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6 Tips to Get You Started With Hand Embroidery

6 Tips to Get You Started With Hand Embroidery main article image
Posted on February 6, 2023 by Melissa Galbraith

So you want to start embroidering? Here is what you need to know:

Starting a new craft can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s hard to know what supplies you actually need, versus what is a nice to have but not entirely necessary. There are a few ways to get started.

Order a Kit or Pattern:

There are a wide variety of hand embroidery kits available on Etsy, from artisans, and at your local craft store. If you’ve never embroidered before, here are a few things to look for in a kit:

  • Find a design that speaks to you. This will help you want to finish it, even if it gets frustrating
  • Look for a kit that is beginner-friendly. Many kits come in varying levels and starting off on a more advanced kit might feel daunting and off-putting
  • Find a kit that includes all the materials you’ll need. This will make it easier to dive in without having to find all the necessary supplies
  • If you’re buying online, read the reviews. Does this kit have written instructions, step-by-step photos, video tutorials? Knowing how you learn best will help you pick a kit best suited for you

Embroidery supplies from MCreativeJ(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

Get Your Own Supplies:

This approach is great if you (like me) already have many of the supplies or want to create your own designs and experiment with materials. Here are the basics of what you’ll need:

  • Embroidery hoop
  • Fabric: quilting cotton or linen are good options to start out with because they don’t stretch as much as other fabrics
  • A pack of embroidery needles: I recommend using the variety pack to start so you can find a needle you like
  • Cotton embroidery thread: I recommend starting with a name brand like DMC, Anchor or Cosmo. These are available at most craft stores and are colorfast-so they won’t bleed onto the fabric
  • A transfer pen: I prefer the Pilot Frixion erasable pens, however, there are also chalk, pencils, water-soluble pens, carbon paper, iron on transfers, and transfer paper that are all good options too
  • A pair of sharp scissors: Smaller scissors usually work best for embroidery, but any scissors will do when you’re getting started
  • Needle threader: This is optional, but can be helpful if you’re not used to working with needles or have trouble with hand eye coordination

How to get started:

embroidery hoop prep from MCreativeJ(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

  1. To start stitching, we first need to place the fabric in the hoop.

    1. Start by gently unscrewing the screw of the embroidery hoop. Turn the screw until the inner ring easily separates from the outer ring.
    2. Lay the inner ring flat on a flat surface.
    3. Then place your desired fabric on top. Be sure there is fabric all the way around the inner ring.
    4. With the fabric in place, gently sandwich the outer ring on top.
    5. Next, we need to make sure the fabric is taught in the hoop. As you tighten the top screw, gently tug the fabric along the outside of the hoop. This will tighten the fabric in the hoop, removing any creases. The fabric inside the hoop should be drum tight. If it’s saggy or has wrinkles, continue tugging along the edges and tightening the top screw.

Embroidery pattern transfer MCreativeJ(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

  1. Next you need to transfer your pattern.

    I like to use the light box or well-lit window method. First, print your desired pattern, making sure the outlines are dark. Then tape the pattern onto a light box or well-lit window. Hold the hoop with the fabric up to the pattern on light box or window. Now use the transfer pen to draw the patterns on to the fabric.

    I like to use the Pilot Frixion erasable pen for transferring patterns, because the lines aren’t permanent. These lines can be erased with heat, like an iron or a blow-dryer. If you draw something you don’t want or change your mind while stitching, it’s ok! If you use a different transfer method, be sure to read the directions as each are different.

Tropical Plant Peel Stick and Stitch Patterns from MCreativeJ(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

  1. With your pattern transferred, it’s time to pick out thread colors.

    The most important thing is to pick out colors in a well-lit space. Choosing colors in low light can lead to bad decisions (trust me, I’ve done this and then had to take that stitched part out because what I thought was a light yellow was actually green!)

    I find it’s helpful to lay my colors on top of or next to my pattern when figuring out what will work well together. Picking colors in similar tonal families can help create a cohesive pallet. For example, if you pick a deep teal and a royal purple these are both jewel tones. Using other jewel tone colors will help pull the design together.

MCreativeJ Splitting Thread(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

4. After you’ve decided on colors, it’s time to split apart the thread.

Most new embroiders don’t realize each length of thread is actually six-strands of thread. Splitting apart the thread can make it easier to stitch and create a more detailed design.

When splitting apart your thread, pull apart ONE strand from the bunch at a time. Pulling more than one strand usually leads to a big, tangled mess.

Needle, thread, thread gloss, and scissors MCreativeJ(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

5. Threading the needle and knotting the thread are next.

These are the two parts I’ve found to be the trickiest for new stitchers. Here’s a few tricks I’ve found to be helpful:

  • Line the tread ends up evenly and get them wet before threading the needle
  • Hold the thread as close as you can to the end and use your fingertips to glide the thread through the needle. If you hold the thread further back you can see it better, but there is more wiggle room for the thread to sperate and bend before gliding through the needle’s eye.
  • I prefer the quilters knot at the end of the thread, but any knot will do. Make sure it’s big enough to stay put on the back of the fabric and not be pulled through the to front of the fabric.
  • Trim off any thread after the knot before stitching. This will keep the thread from tangling on the back of the fabric and from being pulled through to the front of the fabric while you stitch.

LOVE Embroidery by MCreativeJ(Photo credit: MCreativeJ)

  1. Now it’s time to start stitching!

    If you’ve opted for the kit or pattern route, follow the design and have fun. Learning a new skill takes time and focus, so don’t be too hard on yourself if your project doesn’t look exactly like the picture.

    If you chose to dabble without a pattern or kit, don’t be afraid to play with the needle and thread. Make marks and see what inspires you. You can also find many tutorials and stitch videos on YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok.
    Try searching for the following keywords or hashtags:

    • embroidery stitches
    • embroidery tutorial
    • embroidery video
    • how to embroider
    • beginner embroidery
    • stitch video
    • embroiderytok

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