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Monogram Week: How to Monogram a Plush Towel

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Monogrammed towels lend a lush and elegant accent to any bathroom. And they make fabulous gifts for newlyweds or an anniversary. The only problem is they're often far too pretty to actually use. I've gotten past this problem by pretending my bathroom is really part of a luxury suite at a five-star resort. This image is usually shattered when my teenage son wanders through the door in his boxers looking for toothpaste. If monogrammed towels keep me close to my dream ... I'm usin' 'em!

There are a few specific considerations to keep in mind when embroidering on towels. First, it's best if your design isn't incredibly dense, since terry cloth is already a very thick fabric. This actually makes monograms the ideal embroidery design for towels because the letters tend to be generously spaced. You'll also find you need unique stabilizers and specific techniques for using them. We've added our advice below for choosing the right materials.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Tear away stabilizer
  • Water soluble stabilizer
  • 40wt. rayon thread in colors for design
  • Towel to embroider
  • Fabric marking pen
  • 90/14 needles

There's a certain amount of discussion in embroidery communities concerning the proper type of stabilizer to use when creating monogrammed towels. And, believe me ... it can get as wild as those political forums! I usually leave before people start hurling hoops at one another.

Cut away stabilizer is the firmest stabilizer available, and will provide the best support for your project during the embroidery process, and during laundering. This is a good option for embroidering towels, because they tend to get a lot of wear. However, my personal preference is to NOT use cut away stabilizer, because the back of the towel will be seen. I prefer to use tear away, so the stabilizer can be cleanly removed from the back of the towel. When you remove cut away stabilizer, you need to cut the stabilizer from the back of the stitching. This is a bit tricky with towels, because it is dang hard to cut the stabilizer away without cutting down the loft of the terry cloth. By comparison, you simply tear off the tear away stabilizer. Tear away is a close second to cut away in firmness, and will still support the towel well during the embroidery process. But it may not hold up as well in the laundering process. This is a concession I'm willing to make for the sake of cleanly and easily removing the stabilizer. You can experiment with both kinds of stabilizer to see which you prefer.

Because towels have a lot of loft (by 'loft' we are referring to the plush depth or fuzziness of towels), it's also important to place stabilizer on TOP of the towel during embroidery. Using a rinse away, or water soluble stabilizer on the top of the towel will maintain the loft of the fabric during the embroidery process. This way, the design doesn't get lost in the fabric, and the stitches are able to emerge from the surrounding towel. Once you are done with the embroidery process, just run the design under warm water to rinse away the water soluble stabilizer.

You may also notice we call for a specific kind of needle: 90/14. This needle is great for embroidery because it's extra sharp for penetrating the fabric. The eye and shank are also specially crafted so polyester or rayon embroidery thread won't fray or shred during the embroidery process. For best results, you should still change your needle frequently when monogramming; at least at the beginning of every new project.

Getting Started

  1. I like to work with a printed template of my monogram. I print my monogram design at actual size on a semi-transparent paper, and trim around the design. Then I use this template to figure out where the monogram will look best on my towel.
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  2. Once you've settled on your monogram's position, take your fabric marking pen and create marks on your towel to guide the position of your hoop. Your embroidery machine manual will give you the step-by-step instructions you need to place these 'register marks' to achieve your perfect hoop position.
  3. Layer the towel with tear away stabilizer underneath the area you want to monogram.
  4. Hoop the towel and stabilizer.

At Your Sewing Machine

  1. Place the hoop on the machine, and select the monogram design you want to embroider.
  2. Place water soluble stabilizer on top of the hoop, allowing the stabilizer to 'float' as the design is being stitched. If you'd like, and your machine has the option, you can run a basting stitch around the perimeter of the hoop to hold the water soluble stabilizer in place.
  3. Stitch your design.
  4. Remove the hoop from the machine, and the towel from the hoop.
  5. Remove basting stitches if necessary.
  6. Tear or cut stabilizer from the back of the fabric.
  7. Rinse away the water soluble stabilizer.
  8. Carefully trim any jump threads.

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Hints and Tips

These are our super simple steps for towel monogramming along with our favorite tips about stabilizers. If you're new to monogramming, take the time to read through your machine's manual. You should find all the steps you need for proper machine set-up, hooping and stitching.

You should also check with your sewing machine dealer about classes; many have fabulous education departments and offer great intro-to-embroidery courses. Some even have clubs. Monogramming is a wonderful beginner project because the designs are simple and there are few thread changes.

Other machines suitable for this project include the Viking Designer Topaz 30 and the Bernina Artista 730E.



Comments (15)

awsomeone said:
awsomeone's picture

May I suggest for the topper, if you don't have washaway stabilizer, the tulle that is used bor bridal veils..it tears away easily and is a great substitute for holding the nap down.

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

@ awsomeone - Thank you for adding your suggestion about using tulle - it's a great one!

barb said:
barb 's picture

what do you do if your towel is to thick to hoop....use the sticky tear away?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ barb - yes, the sticky tear away is a perfect base in the bottom of the hoop when the towel is too thick to secure the top of the hoop. You'll still want to use a topper to hold down the plush, as described above. 

Ann Church said:
Ann Church's picture

  Okay I love the font under  " Getting Started"  Can I asked where you got it ???

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Ann Church - as you can see by the date, this article is an older one. I'm afraid we no longer have any notes on where that exact font came from. Sorry.

kristi said:
kristi 's picture

When i embroider towels with both stablizers my thread always seems to break, is there a secret to doing the towels. If I only use the cut away I do not have a problem. I want to make as a wedding gift but cant stand the thread breaking.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ kristi - that's a hard one to troubleshoot long distance because there could be machine issues in play. The recommended stabilization for embroidery on a plush (deeply napped) surface is tearaway underneath and a light washaway on top to hold down the nap. I don't think you'd get a clean stitch without the washaway. Check that your needle is new and sharp and also check your tension - look at your manual to see if there are any recommendations. Finally, a trip to your dealer might be in order becasue if it is related to the just the thin additional layer of the washaway, perhaps there's something with the hoop or the foot or.... As I said, it could be a combo of things.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ ndnchica04 - Is it possible? Yes. But depending on the how plush the towel is, you may not be happy with the results without a top stabilizer.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Hello Curious Mind -- I'm not 100% sure I understand exactly what you're looking for. I'm not a Bernina expert at all; my favorite machines are Janomes. However, I am going to guess your Quilter's Edition is NOT an embroidery model. I'm sure it has a package of decorative stitches, but I doubt it will do machine embroidery and so doesn't offer an embroidery hoop. You would need to either get an embroidery-only model and keep your 1080 for regular sewing, or step all the way up to a model that does both sewing and embroidery. These combo machines are usually a brand's top-of-the-line options and so have a premium price tag, but if you do a lot of sewing and want to add embroidery, they are worth it. Janome's current top combo model is their Memory Craft 11000. We did an article about what to look for in an embroidery/monogram machine. It might be helpful to you. We ALWAYS suggest going to a local sewing machine dealer and "test-stitching" all the models you are interested in. Have fun shopping!

Curious Mind said:
Curious Mind's picture
I have an older Bernina 1080 Special - quilter's Edition, thought I don't really quilt - I sew everything else under the sun. I do not have an embroidery hoop. I do have numerous feet to include a darning foot, and I want to say an embroidery foot of some sort (I need to check the list). Do you have any suggestions for a regular machine?

I hate calling my machine older, but I got it 16 years ago! My husband shocked me by buying this for me - it was 1 year old and a lady traded up for a fancier model. It has taken me through years of beautiful sewing!! When I went to get more bobbins, the lady at the store said, "Wow! You have an old machine!" I was shocked! It felt like yesterday when I bought it.smilies/smiley.gif
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
Yay! You're on your way. So glad you found the tips helpful. Hope you do more!
SandraBailey1 said:
SandraBailey1's picture
smilies/smiley.gif I have followed these instructions and the end results are fantastic. It's exciting to see the end results when you unhoop the towel. Thank you for making machine embroidery fun and pleasurable.smilies/smiley.gif