How to Protect Embroidery on Clothing
There are three main ways to protect embroidery on clothing – use the right stabilizer, cover the stitches underneath, and launder appropriately.
The Right Stabilizer
The stabilizer should generally be the same weight as the fabric on which you are embroidering. There is one exception to this rule when you are embroidering thick fluffy fabrics. Maybe you are adding a monogram to a Sherpa sweatshirt or initials onto a hooded terry cloth towel. Float a double layer of medium to heavy weight tear away on the back side of the garment, but use a double layer of water soluble stabilizer on the front, too. The back layers give the stitches something to lock into. The top water soluble layers protect the outer fabric from getting squished by the threads.
When you are finished with the embroidery, gently pick away the tear away stabilizer on the back and remove what you can from the edges of the water soluble stabilizer on the front. If you cannot get all the little sections inside letters or intricate designs, just leave it. Remember, it is water soluble and will wash away as soon as it is laundered. Getting too picky in those tight places means you may snag the fabric, which would look worse than a little wash-away stabilizer being left in place.
Cover the Stitches
Covering your stitches is not required, but if you have a large design embroidered on a garment, adding a covering layer can preserve the stitches and protect them from getting snagged in the laundry or on jewelry. As an added benefit, it leaves a nice soft touch where otherwise scratchy stitches would be.
Stitch covering, called cover back or over-the-back, is adhesive and irons onto the back side of your embroidery design. My personal favorite is this one by Cloud because it lives up to its super soft name. I rarely use a cover back except in the case of baby products like onsies. Anything that will touch a baby’s skin should be soft and embroidery stitches can be scratchy, especially against baby soft skin. However, covering the stitches of elaborate embroidery on a denim jacket is a great idea because it will keep the stitches from getting snagged which would jeopardize the structure of the stitches. The Cloud brand cover back also follows the flow of your fabric garment. It won’t make the garment stiff like iron-on interfacing will. If you enjoy sewing, you could also choose to stitch in a silky liner over the inner section of the jacket to hide and protect your embroidery stitches.
Generally speaking, anything embroidered should be turned inside out for washing and drying. Wash and dry the garment according to its fiber content. When you turn the garment inside out to wash and dry, and if you have covered the inner stitches with cover back, then you are preventing zippers, snaps, and buttons from snagging against the threads. You are also eliminating a lot of friction that the laundry process brings.
If you dry your laundry using laundry balls, remove them if you dry your embroidered items. Or better yet, lay them flat to dry naturally.
Other Considerations When Protecting Clothing With Embroidery
Machine Embroidery Is Sturdier Than Hand Embroidery
Machine embroidery stitches are reliable and generally very sturdy. Embroidery machines use a very tenacious system of mechanization that produce reliably sturdy stitches time and time again. Hand embroidery can be a little riskier and there is a lot more work at stake.
If your embroidered garment was created with hand embroidery, you should definitely protect the back stitches with a cover back product or an interior lining. After laundering, check the outside of the design to see if any stitches are missing. If some are torn or missing, replace the stitches then iron another piece of cover back to protect the back side of the new stitches.
Hot Water Can Shrink Garments
If the garment shrinks and the embroidery floss does not, the stitches will be loose. Consider washing your embroidered garments in cool or cold water to avoid shrinking the fabric. If you are washing several embroidered items together, consider washing them on the gentle cycle to control the amount of agitation and wringing they go through.
Most machine embroidery threads are a polyester blend, so they are not likely to shrink. You may experience a small amount of color bleeding, which is yet another good reason to wash in cold or cool water instead of warm or hot.
Iron Around The Embroidery
If you need to iron your embroidered garment, try to iron around the embroidery work to avoid flattening the stitches. If most of the stitch work is already flat, it is okay to iron right on top of the design. If you do decide to iron on top of your stitches, be careful not to snag stitches with the tip of the iron. You could also lay a handkerchief or other lightweight cloth on top of the design while ironing to protect the embroidery. You can also opt to iron from the back side, right on top of the cover back that protects your back stitches.
Use a Lint Roller
Remove lint on your embroidered garment with a lint roller. Using rolled up pieces of packing tape or duct tape – whatever is handy – may be too much adhesive and pull some of your embroidery stitches loose. Using a strong tape can also leave adhesive residue behind which will only attract more lint directly to your design.
Take Care When Hand Washing
If your embroidered garment requires hand washing, remember not to scrub the fabric together or wring it. You want to gently swish the garment through your sudsy water, then rinse in clean water by doing the same. Lay the garment on a towel and roll it up over a sink to slowly push water out of it before lying it flat to dry. Wringing and scrubbing will directly stretch the stitches, which puts your embroidered design at risk for damage.
Avoid hang drying garments with a lot of embroidery. The hung garment will stretch when it is drying. Instead, lay the garment flat to dry and smooth it out so the fabric and the stitches dry together.