Embroidery on Caps | Tips

When embroidering caps, it is very important to have an understanding of the components of caps themselves. The face fabric and the stabilizer used in the manufacture of caps have a great deal to do with the cap’s ability to accept embroidery.

When embroidering caps, it is very important to have an understanding of the components of caps themselves. The face fabric and the stabilizer used in the manufacture of caps have a great deal to do with the cap’s ability to accept embroidery. While twill caps have a reputation for giving a stair-step effect to fine column stitching, poplin caps lack the added stability provided by the diagonal rib. This rib helps the twill cap hold up to stress at high sewing speeds. Poplin may allow a bit more clarity to fine detail, but generally poplins and twills are interchangeable for the embroiderer’s purposes. The popular nylon cap fabrics are fairly dense and require some penetrating power to sew satisfactorily. Wool is very forgiving, and is generally backed with a high-quality stabilizer.

Osnaburg or buckram backings provide excellent foundation, while the more open-weave crinoline sometimes has an undesirable starch or glue type stiffener. Try to avoid stiffeners that react unfavorably to the needle’s heat. Fused backings are the most suitable, however, there are a number of cap lines available with “flyswatter” stays. Usually made of nylon mesh or buckram, these floating stays support the cap front without being adhered.

There are two distinctly different schools of thought on the best procedure for embroidering this style of cap: one holds that the stay should be securely fastened into the upper clamp of the frame, while others believe this is the primary contributor to puckering and poor registration on this type of cap. Beautiful embroidery has been produced by both techniques, and we recommend you experiment with both methods on your frames to determine the technique that produces the best results for you. The suitability of foam-backed caps is enhanced when the foam has a bonded backing. This prevents the foam from flaking into the bobbin assembly of your machine and it gives a longer life to the cap.


Although you may keep ball point needles in your machine most of the time, you may find that some cap fabrics, such as nylons, react more favorably to a sharp needle. Because of the high thread count and strength of the fiber in these fabrics, the needle tip becomes flattened quickly and will need to be replaced after only a few hours of use. Even twill or poplin caps require frequent needle changes because the backings used to support the cap front are dulling to the needle’s point.


This does not mean you must place unnecessary stress on the seams of the cap. Seams having a long stitch length will not hold up to being stretched to the limit, and plastic tabs may break at the perforations. Having a cap that conforms to your cap frames to begin with is helpful. Adjustable cap frames are also a plus when trying to remove a dimple from a front cap panel.

Older, barrel-style cap frames will perform well with a little ingenuity. If the holes that fit into the driver are worn, remove the hardware and attach it to the other end. Essentially, the top of the frame is now the bottom. Here’s another technique that can remove some of the play from older frames: Attach a strong rubber band to the strap holder on the underside of the frame. Attach the other end of the rubber band to any available hardware on the machine, on either the left side or the right. This holds the wandering frame in check.

The metal piece provided on some frames to secure the back strap of the cap may not always remove as much slack as you were hoping, and you may want to place the strap over the bend in the metal holder rather than the normal placement. Once you decide how the leather or plastic strap should be adjusted to best fit onto the frame tautly, speed up the framing process by having a helper pre-adjust the straps.

Use care in the handling of your cap frames, as they can become bent and this may affect the embroidery area you have to work with. When you are forced to bend them back into the proper shape, metal fatigue is accelerated, shortening the life of your valuable frames.


If you are considering running a design on a cap, be sure to let your digitizer know beforehand. This file could also be quite suitable for other uses, such as bulky-knit sweaters. The special programming techniques used by your digitizer can include extra underlay, additional column width where needed, reduction or elimination of some outlining and outlining in sections to maintain registration. Remember that tiny lettering is not practical when embroidering on finished caps. If a design is very detailed, you may need to create versions that do not compromise the desired look, yet will allow you to achieve reasonable production efficiency.

In some instances, the same programming will work for golf shirts as well as caps, particularly in a bold design. More often, however, it is necessary to customize the program to the vastly different requirements of cap embroidery. A file improperly designed for cap embroidery can result in almost constant thread breaks and a shabby embroidery job.


The dynamics of embroidery on a curved surface are very different than on a flat surface. The machine has been modified in most instances with a raised throat plate. Some machines also need parameter setting changes to alter the timing of the pantograph’s movement in relation to the needle penetrations. The machine requires more time to recover from these movements, as well as more time for the needle to clear the higher throat plate. It is best to run the machine at a moderate speed. Experimentation will help determine the best speed for your own machine. Generally, you will achieve the best results at 500 spm or fewer.


If you find yourself with ragged columns, lost detail or poor coverage, try various toppings to improve embroidery quality. These include heat- and water-soluble varieties, as well as common drycleaner’s bags and tear-away backing. For twill or corduroy caps that are allowing small lettering to fall into the ribs, try a water-soluble topping, and remove with steam. If you have a detailed design to apply to a wide-wale corduroy, good results may be achieved with a heat-disintegrating fabric topping. The topping fabric remains under the embroidery itself after the excess has been removed by placing the cap under a cap heat press. (These presses are commonly used to apply heat transfers.)

When embroidery coverage is poor, try using tear-away backing as a topping in this manner. Choose a color of tear-away that will be of the most help to the design, generally the color closest to the predominant fill color. For example, if you are getting poor coverage using white thread on a black corduroy cap, you will want to use white tear-away. Lay or tape the tear-away to the cap front and embroider the underlay portion of the fill. Remove the tear-away and complete the design. The tearaway will remain beneath the embroidery for the life of the cap, assuring that the pile or nap will always be held below the surface of the embroidery. In lieu of a topping, you may choose to use a larger thread size, say a size 30, for fill areas on this type of cap surface. Detail colors on top of the fill areas will still be best executed with a size 40.