Let’s face it. Embroidery is not easy. There’s a lot that goes into it. Understanding fabric type, digitizing, backing, hooping, tension. The list can go on and on. But one item a lot of people fear to embroider on is caps. Caps can cause so much grief, because every cap is different. This article will hopefully shine a light on not just the problems of hat embroidery, but the solutions.


Q: What’s the best backing for hats? Is it even necessary?

A: A stiff tear away backing of medium to heavy thickness is best for most hats. Yes it is necessary. Even if a cap is structured, it can still move and backing helps to stabilize some of that movement.

Q: I’ve heard someone say that the best way to digitize for hats is bottom up. Is that true and if so why?

A: Yes it is true. Most cap hoops work by having a thin band that clings around the front of the cap, clinging to the part where the face of the cap meets with the brim. This leaves the rest of the cap left with a large area that is just left to move freely. Going from the bottom up helps you to start at it’s most stable area and work up to the less stable parts. As you go up, the embroidery will attach the loose backing and provide some more stability.


Q: I’ve also heard that you should go center out from the design. How would that help?

A: This is basically an approach that works for all caps but is designed to combat the center seam found on six panel caps. The seam can act as a wall for the embroidery when moving towards the seam. With some designs if you go from the outside towards the seam, you can have gathering of fabric that bunches against the seam causing the fill to gap around the fabric. The front seam is the second most stable part of the hat and can be quite stubborn if approached from the wrong direction. Going center out gives more freedom and less resistance.

Q: My circle design looks like an oval is this due to the hat or digitizing?

A: If it is just oval shape, than it is most likely due to digitizing. Either a lack of tackdown or edge run underlay. Where you may need much more underlay for pique or knits, hats still need some underlay to combat push and pull.

Q: My circle design is looking egg shape (narrow on the top and wide on the bottom. It looked good on my last hat order what is causing this and how can I fix it?

A: What is causing the problem is most likely the shape of the hat. Low profile hats (but not limited to) commonly have this issue. Look at your hat from the profile. If the hat slopes dramatically back from the brim or has a short vertical front, this could be the problem. To fix it you have two choices: 1)Get a different hat, one that has more of a straight vertical profile. 2)Make the design smaller. Every hat has a different maximum, try to get familiar with the most common hats and their maximums. If things start warping, it’s because you have gone past it’s maximum.

Slope of the profile can influence the amount of warping that may happen on a hat. On cap A, you see an extreme slope starting at the bill and continuing on to the cap button. This will affect your design, the larger you go, the more likely you will have distortion. This cap has a relatively small area to embroider on. Cap B shows a more vertical profile with a nice flat area. Less slope and the further away from the bill curvature starts, the better. Cap C shows an almost perfect vertical and a large flat area before it starts curving. This cap will have the least amount of distortion and the larger area to embroider.




Q: Okay, then what should the maximum be?

A: Every hat is different, but if possible always start small and work your way bigger. I feel most hats work okay with 2.25” maximum height and 4” maximum width. If it is low profile, go smaller such as 2” high and 3.5” wide. This will prevent frustration later on. Simplify your design if you can.

Maximum size for hats diagrams_2.jpg
These are examples of what your cap may look like. The maximum size shown is just a suggestion. Some designs may be able to go larger or need to go smaller, every design and cap is unique. This template will hopefully limit the amount of corrections you and your digitizer will need to make in the future. Note the corners are hi-lined. Rectangles may need to avoid these areas and go smaller to keep its shape.


Q: I have several shapes that are filled with one color and an outline with a different color that is not meeting up with the fill. What can I do to fix this?

A: Other than adding edge run to the fill, your best approach is to make more stops. Instead of one stop for the fill and a second stop for the outline, try doing a separate color fill and outline for each shape. Hats are going to move and the less time you give between doing the fill and it’s outline, the better. More stops is a tiny price to pay for a design to look sharp.

Q: I looked at the back of my hat and made a design to arch over it, but when we got it back from the embroiderer is didn’t fit the arch. Did the digitizer change something?

A: The digitizer most likely did not change a thing. A lot of people look at the back of the hat while it is all assembled. To embroider, we need to open up the back of the hat and hoop it with a circular hoop. This flattens the fabric, and when flat, the arch changes. A basic formula that works for many hats is 107 mm radius (214 mm diameter) and maximum width of 3.25” width for a 12 cm hoop and a maximum width of 4.25” for a size 15 cm hoop.

For back of hats that have an opening, this template is a good starting point. Print out the template to scale and place on some hooped hats. This works on most of the hats that go through our shop.


Q: I have text at the base of the hat that looks big in some areas and tiny in others. Why is it happening? Is there anything that can be done about it?

A: Take your hooped hat and move it around the base of the brim while holding down the needle foot. If there seems to me a point of resistance where it takes more effort to push down the needle foot, then this is most likely the problem. The further the fabric is from the needle plate, the more trouble with your embroidery you are going to have. The shape of the hat is in part determined by the arch of the brim. If the arch is narrow it will most likely have parts of the hat that are further away from the needle plate. If the arch of the the brim is more shallow, the better chance for your embroidery. If possible your best bet is to move the design further away from the bottom of the hat.