about shop patterns projects printables extras sponsorship wild olive twitter flickr pinterest subscribe

embroidery basics: materials


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:
Hoops
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):
Fabric I like to stitch on...
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.
Fabric I like to stitch on...
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.
Fabric I like to stitch on...
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.
Fabric I like to stitch on...
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.
Fabric I like to stitch on...
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?

Needles
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!
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?
Floss
But the basic floss isn't your only option. Other varieties aren't always as easy to find, but they are available.
Floss
On the left is flower thread, which compared to the regular six strand floss, is quite thin. It does not separate into strands.
Pearl Cotton
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!)

42 comments:

  1. Spring tension hoop is a new information for me. I have recently started doing embroidery. Thanks for sharing this information, Olive.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely, wonderful and super informative post, Mollie! More informative than books I've read on the subject.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I always embroider on whatever I happen to have, and I thought this was wrong--I'm glad to know there's no right or wrong when choosing fabric!

    I am so excited about this series!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This was very informative. I've embroidered on tea towels...I bought them from the store (not sure what kind of fabric they were). I've also embroidered A LOT on canvas tote bags. I've been wanting to make my own cloth napkins and embroider something cute on the corners. I'll let you know when I try out the different fabrics. Thanks Mollie!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is really fantastic for beginners like me! I had a hard time finding fabric that works well for me (and feels good in my hands while stitching) and what you posted here is really nicely done. Can't wait for next Thurs!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post! I recently put 5 nails into my wall to hang current things I am working on, that and your fabulous blog keep me going! well, and good music too :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mollie, this is such a great idea and a really great start to what I'm sure will be an amazing series of posts! I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us :D

    ReplyDelete
  8. A great start to the series!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You're making this sound easy enough for even me to do it! Can't wait to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I recently bought the Clover hoop and love it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great supplies/fabric overview!
    I've been hand embroidering for a while & currently
    out of towthanks was not about
    to miss this (thanks to modern technology). ;-)

    Wondering if there will be a special
    set of patterns on your shop for this
    tutorial series?

    ReplyDelete
  12. There won't be patterns in the shop that are specific to this, but there will be some freebie patterns here on the blog!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Awesome! Thanks so much!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [11 Mar 12:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

    ReplyDelete
  15. So glad you are doing this series! I twitted about it - not sure if it'll bring any more over to the dark side, but I figured I'd tempt them :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'll definitely be coming back to this post - very useful! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you and love the material cheat sheet!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for all the wonderful info.....love reading your blog - your designs are terrific. Thanks again for your generosity. Peace.....

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous10:16 AM

    Thank You so much, great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Even better than I expected :)

    Question: Have you had any issues with thread bleeding? If my question is jumping the gun and you'll cover this later in 'dos and don'ts' or 'how to clean your project', just tell me to hold my horses. I'll be reading every entry and can wait for my answer if I gotta. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. rilojane: I don't do a lot of projects that get washed, so I'm not the best person to answer this. DMC floss is supposed to be colorfast though, so I would guess that it wouldn't be an issue.

    Anyone else have thread bleeding advice?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Fabulous! I believe I have all {or at least most} of this on hand... :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you for this post, it is so wonderful to be led through the very first steps. Wishing you a lovely weekend :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dude! Thanks, Mollie. :) I'm self-taught (or internet taught?) - lol - so you've even taught me some things! Yay! I had no idea what a spring hoop was! and I found the *best* plastic embroidery hoops at the thrift store a few months back - they hold even large areas of fabric at a constant awesome tension, they trump every new hoop I've ever tried! :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. As someone that has worked with embroidery since childhood I pretty much self taught myself. I think it's great that you are creating this.

    I highly suggest to anyone to go to thrift stores. I find a lot of hoops, unfinished projects, and fabric to work with.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you for the a perfect guide! The pdf download is a wonderful idea :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. You did an excellent job with the basics. I have embroidering for years but still I learned from your post. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Bleeding advice: sometimes comes from cheaper brands - I haven't had any problems with DMC and Anchor. If you're not sure, or you want to guard against bleeding you can soak your floss in some slightly warm water with some vinegar to hold the colour. (This is also where you'll find out if the floss releases colour) After rinsing in the vinegar water, lay on some paper towel to dry, being careful not to tangle the floss.

    ReplyDelete
  29. wow! I accidentally find this blog, and I love it, love your tutorial
    thanks a lot, it made me really want to try making embroidery again :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. I am so glad you are doing these tutorials! I have recently been very inspired by you and several other blogs that I have been reading recently. I can't wait to learn more and get doing crafty things myself!

    ReplyDelete
  31. awesome! I've linked to this post on my blog.
    http://jolifetoday.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/10-bits-of-awesomeness-diy-wishlist/

    ReplyDelete
  32. May I suggest this needle threader. It is awesome with the pearl cotton thread. http://www.joann.com/needle-threader-for-large-eye-needles/prd11074/
    Thanks for all your tips. About to teach the back stitch, running stitch, and whip stitch to some 10 year old girls.

    ReplyDelete
  33. This is great - I've been to many "how to" sites but this is the first one that mentions the various fabrics to use. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sarah H10:10 AM

    A friend gave me a spring tension hoop and I LOVE IT!!!! It really is fabulous, and for all you gals out there who don't yet have one I would recommend you get one. You won't be sorry. Thank you Mollie for doing these tutorials!
    In Christ,
    Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  35. hi mollie!!! we love your site!! a perfect example of how the art of embroidery can bring joy to people!!!!! why dont you join us on my blogspot http://embroiderymaterial.blogspot.in/ and maybe we'll find something in common? also do visit our website http://embroiderymaterial.com/ to find a plethora of lovelies!!!!!! yayyy!!! looking fwd to hearing more from you!!!

    ReplyDelete
  36. wow! I have to tell you I am like your biggest fan right now lol I've been looking for fabrics where to embroider, and your post came along searching your site, thank you so much! I know Jesus put you in my path :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! I'm so glad to be of help. And I do believe He did cross our paths, which makes me even more glad!

      Delete
  37. Thanks for all your wonderful information. I am sort of a beginner...did this on my clothes when I was a teen-ager so I feel like I am just starting ; )

    ReplyDelete
  38. Do quilting cottons come in different weights? I'm having issues with puckering using the prepackaged fat quarter I picked up recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It definitely does come in different weights, and often (though not always) the price of the fabric will give some idea for the quality. You can help prevent that puckering by ironing interfacing to the back of the fabric. I just wrote about that over here:

      http://embroidery.about.com/od/Embroidery-Tools_Supplies/fl/Using-Stabilizer-when-You-Embroider.htm

      Delete
  39. Hi there. I'm not very good at all this computer stuff, but I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your descriptions and personal comments both in your (blog?) and your replies to your peeps. I'm new to embroidery and just learned some interesting and useful tips from you. I sure hope this msg gets to you, and I really hope I can figure out how to get back to your "website?". Just in case I can't THANKS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you! If you want to make sure you never miss a new post from me, you can subscribe to receive posts by email. Over in the side bar on the right, just above the section labeled "friends & faves" look for the "follow by email" box and sign up!

      Delete

I often reply to comments in the comments...check back if you have a question!