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Machine Embroidery Tips for Onesies

Machine Embroidery Tips for Onesies main article image
Posted on February 17, 2021 by Nancy Laws

Have you seen the adorable, embroidered onesies for sale on craft sites and wished you could make some yourself?  Well, you can with this one easy solution.

When my grandson was born several years ago, I purchased some cute boy embroidery files from a craft site and sat down at my machine to make his onesies as adorable as he was (well, let’s be honest…that wasn’t going to happen, but they might come close!). I got my hoop, my stabilizer, all of my threads, and the 0-3 month onesie. And that’s where I sat for about two hours. Pinning, twisting, flipping…maybe a little cursing…only to end up with a stretched out onesie that had no embroidery on it.

Fast forward about four years, more embroidery experience under my belt, and a new granddaughter that needed cute onesies from her Nana! I knew I didn’t want to sit at my machine and be frustrated again, so I decided to try something new.

I grabbed my scissors and the onesie and cut right along the seam from the bottom all the way to the end of the sleeve (mine were short-sleeved, but I’m sure it would work with long sleeves also!). I got my embroidery hoop and put a lightweight stabilizer in and marked my centerlines with my water-soluble marker. I marked the center of my onesie and sprayed the hooped interfacing with a lightweight basting spray (the kind that is used for quilting).  It was then very easy to align my onesie onto my hoop and pin in place.

This is a no-fail way to create beautiful embroidery on all types of garments.  Don’t limit yourself to just onesies. I have used this technique on garments as large as 2XL and the time I save by not having to roll, scrunch, and flip the material is well worth one little seam. Give it a try and I know you’ll be hooked.

Embroidering on small garments

Supplies you will need: 

  • Sewing machine that can embroider and regular sew (or two separate machines)
  • Onesie (or other garment to machine embroider)
  • Digital file that works with your machine
  • Scissors (preferably ones with a thin, sharp blade)
  • Hoop, stabilizer that matches your project needs
  • Lightweight basting spray
  • Water-soluble marker (or your choice of fabric marking device)
  • Embroidery threads
  • Embroidery needle (it is recommended to use a new needle for each project)
  • Sewing clips and/or sewing pins

Link to file used in this project.

Step 1: Turn the onesie inside out. Choose a side of the seam and cut as close to it as you can. Having a very sharp pair of scissors here is extremely helpful. My first attempt was with my big, fabric cutting scissors.  Due to the blades being so thick, it cut away more of the onesie than I was expecting. Then I got my embroidery scissors, the ones I use to clip all of those little annoying jump threads, and those worked perfectly.  The only fabric I was losing was the actual serged seam allowance. Once you have cut from the leg opening to the sleeve, spread the onesie out and cut off the serged portion of the seam. This will help remove bulk in the last step.  

Cutting up the first side.


Both sides of the seam cut with seam allowance removed.

Step 2: Use a lightweight stabilizer, or stabilizer of your choice, and put it in your hoop. Mark the horizontal and vertical lines with a water-soluble pen and spray the stabilizer with a lightweight basting spray.  

Step 3: Mark the center of the onesie with the water-soluble pen and align those with the lines on the stabilizer. Take your time and pin through the onesie and the interfacing as close to the edges of the hoop as possible, while making sure to not distort the onesie. 


Interfacing hooped and marked.     


   Onesie centered and pinned to interfacing.

Step 4: Machine embroider using your preferred method.  

Step 5: Remove the onesie from the hoop and trim away the excess stabilizer and clip any connecting threads. If you used a water-soluble marker for placement, make sure to use a damp cloth and dab that away. If you used a different type of marking device, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to remove it.    

Step 6: With right sides together, match up the sleeve edges and use a wonder clip. Next match up the armpit seams. At this point, take time to nest these seam allowances. Using a pin here can be helpful. Match up the underarm seams and put a pin there. Then have one seam allowance from the sleeve go one way, and the opposite seam the opposite way. This is a quilting trick and helps lock the seams together and keeps that underarm seam perfectly lined up.  Now match the leg seams and clip. Use as many other clips as you would like to match up the remaining side edges.

Step 7: If you have a serger, serge the seam. If not, there are other options. My machine has a stretch stitch which is very similar to serging. If you don’t have that, do a straight stitch and then go back over the raw edge with a narrow zig-zag stitch.  As with any sewing technique, it is a good idea to test out the stitch on a similar fabric.  

*Using a stylus is a great way to help push extra bulk through your sewing machine.  You can purchase specialty devices for this, but here I am using a tool that decorative artists use to paint small dots.

Step 8: Turn the onesie right side out and put it on a cute baby! Oh, and get ready for the “oohs” and “aahs” at how amazing you are.

Viola!  No more stress. No more stretched out clothing items. No more worries about embroidering through the wrong layers.  

This technique can be used on any sized clothing item. If you are nervous about hooping items, this takes away the extra bulk of larger items (which is especially helpful if the throat of your machine is not very deep). If you are careful and precise with your cutting and then use a narrow seam to put the garment back together, you are really only losing about a half to maybe three-fourths of an inch of the garment.  

*If you are concerned about the garment being too tight afterward, purchase one size larger.

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Sally Gastineau

September 19, 2023

Good morning Nancy, I am about to do some embroidery on a onesie for the first time and had decided to do the same thing you did by opening one side. but was still a little worried, so I looked it up and found your advice, worked great. Doesn't hurt to ask questions if you are not sure. Thank you, Sally

Nancy Laws's profile picture
Nancy Laws

September 19, 2023


I'm glad this was helpful! I struggled for a long time trying to fit a onesie on my hoop!

Thank you for sharing this very helpful tutorial!

Nancy Laws's profile picture
Nancy Laws

February 18, 2021


You’re welcome.

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