How To Start Embroidery Part Two – Beginner Embroidery Tips

Beginner Embroidery Tips

In the second part of this ‘How to Start Embroidery’ series I’m sharing some general beginner embroidery tips. Putting these into practice will get your project off to a flying start and transition you from beginner to embroidery ninja. For tips about how to prep fabric, thread and more, read on.

Beginner embroidery tips about fabric

First stop on this tour of beginner embroidery tips is fabric. Choosing the right base to work onto will have a big impact on the quality of your work. You’ll get great results with some fabrics, whilst others can prove a total disaster. A closely woven fabric in a medium or light weight is the best choice. In other words, avoid anything you can see holes of daylight through and go for cotton, linen or calico instead. It’s better to avoid stretchy fabrics altogether as they will pull your stitches out of shape. Please don’t use polyester. Polyester is just downright nasty.

Although it’s better to avoid a fabric that’s very thick or heavy, hand embroidery does need a stable base to work onto. Invest in some iron-on vilene in a light weight. You’ll find a dry glue on one side, which is activated by heat, and in particular steam, from an iron. The other side is plain and will give a bit of structure to your fabric. Make sure when you come to use the iron that you have the glue side face down on the wrong side of your fabric. I have ended up with vilene stuck fast to the iron, rather than my fabric, more times than I want to remember.

fabrics for embroidery

Beginner embroidery tips about threads

Embroidery thread, or floss, is made of six strands and embroidering with all six together will make for a bulky finish. I split my thread to three strands or less depending on how fine I’d like the finished effect to be. Alternatively you can cut a length of thread and then pull out the strands one by one until you have what you need.

Buying a multi-coloured thread collection is a great idea for a beginner to start their own stash too. Metallic threads are also available, but can be tricky to work with. By far my favourite brand is DMC who also have their own blog full of inspiring ideas and embroidery projects.

Beginner embroidery tips about tools

You can read all about the best bits of kit to buy in last week’s post. Tools for embroidery are cheap and easy to find and having the right kit will make a huge difference to your work. Best results are with an embroidery hoop, fabric pulled taut. I always go for a wooden hoop with a little metal screw you can tighten up, rather than a plastic frame. At the very least if you set yourself up with a hoop, threads, a base fabric and a sharp pair of small scissors you’ll be good to get sewing.

A word about needles

As for needles, there are loads of different sorts around and it can make life confusing. Concentrate on getting a ‘crewel’ needle which has a longer eye, making it easier to thread.

Crewel needles are graded in size by numbers 1-10. The finer needles have a higher number and the thicker ones a lower number. If you opt for a number 9 or 10 which is quite fine, this will suit most basic embroidery stitches.

The right needle really depends on what your base cloth is. If you choose a needle that’s too thick it will leave a hole in the fabric as you pull it through. On the other hand if your needle is too fine for a heavy cloth you can end up snapping it as you work. Choose a number 9 or 10 to get started – then experiment!

Beginner Embroidery Tips About Transferring Your Pattern

Forget what you might have heard about using a light box to transfer your embroidery pattern because I’m guessing you don’t have one. I’m pretty sure you have a window though.

Once your embroidery design is on paper, it can be taped to a window with the fabric taped on top. I really recommend taping them both to stop any movement, rather than just trying to hold everything in place while you draw your design over. You can find all sorts of lovely washi tape on Etsy. 

Hands down my best tool to trace the design off is an air erasable pen. It’s pure magic. You can trace over the design and then the ink will just fade away, usually between 24-48 hours later. Make sure the embroidery gets done before the fading happens though!

I love these pens. Cheap to buy, last for ages and unlike pencil, which can transfer onto your thread as you sew and turn it grey, no mess at all.

Following these tips should get you off to a great start with your embroidery and if you need a little bit of eye candy embroidery inspiration, just check out this Pinterest board!


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