Lisa Craddock of Barudan explains how to create 3D embroidery designs that truly stand out
As business starts to pick up again, learning a new embroidery technique will allow you to broaden your appeal to both current and potential customers. 3D foam embroidery is an eye-catching technique that has big appeal and is not as difficult or labour-intensive as decorators might think, according to Lisa Craddock of Barudan. “3D embroidery transforms your regular 2D ‘flat’ embroidery and gives it the ‘pizazz’ that your customers will love!” she adds.

What works with 3D embroidery

The most suitable garments and accessories for 3D foam embroidery are those that do not require regular laundering, such as baseball caps, bags and jackets. AS 3D embroidery is slightly heavier than flat embroidery, due to the added foam and stitch density weight, heavier fabrics are also preferred.

It’s best to use a satin stitch rather than a tatami ‘fill’ stitch, Lisa advises. “A satin stitch drops the needle in at either side of a column, which creates a nice, satin-shine effect. A long satin stitch will give the best raised effect without flattening the foam.”

Digitising for 3D

Wilcom’s Embroidery Studio e4 software contains seven free 3D fonts that have been specifically digitised for 3D embroidery, reports Lisa. “If you outsource your digitising, ensure that the digitiser is fully aware of which parts of the design need to be digitised for 3D,” she adds.

If digitising is done in-house, there are a number of parameters to take into account:

  • A stop function for placement of the foam
  • Capping off all ends
  • Heavier stitch density
  • No underlay stitches
  • Shortening stitches and fractional spacing switched off
  • Extra stitches to cover the possibility of the foam showing through

If there is flat embroidery in the design, do this first and follow with a stop function to allow the operator to place the foam onto the design. If the design has no flat embroidery, the foam can be placed at the very start with no stop functions required.

Cap off ends by embroidering a small block of satin stitches at the end of a satin column. “These small capping columns are digitised underneath the finished stitches so that they not visible on the finished garment. The satin stitch density is closed up by at least 100% so that the needle perforations cover the foam and ‘cut’ it at the same time, making the excess foam easy to tear away at the end of the embroidery,” Lisa explains.

Underlay stitches are removed as any unnecessary stitches could flatten the foam, while travel stitches are set longer than usual at 4mm, again to prevent flattening or cutting of the foam.


In this step-by-step, Lisa used a Barudan single-head to decorate a cap with a mixture of 2D and 3D embroidery. The digitised file was loaded into one of the 100 memory channels; the colour sequence was set (including a ‘stop’ function to allow the foam to be put in position); the appliqué function was switched on to prompt the machine to automatically move the pantograph forward when the machines stops to allow more space for placing the foam in the correct position; and the ‘cap’ icon was then selected so that the Barudan machine adjusted all its settings for cap embroidery, such as the maximum frame area, the machine speed and the orientation of the design.

Once the embroidery was complete, Lisa removed the cap from the frame and gently pulled away all of the excess foam. “If there are any parts of the foam poking through the stitching, try gently shrinking back the foam with the warm air of a hairdryer,” she recommends.

(1) When loading the design colours into a Barudan embroidery machine, include a stop function (C00) for placement of the foam. In the program list, enable ‘appliqué’ by changing the setting from 0 to 1, and highlight the ‘cap’ icon to set the machine up to run with the cap frame
(2) Frame the cap straight and securely using the loading jig by ensuring all of the teeth are placed in the seam where the peak is joined to the cap. Attach the cap frame to the embroidery machine
(3) Cut a generous piece of foam that is approximately 2cm larger all the way round than the raised part of the design. Madeira’s 3mm blue Bodybuilder foam was used here; the foam should be as close in colour to the thread being used as possible
(4) Embroider all of the flat embroidery first, leaving the 3D embroidery until last
(5) Because the ‘appliqué’ function was enabled, when the machine stops the pantograph will move away, leaving more room for placement of the foam
(6) Place the foam over the intended 3D area. Simple fabric bands and bulldog clips were used to hold the foam in place; sticky tape can also be used to secure the foam
(7) Once the foam is securely in place, restart the machine for the final stitching of the raised 3D part of the design
(8) When the design has finished remove the cap frame from the machine and tear away all of the excess foam, including the small areas inside the letters
(9) The finished cap with 3D embroidery