Embellishing hats with a business logo is a well-established advertisement gimmick. These hats are made in bulk, then sold or given away. Many find their final resting place on a closet shelf or in a thrift store bin.
If you have decided to reclaim an embroidered hat by removing the embroidery, you’ve earned a pat on the back for thrift and practicality. Then it’s time to get down to the project itself.
What You’ll Need
Embroidery can be removed by purely manual labor or with the aid of a stitch ripper/eraser or electric hair clippers. Stitch erasers cost $60-80, so if this is just a one-time deal, you might want to stick with manual means. If you have electric hair clippers, feel free to try them out on a heavier-stitched design. But they are not the best choice for narrower stitching, as they can damage the fabric.
Most hats are embroidered using an applique stitch which can easily be loosened on the backside and then pulled off the front. Depending on which method you decide to use, you’ll want to gather your tools together before you start.
Using Electric Tools
- Stitch Eraser or hair clippers
- A small, sharp knife
- A lint roller
- A seam ripper
- Small, sharp-ended scissors or snippers
- A lint Roller
You might also need a magnifying glass to see tiny stitches–or using a pair of powerful reading glasses will keep your hands free.
Removing Machine Embroidery
You may try to remove the entire pattern at once or work on small sections at a time, using the following steps:
- Turn the hat inside out to expose the underside of the embroidery work.
- Machine stitching has two threads–top and bottom (or bobbin). Bobbin stitching is usually a contrasting color, most commonly white. Identify the bobbin stitching of the embroidery work. Hold the hat stable in your hand.
- Use a stitch eraser, hair clippers, seam ripper, or small scissors to begin cutting through the bobbin stitches. Cut as many as possible.
- Pull loose thread with your fingers or the tweezers. Remove as many threads as you can. Be gentle to avoid damaging the fabric. Cut any threads you may have missed as you come to them.
- There may be a backing between the thread and fabric. This backing is used as a stabilizer for embroidery work. If the backing seems fused to the material, only remove any loose parts. If the backing has stitching around it, cut the stitching with a seam ripper, then remove it with tweezers.
- Turn the hat right-side out and pull the front threads out of the fabric. Use your fingers or tweezers. Pull gently. The threads should be loose and come away easily. If some threads seem to be stuck, turn the hat back over and look for any remaining bobbin threads.
- Use a lint roller to remove loose threads or lint clinging to the hat.
- If there are obvious holes left from removing the embroidery, gently push the fabric back and forth to ease the threads back in place. Light ironing or washing may also help restore the material.
Removing Hand Embroidery
Follow the same steps as machine embroidery to remove hand embroidery, with one exception –do not use an electric device to remove hand embroidery.
Turn the hat inside out and snip as many threads as possible with a seam ripper or small, sharp-tipped scissors or snippers. Unlike machine stitching, the underside stitches of hand embroidery are directly connected to the top stitches. You are also pulling out the top pattern as you pull out the bottom.
A magnifying glass or strong readers could be helpful for seeing smaller or complicated hand-embroidered stitches. Cut carefully to avoid snipping the fabric. Working from the underside minimizes the chances of damage.
Hand embroidery work may also have a backing. The backing should come loose as the stitching is removed unless it’s fusible. If the backing is fusible interfacing, leave it in place.
If a fusible backing seems to affect the appearance of the material on the front side, try loosening it with a warm iron. Goo Gone is another option.
Turn the hat over and look for any remaining threads. Carefully snip and pull them, and then use the lint roller to remove tiny bits of thread and lint.
If, once the embroidery is removed, you are left with holes that cannot be removed by manipulating, washing, or ironing–or if the fabric is faded, leaving an outline of the design, here are some recovery options.
- Add a patch. Sew on a patch of your choosing to cover the old patch area.
- Create your own design. Re-embroider the hat with a new, more pleasing composition.
- Re-dye. Re-dye to restore the original color.
- Fabric paint. Instead of thread, use fabric paint to embellish the hat and hide imperfections.