Tips for Embroidering on Athletic Wear

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Recently I took an afternoon to embroider a few new shirts for myself. Students always ask if it is hard to embroider logos on athletic wear. No it is not hard, but do follow some of these helpful tips for guaranteed success. 

First trick, test the logo out on an older shirt. Something like a well-worn shirt or shirts from a second hand store are a great place to practice. These three shirts where all top-quality shirts like the UnderArmor brand from a ladies second hand store. If I messed up, I was only out $12 not, $60. 

Digitizing a Logo

The logo is actually just a specially font. Using Husqvarna/Pfaff’s free font software, Quick Font, I created my own letters. Other software brands that work with True Type fonts can do the same process. If a logo is more complex, extra digitizing software maybe be purchased or you can have a logo professionally digitized. Check with your local sewing machine retailer to audition and purchase a wide variety of software options.

What is Quick Font Software?

Here is a quick idea of how the Quick Font software works. Note: This is an older video with a slightly older Quick Font version, but the concept of creating of the fonts is still the same.

Stretch Needles

I’m a super fan of Stretch needles for athletic wear. With all the lycra, both sewing machine and embroidery machines can sometimes skip stitches from stitching through the rubbery material that makes up these stretch fabrics. Stretch needles have a coating on the that prevents skipped stitches.

No Show Mesh Cut Away Stabilizer & 505 Spray

If choosing to not hoop the garment, start by hooping two layers of no show mesh cut away stabilizer. Next, spray the center of the hoop with 505 spray. This will create a light sticky foundation to adhere the fabric into position.

Marking the Center of the Design

Using a fabric marker that is guaranteed to come out, mark the center of the where the design is to stitch. Draw the vertical line straight down from the shoulder seam. Draw the horizontal line centered on the sleeve. If a pocket is on the shirt, embroider the design 1/4″ above the pocket.

Water Soluble Stabilizer on Top

Even though athletic wear is usually not a napped fabric, use a layer of thin water soluble stabilizer to give the stitches something to hang on to while stitching. This logo has very narrow satin stitching. To keep the stitches from sinking into the fabric, the water soluble stabilizer adds a little lift to the finished stitch out.  

Pro Tip

Don’t start with a striped fabric for your first project. A striped item requires perfection. If a logo is not perfected aligned with striped fabric it is very noticeable.  

Basting in the Hoop

Many embroidery machines have a “Basting in the Hoop” feature. This does two things, first, it attaches the shirt to the stabilizer. Second, it can help you visualize if the fabric is centered and straight. No one wants to see a logo not level – especially on a striped fabric. Should an item not be perfectly placed, basting stitches are easy to remove before starting the aligning process over.

Removing the Stabilizer

Start by removing the basting stitches. Next, cut away the stabilizer to approximately 1/4″ from the edge of the embroidery. Carefully tear away the perforated water soluble stabilizer from the front.

Final Step

Wash the item to remove any remaining water soluble stabilizer and drawn alignment lines.

What are your favorite tips for embroidering on athletic wear? Post your tips in the comments below.

  1. Nan Wakefield says:

    Thank you for a great post! I’ve always walked away from knits and now I have the courage to try this. Off to the thrift shop I go!

    Merry Christmas
    Nan Wakefield from Jupiter, Fl
    The Inspired Sewist

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Nan,

      Have fun! Sara

  2. Lynn says:

    Awesome tip on the baste around for proper alignment. I really enjoy your videos and cant’ thank you enough. I refer many of my customers to your site for additional help when I am not available to answer their questions.
    Thank you, Sara

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Lynn,

      You are welcome! Thank you for using our videos and passing them on to your customers. If you ever need anything, please reach out. What is your store name and where are you located?

      Sara Snuggerud

  3. maggie bonet says:

    Thank you for your tips..the water soluble tip was my favorite

    1. Sara says:

      Thank you!

  4. Claire Fanning says:

    Thank you for the video on Quick Font. I have had it for ages on my Ruby but didn’t really get how it worked so hadn’t bothered with it. Now I see it’s quite useful. I will try it.


    1. Sara says:

      Hi Claire,

      You are welcome. We love it too!

      Sara Snuggerud

  5. linda says:

    i found you can’t use all the fonts that are in quick font. Only the one that are in font manager. i tried using one of the stitches and it wouldn’t work, i called the software help line and they told me i only could use what was in font manager. i have the Premier Plus 2 Extra. and the Ruby Royale machine.

    1. Sara says:

      Hi Linda,

      We do recommend working with more than one font to find one that works. Yes, there have been fonts that did not work, but keep trying, many of them do work!


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