I get quite a variety of questions about embroidery and how and where to start, so I thought I might write out a few of the best tips for beginning embroidery. Embroidery is a wonderful artform to explore. It’s colorful, full of textures, expressive, and perfect for slowing down and giving yourself time to catch your breath.
Learn to transfer designs
Printed fabrics and iron-ons make it easy to jump in a project. But if you feel comfortable transferring a pattern, you open up your possibilities quite a lot. So it’s definitely worth learning to do. It’s simple and straight forward. If you don’t have a lightbox, then you can use glass. Just tape down the pattern, tape the fabric over and trace the lines with a water soluble craft pen.
Hopefully you won’t find it too hard with a little practice!
Don’t be afraid to change a design
This might be a bit scary territory for a beginner, but you can make it easy on yourself. Print out your design and draw right on it and test your ideas out before committing them to fabric. Make it personal and have fun.
I think it’s cool when people take a designs and change it to suit themselves.
These are the brush strokes of embroidery. You can just grab a cloth and practice them at any time. I still like to practice new stitches before using them in a project. And I’ve made samplers for experimentation.
Keep on practice your stitches, new and old! The more you do them, the more you learn. Take a deep dive and practice new variations. Make them as even as you can, then make them as uneven as you can. Return to them often and keep learning.
Stranded cotton threads are a great start
Stranded cotton thread is easy to use and accessible. And it comes in many colors. Of course, if you have other threads available or a kit you want to do, by all means use those threads. But if you are starting fresh, I highly recommend one of the stranded cotton brands. DMC is most widely used, but there are other good brands too such as Anchor.
I often get asked what sort of fabric I recommend for embroidery. My answer is always white woven cotton for starting out. It makes it easy to trace on the design, it’s inexpensive, and most colors show up well on it. Other colors, materials and prints are all great to use as well, even for a beginner. Experiment and see what you like best!
Hoops and more hoops
I consider a hoop a must for most embroidery. It makes it easier to keep an even tension on the thread. If your fabric puckers around your stitches, check if you can make your fabric more taut in the hoop. Get several sizes too if you can. If your fabric slips too much, you can wind your inner hoop with bias tape or any strip of fabric. It will really help keep the fabric taut.
Big fabric scissors are alright, but the small sharp scissors let you get close to your thread and cut it off without risk of your fabric getting caught in the blades.
Find a floss storage system
You’ll soon have piles of threads if you continue your embroidery journey. It’s handy to have a nice way to store your threads so they don’t get knotted and mixed up. I use little bobbins to wind the floss around, and I also use plastic zip lock bags to hold them in as well. You can sort your threads by color or by code. There are other options for storing thread too. I haven’t tried them myself, but clothespins are popular now.
Wash hands with soap
This has nothing to do with germs! But it does have a lot to do with oils and dirt.
To keep your fabric and thread clean, wash your hands before picking up your embroidery and even take a break to wash them again. It really helps.
Give yourself space to improve
It can be hard being a beginner. You look at where you are compared to others and perhaps feel frustrated with your results. I love trying new things and I know that feeling well. Just give yourself space and time to play and experiment and just not be very good. The advantage of being a beginner is that you get big improvements fast. Be kind and keep going.
Perhaps the most important tip is to enjoy the journey! Enjoy the process, enjoy the results.