Embroidery is a method of embellishment. It is most commonly thought of decorating a material, such as fabric, using a needle and thread, but is not necessarily limited to fabric and thread. The term “Embroidery” can be used as an umbrella term for many different styles and techniques. Just as with quilting you have improv, applique, curves, foundation paper piecing, etc., with embroidery there is free embroidery, crewel, counted cross stitch, whitework, needlepoint, etc.
I primarily do “Free” or “Free style” embroidery, which is simply a form of embroidery that is worked free of counting and a grid. If you are interested in learning how to embroider, this is a great place to start because it will give you a basic understanding of the tools needed, how to apply stitches, and how to work and interpret designs!
You only need a few simple supplies to get started, which is one reason why Embroidery is such a great craft to try! Once your supplies are collected, try your hand at a few basic stitches with a simple pattern. From there, you can branch out to more intermediate to advanced patterns and style of the craft.
Remember, embroidery is also easily portable, which means that you can take your project with you on the go with very little hassle.
Hoops – Embroidery hoops come in a variety of sizes. If you are going to be displaying your final piece in a hoop, than it makes sense to use the display hoop as your embroidery hoop. If you are going to be embroidering pieces that will be turned into other items (embroidering a quilt, turning the piece into a cushion or pillow, embellishing clothing), than you can purchase a hoop that is a little more sturdy in a size that is comfortable for you to work with. There are even sets out there like this Caydo 5 Pieces Embroidery Hoops Cross Stitch Hoop Embroidery Circle Set, 5 inch to 11 inch (Multicolor) which is great if you have projects in a range of sizes to work on!
Needles – Finding a needle that you like to work with can be one of the most challenging parts of embroidery. The size of the needle, the sharpness of the tip, and the shape of the eye can be different depending on what type of needle you purchase. All of these characteristics have specific purposes as well, so a needle that you may love with 3 strands of floss may cause a lot of trouble with crewel work or cross stitch. I think I great place to start is with the Clover Gold Eye Chenille, No. 24. You can determine if you like the feel of these needles as you work, and decide whether you need a larger eye to make threading easier.
Floss/Thread is probably best purchased at your local craft store as online prices seem to be inflated. There are a few things that you need to know about floss/thread before you purchase. There are two types of threads – embroidery floss and pearl cotton. Embroidery floss comes in skeins and is made up of 6 individual strands that were held together before bundling. These strands can be separated, and the number of strands that you use will affect the look of your stitches. Pearl cotton is a little different. The strands of pearl (or perle) cotton were spun and plied before being wound into a ball or skein. These threads cannot be separated, and therefore the size of the thread is set. You can buy different thicknesses of pearl cotton based on the number. For example, a size 12 is a fine, thin thread about the equivalent of 1 strand of floss. A size 5 is a thicker thread, closer to 4 or so strands of floss. If I have a specific project in mind, I buy floss because I like the ability to separate the strands based on my needs. It beats having to buy a whole bunch of balls in the same color to get the variety in size. That being said, I do have some pearl cotton at home that I use for quilting and other sewing embellishment, and I usually reach for this first. The pearl cotton is generally spun and plied in such a way that it is a little bit more durable as you work, especially as you get closer to the end of the strand you are working with.
Scissors – Luckily, purchasing scissors is less complicated than needles and floss! Pick up a small, easily transportable pair of scissors to use while you work. I prefer a small pair with a sharp pointy tip like on these DMC 61253 Peacock Embroidery Scissor, 3 ¾ inches. There are also scissors out there that fold up like this pair – these are great if you are trying to get a small embroidery go-bag together.
Fabric – I love to embroider on Linen blend fabric. It has a little bit more structure than regular linen, but it has a more textured and open weave than quilter’s cotton. I love how it seems to give dimension to the finished piece. Kaufman Essex Linen Blend Linen Fabric By The Yard is my go-to cotton/linen blend, and they have a whole range of colors available now. The yarned dyed version seems to be a bit softer with more drape than the regular Essex, and both versions are great for stitching!
Although I reference the internet more than books these days, there are a few books that are great to have in your personal library.
Embroidery Stitch-onaries are a great resource to have! Embroidery is a great example. It has over 200 stitches between its covers!
This book is more of a classic, but does not disappoint. With over 100 stitches, Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches is a great place to start if you need a resource of stitches.
Doodle Stitching has a number of books out there. I have both Embroidery & Beyond as well as The Motif Collection. Embroidery & Beyond goes a bit beyond a traditional stitch dictionary in that it shows a number of embroidery techniques and styles with clear directions and sample projects. Similarly, The Motif Collection is not a straight dictionary, but rather a collection of drawings, motifs, and sample projects by Aimee Ray.
There are a TON of resources on the web perfect for learning new stitches. There are also a few websites that I frequent regularly for expanding my stitch knowledge base, general troubleshooting, and other helpful information.
- The Library of Stitches over at Mollie Makes is awesome. Their pictures are incredibly clear and easy to follow.
- Even though this page hasn’t been updated in awhile, I still view Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials as an online encyclopedia of stitches.
- NeedlenThread is also a go-to website for me. Regularly updated, it is an amazing resource. She has everything on there from how-to videos to tips and techniques. She has clear tutorials, and even throws in some history. If you have a question about why we do something the way we do in embroidery, chances are that Mary over at NeedlenThread has the answer (and already has a blog post up about it).
If you are interested in taking a class, I always encourage you to try to take a class at your local studio. I know that this isn’t always possible with work schedules, kids’ schedules, financial situations, but if you are able to somehow make it work, you won’t be disappointed. It is always exciting to be around someone who knows the craft and wants to share their knowledge. It is also a great opportunity to connect with not just a local business, but local crafters with similar interests! Don’t forget, whenever we learn something new, questions and problems are sure to arise. It is great having an instructor right there in the room with you to help you troubleshoot as needed.
If you are unable to get out to take a class, there are a lot of options online as well!
- Craftsy seems to be the go-to “learn a craft” site, and yes! They have a Hand Embroidery Start Up class as well as a wide range of other embroidery classes.
- Creative Live is another great resource. Contributor Lisa Shaffer has both embroidery and cross stitch classes.
- Don’t forget to check out YouTube! It is an awesome, free resource loaded with videos to help you stitch!
Kits and Patterns
CREATIVITY COMING SOON!
INSPIRATION COMING SOON!
Remember, embroidery is also easily portable, which means that you can take your project with you on the go with very little hassle. This is one of the things that appealed to me early on, as well as the fact that I can start and stop without much thought. My embroidery is one of the things I grab if I know I’ll be sitting on a sideline cheering on my kids, waiting around for my car to be serviced, or sitting in the passenger seat on a road trip. It is a really beautiful art, and this post is really only hitting the tip of the iceberg with information on the craft. I hope it is enough to get you stitching, and inspiring you to dig a little deeper as you create!