A strong foundation is important. Backing gives your garment stability, and is one of the factors that separates good embroidery from great stitching. Joyce Jagger, The Embroidery Coach, shares a quick primer on the proper backing for different types of garments:
For knit garments, like polos, T-shirts and fleece, you should use a cutaway backing. There are several types of cutaway backing, but I’m only going to cover two here.
Basic cutaway backing is the most commonly used. It’s a wet-laid nonwoven backing, designed specifically for machine embroidery. Though available in several weights, I use the 2-oz. for most applications. It can be used on all types of knits, but I prefer it on heavier knits, like the left-chest area of a fleece vest or jacket.
No-show backing is a very lightweight, waffle-weave cutaway backing, ideal for lightweight and pastel knit fabrics. Sometimes it’s referred to as mesh backing. This is my favorite type of cutaway, but it’s so soft that you should use a layer of tearaway backing underneath for extra stability, especially if your logo has small letters.
Tearaway backing is best for woven fabric, including denim, chambray, twill, nylon oxford and canvas. Use it for dress shirts, bags, aprons, flags, sheets, pillowcases, tablecloths, napkins, towels and washcloths. I use two layers of 1.5-oz. weight tearaway. To get your small letters looking crisp and prevent puckering, you can sometimes add a third layer. In that case, I only hoop the first two layers and place the third under the garment after it’s on the machine. The extra layer actually makes the columns in the lettering wider.
Cap backing is a 3-oz. heavy tearaway backing, perfect for the front, sides and back of hats. It’s generally available in 4”-wide strips, cut specifically to fit the front of caps. One layer works well for most caps, though sometimes designs on an unstructured cap look sharper if you use more than one layer. In those instances, I hoop one layer into the cap when I put it onto my cap frame, and then lay the extra layer into the cap as I attach the frame to the cap driver on my embroidery machine. It doesn’t take that much extra time, and it makes a huge difference. Your lettering will be much flatter and won’t pull in as much.