How to Hoop Plush Towels

Machine embroidering plush towels can be a challenge, as they are very difficult and sometimes impossible to hoop in a traditional manner.  No matter how hard you try, when you put that thick terrycloth between those two rings, it pops out when you fasten it down. If your terrycloth is a thinner grade or has been washed many times as my test sample was, then it is not a problem and can be hooped like other fabrics.

 Font by Sonia Showalter

Font by Sonia Showalter

There are many ways to conquer this problem, but here are the three easiest. All three options use a sandwich approach, which consists of a bottom layer of water soluble stabilizer (this differs depending upon the method chosen), the towel itself, and then the important water soluble topping stabilizer which serves to keep the pile of towel down so it does not get caught up in the needle or the foot as it travels across the design, but it also keeps the pile down while actually embroidering so the design is very uniform. It really makes a difference by using this topper. It takes the embroidered finished product from amateur to professional. 

The first option for hooping the towel sandwich is to purchase the Snap Hoop Monster from Designs in Machine in Embroidery, if you have the time and the funds for the purchase. This magnetic wonder solves all your problems and is the easiest solution.  You lift the top magnetic hoop, line up your towel sandwich of water soluble tear-away stabilizer, towel and topper, then put the hoop back on top. Presto, no further issue.  It is an amazing invention, by a very creative lady, Eileen Roche. I have the 5 x 7 model and it is fantastic.  It is worth every penny, but I chose not to purchase the largest hoop, which I am now regretting.  It is on my wish list for sure. The design I chose for these towels is larger than the 5 x 7 hoop. I could have opted to split the design in half and then hoop it twice, but I decided against this method as I thought it would take me longer in the long run. 

The next two methods are similar in that you hoop a tacky or pressure sensitive stabilizer instead of the water soluble tear-away used with the Snap Hoop Monster,  in between the two rings and then stick the towel to the stabilizer. This is another amazing product that I do not know how we lived without.

 Wet N Gone Tacky Stabilizer by Floriani

Wet N Gone Tacky Stabilizer by Floriani

It is easiest to hoop the stabilizer before removing the protective paper as it is very difficult to hoop it tightly since it will stick to the top hoop and not allow you to readily tighten it. Also, it will leave a residue on the the hoop. This process solves both of those issues. Once the stabilizer is hooped, you lightly score the paper with scissors being careful not to push too hard as it will cut through the actual stabilizer and you will need to start all over again.

 Thicker scissors seem to score better than thinner ones. Maybe I just apply less pressure.

Thicker scissors seem to score better than thinner ones. Maybe I just apply less pressure.

Once it has been scored, remove the protective paper being careful not to touch the stabilizer.

 Finger prints and score marks on the tacky stabilizer.

Finger prints and score marks on the tacky stabilizer.

Then align the towel onto the stabilizer with both rings of the hoop under the towel.  It seems counterintuitive, because it looks like the towel is just floating on top of the hoop, but with these next two steps it works really well and this is were the methods differ.

 This towel has a border that can easily be used to line it up with the edge of the hoop.  You can see the hoop placement in the right corner.

This towel has a border that can easily be used to line it up with the edge of the hoop.  You can see the hoop placement in the right corner.

This topper must be secured to the sandwich. It can be done in many ways such as basting it by hand or machine to the towel before it is attached to the sticky stabilizer or it can be done after it is attached.  Most machine embroiders opt to baste after and use the built-in basting feature on the newer machines. With the click of a button it adds the basting lines and knows to sew it before the design begins. 

 On the Baby Lock machine, basting is simply added automatically at the beginning of the process by the press of a button.

On the Baby Lock machine, basting is simply added automatically at the beginning of the process by the press of a button.

The hard part is keeping it secured while it is basting.  I have seen some embroiderists hold it in place with their hands, but I strongly do not recommend this method.and yes, I have tried it.  You know those times when you are in a hurry and you want to skip a few step.  It never pays.

The second method is to pin it in place, but it is difficult to get it taunt and to especially get the pins to go down and back up without loosening the stabilizer. 

 Topping pinned to the towel and underlying stabilizer.

Topping pinned to the towel and underlying stabilizer.

The third method is the method that I chose.  Use a tacky water soluble stabilizer on the bottom, with the towel in the middle and then spray the towel with a temporary adhesive (I used Sulky KK 2000). 

 KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive by Sulky and Water Soluble Topping by Floriani

KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive by Sulky and Water Soluble Topping by Floriani

Once the towel is sprayed, I affix the topper directly to the towel and smooth it out by pressing in the middle first then working out and down firmly, so all the air bubbles are removed and it creates a nice tight suction with the towel. If you misplace it, the nice part is that is lifts right up and you can reposition it, starting all over again.  

 The basting keeps the topping in place and taunt while the design stitches.

The basting keeps the topping in place and taunt while the design stitches.

Now you are ready to baste and begin your beautiful design on your towels.  This Sunday our church is having a baptism that will now have six embroidered towels for the occasion.

 Fleur de Lis Capital and Lower Case Alphabet with the Baptism Cross Designs by Sonia Showalter

Fleur de Lis Capital and Lower Case Alphabet with the Baptism Cross Designs by Sonia Showalter

What method do you use to machine embroider plush towels?