Top 3 Tips for Embroidery on Polyester

We all know that Polyester is a difficult fabric to embroider on.  Whilst it might look like any normal fabric, it’s amazing ability to distort during embroidery makes it almost impossible to get a great result with.

The reason Polyester is so difficult to embroider, is that it doesn’t have the same abilities as cotton to “bounce back”.  It is a man made fibre, and once those fibres are moved, they stay moved.

As an embroidery teacher – I try to encourage people to embroider on 100% cotton fabric whenever possible, for the best effects – however that is not always possible.

I can remember a student that I had who had spent thousands on a wonderful embroidery machine, and refused to purchase quality fabrics to stitch on.  Each month I would attempt to instruct her in the most gentle way possible that polyester will not give the same result as cotton no matter what.  Unfortunately – in this case, the customer wanted the results of cotton, with the cost of polyester fabric.

Sometimes however – you need to embroider on a product that does not have the qualities of cotton.  This week, for example, I am working on a great set of designs for Christmas.  They are Christmas characters legs.  I wanted to make them into a set of place mats, and to be brutally honest, I was too lazy to create the place mats from scratch.  Instead, I purchased these great Christmas themed polyester damask place mats from the Reject Shop (10/4pk).  I love how these guys are turning out, but I definitely have to make some compensations in how I embroider these designs.


Throughout my years of embroidery experience, I have found a couple of tricks that can assist in making your embroidery on polyester and difficult fabrics easier.

  1. Prepare your fabric

    Before you embroider on Polyester – prepare your fabric. Wash the fabric you will be embroidering in exactly the same way you will wash it after embroidery.  Press the fabric with a warm iron, and spray starch.

    washing fabric

    wash your fabric using the same heat/detergent that you will once the project is complete.

  2. Over Stabilise!!!

    You cannot scrimp on the stabiliser when you are working with Polyester. You need to make sure that your stabiliser and fabric are both in the hoop where possible.  For additional stability – baste the fabric to the stabiliser in the hoop.  If you are using a dense design, use a cutaway stabiliser, so that the stabiliser stays with the design for the life of the item.


    with polyester fabric, there can be no “floating”, all of the fabric and stabiliser need to be hooped together for best results.

  3. Choose a design that is not too dense.

    The key to embroidery on polyester fabric is to choose an appropriate design. Designs that are lightweight are best, and applique works well with polyester as well.  The best types of applique designs that I have found are those with quite a large satin stitch – the collection I am working on at the moment has a 3.5mm satin stitch, which is larger than normal.
    Avoid incredibly dense designs that require a lot of stitching – this will work to “suck the fabric in”, and create the puckering you want to avoid.


    The density of the rose would work against the polyester fabric, encouraging puckering as the stitches form.


    Instead, use a more lightweight design, or consider using applique on polyester fabrics.

If you MUST use dense designs

If there is no way around using dense designs on polyester fabric, use all of the tips above, and also “float” a piece of TearClean stabiliser on the top of the design to help absorb some of the moment of the fabric.

I hope these suggestions will help with your next polyester embroidery project.

Until next time, have a Stitchin’ Day.  Julie.

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