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Machine Embroidery Tips

multi head embroidery machine with baseball caps


If you’re in the commercial embroidery business, you’re likely always searching for tricks to make your work more efficient and cost-effective. We’ve got some gems to share with you.

Imagine using dry-cleaning bags as a substitute for water-soluble topping or avoiding watermarking using Magic Sizing. Think about the comfort of your operators and the lighting in your workspace.

There are many tips and tricks to keep your machines running smoothly and your products looking top-notch. We’ve covered you, from threading techniques for dark fabrics to a simple method for cleaning bobbin cases.

We’ll also delve into organizing your thread storage and assigning specific tasks for maximum productivity. Get ready to streamline your embroidery process and enhance your business with our handy machine embroidery tips.


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. Now 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.

Beige caps stitching


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. When you get it in the proper place, you only have to push it up and tighten it.

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.

spools of colorful embroidery thread


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.

Trimming garments

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
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.

Man in Front of an 8 head embroidery machine
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 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 of 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-and; 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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Embroidery Machine Operator

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