She loved it, the embroidery made all the difference. I buy plain tshirts, dresses and fleece jackets and add fun designs for each one of my gkids, it gives me a lot of joy to see their faces light up when they put them on.

  • Karen

    I’ve just had my embroidery machine a couple of months. So far, most of the things I’ve done are monograms for my grand daughters or baby gifts. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to put a name on a beach towel and the name is longer than will fit in the hoop.

  • Lori

    It’s fun when I finish a shirt for mygrandson and he takes it out of my hands and puts it on. He is so excited to get it!

  • Margaret

    I have just started doing machine embroidery. I’ve so far done 3 things…all for babies. My first was 1 letter on a blanket. My second was a Pacifier Clip and the 3rd was my SWEET first Grand baby’s name and an anchor on the back back flap of a baby hat to protect him from the sun’s rays (they live in Florida near the beach). I am IN LOVE with doing this!

  • Garfield Scribner

    You ‘re so excellent! I don’t think Ive read anything like this before. So effective to find somebody with some unique opinions on this topic. I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to remark!. If you have a chance check out my site Clothing Online.

  • joanna

    I have had my machine for 4 years and am still scared of it. I try to pull it out every six months and usually can make a few items then only to get frustrated that one or more come out off kilter. My last project was makung some ninja patches for my sons tae kwon do team….which actually came out nice, so my new years resolution is to try and make something for each my boys once a month….maybe even an embroidered quilt!

  • dkrycek

    Great article! My wife was thinking about buying embroidered baby blankets for her friend’s baby shower, but maybe she would be able to do it herself! I’ll share this article with her and see what she thinks!

  • Pepk

    Just found this site. So great to be here. I bought two sweatshirts to embroider for grand daughters. My last attempt resulted in a fantastic design of kids going down a slide…..right on the middle of their bellies!I tried to take them back. Nope. They were only to happy to point out their Nana made their shirts to anyone who would listen at the water park.

  • Jennifer

    I am fairly new to machine embroidery, so I’m still learning the science of stabilizers. Needless to say, my first onesie was a little wonky. I tried an applique and used the wrong stabilizer – (I’m pretty sure). The runs are misaligned, crooked, and the applique has already broken loose of its lock stitches. I’m thinking about still giving it to my niece as a rag..

  • Nancy Pierce

    I’ve been embroidery for a short while..learning the software, the options, the basics, etc…I am enjoying the reaction of our 3year old grandson and his comments that I need to get sewing for “Piglet” (his baby sister who is due in March). He’s learning how to operate my machine (he loves all things mechanical). And I agree, childrens placement is a challenge!

  • Digitising

    Brilliant work…………..nice

  • Teginder Ravi

    I have mixed feelings. You can do amazing, AMAZING things. And I think some folks get a bit carried away. I’ve been known to use a friend’s machine. OK, I guess my feeling is that it’s a great thing to be able to do, that can be taken too far (like most things!). 🙂

  • Cari Batch

    My grandaughter won’t wear a pain t-shirt from my house. It has to have something embroidered on it!

  • Cindy

    I have just embroidered my first piece of childrens clothing. To my surprise, my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter asked me to sew a unicorn on her pink t shirt…..I let her pick it out. I thought I would have to direct her to a lighter embroidery, but decided if I showed her the sketch/outline category, there would be no problem. Then she wanted a flower and once she saw what she wanted that was going to be it. Well, it was bigger than the unicorn, and I told her I just couldn’t make it small enough to fit in the Unicorns mouth….I played with the design on the computer screen until we were both happy and she was no longer disappointed. I allowed her to pick her colors from the thread box. I tried to talk her out of a couple of colors that I thought would not show up, but then decided this was her creation and to embrace her creativity and express my pleasure in it. She helped me prepare the hoop, pressed all the right buttons and operated the foot pedL to create her design. She sat and watched it stitch out with me…..and guess what it was perfect! Really, her colors were all very complementary, to my surprise. Now, the moral to this story…even if you know you have a good eye…the child’s perspective in creativity is amazing and I will be consulting her in the future! Amazing at such a young age….

  • Barbara B

    I bought my first embroidery machine 5 years ago. Now I have more freedom to choose the type of techniques I want to use. I’ve enjoyed digitizing and embroidered countless items for family, friends and especially my 15 grandchildren. I’ve been enjoying your magazine and these tools would be an additional help. Love your magazine!

  • Beckie

    My biggest challenge is hooping such small garments. The best trick I have come up with is using sticky stabilizer and basting the design. Appliqué is almost all I do for kids on all types of clothing and quilts.

  • Lisa Carmack

    Have embroidered many designs this year for my new grand baby . Use Brother PE500 and Wilcox software as well as Buzzword. When embroidering on tiny clothes and accessories, I often find my 4×4 designs are too large. I adjust some with the Wilcox True Sizer but any more than 80% makes stitches for small items too condensed. How do I change settings to make fewer stitches? Also when doing appliqués on small onesies, I prefer to make appliqués and stitch with clear thread to onesie, but fraying is often a problem. I’ve tried fabric glue and it works with some designs but not others. Any suggestions?