Puffy style embroidery is pretty expensive to have done with custom designs. Some places online or in meatspace quoted me around 80 bucks for a single hat! (setup fees and whatnot). So I decided to embroider my own hat in the style of New Era caps and the like. I also don't have the ability to make a machine do any of the work, so I did it all by hand. The end result is pretty neat, and I think the effort for a completely original hat is worth it.
Step 1: Materials
You will need:
- A Hat. Flat Brimmed, a solid color, and some stickers is what I went for. I found some from a store in Florida on E-Bay which shipped super super quick and were 12 bucks including shipping.
- Embroidery Thread. The kind I used was in the hand embroidery section, and it comes a thick thread composed of 6 strands.
- A Needle. I used one which had the skinniest eye I wanted to try and put 3 strands of the thread through.
- Craft Foam. This is what makes the embroidery puff out. I picked the same color as my thread, so any gaps in coverage wouldn't be too noticable. I used foam that was 3 mm thick. It comes by the sheet.
- Thread Locker. This was recommended to me as a way to secure the loose threads on the inside of the cap. The bottle is called Fray Check. If you want to tie all the loose ends together, don't worry about this, I just need it because I didn't pay attention to doing it in a more proper way (See the fifth step for more on this).
- Time. I didn't use a timer, but fidgeting the image, and doing a test piece for the complicated areas put this project around 15 hours. My second hat took around 6.
Step 2: Preparing the Design
The next part is where the design gets complicated, and you may have to go back the drawing board if your logo gets too difficult. I drew an outline of my logo on a piece of paper, and thought about how I would cover everything using threads that need to go from one side of the shape to the other. I used different color pens to distinguish which threads I would need to embroider first, and so I can see what would get covered by other sections of thread. This turned out to be challenging because my design has sharp corners and complicated large spots to cover. I strongly recommend that after you come up with a threading design, you test it out on a standard fabric and hoop setup before potentially ruining your hat. This process is called digitizing, and I couldn't find good general tutorials on the web, so all I can say is just think it through and test your ideas so you can learn how well the thread covers, and how is presses down the foam and things like this.
I lost the paper with the first wrong way to do it, as I found out with my test piece, but the way I did it is presented in the pictures. Below.
Step 3: Starting the Embroidery
Next I pinned down, with a single stitch, a few places around the design. I just used a simple up-one-side-down-the-other-side to up-the-first-side-down-the-other-side stitch. I began with the "simple" sections around the jaw which are essentially a variation on a straight line. After they were well and covered, I moved on to other parts.
An interesting part of the design was how I handled the forehead and lightning bolt. To cover all of the foam, some thread went from between the eyes, up the lightning bolt, and to the top of the head. This was the only way I could easily cover the forehead. After this, I did a diagonal stitch on the lightning bolt, because of the way the thread pressed down the foam, and created a slope. Horizontal stitches slid out of place and looked weird in the test piece.
Step 4: Some Tricky Parts
Step 5: Finishing Up
The final touch is trimming the loose ends, and locking the threads. To lock the threads I used Fray Check. I just oozed it all over the lumps of thread inside my cap, and it took about 30 minutes to dry and smelled bad in the process. But now I have a cap with threads that won't come loose, so it can withstand a bit use.
If there are any little foamies sticking through the thread on the front, I think using a hairdryer might melt them away. Be careful though, I haven't tried this, just a tip I head on the internet.
Now your done, enjoy having a cool hat! and looking sweet on the street.