Wow! It's here! The official start of the Embroidery Basics series. I want to start by saying that all of my embroidery knowledge comes from family, reading tutorials, and lots of practice and experience. Because of this, I don't always know the "proper" way of doing things. Instead, I know what works for me. Hopefully, these things will work for you too!
The first few posts in this series will be on getting started, and the first thing you need are materials. One of the things I love most about embroidery is that the materials are inexpensive and easily accessible. For less than $10 you can get everything you need and then some.
First, you'll want a hoop. Not all stitching or fabrics will require a hoop, but most do, so it's a good thing to have. The smaller the hoop, the easier it is to maintain a nice tension. Too small, however, and your stitching will get caught in the hoop. Not the happiest thing. Here's what I use:
The traditional, cheap wood hoop is my go-to. You can afford to have a couple sizes on hand, and painted (or not), they make a nice frame for your work.
Vintage hoops can be hit or miss. I have some that are sooo nice to stitch in. They hold better than new ones...but others no longer seem to have the right tension. Still, they make your finished work look fantastic.
A tiny spring tension hoop is my favorite for working small. This hoop works by squeezing the metal piece, then releasing it inside the plastic track. I have a larger one, but it sometimes distorts the weave of the fabric, and loosens easily.
Other hoop options include plastic versions of the wood hoops(like Susan Bates or Clover) or Q-Snap.
The most common question that I am asked about embroidery is what kind of fabric do I use. See? Even little Olive is asking!
The simple answer to this question is anything. I'll use any fabric or non-fabric that I can get a hole through for stitching. But that doesn't really help, so here are the fabrics that I use most regularly (you can click each of the images to get a larger view):
Osnaburg. This is 100% cotton, but looks very much like linen. There are different colors available, and the open weave works well for embroidery with all six strands of floss. This and this were stitched on osnaburg.
Weaver's Cloth. This is a cotton/poly blend, and a slightly tighter weave than the Osnaburg. It's lightweight, and easy to stitch on. This guy was embroidered on the weaver's cloth.
Canvas. 100% cotton, and really heavy. I use a lightweight canvas, but it's still much thicker than other fabrics. It can be a little more difficult to hoop, but it still works. I also like adding felt applique to canvas. You can see some examples on canvas here and here.
Quilting Cotton. Usually 100% cotton, this fabric has the most options. Seriously there is an endless supply of colors and prints to stitch on. It does, however, have a tight weave, which can make stitching a little more work. Quilting cotton (or something really close) was used for this and this.
Felt. There are many types of felt, but most of my stitching happens on wool/rayon blend. The polyester kind is much more difficult to work on, which is why the stability of wool makes me happy. Plus it just feels lovely. These guys are one of my favorite examples of embroidery on felt.
Sometimes I also use muslin, or broadcloth, or many others. The biggest thing for me is that I don't want to spend a ton of material (which is why I don't use real linen). I buy all of my fabric at my local JoAnn, or sometimes Hobby Lobby. I have never ordered online, so I don't have good resources for that. If you are in Canada or overseas and have resources for this, would you be so kind as to leave a comment?
Do you know how difficult it is to photograph needles without a macro lens? Very.
DMC recently posted about different kinds of needles...the sizes, the types, the whys for each kind. I wish I had read this when I started embroidery, but I learned by what worked, and what felt right.
There are two basic needle types: Ballpoint (left) and Sharps (right).
Ballpoint. These needles, often called cross-stitch needles, are fairly dull and they work best on fabrics with a more open weave. The don't damage the fibers (or your fingers!) as they pass through the fabric. I use these on the osnaburg and weaver's cloth.
Sharps. Often labeled as embroidery needles, they are sharp, and far more likely to draw blood. For fabrics with a tight weave, they do a fine job of creating a hole for your floss to go through. I use them for canvas, quilting cotton, and felt.
The size of the needle should be proportionate to the size of the floss you are using. Thicker floss=thicker needle. Essentially the needle is paving the way for your floss to glide through, and it can make all the difference for how well a length of floss holds up.
Now, the best part...embroidery floss!
I'm a traditional girl, and I love basic DMC floss. (Yes, they did sponsor a class I taught last year, but I was devoted to them long before that.) There are many brands out there and they are just fine. But I do love DMC.
I don't love the packs of craft floss that you get a bargain on. They don't have the same sheen as more "expensive" floss, and they pill faster. Splurge on some 39 cent floss, okay?
But the basic floss isn't your only option. Other varieties aren't always as easy to find, but they are available.
On the left is flower thread, which compared to the regular six strand floss, is quite thin. It does not separate into strands.
And here is some pearl cotton. Again, this doesn't separate into strands, but as you can see, it comes in different thicknesses. (Anchor brand? How did that get in there?) I'm still in the early stages of working with pearl cotton.
I'm lucky enough to have a specialty needlework shop nearby, but if you do a Google search for these different kinds of floss, you can find lots of online shops.
There are lots of other tools and materials that you can use, but these are the things that are most essential. They are what will get you started and keep you stitching for a long time!
Did you make it through all that? I hope so! There may be a lot of options, but I promise you, this can be as simple as grabbing a hoop, some fabric, a needle and floss. Seriously!
Mommarock had the lovely idea of having each of these Embroidery Basics posts be available for download and printing, and I couldn't pass it up. Each post will be condensed into a PDF with the photos and the important information. It is set up so you can print the pages, and even punch them for in a notebook.
(It's sort of like a materials cheat sheet!)