Stabilizing Denim for Commercial Embroidery

Custom Denim on Your Commercial Embroidery Machine

Custom Denim and Your Commercial Embroidery Machine

You see denim just about everywhere; it is the perfect fabric for commercial embroidery. However, sewing on denim can be a little tricky.

Although most denim is not “stretchy,” there is some stretching of the fabric during sewing.  There are several ways to stabilize denim, and make commercial embroidery look fantastic!

You see denim everywhere—it is popular for jeans, jackets, shirts hats and more. No matter what color, denim is a great-looking material that accepts commercial embroidery remarkably well.

Commercial Embroidery looks great on denim!

Unlike actual knits and stretch fabrics, denim is a little trickier to work with. Even though it may not be “stretchy” per se, it does have some give.

Think about this; a pair of jeans gets bigger with time as you wear them. It sometimes seems that denim has a mind of its own.

Most denims are not “stretchy,” but they do have a degree of give-and-pull, and could pull out of shape during the sewing process.

This makes it particularly crucial to stabilize denim during commercial embroidery. Stabilizing will prevent the material from pulling or flagging with automatic needle perforations, as well as the frequent shifting during stitching.

As with all thicker material, denim needs the right needle for proper embroidery.

Sharp needles are recommended, in either 75/11 for light to medium denim or 80/12 for heavy denim or canvas.

If you are a new embroiderer, or stitching on purchased garments where you may not have scraps to practice, here are some tips for stabilizing denim for commercial embroidery:

Hooping Denim

  • One of the ironies of commercial embroidery is that thicker fabrics like denim, leather, hoodies and sweatshirts, need hooping the most. No matter which weight of denim you use, Durkee hoops must hold the denim properly during hand or machine embroidery.

  • With denim, it may be required to use more than one way to stabilize denim for high stitch number or large embroidered designs.

  • For hand embroidery, the inside of the hoop is placed under the denim, secure the hoop and remove any slack while gently tugging the fabric.

  • Fitting denim for commercial embroidery, the fabric needs to be flat against the machine, so it is beneficial to put the denim in the hoop as if you were hand embroidering the opposite side of the fabric. After attaching the hoop, slide it under the presser foot (you might want to remove the presser foot briefly, if it needs to fit).

  • Using the All-In-1 Hooper can also make the job of commercial embroidery of denim for production runs streamlined and quicker.

All-in-1 Hooper makes commercial embroidery fast and easy!

Tearaway, Peel and Stick and Other Backings

  • Tearaway backing is highly recommended for commercial embroidery on denim.

    The Hollingsworth & Vose TearAway/WashAway backing offers superb all-direction tearing for thick fabrics and denims. They are available in both 1.5-ounce and 2-ounce weights. These backings are truly washaway, which enables the design to remain locked and backing-free after washing.

  • Peel and stick backing provide extra support for hard to hoop areas like collars, around buttonholes, cuffs, accessories and other areas of the garment.  

    Place peel and stick backing beneath the denim around the site of the embroidery. Some shops will use two layers of lightweight tearaway backing, especially if stretching the item in several ways.

  • Iron-on fusible backing has a heat-activated adhesive for bonding to the denim. Once bonded, it helps to keep the denim from shrinking down after removing the hoop. If necessary, iron a second layer of fusible backing to the first.

Different backings for commercial embroidery of denim

Mesh Underlay

  • Mesh underlay does not expand and provides commercial embroidery design something to latch on to besides the denim. After finishing the embroidery, trim off any excess mesh from the back of the denim, just as with cutaway backing.

Heavy Starch

  • In almost every case of commercial embroidery, backing will be used stabilize the fabric, keeping it tight to prevent stretching during sewing.

    Backings and other stabilizers are highly recommended, but some workarounds exist for the home embroiderer and hobbyist. One of the most popular ways to stabilize denim is using spray starch for hooping without a backing.

  • When applying starch prior to sewing, spray it both on and around the embroidery area. Always follow directions on the can, but avoid saturating the fabric to protect your iron from residue buildup.

    Apply several light coats of starch, allowing the denim to cool between each layer. Apply enough spray until the material becomes stiff. Wash out the starch after the embroidery is finished.

Commercial embroidery can be a great way to make money, as long as you choose the right backing, needles and supplies!

Colman and Company carries everything you need to embroider on denim, with both standard and specialty backings. They are the perfect place to start. Visit ColmanAndCompany.com today or call 800-891-1094.

Do you have tips on how to stabilize denim for commercial embroidery? We would love to hear it! Join the conversation in the comments below.