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Crafting with Needles: A Guide to Beginning Embroidery

  • 11 min read
Colourful embroidery on dark fabric (Photo credit: Nathana Rebouças via Unsplash)
Colourful embroidery on dark fabric (Photo credit: Nathana Rebouças via Unsplash)

Embroidery is a captivating craft that allows you to create beautiful, intricate designs using needle and thread. Beginning embroidery doesn't need to be complicated; it just requires patience and practice. Don't be intimidated by the beautiful embroidery designs you see because it's actually an easy and inexpensive hobby that anyone can try!

Whether you're looking for a creative outlet, a new hobby, or a way to personalize your belongings, embroidery is an excellent choice. So, if you'd like to learn how to do embroidery, but haven't had any experience in this craft before, this article may be just what you need. Additionally, if you're trying to introduce someone else to embroidery, this simple guide is great for making sure they get started right away.

Read on if you’re interested in getting started on embroidery!

Introduction to Needlecraft: What is Embroidery?

The art of embroidery involves using various stitches to create patterns and designs on fabric. Many people think the word "embroider" comes from the French word "to stitch". Although it might not seem like much, embroidery is an intricate craft that requires a lot of skill and attention to detail to master. It takes time to learn, especially if you are a beginner, but once you've got the hang of it, there are so many different things you can make!

Embroidery on a blanket (Photo credit: Sharon Waldron via Unsplash)
Embroidery on a blanket (Photo credit: Sharon Waldron via Unsplash)

Embroidery is also known as needlework and sometimes tapestry. You'll often hear these terms being used interchangeably, but they each have slightly different meanings. Tapestry refers more specifically to woven fabric, while needlework means stitching on fabric using needles. Tapestry is typically done on looms. Needlework is generally done by hand, using thread and needles.

Embroidery provides a canvas for your creativity, enabling you to personalize and embellish various items, such as clothing, home decor items, and accessories, and even create standalone artwork. It's a craft that welcomes continuous learning and growth and offers benefits for mental health. Engaging in embroidery can promote mindfulness, allowing you to focus on the rhythmic motion of the needle and the beauty that emerges with each stitch. It offers a break from the fast-paced world, providing a peaceful and fulfilling escape.

Needlecrafts: The Difference Between Embroidery and Cross-Stitch

There are two basic types of embroidery: cross-stitch and surface embroidery.

Cross-stitch is a form of embroidery that uses X-shaped stitches to create a design on fabric. To create a cross-stitch design, an embroiderer typically uses a piece of even-weave or adia fabric, which has a grid of evenly spaced holes or threads. The design is charted on a pattern, usually with symbols representing different embroidery floss or thread colours.

Cross-stitched image of a woman (Photo by Olga Kalinina on Unsplash)
Cross-stitched image of a woman (Photo by Olga Kalinina on Unsplash)

Surface embroidery, on the other hand, involves sewing over the top of existing fabrics, such as t-shirts, pillowcases, bedsheets, and even curtains. This embroidery technique gives the stitcher freedom and creativity in stitch selection, enabling embroiderers to create textured effects, fill areas, and add details using different stitch combinations.

You don't necessarily have to buy expensive materials when beginning embroidery. In fact, you could start with some scrap material from around the house, including old clothes, tablecloths, towels, blankets, and sheets. However, if you want to take this craft seriously, continue reading and we will guide you in your journey into the world of embroidery art.

What Materials Do I Need for Embroidery?

Before diving into the world of embroidery, it's important to familiarize yourself with some essential terms and basic materials. You have to learn about what to do with embroidery fabrics, threads, hoops, needles, and other necessary tools. Understanding these basics will help you make informed decisions when selecting materials for your projects.

Floral embroidery (Photo Credit: Gio Gix via Unsplash)
Floral embroidery (Photo Credit: Gio Gix via Unsplash)

To begin your embroidery journey, you'll need a few essential supplies. Here's a list of items you should have on hand:

#1 - Fabrics

Fabric is one of the most important parts of embroidery. There are three main types of fabrics used in embroidery: cotton, linen, and silk. For your first project, you may use ITO embroidery fabrics or linen Evenweave fabric.

#2 - Thread or Embroidery Floss

Thread is another essential part of embroidery because it holds all the pieces together. You can choose between several different types of threads, including cotton, silk, polyester, nylon, and rayon. DMC is a brand that's easy to find, super affordable, and of good quality. As a beginner getting started on embroidery, choosing the right thread for your project is key!

#3 - Embroidery Needles

There are multiple options for embroidery needles out there. You'll need any needle with an eye big enough to thread embroidering floss through. If you want to use an easy method, then choosing a pack of different sizes labelled for embroidery would be best. PRYM needles are a good choice as they come in various sizes and styles. You can choose from rounded or blunt tips.

#4 - Embroidery Hoop or Frame

An embroidery hoop is used to hold the fabric taut while you stitch. It is available in different shapes and sizes. For your first try, you would likely only need a basic wooden hoop. DMC offers square, triangle, and oval-shaped embroidery hoops. You may also use Omanik Factory’s Quantum frames, which provide sturdy and strong tension on your embroidery surface.

#5 - Scissors

You can use any kind of scissors for embroidery. The easiest option would be to use what you already have. Just be sure they are sharp and can cut threads cleanly to avoid frayed ends. If you think you'll be doing embroidery long-term, you may want to invest in a good pair of embroidery scissors for precise cutting.

#6 - Beads

It's not a necessity, but beading is a fun way to add extra details to your projects. You can use glass, plastic, wood, stone, or even gold beads. There are plenty of tutorial videos online that will teach you how to embroider with beads!

Types of Threads Explained

One of the important steps, when you are beginning embroidery is knowing what options you have for embroidery threads. The types of thread you select affect the appearance of your stitches and determine the durability and overall quality of your embroidery.

Cotton thread is a popular choice for embroidery, especially for beginners who are just getting started on embroidery. It comes in both white and coloured varieties and works well for beginners. Silk thread is extremely smooth and soft, making it ideal for delicate designs. Nylon thread is strong and durable and has a nice sheen. Rayon thread is usually sold as "artificial" rather than "natural," but it does work well for embroidery. A polyester thread is great for fast projects, as it doesn't stretch much.

There is a wide variety of embroidery threads in the market today, but let's narrow it down to the best ones. Here are the best embroidery thread recommendations from Thread Collective:

Stranded cotton (DMC)

Cotton Six Stranded Embroidery Floss by DMC
DMC Cotton Threads

Made from premium-quality Egyptian cotton, DMC's stranded cotton thread is considered the standard thread for embroidery. It is a durable thread that features a nice shine, lovely drape, and comes in many colours and blends well with other threads. The stranded cotton threads by DMC are colourfast to 95° C, which means the colours do not fade easily even with frequent washing and can withstand high temperatures. Their double mercerised finish makes the threads shiny and perfect for embroidery and cross-stitch projects.

Perle cotton (Venne 20/2)

Mercerised Egyptian Cotton - Ne 20/2 (NM34/2) - Thread Collective Australia
Venne Perle Cotton

The Venne 20/2 Perle cotton is a suitable thread for embroidery that offers luxurious lustre and a beautiful sheen. This versatile material is often used for bobbin lace projects, embroideries, and topstitching in quilting. Made from long-staple Egyptian cotton and dyed in the Netherlands, these threads feature a rich colour finish reminiscent of silk yarn.

Wool (Venne Merino)

Venne Merino Yarns - Thread Collective Australia
Venne Merino Laceweight Yarn

The Merino wool laceweight yarn from Venne is a soft thread that feels great against the skin. Wool threads tend to hold their shape better than cotton and are great for adding texture to your embroidery.

Silk (ITO & Venne)

Nui Spun Silk Thread - ITO Yarns
ITO Nui Silk Threads

Silk threads are extremely smooth and luxurious. They are perfect for embellishing fine fabrics, such as velvet and silk. If you're looking for something really special, this is a perfect choice. Silk threads also come in many beautiful shades and are very popular among professional embroiderers due to the high price tag. Thread Collective offers silk threads from Venne and ITO.

We highly recommend ITO Iki and ITO Nui silk threads for your silk embroidery projects.

Other Types of Embroidery Threads

As you expand your needlecraft skills, you will also be exploring a wider variety of materials. There are other types of embroidery threads that would offer a touch of uniqueness to your project. These are the following:

Variegated Threads

Venne Variegated Threads for Embroidery
Venne Variegated Cotton

Variegated threads have multi-coloured dye patterns throughout. They may be composed of a palette of contrasting colours or colours that are similar yet have minute variances. Sometimes, variegated threads can also go from lighter to darker shades. A couple of variegated threads we recommend are Venne Variegated Cotton and DMC Cotton Coloris.

Metallic Threads

Venne metallic yarns in different colours - Thread Collective Australia
Venne Metallic Threads

Looking to add some shimmer to your embroidery? Venne metallic yarn is ideal for machine and hand sewing as well as embroidery projects. These are great to use with dark-coloured fabric as a background.

Glow in the Dark Threads

Glow in the Dark Threads
Thread Collective Glow-in-the-dark Threads

These are translucent by day and "glow" in the dark at night. Glow-in-the-dark threadsare a great way to make your embroidery and needlework crafts more exciting!

Fabrics for Embroidery

Thread or embroidery floss often gets the spotlight when it comes to embroidery craft, but the embroidery fabric to which the threads are stitched is just as important to your project output.

Embroidering on fabric
Embroidering on fabric (Photo credit: Annie Spratt via Unsplash)

The appropriate background fabric will equally support and showcase your beautiful stitching. However, if you use the wrong type of fabric, there's a big chance that you will stretch or distort your embroidery design in the process, leaving hours of hard work to go to waste.

Choosing the right fabric for your first embroidery project can seem like a daunting task at first. But once you get started, you'll soon see the benefits of having chosen the perfect material. Here are some suggestions to help you pick the best fabric for your first project.

How to Choose Your First Piece of Fabric for Embroidery

Choosing fabric is one of the biggest decisions you'll face while learning embroidery. Explore different fabric weaves and textures to find one that suits your desired embroidery style. Plain weaves are excellent for beginner projects as they have an even surface. As you gain experience, you can explore a wider range of fabrics and experiment with different textures and colours.

When deciding on fabric, consider the following factors:

  • Weight:How heavy is the fabric? Heavy fabrics will require more stitches per inch, which means longer sewing times. Lightweight fabrics, however, will take less time to sew.
  • Texture:Does the fabric feel rough or smooth? Rough fabrics are easier to work with because they don't snag easily. Smooth fabrics, however, are harder to stitch into.
  • Colour:What colour is the fabric? Colours range from light to dark, depending on how much ink was used when printing. Darker colours are easier to see against a background. Lighter colours are easier to blend with other colours.
  • Pattern:Are there any patterns printed on the fabric? Patterns are helpful for creating designs. They are especially useful for adding texture to your project.
  • Fabric Type:Is the fabric woven or knit? Woven fabrics are generally thicker than knits. Knits are thinner and softer.
  • Fabric Care:Do I want my finished product to last? If yes, choose a fabric that won't fade quickly. If not, go with something that will withstand repeated laundering.

Embroidery Fabric Recommendations

Choosing the right fabric for your embroidery project is crucial for achieving the desired results. Opt for a fabric that is suitable for embroidery and can withstand the stitching process. Avoid slippery or stretchy fabrics, as they can be challenging to work with.

Here are our embroidery fabric recommendations:

ITO Embroidery Fabrics

ITO F210 Cotton 210gsm Embroidery Fabric in various colours
ITO F210 Cotton Embroidery Fabric

Japanese brand ITO offers embroidery cotton fabric with a semi-solid base that gives it a textured and rustic look. It is available in more than 30 beautiful colours.

Zweigart Evenweave Fabrics

Zweigert Aida 18ct easy count cross stitching fabric - Thread Collective Australia
Zweigart Evenweave Easy Count Grid Fabric

Evenweave fabrics are counted fabrics that have been designed to make stitching easier. Some of these feature water-soluble lines that are marked on the fabric every 10 stitches. This helps reduce mistakes by allowing you to quickly refer back to the nearest grid line. Don't worry, these lines can be easily washed after you've finished your embroidery projects. Evenweave fabrics are suited for most embroidery techniques.

Additional Tools and Accessories for Embroidery

Aside from the essentials, some additional tools and accessories can elevate your stitching experience. Equip yourself with these essential tools and accessories, and watch your embroidery projects flourish with creativity and finesse. Let's discuss a range of additional tools and accessories that can enhance your embroidery projects and make your stitching journey more efficient and even more enjoyable.

Lowery Workstands

Embroidery made easy with Lowery workstands - Thread Collective Australia
A person doing embroidery on a Lowery Embroidery Workstand

The Lowery complete work stands are all-purpose craft stands that you can use for both embroidery and frame loom weaving. It will hold your embroidery hoop or frame loom in your desired position, making the process more convenient for you.

Magnifying Lights

Omega 5 Craft Light with adjustable brightness levels - Thread Collective Australia
Daylight Company Magnifying Light

Magnifying lights help you see your workspace better, especially when you are working in a room that doesn't get enough natural light. These are available in different lens sizes and have multiple brightness settings that will suit your working environment. Daylight Company magnifying lights feature spring arms that let you achieve accurate positioning and a clamp base that securely attaches the light to a tabletop or desk.

Quantum Frame Bars and Rods

QH-Bars v.22 by Omanik Factory
Omanik Factory Quantum Frame for Embroidery

Quantum frames from Omanik Factory provide drum-tight tension for your needlework. If you have a quantum frame or you are planning to purchase one, you may also consider buying accessories for it, such as a q snap module or vertical spacer.

To create a complete quantum frame set, you would need to select your desired rod and bar length. Quantum frame bars and rods are interchangeable to customise your frame, depending on what suits your project.

"The Intentional Thread"

The Intentional Thread: A Guide to Drawing, Gesture, and Color in Stitch
Cover image of “The Intentional Thread” by Susan Brandeis

The Intentional Thread is a book by Susan Brandeis that will show you how to translate your creative ideas with thread. This book comes with more than 350 colour photographs and projects to encourage you to develop your own unique approach to stitching. You’ll learn all things embroidery, including how to tie off embroidery, how to know embroidery thread, and many more.

In addition to helping students learn new skills, this book includes tips for professionals who want to improve their craft. Start by taking an intentional journey through skills building, and then start stitching purposefully and expressing yourself creatively.

What is the Best Way to Begin Embroidery?

Embarking on simple projects is a great way to build your embroidery skills. Start with small, uncomplicated designs like flowers, leaves, or basic monograms. You can find free patterns online or in embroidery books. Choose projects that align with your skill level, allowing you to practice and gain confidence. Don't get discouraged if your stitches aren't perfect at first. With time and persistence, your skills will improve. Take breaks when needed and celebrate your progress along the way.

As you continue your embroidery journey, there are numerous resources available to help you expand your knowledge and skills. You can join embroidery forums, follow experienced embroiderers on social media platforms, watch embroidery tutorial videos, and attend embroidery workshops or classes. Learning from others and seeking inspiration will definitely enhance your creativity and broaden your horizons.

Learning Embroidery is Fun and Productive!

If you're looking for a fun way to express yourself while learning new skills, embroidery is perfect for you. Whether you're a beginner or an advanced stitcher, there's always something new to try. You'll find that embroidery is a great hobby because it's so versatile; you can stitch almost anything, whether it's clothing, home decor, gifts, or even art pieces. And best of all, embroidery is a skill that anyone can master.

Feel free to browse Thread Collective and choose from our wide range of embroidery and needlecraft supplies. From needles and threads to guide books and workstand accessories, we’ve got it all for you!

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