Embroidering t-shirts and making a business out of it


I started off making money from embroidery two years ago when I started stitching on tshirts. Some of my early works were not so great but I persevered with them and before I knew it I had sold over a hundred tshirts! You can see some of the stuff I have for sale on my etsy shop or my depop shop.

Because of this, I get quite a lot of questions on how to set up your own small ‘business’ with embroidery and sewing etc. So I thought I’d answer some here!

IMG_20180828_121205Here’s a list of starter I equipment I recommend:

  • T-shirts – my favourites are here and here.
  • Heat erasable pen –  my all time favourite is here.
  • Hoops – you can buy any old hoops but I use these.
  • Embroidery threads – I use these
  • Needles –  I use these
  • Water soluble stabiliser (optional) – I use this one.
  • Chalk – any old chalk will do!
  • A good iron or hair dryer

The T-shirt

The tshirts I embroider on are 100% cotton fruit of the loom. I generally order them in packs of 5 as this is a lot more cost effective. You can find a variety of different brands that do blank shirts such as Gildan and Anvil, but I prefer Fruit of the Loom. I find men’s tshirts are the best to embroider on as they tend to not have any stretch. This means that when you put the fabric in the hoop, the material doesn’t warp and cause the t-shirt to pucker when you actually stitch on it. I’d suggest trying out different types of tshirts such as value weight, <a href="http://Fruit of the Loom Men’s Super Premium Short Sleeve T-Shirt, Deep Navy, Medium” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>heavy weight and normal weight cottons. Depending on what designs you do and how hard you work the fabric will determine what weight of cotton you should use. For my designs I use normal or heavy. However, keep in mind that the heavier the cotton t-shirt, the more expensive they will be.

IMG_20180828_125627The Design

It took a lot of trial and error to get my own style going, I tried outlining flowers, I tried rows of flowers, I tried smiley faces, I tried landscapes with sunflowers. I’d say before you buy new t-shirts to embroider, try some designs out on your own old clothes. This will save money and is a lot easier than waiting for t-shirts to be delivered every time you want to try something out.

To get the designs you want onto your fabric you have quite a lot of options.

1 – Simple Chalk. It’s pretty self explanatory, just draw your design on a tshirt with a piece of chalk. You will need to wash the material afterwards though as chalk can’t be brushed off that well.

2 –  Heat Erasable Pen. By far my favourite thing in my embroidery kit is this pen. It’s so cheap yet so effective. If you are embroidering lighter fabric colours, this sort of pen is a god send. Just draw your design onto your fabric and when you’ve finished stitching, run an iron or hair dryer over the top to get rid of the ink!

P1 (2)3 – Stabiliser. You can get many different types of stabiliser but I use water soluble. I only ever use this when I’m doing more intricate designs that require clear outlines and detailing. Just draw onto the stabiliser with a pen or pencil, pin it to your fabric AFTER you’ve put it in the hoop and embroider over the top of it. Run the material under water and gently rub at the design until all the sticky stuff has been washed away and you will be left with your design!

4 – Free hand. Alternatively, you can just go with the flow and let your needle take you wherever it wants but I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners!

Hoops & Threads

P1If you’re planning on doing a large amount of t-shirts, I would recommend buying quite a few different hoop sizes. My smallest hoop is 2 inches in diameter and my largest is 20 inches in diameter. Small hoops are great for more intricate designs as they allow you to focus on a small area at a time, smaller hoops also keep your fabric more taught which leads to less warping and puckering of the material.

Threads are obviously a must for embroidery. I’m sure if you’re reading this you have least dabbled in embroidery so may have some spare threads kicking around. The only thing I’ll say about threads are that you need to get decent quality ones. Cheap threads knot easily and don’t have as rich of a colour like skeins by Anchor or DMC. I always buy anchor threads as they are very colour rich and are really smooth to stitch with.

How to sell

As I’ve mentioned, I started off selling my tshirts on depop. You need a platform to sell your items on that has the right target audience for your product. I chose depop because A) I’d already sold vintage clothes on there and B) most people on there were my age, which was my target audience. When choosing a platform, you need to take in consideration the fees. I think depop had fees of around 10% but it doesn’t charge to upload your items. Whereas Etsy costs $0.20 per upload (I think?) and then they also takeP1 (1) a percentage fee on top of that. Ebay does a similar thing depending on the format you are selling in (ie –  auction or ‘Buy it Now’). So choose wisely.


The last thing is how you get your name out there. I already had a personal Instagram account where I posted ‘behind the scenes’ of my embroidery pieces but I decided to make a special shop instagram page specifically for selling my tshirts. This meant that people who were just interested in my embroidery could follow that account, and you have a much more targeted audience. Make sure every time you upload an item, you post about it. Whether it’s an instagram post, an instagram story, on twitter or on facebook. It doesn’t matter, as long as you are letting people know that you are open for business and have stuff to sell!

And there you have it! Make sure to message me or comment any questions at all to do with this or anything else I’ve written about!

Thanks for reading and good-luck with all your embroidery endeavours!

Lorna x



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.