Embroidery School: Lesson 1

As promised, I'm going to talk some more about the technical side of embroidery. Please be aware that I'm a self-taught needle worker. I have no credentials from a prestigious school, but I am an avid reader and researcher (hell, lets just say obsessive). The bits of knowledge that I have picked up over the years has allowed me to create some fun embroidered objects for my home.

Lets start with 3 basic tools:

100% Cotton quilter's fabric, flour sack, muslin, or light linen are great places to start. These more open-weave fabrics accept embroidery stitches with ease. Plus, these fabrics are so versatile. They can be made into wall art, pillow fronts, quilt blocks, clothes, dish towels, etc.

A basic white muslin is the perfect blank canvas.
Denim and wool felt are also fun fabrics to embroider. Their natural stiffness lets you embroider without much danger of puckering.

Check out this wool felt embroidered toddler cape. Those embroidered Hindi deities are most excellent!!
You can spend a lot of money on fabric, or not. Really, it depends on the project you're making. I tend to buy the best I can afford at the time. The way I figure it, you're putting a lot of time into something...why not make it built to last. And if you're planning on embroidering a heavy pattern on a thinner material such as quilter's cotton, you might want to add a stabilizer to prevent puckering. These come with all sorts of options. Tear away, iron-on, water-soluble, etc. I have even backed a piece of quilter's cotton with a thin basic muslin and stitched through both layers. It worked great! But, if you're a beginner you might want to consider simple patterns that don't need stability to start. It will be easier.

A hoop is used to pull you fabric taught so that the tension of your stitches will be uniform. I can't imagine trying to embroider a piece of cotton without a hoop.

Look at the pretty wood hoops!

There are some really beautiful wood hoops out there. Maybe one day I will buy one...or I will continue to use "old trusty" (aka my 7" plastic hoop I've had for the last 20 years). I have no idea where it was purchased (I am guessing a variety store) and I'm sure it was cheap, but I can't justify tossing it. Still a functional item, it holds my work tight through all my crafty adventures.

From what I've read and experienced first hand, the 5" and 7" sizes are the most versatile. As a beginner, investing in one of these sizes will give you the ability to tackle lots of projects.

Some folks like to wrap their smaller, inner hoop with twill tape. This protects the fabric and previous stitches. It is personal preference. And on the subject of protection... never, never, never, leave your work in the hoop when you are not working on it. From my experience, you will get deep creases and crushed stitches. Bad idea.

An embroidery needle is much like a regular hand-sewing needle. The difference is that the eye is a bit larger (to accommodate threading floss) and they are quite sharp. These can be purchased in different thicknesses depending on the floss and fabric you have chosen. It is pretty self-explanatory once you have a pack of them in front of you.

Clover No. 3-9 Gold Eye Embroidery Needles, Pack of 16
A basic pack of embroidery needles.

The type of needlework you are doing will require different sorts of needles. Crewel, tapestry, and embroidery needles are quite specific for their functions. When doing embroidery, you want to choose a needle packaged specifically for that task.

My goal with these posts on the tools and techniques of embroidery is to help take out the mystery of how to get started if you are new to this craft. I truly hope this information is useful. Please feel free to leave a comment or send us an email with questions on these tutorial posts.

Next time, I will discuss floss and design options. Have a great week!

Embroidery Lesson 2 is now available! Click here.



  1. Wow! This is great! The A B C'S, just what I needed to brush up and continue learning. Thanks

  2. Thanks! There is more this week so keep watching!

  3. Thank you for the great tutorial I will be looking forward to your next lesson.

  4. Thanks! Watch for a new post tomorrow..and a new FREE pattern on Monday!