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Embroidery Tips & Techniques

Spanx® for Machine Embroidery Designs

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

What is Spanx for embroidery designs? It’s underlay – the seamless foundation for beautiful embroidery. Without it, you’re going to see a whole lot of puckers, wrinkles and divets. Things that are very undesirable in embroidery and fashion.

But how do you know if you need it? Well, in fashion, a mirror will tell you if Spanx is a requirement for a certain outfit. In embroidery, a stitch out of the design will reveal the ugly or blissful truth.

Professionally digitized designs start with underlay since the underlay stitches are the foundation for the visible artistic stitches. Underlay, like Spanx, should be invisible with its presence known only to the stitcher/fashionista.

The amount of underlay that is in an embroidery design was decided by the digitizer at the time of creation. The digitizer takes into consideration the end use of the design and applies the appropriate type of underlay before laying down the beautiful stitches. For instance, when Designs in Machine Embroidery created the fonts for the Perfect Towel Kit, the end use of stitching on terry cloth was taken into consideration. The result, a double layer of lattice underlay, permanently holds down the nap of the terry cloth through the life of the towel not just until it is laundered. A double layer of lattice is two columns of fairly tight zigzag stitches that support the heavy satin stitches in the final design.

Formal H from the Perfect Towel Kit

Single layer of lattice underlay

Actual underlay of the Formal H design

Romanesque 2 is a beautiful collection of monograms in a delicate frame available from Embroidery Arts. If you take a close look at this lettering, you’ll know that the digitizer created this collection for medium weight fabrics such as bedding, table cloths and napkins.

The letter E from Romanesque 2, Embroidery Arts.

The underlay on the tall, vertical column includes three straight lines of stitching spaced across the width of the column providing a frame for the satin stitches. On the short horizontal line of the E, you’ll find a triple line of underlay stitched close together, creating a bed for the satin stitches. The two approaches reflect the push and pull of the fabric as there is greater stress on the wider vertical column than the short horizontal column. This underlay reflects the work of an experienced and knowledgeable digitizer.

The underlay stitches have been changed to black thread.

Our friends at OESD have a lovely collection of open and airy designs, Radiant Blossoms. The designs are intended to be used on delicate fabrics, nothing heavier than linen and often something as delicate as satin and chiffon.

Very little underlay is included in the designs. More often than not, you’ll find an edge travel; a line of run stitches that lays down at the perimeter of the design segment and provides an anchor for the satin stitches.

Always stitch a test of an embroidery design before you begin the actual project. But don’t just critique the final outcome; watch the process so you can see what underlay was included in the design. This will provide clues for what type of fabric the design was digitized for, saving you guesswork. You may discover that more (or less) underlay is needed for your particular fabric. In your digitizing software, go to Properties, Underlay to add or subtract underlay.

Admit it, fashionista, don’t you wish you could do that to the image in the mirror? I know I do!

Here’s your assignment this week:

Did you know that the fonts on the Perfect Towel Kit are not only ideal for stitching on terry cloth but fabulous for faux fur?  Want to win Perfect Towel Kit – just in time for the holidays?  You love the coverage you get when you use fonts with double underlay when embroidering on those holiday fibers. Just tell me what size is your biggest hoop.  Is it a 4″ x 4”; 5” x 7”, 7” x 12” or other size? Leave your comment and you could win the Perfect Towel Kit.


The winner of last week’s assignment answered the following question:

I can’t wait to see what you do with Designer Handbags and I’m hoping you’ll share photos on Facebook in a few weeks but for now, tell me what size bag you prefer. Do you tote a jumbo bag, a mid-size or petite purse? Tell us what you’re carrying now and you could win Designer Handbags.

And the lucky winner is…. Terri Vanden Bosch!

“I use different bags for the seasons–or which ever one I have just made is my favorite at the moment. I would say it is a mid-size–but that could change with the next one I make:):) ”   – Terri




  • Chris Davidson

    The biggest hoop I have is a 300mmx200mm.


  • Judy

    The biggest hoop I have is 6″x10″.

  • Sandi Brust

    My biggest hoop is 7X12.

  • Kris Reindl

    The biggest hoop I have is 360mmx350mm.
    Thank you

  • Sandi Brust

    My biggest hoop is 7 X 12.

  • Roberta Benson

    My biggest hoop is 6 x 10 inches

  • Whitney H

    My biggest hoop is 8×12. 16×18 if you count the industrial machine at work. Let’s remember though that it’s not the SIZE of your hoop that matters, but what you stitch in it! 😉

  • Margie brecik

    My largest hoop is 240×150

  • Sherry Green

    My largest hoop is my new 14″ x 14″. Can’t wait to take it for a test stitching!

  • Margie F.

    My largest hoop is 8 X 12. Thanks for the chance to win!

    • Arlene

      My largest hoop is 200mm x 280mm. Thank you

  • Lean Jean Dancing Machine

    Admit it, fashionista, don’t you wish you could do that to the image in the mirror? I know I do!
    I wish I could do that with the image in the mirror too!
    Oh the improvements I could make on my image, lol
    Spanx Me ;o) j/k

    • Lean Jean Dancing Machine

      Largest hoop is 240 x 200, wish I had a larger hoop!
      We always want more, don’t you? I am very happy with how far embroidery has evolved just in the last 10+ years 🙂

  • Lisa M

    My biggest hoop is 360×350.

  • Melody Hofmann

    My largest hoop is 6″ by 10″.

  • Carol Puissegur

    My biggest hoop is 12×8

  • Kari

    My largest hoop is a 5×7.

  • Greta

    my largest hoop is 14×14 but have never used it


  • debra

    My biggest hoop is 350x

  • Barbara

    My biggest hoop is 7″ x 12″

  • Brigitte Cowan

    My biggest hoop is the mega hoop for my designer 1

  • Gail Beam

    My biggest hoop is the Mega hoop for my designer 1.

  • Judy Carter

    Fill my hoop!! I thing the biggest is 7 x 12. Sure would like the opportunity to try this!!

  • Jayme Clark

    My biggest hoop is 6×10. I would love to have this to stitch on my new machine!!!

  • June Young

    The largest hoop size for my machine is 7″ x 12″.

    I really wish there was a 7″ x 7″ hoop for my machine. It is frustrating to waste (or try to figure out how to repurpose) 6 inches of excess stabilizer embroidering a 7×7 design in a 7 x 12 hoop.

    • June Young

      oops. I meant 5 inches of excess stabilizer.

      Eileen~ I bet you could make this hoop for us!

      • Eileen Roche

        Hi June! We could make a hoop that size but the machine would recognize it as a much larger hoop. My fear is that embroiderers would stitch on the hoop’s frame and harm their machine. That’s our challenge here at Designs!

        • June Young

          I had not thought of that! Too bad the machine manufacturer would not provide this sort of update for the machines. Oh well.

          Thanks for all that you do. I LOVE Designs in Machine Embroidery Magazine. I am just finishing my scallop bag from your new book this morning.

  • Sue Anderson

    My largest hoop is 7 x 12.

  • Shirley R

    My biggest hoop is 7 x 12″. I agree with the comment made by June earlier in the posts – it would have been nice to have a square hoop to minimize the waste of stabilizer by having to use the largest hoop just to embroider a design that is larger than 5 x 7″. I have read that stabilizer can be re-purposed by sewing the larger pieces together; I think the zigzag stitch was mentioned for this, but I haven’t tried it. That being said, I really find I use my 5 x 7 hoop the most, so that’s why I chose that size for the recent purchase of my first Snap Hoop.

  • Penny Martin-Holly

    My biggest hoop is 360 x 350 mm

  • Vicki

    my biggest is a 7 by 12. I haven’t used it yet.

  • Sandy

    my biggest hoop is 145/255 or 5.7 X 10 inches.

  • Janet Kempner

    I have the giga hoop for my Jenome. Haven’t used it yet!

  • Carolyn H.

    My biggest hoop is 260mm X 400mm (10 1/2″ X 15 3/4″)

  • Elizabeth Barnett

    ooo, what a great set for monogramming towels! my largest hoop is 140×200 mm.

  • Martine

    My biggest hoop is 200 x 360 mm.

  • Pam M

    Mine is 6.5″ x 14.2″ – huh? Make that 150mm x 360mm, it sounds better. (Whoever heard of .2″ for goodness sake.) But the 6×6 is the one that gets the most workout. And forget the Spanx for the embroideries – I’m heading to the Spanx shop for me!

  • Linda Coleman

    my biggest hoop is the 7″ by 12″. Wish I had the 8 X 8 or a 10 by 10.

  • Carolynn Glasford

    My biggest hoop is 6×10.

  • sharon

    My biggest hoop is 8 x 12 for my Quattro 2

  • Berenice

    Sadly, 4X4, but maybe Santa will be good to me this year! I haven’t been too naughty….

  • Debbie Colbert

    My biggest hoop is the 7×12. The largest hoop for the Elegante 2.

  • Lisa

    my biggest hoop is 150×360

  • Marilyn

    My largest hoop is 320 x 320.

  • Irene Clark

    My biggest hoop is a 6×9. I use it my new to me Babylock Elageao

  • Leann McClain

    My biggest hoop is 5.51″ x 9.45″ on the Singer Quantum 6000.

  • Cathie Paski

    My biggest hoop is 250 x 225. I use it on Pfaff 2140.

  • Antoinette

    My largest hoop is 5.4″ x 15.2″

  • Nancy Stringer

    Eileen, I lovelovelove your blog! I’m new to machine embroidery and am learning so much from you. My biggest hoop is 5×7, but I’m hoping to graduate to something bigger soon!

    • Eileen Roche

      Welcome Nancy! I’m glad you’re here.

  • Tricia Kemp

    My largest hoop is the Viking mega hoop, 360×150.

  • Patty Happel

    My largest hoop is 6.5 X 10. Thanks for the chance to win

  • Helene Hutt

    I’m planning to make towels for gifts this year. Thanks for the helpful tips. I really enjoy them.

    My largest hoop is 6 x 10 for the Ellegante machine.

  • Phyllis Hiles

    The 6″ x 10″ hoop is my largest size.

  • Leslie S.

    My largest hoop is 14×14 and I LOVE embroidering those large designs. It takes a lot of planning and time and I wish I knew more about underlay because amdist the wonderful successes I’ve enjoyed with this hoop, I have also endured some very disappointing results from my lack of knowledge. But the good news is, I am learning and loving it! Would very much like to win the perfect towel kit as I am making personalized hooded bath towels for grandkids and monogrammed towels for their parents for Christmas.

  • Donna G.

    The largest hoop I have is 4″x4″ on my Pfaff 7570. However, I also use my mom’s Babylock Ellisimo, and those hoops are huge!

  • Patricia Chambers

    I have a new embroidery machine. The largest hoop is a 6×9. I am wanting to do some towels for Christmas but haven’t the courage to try one. I did one once but it didn’t turn out the way I had expected. I know it was probably the embroiderer that messed up. I could sure use some help. I am 77 and trying do learn this new skill.

  • Patrica Dowell

    My largest hoop is 5×7 Janome 350E

  • Anne Marie Reilly

    My biggest hoop is 360 x 150 mm, and I’ve never used it.

  • Margaret Pepper

    The biggest hoop that came with my machine is the 7×12, but I also have the Super giant hoop it all, which I have not used yet.

  • Shannon Schmid

    The largest hoop that I have is 7 x 12. SLS

  • Betsy

    My largest hoop is 360 x 200. I’ve never embroidered on terrycloth. I’m a chicken!

  • Liz Wood

    In inches it’s 13 1/2 x 14
    or 350 x 360 mm. Just love the Pfaff Cv

  • Barb Miller

    My largest hoop is 250 X 225 Pfaff 2170.

  • Dee

    My biggest is 200 X 200 for Janome 11000

  • Sharon

    My largest hoop is 8 x 12.

  • Lillian Moser

    My largest hoop is 360mm X 350mm.

  • Diana

    My largest hoop is 6″ x 10″
    thanks for asking

  • Alice M

    My largest hoop is 350mm x360mm.

  • Jan

    I Have a 6X10 and “I” use it.

    Thank you

  • Donna Noll

    I’m the queen of multihooping with my 5X7.

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    I have a 12 by 12 and absolutely adore it!

  • Belinda Adkins

    My biggest hoop is 5×7

  • Nancy Weber

    My biggest hoop is the Designer Diamond Majestic hoop, 360×350. I have not yet used it, but am scheduled for a lesson soon. I love your explanation of underlay – I knew sort of what it was and it’s purpose, but this makes it much clearer. Thanks. Nan Weber

  • Mitzi

    my biggest hoop is the Bernina mega hoop. Long but not very wide. 150 x 400 mm

  • Jeannie Nutter

    My biggest hoop is 360×360 or 14″x14″. Just love the things I can do with it.

  • Sharon

    I largest hoop is 240×120, but I usually use my 5×7.

  • Deb Knapp

    My biggest size is 5×7 for now, I have big ideas getting larger hoops and new software. My children also know anything embroidery is a welcome gift at my house.

  • Susan Lawrence

    I am fortunate to have the Viking Designer Diamond with a 14.2″x7.9″ hoop as the largest. I have a Magna Hoop that I cannot use since I upgrade my machine,I wish I could swap it.

  • Lorie

    My biggest hoop size is 360mm X 350mm.

  • Nancy B

    My largest hoop is 10″ x 15″ and I love it for doing in the hoop projects!

  • Cassie

    I know this would come in handy as I have a wedding to attend and one of their requests were towels but because he does construction and such she wants dark towels and she says I can’t have nice towels .I feel this would be a good gift for both of them ,she gets pretty and he gets dark towels.

  • Cassie

    oh forgot to mention my largest hoop is 7×12

  • Pamela Whatley

    My largest hoop is the 14X14 for my Pfaff and the giga hoop for my Janome. Wish you made the Magna Hoop for the Pfaff Creative Vision–I love doing towels and blankets for my children, grands and great-grands, and the Magna Hoop for my Janome makes it so easy!

    The info on underlay is wonderful–I knew what it was, but not the reasons behind it. The towel kit gives me something else to add to my “Ask Santa” list!

  • Judith Carlon

    My biggest hoop is 7×12. Looking forward to seeing what I can do with the Perfect Towel Kit.

  • Rita Dougherty

    My hoop is 5×7.

  • Barb Dircks

    My largest hoop is 5 x 7 … I can’t wait to try these out on a fake fur coat I am making for my granddaughter.. Finally a way to embroider on towels and fur and it will LOOK GOOD…. Hooray

  • Bobette Larsen

    My largest hoop is 6×10. Wish I had a larger hoop!!

  • Vi Andres

    My Largest hoop is 150/400. I am working on “Santa’s Naughty List”! Would Love to have an alphabet that comes out “pucker free”.

  • Patricia Lanter

    My largest hoep is 200/360. I would truly love to have the alphabet that is for towels or other high nap fabrics. I have used letters on towels “that did not come out well”, even when using WSS on top of towel before embroidering the letter. I would love to have letters that will look beautiful for my Christmas gifts and future wedding gift in 2012.

    • Peggy Schroeder

      On your terry towels, you might want to try bridal tulle as a topper. It holds the loops down, tears off easily and stays on even during repeated washing as it is under the stitches. I use WSS on the bottom, then lightly spray the tulle with a temporary adhesive and stick it on the top. Then I sew the design, hold the design while I rip off the tulle, and if whatever is left around the edges does not come right off, after washing the towel and getting all the stabilizer out, it will then stick out and you can either tear it off or trim it close with little curved snips. Hope this helps you.

      • Peggy Schroeder

        Sorry, I forgot to add that I also use the bridal tulle on fake “fur”, works like a charm and it comes in many colors to match whatever background or thread is being used.

  • Denise Y

    The largest hoop I use is the 6 x 10. Thanks

  • Marcia Dumas

    This article is really useful to remind us the importance of the underlay.
    My biggest hoop is 5 x 7.
    I so enjoy the information you give us!

  • Jackie Branscum

    Hello, Eileen, I have a Happy 12 needle machine that has a 12X 12″ hoop. I also have a Brother Innovis machine and I think that is 180 X 300 MM. I love embroidery and want a new 10 needle machine with camera for placement, maybe someday!!! I’ll be glad to see you in Oklahoma again, hope it’s soon.

  • Vicky Isliefson

    My biggest hoop is a 5 x7. I also have a three position hoop that will do 5 x 14 if the design is partitioned correctly. (Brother Innovis 1000)

    • Vicky Isliefson

      PS. Thanks for the insight into underlay. There is nothing so dissapointing as a design with poor underlay!

  • Sheri

    My largest hoop on one machine is a 130mm x 180mm, unless you count the 3-position hoop, which I rarely use. On my other machine, my biggest hoop is a 350 x 360 mm.

    I always learn more when I read about underlay. Thank you.

  • Carolyn Oglesby

    My largest hoop is the 7 X 12. I have several of your books and they have been very helpful.
    Thank You.

  • Gertrude Russell

    My biggest hoop is 360 x 350 but it is not the one I use the most. I use the 200 x 200 the most

    • Anisha

      A plsaeingly rational answer. Good to hear from you.

    • http://www./

      When I at first commented I clicked the Notify me when new comments are added checkbox and now each and every time a remark is added I get 4 email messages with the identical comment.

    • http://www./

      That’s an apt answer to an interesting question

  • Susan Burns

    My biggest hoop is 5″ by 10″

  • Rhonda

    I agree totally with you about underlay! It provides a great foundation for beautiful and timeless embroidery. Spanx is a great way to describe it…hehe!! I just upgraded to the brand new Janome Horizon 12000…. and I am amazed and excited to use the 9×12 inch hoop stitch without splitting my designs!! Love your info!! Thank you!

  • Larry

    my biggest hoop is 7×11 which is the one I use all the time for my dog embroidery

  • Peggy Schroeder

    Hi Eileen,
    My biggest hoops are 6 by 10, I sure wish my machines took a bigger one. I have a Babylock and a Brother; they are basically the same machine, and I can just see the look on my husband’s face if I had some larger ones, and both machines are running at the same time! When the two machines are going at the same time, I have been asked if I am trying to take the roof off!!!
    What is this Spanx? I don’t recall ever hearing about it, and I would think it is something I should have. I don’t like to leave anything out when it comes to supplies. I think I could start my own store. I also do a lot of baking, and candy (chocolates), and I began to think I had too much stuff when the ladies that own the deli and bakery came and borrowed stuff from me. I REALLY need to clean out and downsize, and yet I find myself looking for a “bigger” embroidery machine. Is it an illness? Can I claim mental defect or something?

    • eileenroche

      Hi Peggy – good to hear from you! Spanx is foundation lingerie for women (now available for men, too!). It’s today’s version of the girdle albeit much more comfortable!

      • Peggy Schroeder


        I gather it is not the same thing as the stretch mesh like is used in bathing suits. Is that close? I have that stuff, so of course it is probably something else. It is nice to hear from you, and I hope you and Marie are doing well.

  • Paule-Marie

    I think the biggest hoop is 8×12. can’t remember without looking it up. just checked, that’s the size.

  • Gwen

    My Viking Designer SE has 6 x 10 and the mega hoop 6 x about 14, I think. Right now, I can only dream of a machine with bigger hoops.

  • Dawn Hatch

    I have a Quarttro with an 8″ X 12″ hoop, but I use the 8″ X 8″ inch the most.

    • Brandie

      In awe of that anwesr! Really cool!

    • dmv in cleveland ohio

      Hey, that’s a clever way of thinking about it.

  • Patsy Smith

    My largest hoop is 8 x 12. I just found your blog and of course, I would love to win! This article was very interesting.

  • eileenroche

    Welcome Patsy! Hope you stop back often.

  • Mary Haggenmaker

    I have the 360mm x 350mm for my Viking.

  • Kathy

    My biggest hoop is 14″ x 14″, love you web site, I always learn new things, just can’t keep up. Have your stipple butterflies,love them,have many of your things.But not the towel placement. I always find myself stuck on your website can’t get enough, keep it coming, thanks for all that you bring us.

  • Pam Jackson

    My largest hoop is 5×12, I haven’t used it yet! I am new to all this, and have only used the 5×7 so far. Thanks for explaining the underlay, now I know why I need to get the perfect towel kit!

  • Rory Dabney

    My largest hoop is a 5 x 7.

  • Nancy Moore

    I have a Janome Giga hoop which I have used a few times.It basicly uses two 5×7 hoop spaces with a small overlap so you can do larger pieces of work without rehooping.As long as you create the design to fit in one 5×7 side or the other you can merge the design into one hooping. The hoop I use the most seems to be my 5×7 with my 4×4 running a close second. As a new grandmother my 4×4 has been seeing a lot of use recently!

  • Nancy Newman

    I’ve just finished reading about the wedding. I’m feeling the love, so I pick design A. It reminds me of hearts. And hearts remind me of Love. Circle completed.

  • kk

    My largest hoop is 6 x 10. Thx Eileen!

  • L Searles

    My biggest hoop is 6 x 10″