Basic Training: Working With Blanks – Tips & Tricks

What do you do when you have a whole lot of gifts to give and not much time, but you still want each one to feel personal?

You turn to blanks, of course!

A “blank” is a general term for a ready-made object that can be embroidered, like the tea towels featured on the cover of the Nov/Dec issue of Creative Machine Embroidery (fabric bindings were added as well as embroidery). While the first blank ideas that come to mind might be towels, handkerchiefs, and table or bed linens, there’s a wide range of blanks available. These include things like shirts, onesies, bags, aprons, slippers, koozies, stuffed animals, jewelry, and inserts for acrylic items like travel mugs, sippy cups and pet dishes.

With the wide selection of items available, there’s something that will suit anyone on your list. Search for “embroidery blanks” and you’ll find a whole world of options.

bracelets 1024x576 Basic Training: Working With Blanks   Tips & Tricks

Bracelets from

Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with blanks:

  • While single-layer flat blanks are easy to hoop, smaller, more fiddly blanks may require a self-adhesive stabilizer. Or you may choose to hoop the stabilizer only and adhere the blank using temporary spray adhesive.
  • Many blanks have texture, such as nap, loft or a waffle weave. Plan to use a topper for smooth stitching.
  • If stitching a single-layer project where the back will show, such as a tea towel, use water-soluble stabilizer if the blank is strong enough to support the embroidery, or use a cutaway stabilizer and trim neatly close to the embroidery edges. Consider using matching thread in the bobbin so the underside resembles the right side.
  • Another option is to stitch the design on separate fabric, then apply it to the blank like a patch or appliqué.
  • If the blank is a wearable that will be against skin, consider covering the underside of the design with fusible interfacing to keep it from irritating the skin, especially in the case of children or babies.
bugs 255x300 Basic Training: Working With Blanks   Tips & Tricks provided the tea towel blanks.

What designs to use on a blank? Monograms, initials or names are always a great choice, but it’s also fun to find designs that speak to what makes the recipients unique. What are their hobbies? What are their professions? What kind of pets do they have? Are they very into a sport, a game, a genre of TV shows, movies or books? What’s their favorite holiday? Their favorite flower? Their favorite vacation spot? What’s their aesthetic like?

Once you have an idea, search the internet for designs. You never know what you’ll find outside of the main embroidery design sites. One of my favorite resources is Knotty Rose Designs, an Etsy shop that features a range of religious symbol designs specific to denominations as well as a wide selection of geeky symbols from popular properties, including Star Wars, Game of Thrones and a whole lot more, down to obscure internet animated series.

One last thought: when you’re choosing your design and your blank, remember to make sure they’ll work together — that they’re the right sizes and shapes to go together into a unique, personalized gift that the recipient will treasure forever.

embroiderthis pet bowl 300x300 Basic Training: Working With Blanks   Tips & Tricks

Pet bowl from

Find the Retro Christmas and Irresistible Insects designs featured in the tea towels in this post at

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