Beginning Hand Embroidery Tips and Tricks

Below I have embedded my Embroidery Tips and Tricks pamphlet which is included with all of my embroidery patterns.  I would like to use this space to dig deeper into each of these topics, one at a time.  That will obviously take me some time so please stay tuned (you can sign up for the newsletter below!) and check back to learn more about my favorite hoops, fabrics, floss and stitches in a more dynamic way.  

 

BEGINNING EMBROIDERY TIPS AND TRICKS

Welcome to hand embroidery! Embroidery can be a relaxing creative outlet to keep your hands busy at home or on the go. Below are some tips based on my personal experience (I am not a formally trained embroidery artist) but I encourage you to do more research online or at your local library to further your education.   Find a style and solutions that work for you.  Much of this information can also be found in my beginners embroidery video tutorial.

 

  1. Materials: All items can be purchased online or at your local craft store. Thrift stores can also be a great place to grab some hand me down hoops and tools at a great price. 
    1. Embroidery Hoops: Hoops are available in many different sizes and materials.  I prefer working in wooden hoops, but plastic or metal options may work best for you. Your design may specify what size of hoop to work in, but sometimes a different sized hoop can be easier to hold and stitch into depending on the size of your hands.  Smaller hoops can give you better tension but you can always bind your larger hoop to give it more grip on your fabric.  If your fabric is much larger than your hoop and you find it getting in your way please use pins or safety pins to tack back the excess and make your work more pleasant.  Be sure to remove your work from you hoop after each stitching session to avoid permanent hoop creases. 
    2. Fabric: Generally I stitch on 100% cotton ("quilting solids") but please experiment with different weaves, types and colors to see what you enjoy embroidering on. Remember that light and thin fabrics may allow the back your stitches to show through so be sure to keep them neat. Give yourself time to wander through a fabric store and see what you like.  Avoid stretchy fabric (knits) as a beginner -  it will only lead to heartache and warping.
    3. Embroidery Floss: Most patterns list color suggestions using standard 6-stranded DMC cotton embroidery floss. There are lots of other brands (Lecien Cosmo, Archer) and other fun floss materials (silk, wool, etc) to experiment with. Your design will let you know how many threads to use, 1 to 6, depending on how thick of a line the design calls for. You can separate your floss easily by pulling out one strand of a time with one hand and holding the remainder of the threads with your other hand. Some people like to wind their floss on bobbins to help keep them organized and free of tangles. DMC recommends prewashing red floss to prevent any bleeding.
    4. Needles: I recommend grabbing a variety pack of embroidery needles with a few different sizes.  Your needle size will depend on your design, what stitches you are using, how thick your threads are and your own personal preference. 
    5. Scissors: Any tiny scissors with sharp blades will do. Larger fabric scissors are great to have for less delicate tasks.
  2. Pattern Transfer Methods: Please see my new Directory of Methods HERE!
    1. Use the light from a bright window or light board to trace your design onto the fabric. Water soluble fabric markers are great for this purpose but remember that your embroidery will need to be rinsed upon completion to remove the guidelines. Depending on your design you can trace using any marker (or pencil) assuming that your guidelines will be covered by stitches. 
    2. Iron on methods. I do not have personal experience with iron on methods but I encourage you to look at the available options at your local craft store to see if they are right for you.
    3. Sulky Printable Sticky Fabri-Solvi. Test your fabric with this sticky stuff before starting your project as it can leave a halo and residue behind on some fabric blends. To use, just print your design from your computer onto this paper and stick it on your fabric. This method really saves time and sanity when using complicated patterns.  It is also great for thicker fabrics like jean. 
  3. Getting Started
    1. Mounting your fabric and how much fabric do you need? If you plan to use your hoop as a frame just leave yourself an inch or two of excess fabric. If you plan to mount/stretch your embroidery on a wooden frame or canvas, make sure you give yourself excess fabric for that purpose. Your embroidery hoop is made of an outer hoop and a smaller inner hoop and the fabric will get sandwiched between the two. Center the fabric over the inner hoop and then place the outer hoop (loosened) on top. Tighten the screw and pinch the edges of the fabric out evenly from behind. Repeat until you reach your desired tension. You will want your fabric drum tight when using lots of satin stitch to avoid puckering of the fabric.
    2. Threading the needle. Cut a piece of floss no more than 2 feet long to avoid tangles. If needed, separate the individual threads of floss by pulling them out individually from a cut piece of floss.  “Sharpen” the end of your floss with a snip of your embroidery scissors for easier threading and be sure to use a needle with a large enough eye.
    3. Anchoring your floss. Preventing your embroidery from unraveling is super important, especially if your final piece is something that will get a lot of wear and tear like clothing. However, if your embroidery is just going to be sitting pretty on wall, then anchoring may not be as important. To start, I like to hold a tail (1-2 inches) of floss under the embroidery with my finger while I make my first few stitches. Then I maneuver that tail so that it is tacked down by the under side of the following stitches. When only a few inches of floss remain on your needle you should weave it into the underside of your stitches to secure it. Subsequent threads are easier to anchor by weaving into the back of the previous stitches. Keep the backside of your work as neat as possible and trim any excess tails.  Other popular options include the anchor knot and away waste knot.  
    4. What to do if you mess up. Don’t be afraid to start over! And don’t be afraid to remove your needle and pull up some stitches. You can use the eye end of your needle but a pair of tweezers can be handy, too. Sometimes I pull out the embroidery scissors and actually cut out stitches (be carefully to not cut the fabric!) when things go really wrong. It's okay.  Embroidery is about the process.
  4. How to Finish 
    1. If you want to frame your finished piece in an embroidery hoop you have a few options for backing. You can trim the excess fabric or glue it back to the inside of the hoop using craft or fabric glue (test your fabric first!) The back can be left open, exposing the stitches, or can be covered with fabric, felt, cardstock, whatever! Some people like to leave lots of excess fabric and sew/cinch it together using some running stitches
    2. You can also turn your completed work into a wearable patch, into jewelry or stretch it on a rectangular frame for your wall.  

 

Got it? Let's check out some stitches!   STITCH GUIDE

Ready to grab a beginner's kit or download an easy pattern? Jump ahead HERE!

 

 

 

 


2 comments

  • I found this tutorial very informative. Thank you for your hard work! I find your website delightful.

    Lori Hicke
  • This was so incredibly helpful! Thank you for taking the time to teach others and to share your works of art! Wonderful!!!

    Michelle

Leave a comment