Embroidery is a great craft to learn, its fun, with endless possibilities for creativity and yet the basic techniques are simple to learn and the tools needed are minimal. It is a calming, relaxing, inexpensive and portable hobby. So what are you you waiting for!
In this beginners ‘how to embroider’ guide I’m going to briefly tell you about the equipment needed and how to get everything set up.
If you are looking for stitch diagrams just click the link below to visit my embroidery stitch library, which is full of illustrations and photos to help you master those stitches!
What Equipment do I need to Begin Embroidery?
The answer is not a lot, here’s some info on the basics:
An embroidery needle
You can find needles online, in craft shops or the supermarket, often labeled as embroidery or crewel needles they come in a variety of sizes. Packets of needles in mixed sizes (like the ones shown below) are available so you can see which size you prefer. I would recommend a size 5 needle as a good one start with.
An embroidery hoop
Hoops can be made from plastic and metal or wood, both a perfectly fine to use. Wooden hoops are also used from framing and hanging completed embroidery, if you have this in mind make sure your hoop is larger than the pattern you intend to stitch. The hoop art patterns available on this site are all designed to be framed in a 20cm (8″) embroidery hoop.
Embroidery thread (also called embroidery floss)
Embroidery threads are available in an amazing range of colours, including metallics, multicoloured and even glow-in-the-dark. Two of the most popular makes you will find are Anchor and DMC, these are both great quality threads and will cost around from 65p to £1 per 8 metre skein. You can buy cheaper thread than this, usually in packs of 50 or 100 threads of varying colours, in my experience the quality of this type of thread is OK but you may find it tangles a little easier than the branded thread.
As you start to unravel various threads and use them you may yourself ending up with a birds nest of mixed up threads, to avoid this you can wind your thread on to bobbins, there are many kinds of thread or floss bobbins available to purchase. I choose to use wooden clothes pegs to keep my thread tidy, simply take the thread from the skien and wind it around the peg tightly finally trapping the loose end between the opening.
Some fabric to stitch on
You can embroider on to any fabric, and use Lazy May transfers on any light coloured fabric it is safe to iron. Quality cotton, linen or calico is a good choice. Remember you don’t have to stick to white fabric, embroidery can look fantastic stitched on colours and even over patterned fabric. Stitching fabric that is not stretchy is very easy, if you want to add a design to a t-shirt or other stretchy material you will find it easier of you use something called embroidery stabiliser, you can find a step by step guide to stitching on stretchy fabric here.
Getting Ready to Stitch
Setting up your hoop
Once you have transferred your pattern to fabric you will want to clamp it in your hoop ready to sew. Lay your fabric over the smaller ring of your embroidery hoop, now place the larger ring over the fabric and smaller hoop. Tighten the screw slightly and gentle pull the fabric tight across the hoop. Repeat until the fabric is taught and securely in place.
Working with thread
Each skein of thread is made up of 6 thin strands of threads wound together to create one thicker piece of thread. You can unwind these threads an used them in smaller numbers to create different stitch effects.
Splitting the threads can be a little bit tricky at first, cut an arms length and separate the number of strands at one end and hold as shown above.
Now use your other hand as shown to untwist and separate the threads as you pull downwards.
Above you can see the effect of varying the number of strands of thread used, from 1 strand at the top to all 6 at the bottom.
Here you can see embroidery done all in the same stitch, stem stitch, using only black thread but by varying of the number of strands used the large flowers become more prominent than the leaves in the background and the details of the elements are stitched with even finer lines.