Essential Machine Embroidery Tips for Streamlined Workflow

multi head embroidery machine with baseball caps

Machine Embroidery Tips: For those immersed in the commercial embroidery business, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are likely at the forefront of your operational goals. To aid you in this endeavor, we’ve compiled some invaluable tips that could revolutionize your workflow.

Consider, for instance, the innovative use of dry-cleaning bags as an economical alternative to traditional water-soluble toppings, which can help prevent puckering and ensure a crisp design finish. Or use Magic Sizing to prevent watermarking on delicate fabrics, preserving the pristine look of your embroidered products.

The well-being of your operators is just as crucial. An ergonomically designed workspace with ample, well-placed lighting can significantly boost productivity and reduce errors. Good lighting not only enhances the quality of your work but also reduces eye strain for your operators.

Efficiency isn’t solely about the big machines; it’s also about the small details. We’re talking threading techniques that can reduce breakage when working with dark fabrics and a straightforward yet effective method for keeping bobbin cases clean, which can save you from unexpected machine downtime.

And let’s not forget the organization of your materials. Well-organized thread storage expedites the selection process and prevents thread tangles and damage. Assigning specific tasks to team members can help turn a chaotic workday into a symphony of productivity, where each member knows their part and performs it precisely.

By implementing these machine embroidery tips, you’re not just maintaining your machines; you’re elevating the quality of your output and, as a result, enhancing the overall success of your business. Prepare to transform your process with these game-changing strategies, and watch as your operation becomes a model of efficiency and quality.


machine embroidery needle and fire department logo
Embroidery Quick Tip by Northwest Custom Apparel


If you run out of water-soluble topping, try dry-cleaning bags. Hoop them like any other topping and clean the same as always, pulling off as much topping as possible. Run a hot iron over the design, and the remaining bag pieces will disappear. A Teflon-coated iron will work best if you have one, but a regular iron will do. Go over the design with a soft-bristled toothbrush to help take the topping off garments after stitching. This helps pull the topping from small places.


After stitching a garment, spray away the hoop mark with Magic Sizing, a product found in your local grocery store, before packing it. Magic Sizing does not leave watermarks like steaming does. Best of all, it makes everything smell fantastic, and you can pack the garments immediately after spraying them while they are still damp.

Embroidery Material Handling Techniques

When handling embroidery materials, there’s a clever trick you can use – try substituting your typical water-soluble topping with dry-cleaning bags. You’ll be surprised at the time and money you’ll save! Cleaning these bags is a cinch – pull off the topping and run a hot iron over the design. If the topping gets stuck in small places, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove it gently.

Don’t forget to spray Magic Sizing on hoop marks before packing garments. This helps to prevent unsightly watermarks. Another tip is to put a piece of white backing or paper under the needle when threading dark-colored garments. It makes the needle’s eye more visible, making your job much easier.

This image shows an embroidery machine in the process of adding designs to two baseball caps. The caps are positioned on a specialized holder that keeps them taut for precision stitching. The machine has multiple needle heads visible, which suggests it can embroider several hats simultaneously, possibly with different colors of thread. The design being embroidered appears to be a stylized fish, with intricate details and shading, indicating a high-quality embroidery process. The text above the fish design is not completely legible, but it might be a name or a brand related to the embroidered logo. The overall setting suggests an industrial or commercial embroidery setup.


Raise your embroidery machine on 4×4″ blocks. You will be amazed at the effect it will have on your back. Place a good floor mat before the machine for walking and standing. Remember, mats wear out, so replace them every three or four years to get the best results.


Always use proper lighting. Clip-on lights added to a machine can help reduce downtime when threading and changing needles. Also, the appropriate lights will aid in matching and distinguishing colors. Different lighting makes colors look different, so when matching colors, check the lighting in several rooms to ensure you have the desired color.

If you have problems threading a needle when stitching dark-colored garments, try placing a piece of white backing or paper under the needle. It makes the needle easier to see. Also, if you are one of those people who wet the thread before threading the needle, try soaking the thread first, then cutting it. All the little fibers will be cut clean at the end. If you cut and wet the thread, it pulls the fibers to a point as you pull the thread out of your mouth, making it harder to get through the needle.

Changing needles can be a cumbersome job. Getting the eye of the needle in just the right place is also sometimes difficult. It is easier to insert the needle-like always, then place the point of another needle in the eye of the one you inserted. Then turn the needle and see precisely where the eye lines up. You only have to push it up and tighten it when you get it in the proper place.

Use an iron-on backing to rid garments of the itch caused by the ends of metallic thread on the back of the design. Cut a piece of backing a little smaller than the design and press it to the back of the design. This hides the ends and leaves the back smooth and comfortable. It also eliminates the worry over clipping thread too short and tie-off knots coming undone.

This image features a neatly organized array of thread spools on wooden shelving. The spools are arranged by color, creating a visually pleasing gradient effect from green to orange tones. Each shelf is labeled with the color and a code number, for example, "MEADOW 2326" for green threads and "MARIGOLD 2416" for orange threads. The spools vary in size, with larger ones on the bottom shelf and progressively smaller ones towards the top. This display is likely found in a fabric or craft store, providing a wide selection of threads for sewing or embroidery projects. The shelves are full, indicating a well-stocked and well-maintained inventory.


Don’t use a needle or screwdriver to clean bobbin cases. Try using a business card or a thin piece of plastic. The needle is too large and will spring the case. After several uses, you will never get tension again. Punch a hole in the card or plastic strip and hang it on the embroidery machine with a suction cup and hook. Now you have them handy all the time. When a corner gets worn, cut it off and turn to another corner. Keep cutting the corners until you need a new strip.


Plastic shoeboxes make great storage containers for spools of thread. One box will hold many small spools, and you can see through the box the colors inside. It also protects them from dust and dirt. If you hang cones of thread on the wall, try putting them in plastic sandwich bags. Please make a small hole at the top, and pull the thread through it. Tuck the open end under the cone. This keeps the thread clean and acts as a “sock” or net. You don’t have to use tape to hold the loose ends; just let a small thread tail hang from the top. Keep the thread you frequently use in the hard-to-reach places on the back of your machine. This leaves the more accessible places in the front and sides free to change out thread.

This image showcases a lively embroidery workshop. Two women are present, one seated at a machine with a beaming smile and the other standing, facing the camera with a cheerful expression. The environment is bustling with activity, evidenced by the equipment, fabric, and embroidery hoops in disarray, suggesting ongoing work. A myriad of colorful thread spools are meticulously arranged on wall-mounted racks in the background, creating a vibrant backdrop. Embroidery machines with multiple needle heads indicate a professional setting, capable of handling various projects simultaneously. The atmosphere seems friendly and productive, with the workers appearing content in their craft.

Improving Embroidery Work Efficiency

Let’s improve your productivity by designating specific tasks for each operator and streamlining your work process. Keep a handy notebook to track daily tasks and maintenance schedules. This not only boosts efficiency but ensures smooth workflow.

Use sheet protectors or envelopes to keep related work orders together. This minimizes confusion and keeps your workspace tidy.

Invest in a large desk calendar to jot down important notes and phone numbers. This simple trick saves you time searching for lost information. Don’t forget to put your work process under the microscope. Analyze each step of your embroidery process and look for ways to make it more efficient. Each second you save is money in the bank.

Remember, your goal is to create beautiful embroidery without wasting time or resources.

Embroidery Tools and Equipment Usage

You’ve got to use the right tools to get the job done, and your embroidery business is no exception. Keep your work area clean and organized by storing spools of thread in plastic shoeboxes and hanging thread cones in sandwich bags.

When threading dark-colored garments, place white backing or paper under the needle to make it easier to see. Don’t forget to raise your embroidery machine on blocks; it’ll save your back from unnecessary strain. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove the topping from tiny spots, and always ensure you have proper lighting for threading and changing needles.

Lastly, don’t neglect your bobbin cases – clean them with a business card or a thin piece of plastic. These small changes can make a big difference in your daily operations.

Jim Mickelson threading a needle in 1979. The image is a sepia-toned photo depicting a man intently working on a piece of machinery, which appears to be part of a textile or garment manufacturing process. The machine has a long row of industrial sewing or embroidery heads, indicating it is used for mass production. The man's focus and the vintage quality of the photo suggest a scene from a past era of manufacturing, highlighting the craftsmanship involved in the textile industry. The setting has an archival quality, which may appeal to those interested in the history of manufacturing or industrial machinery.
Northwest Custom Apparel’s Founder, Jim Mickelson, threading a needle in 1979


Designate jobs for everyone in the workplace. For example, ask one operator to take charge of the thread. This means he will ensure you never run out of white thread and that all cones are put in their proper places at the end of the day. Another operator can check the backings and toppings and see that all the backing rolls are cut into the proper pieces when needed. All operators should be responsible for cleaning their work area and removing trash. When everyone works together, it takes less time, and one person isn’t left to do all the dirty work. Above all, you will find a clean environment creates a better job.

The image features a man giving a thumbs-up in front of a row of industrial embroidery machines inside a workshop. He appears cheerful and is likely a worker or owner showing pride in the workspace. Behind him, shelves stocked with a variety of colorful thread spools add a vibrant backdrop to the scene. The machines are equipped with multiple needle heads, suggesting a capacity for high-volume, multi-color embroidery projects. Natural light from the window illuminates the space, which looks organized and well-maintained, indicative of a professional environment dedicated to textile or garment production.
The love and art for embroidery at Northwest Custom Apparel

Keep a notebook beside your machine to document your workday. You never know when you need to look something up quickly. At the top of the page, put the date. Then, make columns for customer names, what you did (shirts, hats, jackets, etc.), how many total pieces, and the design stitched on them. Yes, it takes a little time, but it will save lots of time when customers want to know something about their last order quickly. On another page in your notebook, write down all the information about oiling your machine, including the dates it was last done. This way, you know when it needs to be done again.

Try placing work orders, the design disk, and other things about an order in a sheet protector or large envelope with the order. The sheet protectors and envelopes are reusable. Keep them with the demand until it is ready to ship. At that time (the end of the day), all disks can be put away, and paperwork filed in the proper place. Keep a large desk-sized calendar on the wall next to the phone. Use it to write notes and phone numbers while talking. I tape a list of frequently called numbers on my calendar’s cardboard backing. Just lift the pages, and the numbers are close by all the time.

In the final analysis, if you think something takes too long to do, then it probably does. Stop and think about what you are doing during each step in the process. Can anything be done differently? Can some steps be combined? Does the thread need to be on that wall? If you moved it closer, how many steps could be saved daily? Are scissors, bobbins, needles, and other items at your operator’s fingertips? If they have to walk away from the machine to find them, time is lost; time is money.


You’ve got this! With these tips, you can make your commercial embroidery more efficient and cost-effective.

Remember, every little step, whether using dry-cleaning bags or tweaking your workspace, can have a huge impact.

Keep your tools clean, stay organized, and never stop improving your processes.

Your comfort and productivity are worth it.

Happy embroidering!

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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!!
NW Custom Apparel treats us like we’re their only customer! Everyone is always so friendly and helpful. They’re great!
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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.