Customize your clothing, make mending more beautiful, or add special details to home décor.

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Did you know you can add some new life to an old knit sweater or add fun detail to a crocheted blanket with embroidery? Stitching on these types of items requires a few extra considerations, but the process is just like basic embroidery. Imagine a cluster of flowers and foliage adorning a hand-knit pillow or a geometric border on a crocheted purse. Embroidery is also an excellent way to conceal mending or stains, so even if you find a hole in your favorite cardigan, you can stitch the hole closed and add some stitching over the mend.

woman wearing a mended sweater
Credit: Ryan Liebe

Ready to give this a try? Here are the basics: Start with doubled embroidery floss or yarn and a blunt tapestry needle. Layer a stabilizer over your item and place it in a hoop without stretching the knitting or crocheted fabric. Start and end the embroidery by weaving the ends instead of tying a knot, while using stitches and designs.

Choosing Materials

Before gathering anything else, decide what knit or crocheted item you're going to embroider. It makes a difference if it was made with fine or chunky yarn, and how close the stitches of the item's fabric were made.

When working with tightly-knit or crocheted fabric you can use cotton embroidery floss or superfine- to fine-weight yarn. You may want to double the floss or yarn to give it enough bulk to show up in your project. On chunky sweaters or blankets, it's best to use yarn that's similar in weight to the project you're stitching on. That means choosing worsted or bulky weight yarn, preferably made with the same fibers as the knit or crocheted piece. You can even use matching yarn to add more subtle stitching. Be sure to choose a blunt tapestry needle that matches the size of the floss or yarn you use.

Dealing with Stretch

Most knit or crocheted items, no matter how they were made, have some stretch to them. As you embroider on these items, it's important to make sure that the fabric doesn't stretch or pull together, as that will distort the design and the finished project. To keep the knitting or crochet even, always use a stabilizer while you stitch.

Wash-away stabilizer ($9.99, amazon.com) is a fast and easy material onto which you can trace or sketch a pattern, then place it over your knit or crocheted item before placing it in a hoop. After you stitch through the item and the stabilizer, it dissolves in water (remember to use room-temperature water for wool projects). You can also use tissue or tracing paper in the same way, but instead of soaking the finished embroidery, you carefully tear away the paper.

Starting and Ending

Although you can start your stitching with a large knot, it's still likely to pull through the knitting or crochet. A better way to start is by holding a long tail on the back of the material. After embroidering your design, thread the tail through your needle and weave the tail through the back of your stitching. End your embroidery the same way, weaving the thread or yarn through the back of the stitches.

Stitches and Patterns

Because of the nature of knit and crocheted fabric, especially when it has more open stitches, it's not always easy to be precise with your embroidery—and that's okay. Simply keep this in mind when choosing stitches and patterns: Back stitch can look uneven, but chain stitch is an excellent alternative for lines. The French knots and lazy daisy stitches are possible as long as you ensure that they don't pull through the material. Satin stitch and fish bone stitch shine in this role, as they easily create a recognizable filled shape.

When stitching on knit or crocheted items, the best patterns avoid lots of details. Bold lines and shapes work well, and you can even improvise designs when you're feeling creative.

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