Embroidering letters by hand & machine (9 ways for beginners)

Learn how you can EMBROIDER LETTERS on your clothes and convey beautiful WORDINGS ,MONOGRAM INITIALS on your clothes using simple ways.

embroidering letters on clothes.

Embroidering words or letters to convey something dear to you on your clothes makes them all the more personal to you. It is you expressing yourself beautifully. What could be more beautiful than embroidery?

I have used embroidered letters on my handkerchiefs , t-shirts and they all bring about lots of positive comments and are great conversation starters.

Embroidering letters and initials also serve as a sort of identification mark for things that tend to disappear, like the pencil pouch of your kid or gym towel segregation. The best method of customization for your clothes.

You have to realise that, Stitching letters is not the same as monogramming. Monogramming involves just the initials of the name, but both are essentially the same. Checkout the post on embroidery placement and Monograms and their placement rules for more details.

monogram rules

If you have an embroidery machine, you have your job easy. Single-needle embroidery machines and multi-needle embroidery machines (there are even ten needle machines-gasp) do their work excellently. But what about those who do not have these machines (like me)?

There are many simple and easy ways to embroider the initials and monograms onto your clothes or embroidered handkerchiefs – By hand embroidery as well as by using your ordinary zig zag machine. Let us checkout the options.

How to design the embroidery letters / monograms

letters embroidered on fabric

You can design your letters either as all caps (Capital letters) or all lower case letters or with just the first letter in capital letters ( and slightly bigger than other letters); Monograms with lots of overlapped letters, with lots of artistic flourishes and swag.

Adding letters to accessories and clothes is a given in our home. With kids around, painted, embroidered, and appliqued letters serve many purposes. Identification and decoration are prime reasons, of course.

Checkout this post on different ways to embroider letters onto a fabric, different stitches used etc.

Then there are the beautiful monograms that add a special distinction to wherever it is done on. All these letters, start as a design. Here I will be talking about how you can go about designing those letters yourself.

When designing letters the most important things are to make sure that

  1. All the letters are of the same size.
  2. The letters are all slanted or curved in the same direction.
  3. They all look the same style, not a mishmash of many styles of fonts.

I like to freehand the letters most of the time. For small work on our own clothes and accessories and when doing running stitch and back stitch this works alright.

You can take printouts of beautiful fonts made with programs like word or online sites like canva.com. Trace the words onto your fabric with any of the embroidery transfer methods described here.

But for some other counted embroidery work like cross stitch and blackwork, it is a good idea if you follow a procedure when you are designing letters so that you can get a more neat and precise embroidery work. When you are making a project for giving as a gift you do not want the slant of the letter to go haywire or the size to be way off for the project at hand.

Checkout this Pinterest board on monograms for some inspiration on the style of letters you want . Decide on the style you want for the letter. Also whether you want capital letters or small letters.

Checkout this website 1001freefonts.com for downloading free fonts.

Measure the area where you will be embroidering the letters. Now you will have an idea about the size of the letter you want.

Checkout the suitability of a letter 

It is very easy to do this. Open MS Paint on your computer. Type the word you want in the style/font you want. Reduce the size of the font to the lowest. Zoom the screen till the letters are pixellated  (almost like a cross-stitch design).

design letters for monogramming in computer

Take a print screenshot with the print screen button in your keyboard.

take a screenshot of the letter design

Open another file in MS Paint and Paste the screenshot you have on the clip board onto a new file. Save this and take a printout.

Get the grid paper from online sources like this one ; print it out in the dimension of the area you have .

grid paper

Copy the design you have finalized onto the grid sheet by shading the relevant grids. Below given is a simple font which can be used for cross stitch letters.

Capital letters.

capital  letters for cross stitch embroidery

Small letters.

small letters for cross stitch embroidery

Check out this post on different ways to design and make Monograms

how to make your own monograms


Checkout this blog for some great typography tips  and I love the floral letters in Artist Alisa’s beautiful blog

1. Draw free hand

Draw the design directly onto the fabric in your handwriting; letting your kid write down their initials is a great way for their things like a cute little purse or a hanky. They will not displace their things, hopefully.

Draw baselines to fit your letters; otherwise, all would be different sizes. Use your scale to draw the baselines accurately. Ensure that the spacing between the letters is even.  

2. Use stencils to draw the letters onto the fabric

This is a good method. Low margin of error. Check out the tutorial to make your own stencils

3. Use Powerpoint to make your own simple fonts

Go to the format option on a Powerpoint blank page and make your own words under the option ‘Text effects’- even curved letters are possible in PowerPoint. You will have to design them suitable for your fabric. Make a stencil out of this or cut it out and trace it onto your fabric.

draw letters on ms paint for embroidering letters

Individual letters can also be printed out and laid out in a layout of your choice – Just make sure that it is a cohesive unit rather than some jumbled letters (But to each his own; so if jumbled letters are what you want, go ahead)

Get the letters you have designed printed out in the size you want; trace the letters onto tracing paper with a pencil or transfer them directly onto fabric using a carbon sheet.

4. Embroider over letters written/printed on paper

embroider over paper

One easy method is to keep the paper on top of the fabric and embroider over it – it is not the perfect method as you do not see how your needle behaves, but it sure is an easy method – no copying; just write and embroider.

Roman letters can easily be embroidered; the gothic letters with lots of swirls and flourishes, though they look beautiful, are somewhat difficult to embroider for a beginner.

How to Transfer the letters or fonts on to your fabric

The most popular method is to use dress maker’s carbon paper to trace the design on to your fabric.Checkout 10 ways to transfer the designs

You have to be careful about having the center of the letter design and the center of the design space on your clothing aligned. If you have the printout of the design, fold and find the center of it and then keep it placed in the center of the area you want to embroider your letters.

How to Hand Embroider the letters onto the fabric

embroidering letters and initials


Cross stitches are used along the letters to make a subtle but striking design. There are many variations of the simple cross-stitch – check them out if you want a difference. Lettering Styles in cross-stitch are different from other embroidery styles. You can find easy patterns for cross stitch letters here, similar to the one given below.

Cross stitch letter z

Checkout this simple guide to cross stitch. and how to make a cross stitch pattern

Chain stitch

embroider flowers with the letters

Chain stitch has many variations ( Check out the post on the 20+ types of chain stitch) and almost all of it could be used to embroider letters. Here is a letter worked in double chain stitch. Double outlines will make for thicker letters.

chain stitch embroidered letter P

 Heavy braided chain stitch worked over the stitching line is ideal for a projected embroidered letter.

Heavy braided chain stitch worked letter S

Satin Stitch

Padded satin stitch can be used to give a dimensional look to the letters- it is one of the most popular ways to embroider letters.

To do this work, you must do a back stitch on the letter and then closely pack small straight stitches ( satin) over the back stitch line. This will give the letters a padded dimensional look which will make the letter stand out.

If you have a thicker letter, make an outline with a backstitch and then fill the design with chain stitches. After that, do the satin stitch over this. Remember not to make the initial filling ( back stitch and chain stitch) with too thick embroidery thread; you will not be able to make the details finely. When you reach the corners, make very small back stitches.

satin stitch embroidered letter S

To make the padded satin stitch really stand out make double lines and work straight stitches fully fitting the design. Then make the padded stitch. A perfectly standout letter.

Padded satin stitch embroidered letter S

Herringbone stitch

Use herringbone stitch to fill the letters . Checkout the tutorial to work the herringbone stitch and its 2 variations. Or you can work the herringbone stitch on the reverse side of the cloth to make a shadow work which is beautiful as well.

embroidering letter with herringbone stitch

shadow worked embroidery letter S

Outline stitches

 Stem Sitch or outline stitch or Back stitch  or split stitch 

Use any of the Outline stitches in a single or double row to define ( outline) the fonts or fill the outline. Checkout the post on 6 of my favourite filling stitches

Outline stitched embroidered letter S

Project – Embroidered  knit top / t-shirt – using Back stitch 

The knit fabric is very stretchy. For embroidering, this is a pain. What I do is to baste a piece of cotton cloth ( a muslin cloth would do) to the back of the t-shirt where I have drawn the design. The cloth should measure at least 2 inches all around the design.

Fabric kept on the garment back as  backing

Place the t-shirt into an embroidery hoop. It will be nice if you have a big enough hoop – bigger than your design, but it is also ok to have a small hoop. After you have hand-stitched a portion, you can shift the position of the hoop and start again. Write the letters.  

baste stitch the fabric in place

Do a back stitch (even small stitches) all along the letters. A contrasting colored embroidery floss would be beautiful and striking.

hand stitch the letters cute with back stitch

cute embroidered on garment

embroidering letters and initials

Machine Embroidering letters with a zig zag sewing machine

Place a piece of sew-in-interfacing on the back of the cloth and baste it with hand stitches or machine embroidery stitches with a  stitch length of 4.

Place the cloth on a hoop to keep it nicely stretched. We have to insert the fabric exactly the opposite way on the hoop to what we do when embroidering by hand. 

Checkout this post on hoops for more details


Set the sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch. This post beginner’s guide to free motion sewing machine embroidery will give you details on how to embroider big letters inside. 

how to do embroidery with a regular sewing machine

Adjust the stitch width to your requirement, on how wide you plan for the letter. If it is a small letter, you obviously need a small width, and a wider stitch width is needed for a big design.

Do the zig-zag stitch closely packed. Practice this several times in a spare fabric before testing this on a garment.  

embroider letters on sewing machine

Using beads, rhinestones, and sequins to decorate letters

Checkout the posts on attaching beads with embroidery stitches, rhinestones and sequins for more details 

sequins embroider with letter

Applique letters

Applique letters are the best solution for making big letters for personalization. You can make these letters in any size you want with any fabric. They are very easy to sew as well. 

Checkout the post on how to make applique letters for more details – with 3 of the best techniques for making these perfectly.

applique letters

Reverse applique on fabric 

Print out the letters you want to reverse applique.
You need atleast 1″ width all along the letters, more if you want a turned under edge.

Place them on the fabric you are going to reverse applique on. Find the proper position. Trace all around them. Remove the printout.

With small sharp scissors, cut out the design.

Find the fabric you will be using under the main fabric. Place the letter on it and mark 2.5 inch all around the letter. Cut it out and finish the edges with a zig zag stitch or use pinking shears.

Keep it underneath and pin. Pin every 2 inch so it doesnot shift.

Change the stitch length in your sewing machine to 2.5 – 3.

From the top of the fabric, stitch around the edges of the letter ( 1/6 inch from inside) – that is, if you do not mind the fabric fraying inside the stitching line around the letters much.

If you do, you can turn under the edges carefully and stitch by machine or use a blanket stitch by hand.

embroider letter with reverse applique

If you are really passionate about monograms and embroidering letters, you can learn so much more on this blog. It is a candy shop for me for embroidery letters.

Related posts : Learn basics of embroidery; Different types of embroidery techniques.

easy to make embroidery motifs
how do do bead work
mirror work stitches
embroidery supplies tools


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Embroidering letters by hand & machine (9 ways for beginners)”

  1. I have covered wired hangers by crocheting a covering for them. Would like to give them to a friend. Would like to crochet their names on what I have crochet. Have trouble keeping lines straight. Also have difficult making letters like…..O, B, C. Biggest problem is making the letter. Appreciate any help.

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