Guaranteed How to Embroider Caps


This article will focus on Guaranteed How to Embroider Caps; therefore, it is essential to understand the components of cap embroidery. The face fabric and the stabilizer used in manufacturing caps significantly affect the cap’s ability to accept embroidery.

When embroidering custom caps, it is crucial to understand the components of custom embroidered hats. The face fabric and the stabilizer used in manufacturing caps significantly affect 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 of the diagonal rib.

This rib helps the twill cap withstand stress at high sewing speeds. Poplin may allow a bit more clarity to fine detail, but poplins and twills are generally interchangeable for the embroiderer’s purposes. The popular nylon cap fabrics are dense and require some penetrating power to sew satisfactorily. In fact, wool is very forgiving and generally backed with a high-quality stabilizer.

Buckram Backings

Osnaburg or buckram backings provide an 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 several 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 custom embroidering this cap style: one holds that the stay should be securely fastened into the upper clamp of the frame. In contrast, others believe this is the primary contributor to puckering and poor registration on this type of cap.

Both techniques have produced beautiful cap embroidery, 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 ballpoint 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 unnecessarily stress the custom embroidered cap’s seams in Seattle. Seams with long stitch lengths will not hold up to being stretched to the limit, and plastic tabs may break at the perforations. To begin with, having a cap that conforms to your cap frames is helpful. Adjustable cap frames are also a plus when removing a dimple from a front cap panel.

Older, barrel-style cap frames will perform well with a bit of ingenuity. If the holes in 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 or right side. This holds the wandering frame in check.

The metal piece provided on some frames to secure the back strap of the cap may not permanent. You may want to place the strap over the bend in the metal holder rather than the standard 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 handling your cap frames. They can become bent, affecting the cap embroidery area you must work with. In effect, you force them to bend back into the proper shape; metal fatigue is accelerated.


Let your digitizer know beforehand if you are considering running a design on a cap. This file could also be 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 cap 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 and custom snapback caps from Richardson Headwear, particularly in a bold design. More often, however, it is necessary to customize the program to the vastly different requirements of cap embroidery. An improperly designed file for cap embroidery can result in almost constant thread breaks and a shabby job.


The dynamics of embroidery on a curved surface are very different than on a flat surface. In most instances, a raised throat modifies the machine. Some machines also need parameter setting changes to alter the timing of the pantograph’s movement about the needle penetrations. The cap embroidery machine requires more time to recover from these movements and 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 embroidery machine. Generally, you will achieve the best results at 500 spm (stitches per minute) or fewer.


Try various toppings to improve cap embroidery quality if you have ragged columns, lost detail, or poor coverage. These include heat- and water-soluble varieties, standard dry cleaner bags, and tear-away backing. Twill or corduroy cap embroidery that allow small lettering to fall into the ribs.  Try a water-soluble topping, and remove it with steam. If you have a detailed design to apply to a wide-wale corduroy. The topping fabric remains under the cap embroidery. After removing the excess, place the cap under a cap heat press. 

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Antonio Massey

Production Team: Folder

Antonio Massey recently joined NWCA in June of 2022. His role on the Production Team has greatly improved our processes and productivity. Antonio is always willing to lift heavy boxes or help his co-workers during busy times. In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dog and mastering video games.


Alicia Wada

Shipping Clerk

Alicia Wada is passionate about helping her co-workers at Northwest Custom Apparel in any way that she can. She works in our Shipping and Logistics department. Alicia, who goes by Ali, has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. She lived in Japan for ten years and recently brought her family to America in 2019. She is interested in learning crafts and textile art from around the world.


Erik Mickelson


Erik Mickelson’s position as Manager is more than a job, it’s a passion. It’s always fun and exciting because he enjoys marketing, computers, and coming up with innovative ideas to help NWCA grow. He majored in accounting and finance at Washington State University, graduating in 1996, and returned to school to obtain his Master of Business from WGU, graduating in 2016. Erik continually strives to advance his education through podcasts, audiobooks, and industry tradeshows. He is married to a remarkable and caring wife named Wendy, a Registered Nurse, with whom he shares his many hobbies and a love for the outdoors.



Ruth Nhoung

Production Manager

Ruth Nhoung is our Production Manager and Northwest Custom Apparel is lucky to have her. Thanks to her vast knowledge of machine embroidery and dedication to creating a comfortable and supportive work environment, the production plant runs smoothly and customers are pleased with our work. She is a loving mother and grandmother and enjoys spending quality time with her siblings. She says, “I love everything about Northwest Custom Apparel: the people, the atmosphere, the work, and the customers. I love what I do and I embrace all of NWCA’s core values”.


Steve Deland

Art Director

Steve Deland has been our amazing Artist since 2017. He loves working at Northwest Custom Apparel because he appreciates the goal-oriented, progressive-thinking management style. He is most passionate about his art, which includes scroll saw woodwork, and his five grandchildren.



Taylar Hanson


Taylar Hanson is a highly acclaimed Saleswoman at Northwest Custom Apparel. She has a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles from Washington State University. “Go Cougs!” The best part of Taylar’s job is getting to work with longtime customers who trust us to do the best work and take care of their needs. She is passionate about appreciating nature, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


Nika Lao


Nika Lao is very knowledgeable in how the business is ran because she began as an Embroidery Machine Operator and has worked hard to become the excellent and personable saleswoman she is today. She enjoys the stress-free environment and the many chances to connect with her co-workers over potlucks, BBQs, and bowling parties. Nika is a proud sister of two highly successful brothers and can boast mastering three languages herself: Khmer, Thai, and English. She is an avid camper, enjoys going to farmer markets, and loves cooking.


Bradley Wright


Bradley Wright has been a vital team member of NWCA since 2017. As our accountant and knower-of-all-things, Bradley is proud to work closely with his wonderful colleagues. He studied at the University of Washington. These days he dedicates his free time to his new house.


Dominic Nguyen

DTG Operator

Dominic Nguyen recently joined our Direct-To-Garment department. He says he loves the family work environment at Northwest Custom Apparel. In his free time, Dom likes to listen to music, hangout with friends, and play video games. He comes from a very big family which can be very chaotic at times, but is always exciting.


Sothea Tann

Production Team: Trimmer

Sothea Tann recently joined the Production Team in 2022. She finds Northwest Custom Apparel to be a good working environment with helpful and friendly staff. In her free time, Sothea spends quality time with her family and, overall, focuses on a peaceful and happy lifestyle.


Brian Beardsley

DTG Supervisor

Brian Beardsley has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. He is our DTG Supervisor. Brian loves that he gets to work with high-tech machines in a fun atmosphere. He has a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. He said, “I always wanted to create visually interesting assets in a variety of mediums”. In his free time, he enjoys building and painting models, playing video games, designing, and playing his guitar.


UT Tri Tran

Embroidery Machine Operator

UT Tri Tran loves Northwest Custom Apparel so much that, although she has already retired after a long career in machine embroidery operations, she is happy to return part time. She says, “I love the family style work environment and how everyone shares food, laughter, and fun on a regular basis.” In her free time she is dedicated to living a healthy and peaceful lifestyle with her friends and family.



Embroidery Machine Operator

BunsereytheavyHoeu, who goes by Theavy, won our Operator of the Year in 2021. She takes on many roles in the production team. She says, “These are not my co-workers, these are my family! I cherish all the memories we make together”. When she goes home to be with her family, she makes the most of her time with them by holding family get-togethers and even karaoke competitions.


Sreynai Meang

Embroidery Machine Operator

SreynaiMeang is a hard-working Machine Operator. She is most passionate about helping people. Sreynai, who goes by Nai, likes to exercise in her free time and talk with her family in Cambodia.


Kanha Chhorn

Embroidery Machine Operator

Kanha Chhorn has been an Embroidery Operator with Northwest Custom Apparel since 2018. She is delightful and always makes everyone smile and laugh. Kanha takes on additional tasks that allow us to exceed our customers’ expectations. In her free time, she can be found at her local temple or spending quality time with her family and friends.


Savy Som

Embroidery Machine Operator

SavySom is one of our Machine Operators who is passionate about embroidery and sewing. She enjoys working at NWCA because of its flexibility. She has two teenage sons and loves spending time with her family on the weekends.



Embroidery Machine Operator

SorphornSorm has been a Machine Operator since 2011. One of her four sisters works here as well. Her other relatives are in Cambodia. In her free time, Sorphorn studies English, listens to music, and enjoys exercising.


Jim Mickelson


Jim Mickelson, after a successful career with a major oil company, founded Northwest Embroidery in 1977. This was the first commercial embroidery in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, Jim has become the guru of embroidery never refusing to answer a question or offer advice to his fellow embroiders. Jim and his wife Leeanna raised four wonderful children who went on to successful business careers.

Northwest Custom Apparel
Northwest Custom Apparel
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Janice Herron
Janice Herron
Love their amazing customer service! From ordering over the phone, through email, or in person at Northwest Custom Apparel, everyone is very helpful, and very nice! Always! We have been ordering our apparel for our local small business through them for many years! Thank you Thank you!
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Northwest Custom apparel always does great work! We have been a customer for over 25 years and are always satisfied with the products we get!!
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Randy Birch
We us Northwest Custom Apparel for our work shirts and they are incredible. The staff is super friendly, the quality of workmanship is outstanding and they stand by the work they do. I love this place.
Heidi Christiansen
Heidi Christiansen
The company I work for has been buying custom apparel for the team members for years now. We love working with NW Custom Apparel because the process is easy, delivery is timely, and materials are high quality. Anytime I’ve ever had an issue, they’re quick to resolve it. We’ve purchased both embroidered items and DTG graphic tees. We’ve purchased blankets, shirts, jackets, hoodies, etc. Everything ends up looking super professional, and our team members always have positive things to say. Ally is always there at the warehouse with a smile and a friendly greeting when I pick up materials. She is so helpful and respectful. Taylar is a wonderful customer service rep. I’ve sent her some complicated orders—like 20 different items with all different colorways and styles or 150 items with three different styles—and she is so good at getting everything just right. I plan to continue purchasing from NW Custom for high-quality custom apparel.
Hoa DeBusk
Hoa DeBusk
Have used them for years. Knowledgeable team that is always so helpful in recommending options or creating designs. Great quality too for embroidery or digital prints. Very happy with them as a vendor.
Stacey Perez
Stacey Perez
We use Northwest Custom Apparel for all of our professional embroidery needs for the orthodontic office I work at. They do great work, are quick and have never missed a deadline. Highly recommend if you need any custom apparel needs.