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Do I need to do anything special to embroider a T-shirt?

Tshirt back

Want to learn the basics of hand embroidery with an easy online workshop – totally free?

Sign up for Embroidery 101 here. You’ll learn how to get started, the tools and supplies you’ll need, the four most basic stitches, how to transfer your pattern and how to display your work.

If you already know the basics – sign up for Embroidery 201. It’s also free! You’ll learn how to stitch on specialty fabrics like felt and stretchy T-shirts. Plus you’ll learn lots and lots and LOTS more stitches – all my favorites!

Reader Question: Do I have to pick out all the stabilizer from the back of a T-shirt when I’m done stitching?


Let me back up a little. If you plan to embroider on a T-shirt (or any stretchy fabric) you MUST stabilize the fabric to keep it from stretching while you’re working on it. It’s really not optional. I use The Magical Embroidery Stuff for everything and it is amazing. It’s a rinse-away pattern transfer and stabilizer in one.

You print the pattern onto the rough side of the stabilizer, peel off the paper back, then stick it to the fabric you’re going to embroider. It has a papery feel and you stitch right through it and the fabric together. It does a great job of keeping everything neat (and non-stretchy) while you stitch. (This video shows step by step how I prep things to embroider on stretchy fabrics.)

When you’re done stitching, you just soak the whole shirt and all the stabilizer disappears.

Before Sulky Sticky Fabri-solvy I used to use a permanent stabilizer. It went on the inside of the shirt and you had to tear it away when you were done stitching. I never tore away the part inside the stitching, which is why the inside of my embroidered T-shirts always looked like these photos.

I’ll admit that it’s mostly because I’m lazy. Lazy. Lazy. Lazy. I find that after just one washing the stuff is pretty dang soft. Like Kleenex. Both my daughter and I are are extremely sensitive to itchiness and the excess stabilizer doesn’t bother either of us one bit. So why mess with it?

I also don’t like tugging at my stitches, and to get every bit of stabilizer out from every single stitch would definitely take some tugging. After you wash it a kajillion times most of it works its way out anyway. (See the note about laziness, above.)

So no. You do NOT need to pick out all the stabilizer after you’re done stitching. Use that time to stitch something else!

Or just use Sulky Sticky Fabri-solvy and don’t worry about it at all. 🙂

Got any other sewing or embroidery questions? Send them to me here.

Happy Stitching!

Applique Wendi (with fabulous hat)


  1. Gah! Nowwww you tell me. Good to know!

  2. Anonymous SAYS...

    Thank you for your post Wendi, it is very helpful!

  3. Laura P SAYS...

    Great to know. But the challenge I find about embroidering a piece of clothing is that with each stitch you have to go in between the front and back of the item, for example between the front and back of a tee shirt. Sounds tedious to me. But I love the look. Also is there a “best” stitch to use? Can I use a chain stitch instead of a back stitch to outline the design or will the former pull the knit too much? Getting ready to start my first project now. Thanks!