Machine Embroidery on Knits for Beginners
Shared by Cathie

 One of the most exciting embellishment techniques to come along lately for machine knits has been the embroidery machine.  However, most manuals do not explain the basics for embroidering on knits.  But, with a few tips and a little bit of practice, anyone can turn out garments or afghans with beautifully embroidered designs on them.

 First, you need to choose your design.  When youíre first beginning, stay away from dense designs or designs with a lot of colors, especially if those colors are embroidered on top of other colors.  Next, you need to choose your stabilizer, and then stabilize your knit.  Then, itís embroider the design, and youíre done!  Letís break down each step.

 For my design, I wanted something that would be available to everyone, so I went to and looked under her free designs.  I clicked on the butterfly category and choose one of the designs.  The one I choose was a butterfly hovering over a flower.  That design was not quite large enough for the space I intended to embroider, so I took the design into Embird, a design manipulation program, and cut out the butterfly.  After I had separated the butterfly, I made it smaller and saved it in a separate file.  Then I imported the smaller butterfly back into the original design, but on the other side of the flower.  Of course, I could have used the design just the way it was originally.

 My next step was to test the design.  I wanted to make sure it wasnít too dense and that the design would fit well into the space I had chosen.


Illustration 1 is the design almost finished stitching.  I stitched it out first on a piece of felt.

 Next, I cut out the finished design and placed it on the knit I wanted to embroider.  This would give me a good idea of placement.  The knit is one of the baby afghan blanks from our Machine Blanks book.  In the center is a rectangle that nicely holds a 7 x 5 design.  I had knitted the blank and steamed it to ready it for the embroidery.  Illustration 2 shows the design placed in the center.


Beside the design, youíll also see a pencil that holds various colors of tailorís chalk.  Using the chalk, I marked a plus sign for the center of the design and marks for the center top, bottom, and sides of the knit square.  Another method of marking is to sew a strand of contrasting yarn at each of these places.  If you use this method, remove the center yarn strand before embroidering the design.

 My next step is to ready my stabilizer.  Because this is a baby blanket, I donít want any stabilizer left on the blanket when itís finished, so Iím going to use Badge Master.  Aqua Magic is another stabilizer that also washes away completely.   If I were using a sweater,  I could also use Polymesh, which doesnít wash away but is a very soft stabilizer and can remain on the back of the knit with no problem.  You may find a stabilizer you like better, but those are my preferences.


This illustration shows the hooped Badgemaster.  I have made a cardboard frame which fits inside my hoop.  Because Iím going to spray an embroidery adhesive on the stabilizer, I use this frame to keep as much of the mist off my hoop as possible.  I can clean up my hoop with a cleaner such as Goo-Gone or Oxi-Clean.  I prefer to use 505 Adhesive spray, but there are several others on the market.  As soon as I spray the adhesive, I will place my knit into the frame, lining up the marks, and insert the frame into the machine.

 Next, I put a top layer of wash-away stabilizer on the knit.  I have used Solvy, Badgemaster, Aqua-Magic, and even special hospital bags.  Each one of these has a different thickness, and I choose the one I use based on the density of the design.  For this particular design I donít need a very heavy top layer. 

 My next step is to baste around the edge of the hoop.  Many pieces of software come with a special basting pattern, and they are also found for free on the internet.



This illustration shows the knit adhered to the hoop, the top layer of stabilizer, and the basting stitches.

Now Iím ready to embroider my design.  If I didnít like the original colors, I can easily change them now.  And, I did that for this design.  Although the butterfly and flower were very well colored, I choose to use softer colors, more in the pastel ranges, because I wanted colors that went with the mint green of the baby blanket. 

This particular blanket design also has four smaller areas in the corners that may be embroidered.  I choose to pick up one of the colors from the large butterfly and sewed in four single-color butterflies, one in each section.

When I finished, I trimmed away the excess stabilizer.   My last step was to launder the blanket and do one last bit of light steaming.



Here is the finished blanket.  If I had a specific baby in mind, I might put the babyís name in the center block with the butterflies and flower.