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Ribbed Knits

The stretch and texture of ribbed knit t-shirts present interesting challenges for the embroiderer. The fabric should be stretched during the embroidery process so it doesn’t ripple or tear when worn but the stretch should be controlled during the embroidery process. Here’s how to do it.


Select a water soluble adhesive stabilizer and remove the protective paper.  Carefully stretch the design area to mimic how the garment will stretch when worn.  Place the stretched fabric onto the sticky stabilizer. If the garment is for you, just put the garment on inside out and then place the sticky stabilizer on the design area. Remove the garment.


Slip the metal frame of Snap Hoop Monster inside the shirt centering the design area. Snap the magnetic top in place. Nest the shirt around the design area, use painter’s tape to hold the shirt out of the needle area.


I selected Urban Threads’ Anatomical Hand to decorate this t-shirt. HandBL

This very cool design features fill stitches with delicate outlines.  Due to the hills and valleys of the ribbed knit, I was worried the fill stitches would cave into the ribs so I placed a piece of crisp (or lightweight) tear-away over the design area. Hand1BLHand2BL

After stitching color 1, the fill stitches, I carefully pulled away the excess stabilizer.Hand3BL

I added a piece of film-type water soluble stabilizer over the design before stitching colors 2, the shading and 3, the outline.


Here’s the key, use a tear-away that rips clean. It will feel stiff in your hand, unlike a soft tear-away (or medium weight) that tears with a jagged edge and has a softer drape.  The final colors – the shading and outline- will cover any pokies remaining from the crisp tear-away.  The fabric won’t bleed through and the embroidery won’t sink into the garment even after laundering.


Don’t you get a kick out of edgy designs like the Anatomical Hand from this week’s blog sponsor Urban Threads? Well, it could be your lucky day because UT is kind enough to offer $25 gift certificates to four random winners on this blog. Here’s how to win:  jump over to Urban Threads and search for skeletons in their search box (found on the top left column of their home page).  Leave a comment here telling us how skeletons designs turn up in your search.  Four lucky winners will be randomly selected next week.  Good luck!




  • pam dawson

    Skeletons show up in alphabetical order. I like to Danse Macabre! Love this site!!

    • Nancy Sherr

      Skeletons appear in alphabetical order. Thanks!

  • Ennis A

    Listed in alphabetical order. Shake His Bones is cute!!

  • Gail Lieberman

    There is a whole anatomy design pack with the hand, spine, and rib cage. There is also a Skellies plushies pack.

  • Linda

    There are 4 pages of skeleton designs. From anatomical parts to full bodies…to dinosaurs and fish bones to cats and more. This is a really cool site thanks for sharing.

  • Carol Lewis

    They are in alphabetical order and my six year old grandson named each one of the parts of the body so you know it is good work when a six year old can name them all. I used some to go on a throw for him. Thank you for your beautiful work.

  • Shanon Davis

    I love these designs. They are in alphabetical order from embroidery to plushies. I did the one of the fish skeleton as a toy for the cat. Put a little catnip in it and she destroyed it 🙁 Will try again with fleece rather than felt.

  • Pat

    Wow – they have a lot (all in alphabetical order). Really love the one you did. Great tip about putting the tear away on top. Have never done that.

  • Judy G

    UT designs are listed alphabetical. Thank you for these great tips on embroidery on ribbed knits.

  • Martha

    4 glorious pages, from human anatomical skeletons to plushie, to animal skeletons! Dancing and “spooking” skeletons. Edgy and fun skeletons! All in ABC order!

  • Sandi Cunningham

    Completely experienced with UTs quirky designs, I found their designs listed alphabetical with packs listed first, then individuals. A favorite of mine is : I Found This Humerus is a light-hearted pun-ny rendition of everyone’s favorite funny bone! I’d like to see the bones done in glow-in-the-dark threads for an October surprise!

  • Carol

    They are listed in alphabetical order. I have been buying designs from this sight for a long time. I always find something great there. Thank you!

  • Beal

    Well, the skeleton designs are listed with packs first and individual designs second… does that answer the question? I like the Gato Muerto the best!

  • Gail Beam

    Love their skeleton creative designs which are found in alphabetical order. their designs have an edgy creative touch not found on many other sites. I bet Abby on NCIS would love them.

    • Liberty

      Wow, that’s a really clever way of thinnikg about it!

    • Thank you so much for sharing! Your stories and passion encourage me in my team’s similar pursuit of high school students through YL. Thanks for being faithful to the Lord and sharing what he’s doing in your midst!

  • Pascale

    Great article! There are 2 pages (when 50 designs are displayed at a time) of cool skeleton related designs on the UrbanThreads site. I especially liked the beautiful skeleton key designs – Key Cascade & the Baroque Passkey. The His & Her Skeleton Cameo are intriguing as well, and would look nice in fancy picture frames!

    Also, could anyone suggest / provide names for the crisp tearaways? The tearaways I have (2020 & 1720) are soft and leave jagged edges. Thanks!

    • Karen W

      If you already have the softer tearaways & can’t wait to order the stiffer type (I ordered mine from, very carefully trim off the jagged edges with duckbill/ applique scissors or snips. Some will tearaway cleaner if you lightly score the edge first & others respond to a moistened Q-tip swab & allow to dry before continuing. Generally, removing the excess before the outlines are sewn ensures the edges are covered. I hadn’t thought about using the ws topping at that step. Thanks, Eileen.

  • Lorena

    Alphabetical including skeleton keys. I liked the skeleton tree.

  • Sharon R

    Obviously, the search results are grouped in alphabetical order. I was surprised to find almost 100 designs, ranging from the anatomical to inanimate keys, butterflies, dinosaurs, and of course Dia de los Muertos. I think I own 3 or 4 of the designs because I gifted a friend with various Dias de los Muertos designs for her wedding.

  • Deborah Johnson

    As of 10/19/2016 11:57p CST, a search for “skeletons”, returns a list including two design packs and 70 singles, disregarding options for various sizes, or hand embroidery vs machine embroidery. I have several of these already and would dearly love to add more to my stash. Urban Threads is in my top two favorite websites.

  • Martine Postuma

    Skeletons turn up in alphabettical order. I like the ribcage, just the thing my granddaughter would love on a T-shirt.

  • Linda A

    I am in the midst of stitching the skeleton heart hands. I wish I had seen this blog before beginning the design. I love the idea of using the tear away under the heavily stitched hand area. Next time :>)

  • Susan Spiers

    Great info! They are listed alphabetically! Great stuff!

  • Kathy Grant

    The packs are listed first – in alpha order – and then individual designs are listed alphabetically. I find the designs very intriguing.

  • Tracy Ballesteros

    I am getting ready to embroidery the UT anatomical foot. THANK YOU for helping me to solve the stabilizer delimma! I love these delicate designs, but have struggled with losing the stitches in the knit. I would have never thought to use different stabilizers on top as you go thru the process. Can’t work on this project tonight! UT is my favorite design site. Designs are alphabetical.

  • RUTH F

    Very unusual designs. The top of the page shows a choice between anatomical and skelly plush it’s. The plush it’s would be great for little children, not so scary. I like the bird skeleton. The little x-ray blue bird is cute.
    Also want to say I really enjoy your blog. I used the background color changer yesterday. I had forgotten about . Thanks for the reminder!

  • Janet Kirby

    The designs are listed alphabetically and they are perfect for this season.

  • Nancy Weber

    I am not a huge fan of Halloween, but Urban Threads’ designs are wonderful. They have tons of skeleton type designs and they show up in alphabetical order.

  • Francine Meyer-Drasutis

    The designs are in alphabetical order, Packs to singles. They have some really cool designs. Thanks for the tips. I have been trying to decide how to do it.

  • Karen S

    They are listed in alphabetical with packs first and than single designs. Thanks

  • Kelly Sas

    I found their designs listed alphabetically with packs listed first, then individuals. I love Urban Threads. Great for the more modern design that my adult daughters like.

  • Shari K.

    How they show up is alphabetical.
    Did you mean how many? if so, 72 skeleton designs.
    I love their designs and they frequently offer a free design.

  • maria blecha

    four pages of gorgeous designs, something for everyone, I have some of them!!!! Love their designs. I am buying the hand because of your article and also a few others like the one Jugar a la Vida. Loved your article and the tip of putting the tear away for the first color, never have done that and will try it this afternoon, always have put wash away on top but the tear away will stay in BRILLIANT!

  • Cathy

    Designs are listed in alphabetical order.

  • Charlotte Jess

    Anatomy and skelly plushies

  • Denise

    Once I searched for skeletons, the results were listed in alphabetical order. Design packs first followed by individual designs. Silly me — I questioned why the designs for keys showed up. Well they were skeleton keys.

  • Holly

    UT lists their designs from A-Z. I LOVE UT’s stuff, I have bought quite a few designs from there. Have never had a problem stitching out any of them. 🙂 I don’t use painter’s tape when hooping though; I use the DIME hoop guards with my monster hoop. Works for me!

  • Donna Fecteau

    they show up in alphabetical order and I really like the skeleton key snowflake design. I wondering how long it will take people to see what the snowflake is made up off!

  • Joyce

    Adorably! Listed with Packs and they are alphabetical. I can’t wait to try some of these…

  • Carolyn Hutchinson

    The designs packs show first and then the individual designs, all kisted in alphabetical order. I love Urban Threads!

  • Bonnie Gray

    Love Urban Threads! The designs are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the design.

  • Beal

    Stabilizer question — why isn’t a cutaway used? I thought they were always supposed to be used with knits.

    • eileenroche

      You’re right, cut-away stabilizer is normally used on knits. But to be honest, i don’t always like the hand (no pun intended!) of the cut-away on a slinky t-shirt. I prefer a stabilizer that is completely removable. And due to the stretch of the garment, the fabric needs to expand and contract during wear. So here’s the thing, embroidery rules are really ‘guidelines’. If you use common sense, you can often bend those rules to your liking.

      • Beal

        Thanks for explaining! That makes a lot of sense. 🙂

  • Ashley

    Really like Urban Threads. I have used a few of their designs on projects for gifts. There items are listed alphabetically by the design name.

  • Angela S

    I Enjoy urban designs embroidery! They always stitch put without issues. The skeletons are listed alphabetically.

  • ANN Madison

    I love Urban Threads and have bought quite a few of their designs. The of customer projects is amazing and inspirational. The skeletons come up in an alphabetical order. Thank-you for the giveaway and this post. I have been a little afraid of embroidering on knits.

    • ANN Madison

      The gallery of customer’s projects. Sorry for the error.

  • Barb

    The skeletons are in alphabetical order. I have made the fish toy for cat “relatives”. Urban Threads is a fun , edgy site

  • Mary Parker

    I love Urban Threads, I have many of their designs and love the way they stitch out. The designs show up in design pack then in alphabetical order. I just got some of these to make a bag for my nice who is a PA. I might just make her a shirt too!

  • Dee Read

    The search results for skeletons on Urban Threads’ website showed 2 design packs first and then 71 individual skeleton designs listed alphabetically. Each design listed the number of sizes available and the width and height dimensions listed too. I am getting ready to stitch the very clever Skeleton Heart Hands design.

  • Karen W

    I LOVE Urban Threads — discovered them several years ago. They have a unique genre that especially appeals to the younger crowd. Their designs are always alphabetized, by packs & singles, for ease of locating & a skeleton search came up with over 4 pages to choose from. The Matroyshki Muertos strike my fancy!

  • Sara Redner

    They are all together alphabetically. UT has so many great designs, it always hard to choose and we end up buying more than we planned! LOL

  • Cheryl L

    They are listed alphabetically. UT is a great site. I have purchased from them many times and have always loved the way the designs have stitched out. They have a lot of designs that you do not see elsewhere. Thanks for the tip on the tear away. I will give it a try.

  • Cathie Scanlon

    The skeletons are listed alphabetically.

  • Cathie Scanlon

    Thank you very much for the $25 gift certificate from Urban Threads! I have a long wish list with them and this will help me get a few of the ones I want the most!!!!

  • Bruce

    I always find something great there. I really love the designs.