How To Embroider A Shirt By Hand

Do you want to transform your shirt from plain-looking to a beautifully embellished garment? Then, you can embroider your shirt by hand easily.

Embroidery transforms your clothes by adding a design to the clothing to make them stand out and unique.

How Do You Embroider A Shirt By Hand?

Embroidering a shirt by hand is easy. All you need to do is to draw your design on tracing paper. Select the location of the embroidery, cut around your design, and place it on the shirt. Choose your preferred embroidery thread and start sewing the design on the tracing paper onto the shirt.

Hand embroidery is one of the embroidery skills that many embroiderers seek to perfect. Machine embroidery is easy as all you need is to place your shirt in the machine, press the start button, and embroidery happens.

For hand embroidery, you need to take your time to stitch along the design until you finish. It takes time to perfect and to produce a beautiful embroidery design.

However, it is possible. With lots of practice to make a hand embroidery design that looks exactly like a machine embroidery design.

Steps To Embroider A Shirt By Hand

Step 1. Select the shirt that you want to embroider on. By the time you decide to embroider a shirt, you already have one in mind.

However, you need to select a shirt to embroider depending on your embroidery skill level. This is because different types of fabric have different difficulties when working with them in embroidery.

A cotton fabric shirt is the best to work with especially when you are embroidering by hand.

Step 2. When you have the right shirt to embroider, you now need to assemble the materials you need to embroider. You will need the required color embroidery thread and embroidery needles.

You will also need scissors, pins, and a stabilizer if need be.

Step 3. You need to now prepare your design. Print it off from an online source onto your printing paper or trace it from another source such as a magazine.

Have your design ready together with all the embroidery materials that you require.

Step 4. Once you have your design on paper, you can now cut around the design that you have traced on your paper. You can use a razor or scissors to cut around the design.

Make sure that you leave some space around the design that you will then cut off later once you are finished embroidering.

Step 5. Pick your shirt and decide on the location on which you will sew on your embroidery design. You can sew on the embroidery at different points on the shirt.

You can embroider on the arm, at the back, on the pocket, or any other point you choose. Picking the best point embroidery is determined by how easy it will make your embroidery process.

The back which has more space is much easier to embroider than other parts of the shirt. It will also depend on the size of your embroidery design. With a smaller design, you can embroider it on the pocket or arm.

Step 6. Pin your tracing paper onto the chosen location for embroidery. You can use straight pins or a basting stitch to hold the tracing paper onto the shirt. A tracing paper is suitable as you can see through it as you embroider.

Step 7. Choose your embroidery thread and thread your needle ready to start embroidering your garment. Embroidery thread comes in six strands. For a good size width of the embroidery design, you can use at least two strands of thread.

Also, choose a color that either contrasts or matches with the color of the shirt you are embroidering. Embroidery thread is available in many colors. Thread your needle with your preferred embroidery thread.

Step 8. Start embroidering. With your embroidery needle make the first stitch of the embroidery design onto the shirt. Insert your needle through the tracing paper and stitch the design on the chosen location on your shirt.

You can hoop your shirt to ensure that the part of the shirt you are embroidering is taut. Working on your shirt is taut makes it easy to embroider and to fix the embroidery design tightly onto the shirt.

When hand embroidering, the best stitches to use for tight embroidery are a backstitch, a running stitch, and a split stitch.

Step 9. When you finish embroidering, you can now cut off the tracing paper from the shirt. Make sure to remove the tracing paper as gently as possible. This ensures that you don’t upset your freshly stitched hand embroidery and cause it to unstitch.

Step 10. When you finish embroidering, you need to anchor your embroidery thread firmly onto the shirt.

This ensures that your embroidery thread doesn’t come off once you have finished embroidering or when washing the shirt. Sometimes you don’t even need the knot.

You can make several small final stitches at your finishing point instead of a knot to hold your embroidery firmly in place.

Step 11. If you had used a stabilizer to hold your embroidery, this is the time you need to remove it. Depending on the type of stabilizer you used, you have different methods to remove it from your shirt and embroidery.

A cut-away stabilizer is the best stabilizer to use in this process. As the name suggests you can cut off the excess with that behind the backing remaining permanently to hold your embroidery in place.

Another advantage of cutaway stabilizer is that it is not uncomfortable on the body. It has a smooth texture and thus you can wear your shirt comfortably with the stabilizer on.

It also doesn’t react with water. This means that you can wash your shirt as usual without the risk of breaking up the stabilizer and having stabilizer spots or stains on your shirt after every wash.

How Does Machine Embroidery Work?

Machine embroidery is quite involved, There are three main stages to machine embroidery. First, you need to create the embroidery design.

This involves skills in illustration and graphic design to make a unique design to embroider on a piece of fabric or garment.

Secondly, you need to save the design in a format that is compatible with the embroidery machine. There are a few formats that the embroidery machine can work with easily.

You will need to save your embroidery design as an image to make sure it is visible by the machine and can be transferred to a fabric or garment.

The third and final stage in machine embroidery involves transferring the embroidery design onto the fabric or garment.

The machine embroidery software has numbers that indicate the color of the thread needed for the embroidery to transfer as is designed. Each number then corresponds to a needle in the machine.

Each needle has a different color thread. You will also need to instruct the machine on how the colors or needles need to follow each other in the embroidery process.

Working with a top thread and an underneath bobbin thread, the machine completes the design transfer onto the garment.

How To Perfect Hand Embroidery

As an embroiderer, you can’t only rely on machine embroidery to carry out your work. You also need to understand and be good at hand embroidery. To perfect hand embroidery, you need consistent practice.

Practice how to embroider by hand on different types of fabric. In this way, you get to know how different fabrics respond to needles and different stitches.

Also, before you transfer an embroidery design onto a fabric or garment, test it on a similar garment. This ensures that you know what to expect in the process and that your embroidery result will be as expected.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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