Every one of us becomes familiar with terry cloth in early childhood: our favorite bathrobes and bath towels are made of it. Terry cloth is most commonly used to produce items for home. Embroidery on terry cloth is a pleasure, for the fabric is stable and doesn't stretch. The loops are, perhaps, the only disadvantage, but if you are familiar with the correct hooping technique, and know how to choose a stabilizer and a design for the particular fabric, you needn’t concern yourself with them.
In this article, we’ll cover the main points of the embroidery on terry cloth. One needs to keep in mind that all this information pertains to home embroidery and sewing and embroidery equipment; nevertheless, many of the recommendations will be applicable to commercial embroidery equipment as well.
Terry cloth: its composition and properties
Terry cloth is an uncut-pile fabric used in the production of towels, beach robes, bath slippers, bed linen for grown-ups and kids, children’s toys, and even bar furnishings.
As for its composition, terry cloth is usually made of cotton, linen or, less frequently, bamboo. The fabric absorbs a lot of moisture and doesn’t stretch. These properties, along with the range of uses, make terry cloth very attractive for the embroiderers, both amateur and professional ones.
Lately, synthetic fibers are used in the making of the fabric rather often. This lowers its quality a bit, but using it as your main fabric does not affect the result of the embroidery. There are advantages as well. Baby bibs are made of terry cloth that is partly composed of synthetic fibers. They are soft, and the after-effects of breakfast and dinners easily wash off them.
Terry cloth differs in weight, thread twist, and loop height. These are the main properties one should pay attention to when mastering the embroidery on terry cloth.
The higher the loop, the greater the possibility of its sinking into the fabric or showing through the fill. The thicker the fabric, the more likely you’ll have trouble with hooping it, as such fabric will be more difficult to properly secure. It is possible, but not easily attainable, and besides, do you really need it? Let's proceed.
Choosing machine embroidery needles and threads
When embroidering on terry cloth, one shouldn’t concern oneself too much with the needles. Ordinary embroidery kind will be just fine. In case there is trouble, use specialty needles listed below.
For the embroidery on a loosely spun terry cloth, use ball point needles, such as the ones designed for knitwear. They separate the yarns without cutting them.
For the embroidery on a dense terry cloth with high uncut pile and containing a great number of synthetic fibers, use a topstitch needle with a sharp tip. Such a needle easily pierces the material, thus preventing the slip stitching.
If you’re going to use metallic threads, use the needle designed specifically for that purpose; metallics are whimsical: when passing through an eye of a wrongly chosen needle, they tend to fray, which at best costs them their luster, and at worst makes them snap a lot.
Any threads may be used for the embroidery on terry cloth—cotton, polyester, wool, etc. The main thing that matters is their durability. Rayon and metallic thread are, perhaps, the less washable: they don't get along well with bleachers and other chemicals used in laundry.
We’ll probably offer nothing new in the bobbing thread choice department. Use a common bobbin thread (white or black, depending on the design color scheme). Its thickness will depend not so much on the chosen fabric properties as on the whims of your embroidery machine. It has been noted that some machines do not take to a very thin bobbin thread (#200).
When embroidering a design on a terry towel, try to choose a bobbin thread of a matching color—in that case, the wrong side will look tidier. Keep in mind, though, that it will make the embroidery thicker.
Choosing a stabilizer
For the embroidery on terry cloth, the stabilizers listed below will come in handy.
When embroidering on terry cloth, the backing is used not only to prevent puckering but also as the main fabric that will be hooped.
Tearaway nonadhesive stabilizers are preferable. They can be easily removed without scissors.
On the market, you’ll find this kind of stabilizer in two colors, black and white. The color of stabilizer depends on the color of the fabric. It’s better to use black backing with dark fabrics, and a white one with light-colored fabrics.
Stabilizers also differ in weight. For the embroidery on terry cloth, use the following stabilizers: 1640, 1650, 1751, 1860.
Use stabilizers 1751 and 1860 for the dense terry cloth with high uncut pile (bath towels, bathrobes), and stabilizers 1640 and 1650—for the terry cloth with a low uncut pile (face towels).
In addition to the nonadhesive stab, a temporary spray adhesive will be necessary.
As a backing, Filmoplast (a tearaway stabilizer with a sticky surface) is the most convenient. It comes in two colors, white and black. You can attach it to the fabric immediately after peeling off the protective paper.
More on how to work with these materials in the Hooping methods section.
Adhesive stabilizers may be used as well, but in that case, you’ll have to hoop the fabric, and there is no need to hoop the terry cloth. Besides, hooping terry cloth means to make the whole process more complicated.
For a topping, we recommend a water-soluble film that prevents the stitches from sinking into the fabric and can be easily removed without washing.
Other kinds of topping are of little use for the embroidery on terry cloth. You may use them, but with no avail.
Hooping terry cloth is easy. There will be no need to get the fabric tight as a drum or keep an eye on it so that there is not a single wrinkle, as you do with knits. After two or three attempts embroidery on terry cloth will become easy to you.
Methods of hooping depend on the kinds of stabilizers recommended for the terry cloth.
Nonadhesive stabilizer (backing) Spray adhesive Water-soluble film Hoop the nonadhesive stabilizer. Carefully smooth down the stabilizer and tighten it a bit so that is doesn’t sag.
Tighten the screw.
Spray the upper side of the stabilizer with a temporary spray adhesive.
Place the fabric with its right side facing up on top of the stabilizer.
Pin the water-soluble film on top of the fabric.
If you have some trouble locating the embroidery area on your machine, use a template. Any template has an embroidery area marked upon it.
Filmoplast Water-soluble film Scissors Hoop the Filmoplast. Carefully smooth it down and tighten it a bit so that is doesn’t sag. Tighten the screw.
With your scissors, make an incision in the stabilizer’s protective layer. Peel off the protective layer.
On top of the stabilizer, place your fabric with its right side facing up.
On top of the fabric, place the water-soluble film.
Pin it to the fabric.
If you have some trouble locating the embroidery area on your machine, use a template. Any template has an embroidery area marked upon it.
Choosing machine embroidery designs
The vast majority of machine embroidery designs gives one freedom to act. When choosing a design, one should learn to see it from the inside. To understand which fills the creator has used and whether the embroidery will look good on terry cloth. Having tried different embroidery techniques, you’ll come to the conclusion that in the majority of cases a topping should be used for the embroidery on terry cloth. If you’ll stick to this rule, the embroidery on a garment will undoubtedly come out beautifully. In order for you to know your way around the plenitude of machine embroidery designs, we offer the tried-and-true variants with the detailed account of the results.
We have lots of logos and other designs in our store.
All of the showpieces were embroidered with the help of the 1751 nonadhesive tearaway stabilizer.
All stitching designs may be divided into two main kinds: 1) Double run—as a rule, all quilting and Redwork designs are made with simple double running stitches 2) Triple Run—every stitch is repeated three times.
The record shows that Triple Run designs come out good with or without the water-soluble film on top. After you’ve removed the stabilizer leftovers and gently passed your hand over the surface, the difference is hardly visible.
As regards Double Run, one may state that it is better not to use it while embroidering designs without topping. The difference is clearly pronounced. The picture below shows the same design embroidered with and without the topping.
One should not forget that the design embroidered with running stitches on terry cloth may in time sink into the fabric, despite the result being satisfactory right after the embroidery. Therefore, here’s what we propose: embroider stitching designs on thin terry items with low uncut pile (face towels) and refrain from doing that on thick terry items with high uncut pile (bathrobes and bath towels).
A highly popular kind of machine embroidery designs are congratulations and inscriptions, and also logos made with satin columns. Monograms are also created with the help of satin columns. This kind of designs is perfect for towels, bathrobes and other items made of terry cloth.
To provide you with full information on the subject, we have embroidered terry cloth with satin stitches under different circumstances. In the picture below you can see a monogram embroidered with the topping and without.
We’ve tested the design on the least troublesome fabric with the low uncut pile. 1751 nonadhesive stabilizer was used as the backing. When embroidering monograms that consist of satin columns and fills without topping, thread breakage often occurs. The thread is caught in the loops, and that leads to chaffing. Thread breakage is not linked with the needle type or the kind of thread used (we’ve tried metallic, rayon and polyester embroidery threads of various manufacturers).
The difficulty was also caused by the fact that the thread didn’t break at once but was chaffed so that the machine continued to embroider for some time after that. When embroidering the same design with the topping, the thread didn’t snap even once, and what’s more, the embroidery ran at a higher speed, with an excellent result.
The embroidery without the stabilizer ran at 350 spm, with the stabilizer—at 600 spm!
Tatami is one of the most popular fills. Up to 80% of the designs contain objects filled with it.
In order to understand how Tatami behaves on terry cloth, we’ve used a simple design with the high-density fill (“Mushrooms”) and a design with the low-density fill (“Flower”). Both designs were embroidered twice, with and without water-soluble stabilizer.
We’ve got the following results.
The embroidery of the designs that contain Tatami fill without topping leads to trouble.
When stitching the design with high-density fill (“Mushrooms”) without the water-soluble stabilizer, the thread twisted and snapped. Terry cloth showed through.
When doing this design with the topping, the result was a way better. Though in some places terry cloth is still visible through the fill, you may avoid it by adding an underlay.
When embroidering a design with a low-density fill (“Flower”) without the stabilizer, terry cloth showed through the fill, and the thread did not twist but snapped at once. That most often happened on very small stitches.
When embroidering the same design with the water-soluble topping, terry cloth didn’t show through (almost), but in some places, where the fill was the least dense, one could see the color of the main fabric.
Choosing a design with the Tatami fill, pay attention to whether it has an underlay: it further strengthens the fabric and prevents the terry cloth from showing through during wear. The design we’ve chosen for our test piece didn’t have an underlay and was rather dense.
Perfect for terry cloth! The fabric covers the pile that adds some volume to the embroidery.
We recommend using a water-soluble stabilizer on top—though without it the thread didn’t break, the loops showed through the satin column.
Cross-stitch looked wonderful on a terry towel embroidered with the help of water-soluble stabilizer. One may turn a blind eye to the slight distortion of the stitches after the removal of the stabilizer if one wants a towel embroidered in this technique.
We advise against the embroidery without the water-soluble stabilizer because the result is the same as with other embroidery techniques: thread breakage and stitches shifting.
Of course, the sky is the limit for a really imaginative embroiderer, but the designs rendered in this technique are not good for terry cloth, especially for a dense high-piled one.
If you're going to do cutwork, use the techniques above. You’ll find the guidelines in the section where we discussed satin columns. When choosing a design, pay attention to the width of the satin column. Do not use designs with columns less than 3 mm wide that are trimmed on the side.
Taking care of an embroidered item
If you want your embroidered item to serve you for many years (OK, months at least), you’ll need to learn how to take care of it. Having finished the embroidery, remove the traces of topping and backing. Gently iron the item in the embroidered area.
An important note: it’s better not to use hot pressing and steaming with terry cloth. The loops are flattened, the general appearance of the garment suffers, making it look untidy.
You may circumvent this issue by keeping an iron suspended above the fabric and using the steam boost option. Or, you may use a soft underlay—for example, a blanket, or an old terry towel.
Items made of terry cloth are highly washable, therefore, if you’ve chosen right threads, no chemicals or high temperatures will do your item any damage.
If you embroider on terry cloth often, especially without any backing, the lint, which is always present, may clutter the shuttle. It is, perhaps, the only problem your embroidery machine may encounter during the embroidery on terry cloth. Keep your shuttle clean and everything will be fine!
Original text by Irina Lisitsa, Maria Stratan, Lisa Prass