Embroidery of spring/summer clothing (copy)

Embroidery of spring/summer clothing

In spring and summer, lighter textiles are demanded. With lightweight textiles hooping is easy, however, an embroidery that is easy on a winter jacket may cause problems on a T-shirt. In this article Barbara Stümer gives you tips for the embroidery of spring/summer garments.

Strong embroidery backing disturbs the free flow of the fabric and the large shape of the backing is visible on the front side

The warm season is coming and life is starting to take place outdoors. In the beginning, jackets and sweatshirts are still needed, however in summer, lighter textiles are demanded, many of them having good flowing properties or are highly elastic. With this, digitisers and embroiderers will have to overcome different challenges from those in winter with the thicker and normally more stable textiles.

With thicker textiles and depending on the hooping system, hooping can be energy-sapping and strenuous; the embroidery itself normally results very well and without major problems.

With lightweight textiles it is exactly the other way about. Hooping is easy, however an embroidery that is easy on a winter jacket may cause problems on a T-shirt. In such cases it is necessary to discuss with the customer what is technically feasible and what the customer likes.


For logo embroideries, the customer will not adapt his/her wishes concerning the design to the season. Digitisers and embroiderers are often ‘caught between two stools’: on one side is the design, given by the customer/designer, on the other side they expect you to embroider it on the garment of their choice! Company and club logos often have to comply with CI / CD rules (Corporate Identity / Corporate Design), i.e. rules about the use of the logos) and of course a good quality is expected. Experience shows that you will have to do some educational work with customers and designers. Not every design can be executed with a good result in the same way on both, heavy and light, elastic or stable materials.

The background was embroidered with an open stitch density

Embroidery size

It would be too easy if an embroidery design could be used directly on different kinds of fabrics and would furthermore be freely scalable, from a small breast logo to a huge rear embroidery or the other way about – without major adaptations. However, this only happens in the rarest of cases. Normally you have to know the required size right at the beginning of your job. 

Small details such as the smaller letters of a lettering that cannot be skipped will make the difference. If these are too small, you either have to make the entire design bigger or this part of the design will have to be adapted carefully, without changing the logo. Also the embroidery ground has to be considered – you have to decide what is possible and makes sense and what has to be eliminated.


In this case it can be necessary to work with embroidery files that have the same design but specific parameters for each material.

A lightweight jacket made from a woven fabric with a smooth surface can be embroidered with a higher density and requires different underlay stitches and shrink compensation parameters compared to a lightweight, elastic knitted fabric (Jersey for example), the density should be lower (around 10% less density) with different underlay stitches and shrink-compensation values. A weak coverage in embroideries with low density can be compensated by the underlay stitches. The lower the density the lighter is the embroidery and as less thread is added to the fabric, that could impact the free flow of it.


Rayon and polyester threads have similar weights but different properties. Rayon is softer and suppler, compared to polyester, and achieves also a softer embroidery. Therefore, rayon is a good choice for embroidering on soft, flowing fabrics. However, also the intended use of the garment has an influence on the choice of the thread.

Polyester thread is normally resistant to chlorine and industrial wash procedures – a must, for example, for swimwear. Furthermore the non-fading properties are an important aspect for outdoor garments. There is a matt polyester thread with a very high light resistance; when in doubt check the data sheets of the thread manufacturer with the properties of the different threads. When the garment is going to be exposed to mechanical stress you should also use the more robust polyester thread.

Another decision in the choice of the materials is the embroidery backing. This depends substantially on the embroidery ground, i.e the fabric. A good and proven rule of thumb is: for woven fabric use tear-away backing, for soft and/or elastic fabric use cut-away backing. There are also backings with iron-on coatings. These reduce the elasticity and have to be ironed on temporarily in an additional work step.

A woven fabric is more stable than a knitted fabric. Therefore the backing has to ensure stability and prevent distortion during the embroidery process. Later, when the garment is in use, the embroidery normally does not suffer distortion anymore.

Even free-standing elements of the embroidery will not ‘shift’ anymore. This is different with elastic and soft fabrics.  Here the embroidery backing ensures also during the use of the garment that the embroidery remains precise and in place, also after several wash procedures. The strength of the backing has to be chosen according to the fabric: lightweight backing for lightweight fabrics, heavier backing for heavier fabrics.

It is also important that the embroidery backing is cut back as near to the edge of the embroidery as possible. It is rather non-aesthetic to see a roughly cut-away backing or the cut edge of a coarser, stronger backing shining through the fabric. Besides that it is also uncomfortable. A backing does not necessarily have to be stiff in order to give durable stability to an elastic fabric.

Designs with elements that are not strict geometrical shapes and that allow, furthermore, a lower stitch density can be embroidered using water-soluble backing. The backing disappears during the first washing and only the embroidery remains. The look of the embroidery on transparent fabrics will not be disturbed by the remains of backings.

However on highly elastic garments you can experience thread-breaks after removing the water-soluble backing. Non-washable garments can be backed with gauze that disintegrates when exposed to the heat of an iron. Be careful with the temperature; it is better to iron for a longer time at a lower temperature than for a short time at a high temperature, because the ash could turn brown, which would affect the look. Also the design should be in a way that the ash cannot get trapped within the embroidery elements. Remaining ash could be visible through transparent fabrics.

Strong embroidery backing, roughly cut away – this always has to be avoided!
Not aesthetic: the embroidery backing is not cleanly cut and shines through the crushed polyester fabric
Embroidery on voile with already washed out water-soluble backing-the look is not distrubed by remaining backing, the fabric is semi-transparent but stable enough to carry the embroidery
Soft, highly stitch-resistant backing in a single layer clleanly cut out along the edge of the object
A grid in a loose stitch density stabilises the slightly elastic fabric below the entire design


The basic rule says that the embroidery ground should be hooped ‘drum-tight’. This is the case for woven fabrics that are hooped in traditional or magnetic frames. Unfortunately, the expression ‘drum-tight’ can lead to beginners think that they have to expand, for example, T-shirt fabric because they consider that otherwise the material would remain too loose.

After finishing the embroidery, the fabric will retract and the embroidery will be wavy. Slightly elastic fabrics such as jersey or polo-piqué or woven fabrics with a portion of elasticated elasthane should not be stretched for hooping – with some experience you will recognise when a fabric is too loose or too tight.

Tightly cut, highly elastic garments such as swimsuits or other athletics garments that are heavily stretched when wearing will have to be ‘pre-stretched when applying large designs – bi-elastic fabrics have to be stretched in both directions. After releasing from the embroidery frame, the fabric and the embroidery will be wavy – however, once the garment is worn it will look smooth on the body and the embroidery will not constrain. If this pre-stretching is ignored, it can occur that, for example, the arm does not fit into the sleeve anymore, because the fabric has lost its elasticity.

The structure of the design should follow the usual rules: for elastic materials first embroider possibly a loose grid in the colour of the fabric in order to stabilise the design. Then continue with the elements of the background until completing the design with the elements in the foreground. With smartly placed running-stitch lines that connect elements of the same colour, which subsequently are covered by embroidered design elements, you can save a lot of production time.

Special attention should be paid to the above-mentioned stitch density! Avoiding stitch angles of 0°, 45° and 90° prevents distortion within the designs and underlay stitches should never have the same or a similar direction as subsequent cover stitches. Large, fully embroidered areas can add a lot of weight, especially on lightweight fabrics. Sometimes it is possible that the colour is only suggested by a specific open embroidery with a low density. Alternatively you can use an appliqué, but select the appliqué fabric in accordance to the ground fabric.

Have the courage to use in your everyday work also sometimes a different technique or parameters.

The fill areas have been embroidered with appliqués-flower with a low stitch density countered width a satin stitch in irregular width on jersey application-leaves: laser-cut polyester voile, freestanding only fixed at the leaf veins.

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Stitch & Print International appears four times a year. In addition free digital EMagazines and newsletters are published. The trade journal is written for professional embroiderers, textile printers (screen printers and digital printers) and garment decorators.

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