Tips, Tricks & Resources
an aspiring fibre artist,
are curious about where I get my supplies,
are interested in some tips and tricks,
or all of the above, this page is for you!
First of all, I'm so excited you're interested in embroidery. It's a lost art, and is rarely done by hand, for pleasure.
Most of the embroidery done on clothing and home goods these days is made using a machine that is pre-programmed with a design. Which is totally cool, but we love to see some hand-embroidered garments and art. There's something extra special about pieces that have undergone a tedious transformation, by someone who is 100% invested in both process and result.
With all of that that being said, you don't need anything fancy to start. You got a cheap sewing kit? A needle? Some fabric? A stiff piece of cardboard and a stapler? An "I'm ready to not take myself too seriously" attitude? You're good.
But, if you're like, "I need the down low, some recommendations, some advice on where to start." ... I got you.
How do I embroider without a hoop?
Not going to lie, this won't give you the best result, but it will get you started and give you an idea of what the process is. It's great for practicing.
Take some stiff cardboard, cut it into a frame (pizza boxes work well for this!). Try not to bend it in any way! Then, take some fabric (see fabric suggestions and tips below) and staple it around the frame. Work in the following sequence to keep the fabric taut:
Then, staple the rest of the fabric down in no particular order so it's tight.
You're good to go! Embroider your little heart out, then when you're done, remove the stapes and trim the fabric to fit a frame of your choosing.
I wouldn't recommend embroidering without something to hold the fabric straight and tight, as you run the risk of things not turning out properly, especially if there are straight lines involved. It's also like......... really hard.
Can I use regular thread to embroider?
Of course! The thinner the thread, the more detail you can get. The only drawback is that it will take you longer to fill in a design or make a bold line. This is great to use if you want to try out some embroidery, but I would recommend beginners to source embroidery floss, which can enable the work to come together faster and isn't so tedious.
If you want to use regular thread, you can always double up the thickness by taking a super long strand, threading it through your needle and making a knot where the two ends meet so your needle sits in the middle. This will make your lines thicker! The same concept can be used to make 4x thickness by taking two long strands and threading them through at the same time.
You can embroider on anything. Straight up. Embroidery is great for personalizing clothing, bags, hats, shoes, etc. I up-cycle almost all of my fabric.
BUT! There are fabrics that are more superior than others. Here's what to go for if you're a beginner:
- Stay away from elasticity. If you pull the fabric and it stretches... it'll be a no.
- Thick fabric with a lower thread count (this will make it easier to see where you're putting your needle, almost like a grid)
- I like to thrift curtains! You get SO much fabric for your money and curtains are normally made from thick, non-stretchy material.
- If you're buying new, look for canvas or muslin
Embroidery Floss, what's the deal?
Embroidery floss is magic because there are THOUSANDS of colours to choose from, and unlike using regular thread, it comes as 6 strands, combined. Which means that you can split this thread to get up to 1/6th of the thickness for finer detail. It's so versatile!
When you're splitting thread, start at one end, and *SLOWLY* pull the strands apart. I like to use1/3 thickness for most of my work (2 strands).
Seems like I'll need a good way to store my floss.
Yep! Nothing fancy to see here. Use clothespins. Put one end of your thread into the closing side of the pin, then wrap the rest of the thread around the entire thing. Then, clip the end into the closing side as well. If you use DMC or another brand that keeps track of their shades like they're GD'd Pantone, you can write the colour number on the open side with a sharpie. Voila!
Is it necessary to use different types of stitches and techniques?
I don't think so, but it's a cool way to level up your skills once you're used to the most basic stitches.
Basically, I consider embroidery not unlike painting or drawing with thread. If you make marks that get you closer to portraying your vision, you're on the right track.
BUT, if you want to see what's out there, here are a couple of great videos:
French Knot (this helped me a lot)
You can basically learn everything you need to know from YouTube, which will also help support makers who earn money from tutorials. Go get 'em!
I need links. Give me the links.
Okay okay okay, here are links to everything I use:
Unstained bamboo, off of Amazon. I hate using Amazon, but as I sell my art, this helps keep cost down. The quality is always pretty good.
Oh boy, are tiny scissors are a game changer! They're sharp and can get into tight spaces. If you spend money on one supply (other than hoops) this is it, folx. Also, don't get these.
DMC, from Michael's. In the past I have used dollar store brands, and once ordered a pack from Amazon, but have gotten to the point where I want to re-purchase colours in the exact shade I want. DMC numbers all of their colours so it's easy to do this. I'd recommend purchasing in-store instead of online to see the colours in person. They have SO MANY OPTIONS!
Again, from Michael's. I use this because I spend a lot of time embroidering and it holds my hoop steady for me. It was especially amazing when my left wrist started to hurt when holding a hoop for many hours.
Pilot Frixion Pen is great for drawing out designs onto your fabric, provided it's not too dark. This pen disappears with friction, as in, heat. Which means if you simply iron or steam your fabric after embroidering, it will disappear! It's THE BEST. I've bought it from both Michael's and Amazon, but the link is for Michael's. Avoid Amazon where you can, am I right?
Alright, if you really want to get fancy, or you're bad at threading ye auld sewing needles, you can go for some actual embroidery needles. I mean, this pack is $3 so it's not like you shouldn't, but I don't find needles make a huge difference for me, as long as I can get my thread through them. You may have a different opinion! It is fun to buy supplies, after all.
Here's a little something I put together for Pokoloko's Self-Care challenge week, but anyone is free to use it if you need a reference photo!
Do you have a specific question about something I haven't covered here?
Definitely send me a message via IG or using my contact form here on the site. I love talking creativity, embroidery, and art in general, so don't hesitate to reach out!