How to learn Embroidery – 10 FAQ answered.

What are the basic hand embroidery tools I need for starting my embroidery project?

  •  Embroidery floss consists of loosely twisted 6 strands of cotton thread which can be pulled apart to be used in the thickness of your preference. They are available in a rainbow of colours in all the shades you want. Silk and rayon embroidery threads are also used for specialized embroideries. Checkout all the 12 types of hand embroidery thread you can use for embroidery.
  • Hand embroidery needles are available in varying lengths. Usually their eyes are thicker than ordinary needles to accommodate the thicker embroidery floss. Checkout all the 14 types of hand embroidery needles you can use. 
  • Scissors – A large scissors for cutting  fabric ; Embroidery thread snip is a very handy tool to have when doing hand embroidery.  If you are using scissors instead of a snip use small one with sharp points. Pinking shears are also handy to have for cutting the fabric edges in a zig zag manner. Checkout the post on the 13 different cutting tools for sewing and embroidery
  • Embroidery hoop is made of two rings, one that fits inside the other. Typically a 12″ embroidery hoop is what you need to buy, though there are smaller and bigger ones available. You just need to make sure that your fabric when it is inserted will leave atleast 2″  outside the rings. Checkout the post on the different types of embroidery hoops you can use to stretch fabrics.
  • Thimble – This is used to protect the middle finger when pushing the needle through the fabric. They are available made in metal and plastic.
  • Dress makers carbon and other marking tools

Checkout this detailed post on some more embroidery  tools you will want to have 

How to choose the fabric for my embroidery project ?

Fabrics are made from either man-made or natural fibres (or a combination of the two). Some of them have a loose weave and some have edges which never fray, some pleat very well. It is important that you choose the best fabric for your project. 

The material you choose for the embroidery will largely depend on the type of embroidery stitches you mean to do on it and the intended use of the finished piece. A purse or a bag with some ribbon embroidery will need a  different fabric from what you will choose for a baby dress with little flowers embroidered on it.  There are a variety of fabrics available for you to start your embroidery project.

A 100% cotton or linen fabric is said to be the best for all embroidery work. You would not want the hours of work you have done to be one a weak old stock fabric. Choose a high quality fabric for your best work. Linen which has a good weave looks gorgeous with embroidery. Ensure that the embroidery thread you will be using is also cotton.

Experiment and innovate – Basically some embroidery techniques like canvas work counted cross stitch etc are said to be better on a certain type of fabrics but that need not be the case strictly speaking. You can experiment with the fabric and the stitches you want on them. If you are innovative that will result in a special embroidery work you will cherish for a long time

When you are cutting the fabric for the project, ensure you have enough fabric around the design, atleast 2″ would be ideal

Checkout the post for more details on the different fabrics available for embroidery. 

 How to transfer designs on to the fabric

When I have a design already in a printed book, the best method is to trace it with a tracing paper and then transfer it on to fabric with the help of copying paper. Checkout the 9 best ways of embroidery transfers  and how to do them. 

How to use embroidery thread ?

It is very important that you select the appropriate stitching thread. Threads may be clear soft bright dull transparent. Separate stitches call for particular thread. Embroidery floss is the most popular choice. Pearl cotton is the next best choice for embroidery. It is a thicker thread (almost 2.5 times thicker than a single embroidery floss) and has a nice sheen – best for some types of embroidery like french knots.

Use a silk-wool combination thread when you want really smooth work. Silk, cotton, cotton-wrapped synthetic are the obvious choices of embroidery thread for smooth work. Avoid nylon mono filament thread as it is too stiff. It may damage delicate fabrics.

One important tip for selecting the best embroidery thread which will result in a great looking finished project is buy your embroidery floss for a particular project from the same manufacturer to ensure consistency in the colors and thickness. 

Depending on the thickness you want for your project and the effect you want to produce you can choose the number of strands you want. The six strands twisted together in the embroidery floss may be used together at once or used as one thread singly or in groups of two three or four. When separating out the embroidery strands, keep the bunch of six embroidery thread in one hand and pull out, one by one, the strands you need.

Another method to separate the floss is to first cut the length you want and then by holding one end tight and keeping them in place with a tape or a knot, separate the strands with a needle. More the number of strands thicker and bulkier the stitch

Usually 2-3 strands are used on even weave fabrics like cotton, poplin, rayon, but if you want to sew on very fine fabrics like silk better to use just one strand. Needle painting with a beautiful painting like effect is made with just a single strand of embroidery thread.6 strands are usually reserved for denim, canvas, felt and other thick fabrics

Checkout the post on Different types (12 ) of Hand embroidery threads and 12 types of Metallic threads.

How to choose the right embroidery needle ?

Choose Tapestry needle for embroidering on loose weave fabrics. For hand embroidery crewel needles are the best as it has long eye to take more than one thread of stranded cotton silk or wool.For stranded cotton embroidery number 9 and 10 is the best crewel needle. 

  • Use small needles for stitching on thin delicate clothes. Large needles leave large holes. But beware that small needles have small holes and sometimes have difficulty in passing through the fabric.

When using the needle always hold the needle perpendicular (at right angles) to the fabric, taking one stitch at a time, This is the best way to prevent splitting the yarns while stitching.

  • Never use blunt or rusty needle. 
  • Round eye needle is the best for making french knots and bullion stitch.
  • Higher the number of the needle finer will be the needle. 

Generally, we use No. 7 embroidery needles for two strands of cotton embroidery floss, No. 6 for 3 strands and No. 5 for 6 strands.

Checkout the detailed post on the 14 different types of hand embroidery sewing needles and on threading the sewing needle easily. 

How do I prepare my fabric for embroidery?

Nothing can be more frustrating for you than to realize when you are half way through your project that the fabric you have chosen has started to come apart due to your fault – not preparing it properly for the project. 

  • PREWASH OR NOT – Consider the use to which the item you are embroidering will be put to. If it is a bag or a purse you will not have to prewash the fabric before starting the project. But if the item is going to be washed multiple times like a little kid’s dress, you had better pre-wash the fabric according to the specified care instructions to test for shrinkage and colour fastness.The rinsing will remove unwanted sizing. Take care not to use any fabric softeners on the cloth.  
  • IRON – Press the fabric while it is a little damp so that you get a wrinkle free cloth to embroider on. When you are ironing make sure that the  ironing board cover or iron is free of any dirt . If you suspect there is dirt keep a clean cloth to iron on top. You can also spray a little starch to stiffen the cloth slightly. This is an optional step if you are not using interfacing. 
  • INTERFACING – Professionals fuse a light interfacing to the back of the fabric; This will give loose weave fabrics the needed strength preventing any fraying.  There will also be less coloring of loose threads showing to the front side of the cloth.Always choose interfacing which is lighter than the fabric
  • NEATEN EDGES -To prevent the raw edges fraying while stitching the embroidery, neaten all the edges of your work with a machine zigzag or overcasting stitch. You could also serge the edges if you have a serger. Alternatively you can hand stitch the edges with a whip stitch. Some use tape to seal the edges but this is slightly risky as the glue may discolour the fabric. Using fray check is also a quick fix option

How to use frames in my embroidery?

A frame is used to keep the work flat and even. There are two types of frames used in embroidery work. Round frames and square frames

Round frame is typically an embroidery ring which is mostly used in small works. The ring consists of two wooden or metal rings fitted closely together with a screw so that the fabric is stretched tightly. The rings are available in different sizes. Any weight of fabric can be used with these rings as they are adjustable. The warp an weft threads of the fabric must be straight on the ring. 

How to place fabric on embroidery hoop ? Place your fabric over the smaller hoop, then push the larger, or top, hoop down around the bottom one. This sandwiches your fabric and holds it taught. Tighten the nut as you pull the fabric to straighten it. You may have to adjust the fabric and nut as you embroider to maintain the tightness of the fabric.

After the fabric is mounted on the ring do not try to tighten the screw or pull the fabric down too harshly ; this may cause tear in the fabric. 

A square or rectangular frame is used to mount large pieces of fabric

Checkout this post on Hoops and other 4 methods to stretch fabric for more details. 

How do I care for my embroidery?

Fabrics can weaken and dyes of threads used fade over time. Fabric is perishable and you want your project to be a keepsake. Taking proper care of the fruit of your hardwork and love is the only option for you if you want to maintain the embroidery you have done so painstakingly in pristine condition.

When you store your project which is soiled the major threat to its life are insects. Protect your stitching from insects (moths and silverfish) by not storing it when it is soiled and by using natural repellents. These include camphor, cedar or lavender. Take care not to allow the repellent to come into contact with the embroidered piece.

Avoid storing your project in plastic bags. The harmful chemical released by the plastic will harm the embroidery threads. Also the moisture condensed in side the plastic bag will result in unattractive mildew spots.
Also do not use newspaper to wrap your embroidery project as this may decompose overtime and stain. Clean cotton sheets can be used to wrap the project

Cloth bags made from calico are ideal for storage. Keep your embroidery rolled onto a cardboard tube if storing for long periods of time. Cover the tube with acid-free tissue paper. Roll the embroidery onto the tube with the right side facing out and place it in a cloth bag or roll in another piece of fabric.

Do not use soaps with hard water to clean your embroidered project as the resulting scum will make an unattractive coating on your work. Use very mild neutral detergents. Never agitate the cloth when washing your embroidered cloth as it will weaken the embroidery stitches. Remove all detergent with several rinses. Also do not dry the project in a tumble dryer.

It is better not to hang your embroidered cloth. Your embroidered project is better stored flat without too much weight stored above it. 

Light, particularly direct sunlight, can damage your embroidery by fading both fabric and threads. Try not to place items in direct sunlight or strong artificial light. Checkout the post on handwashing clothes and care for delicate clothes which apply to embroidered clothes as well

Where to find designs for embroidery work

Designs are everywhere. Checkout this post on designing embroidery – the 10 easy sources for making your own embroidery designs ;   How to design a cross stitch pattern ; How to design letters for embroidery

How to choose the best colour combinations for my work?

Embroidery is a creative work. Most of the designs are inspired by nature and incorporate colour combinations we see there. It is our visual perception and personal preference that decides what colour we choose.Check out this post on different color combinations for a guide on how to mix and match different colours for your work

How do I learn the basic embroidery stitches?

Checkout this post on the different embroidery stitches – it is a work in progress. But most of the basic and important embroidery stitches are covered. 

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19 thoughts on “How to learn Embroidery – 10 FAQ answered.”

  1. I just decided to makeover my new printed silk shorts because I washed it and the pink flowers bled. I embroidered it with French knots clumsily while trying to mask the bleeds. I don’t know there are stabiliser and other tools I can use.. I hope it will look ok while I try out your tutorial on other stitches. Thank you for the guide.

  2. I am so glad I came across your site and the way you explained the step for step embroidery was great I kept reading it all the way through because you explained it in the ways and words that someone like myself can understand for I am a newbie and I am very interested in learning the art of embroidery and the way you explained it kept me reading to the end, I have come across other sites that tried to explain how to do it but I became bored and because I could not understand what they were saying I just clicked off just shortly after I started reading what they had to say, if I don’t understand I’m not going to keep reading however your site was entirely different you worded everything better and I was able to understand and was interested which kept me reading to the end so now I’m going to try my hand at embroidery which I have been wanting to learn for a very long time . I’m well aware of the fact that I’m not going to be a pro but with a lot of practice, I’ll be good enough to be able to teach my grandchildren the how to’s of embroidery the same as you taught me. I should tell you that I will be a constant follower of your site so keep up the great work because there is and always will be people like me that want to learn and there is no better way or at least for me no better way than your way. So thank you again from a person that still has a lot to learn and willing to give something new a try.

    1. Hi Sharon
      This is high praise indeed. I just read this out to my daughter feeling a little bit ( no, a lot) inflated in the head. Thank you for the encouraging words

    1. Hi Mary
      Not necessary – but even for the most natural of all embroidery – needle painting you outline with a split stitch – because this gives us a limit as to how much the stitch should go- in needle painting we sew over the outline so that outline is not visible – you can try that.

  3. This site is amazing! It’s so informative and detailed. You can totally become a professional sewist through it. I am so glad I discovered it and really excited to try out some of your tips.

  4. Sandra Millward

    What a wonderful, informative site this is. Congratulations. I have been sewing and embroidering for years (self-taught). This has been so informative. I have learned for the first time how to embroider flowers (made up my own stitches). I am so excited to try out the new skills.

  5. Engracia Negrete

    I can’t understant why my hand embroidery finished product looks all pucker. I have looked in all these articles about hand embroidery and cannot find a recommendation of any sort. Could you please advise.

    1. Hi Engracia
      My work is also never perfect but some suggestions
      Do you hoop the area?
      always iron the wrinkles out of the embroidery area
      Maybe the cloth is very thin and you need some stability in the area – place some thin interfacing on the back
      Use only two or three strands of embroidery floss on the needle total and take small stitches – big satin stitches will pucker

  6. hi, thank you so much dear for sharing your precious knowledge with us. its really helpful interesting and easy.thanks again 🙂

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