How to embroider on t-shirts
T-shirts are made of a light fabric and have an extreme elasticity which makes them problematic to embroider. Because the stitches pull the fabric inward where the needle penetrates it can often pucker and distort the design.
Below is a list of good tips to apply for quality embroidery results on t-shirts. To make it even easier, Wilcom software now includes Auto Fabric Assistant which intelligently determines your stitch settings based on the thickness, texture and stretchiness of the fabric and automatically changes to suit different fabrics.
Firstly a suitable design should be chosen. If the design is detailed and involves a lot of stitches it will cause the embroidery to be hard and uncomfortable to wear. It will also make holes in the T-shirt and cause the lightweight fabric to stretch.
It is a good idea to increase the pull compensation especially when two different colored columns meet. A design with no pull compensation will look good on the screen but will distort and leave gaps in the design once embroidered.
If you open up the density, especially on fill areas, the design is less likely to pucker. If puckering becomes too much of a problem then use an appliqué for large areas.
Underlay is very important when using a fabric with stretch. Using the correct underlay will prevent the design from shifting. It is best to avoid using long stitches which will pull the fabric inwards and distort the design.
Backing also stabilises the embroidery and stops the fabric moving or stretching in the frame. The backing should match the weight of the fabric. It is best to use a cutaway backing for a knit fabric, cutting as close to the design as possible. The more backing left on the more likely it is to pull when washed.
Topping is used on the top of the fabric to hold down the weave of the fabric. The main benefit of using a topping on a knit fabric is that it prevents the stitches from sinking into the fabric.
To reduce the chances of the design distorting you should use the smallest frame possible. The larger the frame the more the fabric will stretch and distort during embroidering. The fabric should be secure so that the design won’t shift so it is a good idea to frame the backing with the T-shirt.
Use a 75/11 needle and sew at a slower speed for more control.
Wilcom Feature Focus: Auto Fabric Assistant
This feature intelligently determines the best Underlay, Stitch Density and Pull Compensation settings to ensure your designs are optimized for your selected fabric. It also will recalculate when a design is scaled or you apply it to a different fabric.
For example, if you are designing for a t-shirt – selecting Jersey or Poly-cotton (depending on your particular tshirt) will apply settings based on the recommendations mentioned above. If you then wanted to reuse that design on a fleece, you can simply change the fabric type to Fleece and watch the settings change!
Author: Brenden Prazner, Charuta Marathe
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