How to Embroider on Knitted or Crocheted Items

Stitching on Knitwear

Mollie Johanson

Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Have you ever had a great sweater that was just a little plain? Perhaps you've crocheted a simple scarf, and you'd like it to be a little fancier? While it's possible to make patterns as you knit and crochet, that's not the only way to add motifs to knit and crochet pieces, or to knit fabric.

Embroidery is the solution. The principle for accomplishing this is the same as any other kind of hand embroidery. There are just a few things to keep in mind as you get started.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Embroidery needle, sized between 1 and 5, to fit floss or yarn
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Tracing paper or water soluble stabilizer

Materials

  • Finely knit or crocheted item to stitch
  • Six-strand embroidery floss or crewel wool for embroidering

Instructions

  1. Choosing Materials

    Choose a knitted or crocheted item to embroider. It can be handmade or pre-made but choose something that has a tighter or more solid knit. A more open knit can be difficult to embroider.

    The hat shown here finely knit, as well as having a jersey knit lining. When choosing embroidering thread, select one with a weight and fiber content similar to the stitching fabric, especially if the item will need to be washed. Fibers react differently to washing, which could cause the fabric to distort.

    For chunkier knits, try using yarn for your stitching. Crewel wool would also work well on a fine knit.

    Supplies for knitwear embroidery
    Mollie Johanson
  2. Choosing and Transferring a Design

    When choosing a design to work, start with something simple. Once you feel more comfortable, you may select something with more detail, or create your own. The "M" pattern in the example is from the free monogram pattern set

    One of the biggest challenges in working on a stretchy knit is transferring the pattern to the fabric. There lots of ways to transfer designs to fabric. The tracing paper or water-soluble stabilizer methods work best on these fabrics because they also add stability to the fabric, which helps prevent distortion as you stitch.

  3. Embroidering

    Placing this type of fabric in a hoop can stretch the knitted material and misshape it, so if possible, work without a hoop.

    Stitch through the material and the knitwear as you would with any other embroidery, but avoid pulling the stitches too tight. Tight stitches would prevent an item made to stretch from doing so, so be careful when shaping up your stitches.

    Embroidering on a knit hat
    Mollie Johanson
  4. Finishing

    After you've finished stitching, tear away the tissue paper or soak away the stabilizer. If soaking, gently squeeze the excess water out with a towel, then lay the knitwear flat to dry.

    Stitching on knitwear
    Mollie Johanson

More Ideas for Working on Knits

A simple monogram can be completed in an evening, which means you'll have a unique item in hardly any time at all. You won't even need to learn how to knit or crochet! Before long, you'll be looking for more knit and crochet pieces to add your embroidered mark. After you've exhausted your closet, check thrift stores for great finds. 

You can also work without a pattern, and freehand embellish your work. Artist Dottie Angel creates beautiful work this way, which she refers to as "Wooly Tattoos."

Embroidered knit hat
Mollie Johanson