Hooping 101: Onesie

Hooping 101: Onesies

Embroidering on baby clothes is a great way to express love and affection for a new addition to the family. It's so fun to spruce up shirts and dresses and little jackets and onesies with colorful critters and messages!

But onesies, those teeny-tiny-itty-bitty things, can be tricky to hoop. They're so small! How in the world can they be hooped so that the design ends up straight?

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery

For this article I worked with the teeniest, tiniest onesie I could find: the 0 - 6 month size. The fabric is extremely soft and stretchy -- onesies are usually 100% cotton.

Begin by laundering the onesie, with a tumble-dry, to pre-shrink.

I am working with a small 3 x 3 inch design, so I'm using the smallest hoop that I have that will accommodate the design.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery
To position the design on the onesie, create a paper template of the design by printing it at full size using embroidery software. If you haven't used software to make templates before, these handy instructions show the steps.

Arrange the template on the onesie until you have it right where you want it. You can also reference the free placement guide for infants, toddlers, and children found here.

Once you have the template positioned where you want it, mark the horizontal and vertical axis lines on the onesie, as well as the center point. Use an air-erase pen, soap, chalk, or other marking method. These lines will help you when hooping the onesie.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery


Remove the template and draw lines that connect the marks.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery


Unsnap the onesie and turn it inside out. Lay it flat. Cut a piece of cutaway stabilizer (2.0 ounce works the best) a bit larger than your hoop.

Spray the stabilizer with a temporary spray adhesive (we use KK100) and smooth the cutaway stabilizer on the onesie over the back of the area that will be embroidered.

about stabilizer choices:

Because onesies are made from a very soft, very stretchy cotton knit, using cutaway stabilizer will bring the best results. When working with very light designs, like simple Redwork, tear-away can be used, but results will be sporadic. Also, because baby items are washed often, the tear-away stabilizer will degrade over time, leaving the onesie wrinkled and shapeless. Cutaway stabilizer will stand up better to frequent washings than tear-away stabilizer.

Some embroiderers that stitch baby items are concerned about the rough feeling of cutaway stabilizer, thinking that the stabilizer will irritate a baby's skin. In my experience, a good-quality cutaway stabilizer will begin to mold to the fabric after a wash or two; only the low-quality stabilizer remains rough after a few washings.
Floriani's No-Show Mesh or Sulky Soft 'n' Sheer are sturdy stabilizers, and soft. In my opinion, they are great choices for working with baby clothing.

Also, after embroidering, you can add an interfacing to the back side for extra softness. A tutorial for that technique can be found here.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery

Now that the onesie is marked, and is backed with stabilizer, we're ready to hoop!

Turn the onesie right side out. Insert the bottom portion of the hoop inside the onesie with the tab facing out towards the opening at the collar. You'll note that this means that the onesie is hooped sideways; rotate your design 90 degrees clockwise prior to stitching.

Hoop the fabric and stabilizer together, aligning the marks on the hoop with the marks on the fabric. Hand tighten the screw after hooping.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery

Now I'm going to wrap the excess fabric around the hoop so that I don't accidentally stitch through both sides of the onesie, and so that no stray fabric interferes with the hoop's movement.

Pull the onesie up around each side of the hoop so the bottom of the hoop is free and clear.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery

Along each side of the hoop, roll the excess fabric up towards the top of the hoop. Secure the rolls in place with small clips, such as hair clips, chip clips, or binder clips.

These clips can be purchased at many different places -- try a Google search, or check at Target, Walmart, the Dollar Store, etc.

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery

Attach the hoop to the machine, and move the hoop so that the needle is directly over the center point (most machines have this feature).

Embroider the design!

Free project instructions for hooping onesies for machine embroidery

After you've finished embroidering, remove the hoop from the machine, and the onesie from the hoop.

Turn the onesie inside out and trim away excess stabilizer, leaving about 1/2 inch around the design. This helps to support the fabric during wear and wash.

Launder the onesie to remove any chemicals from the marking tools or adhesive spray.

For this tutorial I used a quick-stitch rocking horse design (click here to find it). I prefer (and recommend) light and quick-stitching designs for onesies. Babies grow so quickly -- before you know it, they'll be too big to wear that teeny-tiny onesie that you've embroidered. Using a design that has a few stitches and color changes makes stitching fast.

Another reason why I prefer light and quick-stitching designs on onesies is because of draping. Solid or heavy designs will sink into the soft cotton fabric, and after a couple of washings, any solid fills will sink in, creating dimpling and a misshapen area. Choosing light designs will eliminate that problem. Redwork, toile, vintage, and other designs in the Quick-Stitch category are a perfect fit for baby items.

For a new embroiderer, getting accustomed to hooping can be the most difficult part of the learning curve. The hoop wiggles around, the onesie will get hooped upside down and inside out, and it can be tricky to get it straight.

When trying to learn this new skill, keep in mind three things: practice, patience, and perseverance. Hooping your first onesie might be difficult; doing it a second time will be easier; the third time easier still. Soon enough you'll be sending me an email and giving me tips on how to make this article better and more helpful for new stitchers. And I welcome your ideas, and look forward to hearing them!

Kenny is a master digitizer and Vice President of Production at Embroidery Library, Inc.

Ask Kenny! Send email to stitch@emblibrary.com.

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