How to Machine Embroider Tote Bags

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Things You'll Need

  • Sticky, self-adhesive, tear-away stabilizer
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Tote bag
  • Measuring tape
  • Air soluble fabric marker
  • Pin
  • Embroidery thread
  • Embroidery machine

Personalized, embroidered tote bags are a quick option for an unexpected gift. Those with home embroidery machines can keep a stock of inexpensive plain tote bags in their sewing stash. When the occasion arises, you can take a bag and embroider the recipient’s name or monogram on it. Machine embroidering premade items can be a little tricky. Most home embroidery machines do not have a free arm to embroider on, meaning you have to open and place items like bags flat against the machine.

Cut a piece of sticky stabilizer 1 inch larger than your hoop on all sides.

Open the embroidery hoop and place the bottom half on your work surface. Place the piece of stabilizer on top of the bottom of the hoop. The stabilizer should be paper-side up. Place the top half of the hoop on top of the stabilizer. Check that the stabilizer is straight in the hoop and press the pieces of the hoop together. Tighten the screw on the hoop to secure.

Place the tote bag on a flat surface. Find the center where you will embroider your name, monogram or design using the ruler. Mark the center with an air soluble fabric marker.

Pick up the hoop with one hand. Take the pin in the other hand and lightly score the paper on the stabilizer. Trace around the entire inside edge of the hoop. Do not pierce the stabilizer with the pin. Peel the corner of the paper back and remove from the stabilizer to expose the adhesive.

Flip the tote bag inside out. The bag will stay inside out until you are done stitching. Open the bag and find the center mark you made with your marker. Place the bag on top of the embroidery hoop. The side of the bag that has the mark should be the side placed on the hoop. Center the dot in the middle of the hoop and press down on the bag to adhere it to the stabilizer.

Clip your hoop into your machine. Pull the side of the bag that is not stuck down on the stabilizer back. This will expose the side of the bag you marked, which is where the machine will stitch the design.

Pull up the design on your embroidery machine. Turn the design to where the machine will stitch the design in the correct orientation. Often times, this orientation may be sideways or upside down.

Press "start" on the machine. You may have to hold the other side of the bag away from the stitching area during the embroidery process.

Remove the hoop from the machine when it is done. Unscrew the hoop and set the hoop aside. Peel the excess stabilizer from the bag. Clip any errant threads.

Flip the bag right side out.


  • Use metallic thread for a bright splash of color.


  • Keep the tote bag’s straps out of the way while embroidering. Situate the handles in a good spot before you start to sew.