How to Combine Machine Embroidery and HTV Applique

If you have an embroidery machine then you already know you have the ability to make professionally finished items, but did you know you can add Heat Transfer Vinyl into the mix to make high quality, custom appliques? Keep reading for all the steps to a successful mixed media project!


Machine embroidery and heat transfer vinyl applique supplies

Step 1: Select Blank Item and Design

Start by picking out your garment or fabric that you’ll be decorating. Then measure the area you intend to embroider. With that measurement in mind, you can start selecting or creating your design.

The Brother PE535 touchscreen looks and functions similarly to the Brother ScanNCut so if you’re familiar with that cutter then it will be an easy transition to embroidery.

Stabilizer 101

The kind of stabilizer you use will depend on the type of garment you’ll be embroidering. There are several types, but the most commonly used are:

  • Cut-Away
  • Tear-Away
  • Water-Soluble
Cut Away Stabilizer (left) compared to Tear Away Stabilizer (right)

Cut-Away (shown in the image above on the left) can be used on most fabrics but is especially good for stretchy or knit fabrics. Cut-Away leaves the most stabilizer behind on the finished item.

Tear-Away (shown in the image above on the right) can be used on most fabrics and leaves just a little stabilizer behind at the end of a project.

Water Soluble or Wash-Away is used for textured items, like thick and fluffy minky blankets or soft leather. It can also be used for very thin, delicate fabric like lace and organza. As the name implies, this stabilizer completely disappears with water.

Step 2: Hoop Garment and Stabilizer

After selecting the proper stabilizer for your project, cut a piece of it to size and place it under the fabric. Next, remove the hoop from the machine and twist the knob on the side to separate the two sides.

Stack the bottom hoop, stabilizer, fabric, and top hoop then twist the knob to tighten everything together.

Gently pull the stabilizer and fabric excess to remove wrinkles if needed. You want the fabric and stabilizer to be taut smooth with no wrinkles, but not stretched tightly which can cause puckering and more issues.

Once everything is hooped correctly, reattach the hoop onto the embroidery machine and move on to setting up your thread.

Step 3: Thread Needle and Bobbin

Load a matching or contrasting thread onto the embroidery machine’s spool and weave it through the machine (following the step by step guide) until you reach the eye of the needle.

The top spool of the embroidery machine is threaded with matching or contrasting thread.

If you’ve ever worked with a sewing machine, then threading the bottom bobbin will be familiar. Once again, there will usually be printed instructions on the machine showing how to properly thread the machine.

Thread the bottom bobbin of the embroidery machine following the step by step instructions.

Please note that the colors of the top and bottom thread don’t have to match since the bobbin thread is only seen on the back of the applique/inside on the garment.

Step 4: Trace Embroidering Space

Not all embroidery machines are made the same, so if your machine does not have the following features- don’t fret! Just move on to Step #5.

Many embroidery machines come with a variety of artwork already loaded up and ready to go. You can select from a several options, but keep in mind that you’ll need some areas without stitching for the HTV to shine through. I decided to go with a simple text design.

Select the button on the touch screen that looks like a dashed line square to trace the embroidering space.

Before committing to the design, you can ensure it will fit on the desired location and is aligned how you like it, by pressing the Trace button that looks like a dashed line creating a box with an arrow at the end. This will let the machine move to demonstrate where the embroidery will end up without doing any actual stitching yet. If you’re satisfied with the embroidering area, then you can start placing your HTV.

Step 5: Position HTV

Cut a piece of HTV that’s larger than the intended stitching area. You’ll want a bit of excess around the stitching and you’ll see why soon. Oftentimes, scrap pieces of HTV work perfectly for embroidery applique. Before placing the Heat Transfer Vinyl in the hoop, be sure to peel away the carrier.

Now your HTV basically functions as a fabric! Place it inside the hoop with the adhesive side down.

HTV in embroidery hoop with the adhesive side down on top of the fabric.

Don’t worry about heat applying the HTV just yet. First we need to embroider!

Step 6: Embroider HTV

Once the HTV is in place, send the art file. On this machine, selecting “embroidery” will begin the stitching process.

Select the button on the touch screen that looks like a dashed line square to trace the embroidering space.

Keep an eye on the machine at the beginning in case the HTV needs a little scooching. Never put your finger under an active machine! Instead- use something like chopsticks, knitting needles, or your EasyWeeder™ to push the HTV into position if needed.

Using a chopstick to push the HTV into position while the embroidery machine stitches.

Step 7: Rip Away Excess HTV

When the machine is finished embroidering, remove the hoop and rip away the excess HTV.

Ripping away the excess Glitter HTV after embroidering.

A pair of Siser Tweezers are super helpful to pull out cavities and bits of HTV that get stuck in crevices. After removing the HTV, you can clip the excess threads called “jump stitches”. These  stitches are the ones that the embroidery machine makes when it finishes stitching one object out and needs to move over to another object to start stitching.

Using Siser® Tweezer to pick out cavities and other excess HTV.

When all the excess is removed you can unhoop the garment and heat set the applique if needed.

Step 8: Heat Set the HTV Applique

Use your Heat Press, home iron, or Cricut EasyPress to heat apply the HTV. Your heat setting will depend on the type of HTV you’re using. You can see all our recommended heat settings on our website or the Siser App.

In this case, we’re using Glitter HTV, so it would be 320°F on a Heat Press, 350°F on a Cricut EasyPress, and the Cotton/Linen setting on a Home Iron. In all cases, you will want to apply heat from the back of the applique (ie. garment turned inside out) for 10-15 seconds. Applying heat on the back ensures the thread will stay looking it’s best as some types of thread can be sensitive to higher temperatures.

This heat setting step is not always necessary, but if you notice any puckering it will most likely fix it. You can see how the fabric is puckering before heat in the image below on the left and how everything lays flat after heat in the image on the right. If the puckering still remains, you may have missed a moment to push the HTV and it got pinched during stitching.

Puckering can occur in thread only embroidery projects as well, so a Heat Press is handy for your embroidery and your embroidery applique projects!

Step 9: Profit!

Embroidered garments already sell for a pretty penny, but paired with shiny Glitter or fuzzy StripFlock® Pro they can go for double that!

Embroidered sunflower made with Siser® Glitter and StripFlock® Pro HTV on a Denim Jean Jacket.

You can even embroider Twinkle™, Sparkle®, and pretty much any other Siser Heat Transfer Vinyl!

Embroidered Twinkle™ HTV on a cloth napkin.

Are you ready to give embroidery a go with HTV applique? Save this blog post for later and help others learn about this awesome technique at the same time when your pin the image below to Pinterest.

How to Embroider Siser® Heat Transfer Vinyl

Hungry for more embroidery content? #replay the creation of the sunflower denim jacket on Facebook: