One of the things that makes hand embroidery such a good hobby is that it doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment to do. Just a few simple tools and you are ready to go.
There are many different types of embroidery, but the basic tools are the same. Get good quality and they will last beyond your lifetime.
Hoop or frame
When you embroider, you need to keep the proper tension in your stitches. If they are too tight, the fabric will pull. If they are too loose, they will get caught on things.
A hoop or frame is the solution. It will hold your fabric taut while you stitch.
Hoops are round, with two parts. The inner circle goes under your fabric. The outer circle has an opening with a screw to adjust it. It goes snugly over the inner circle to hold the fabric.
There are lots of inexpensive hoops available at hobby stores. These are fine for beginners. You can even embroidery in the hoop and then use the same hoop to frame your finished embroidery.
When you start doing more complex embroidery projects, you might want to get a good quality large hoop or frame.
A scroll frame holds the ends of the fabric, and you roll it on bars to expose the part of the design you are working on. Some attach to stands so that you can have both hands free to stitch.
If you are working on a very large project, be sure not to leave the fabric in the hoop for a long time, as it can mark or distort it.
You will probably want two pairs of scissors.
One large pair of fabric scissors to cut fabric. If you also do sewing, you probably have these already. If you don’t sew, a medium sized pair (8”) is probably good enough.
A pair of small sharp scissors for cutting threads is also important. Get one with a pointed tip. The classic “stork” scissors are still popular because of their size and shape.
You will develop am attachment to your favourite scissors. You might want a fob on them if you go to classes or workshops so someone else doesn’t take them by accident.
For new embroiderers, the selection of needles can be overwhelming. There are many different types and sizes.
Luckily, once you are over the initial shock, it is not too difficult to figure out what you need. Often needles are labelled by their purpose. eg. “cross stitch needle”
As a rule of thumb, if you are doing surface embroidery that pierces the fabric like crewel or freestyle, you need a needle with a sharp point.
If you are doing counted thread embroidery where the needle goes between the threads of the fabric (cross stitch, hardanger, tapestry) then you need a needle with a dull point.
The size of the needle should match the thread and fabric of the project. Make sure the eye of the needle is large enough to hold all the threads easily, but doesn’t create a big hole in the fabric.
You can usually get needle packages with a couple of different sizes.
Usually you will want a needle with a long eye. Hand sewing needles like sharps or betweens won’t hold the embroidery thread or might cause it to fray.
Often you will need to mark the fabric as guides for stitching. There are many options for this, so here are a few things to consider.
Will the mark be totally covered by stitching?
If so, then it doesn’t need to come out. A pencil or fine permanent marker is good. Be careful with non-permanent marker because they might run if it gets wet.
If you need the marks to come out, then the best options are chalk or disappearing marker. Be sure to test on your fabric first.
Another fun option is using transfers. You can get iron-on transfers with embroidery designs or buy projects with the design already on it. Be sure to follow all the instructions carefully. If it is a kits and you want lines to come out, test a tiny spot first to see how well they come out. If it doesn’t come out entirely, then you will know to have heavier stitching to cover it.
Welcome to a hobby that will last the rest of your life.
Elizabeth DeCroos is the designer and teacher at Epida Studio. She loves to work in quilting, pojagi and embroidery and teach these techniques to others.
Learn more and get her to speak to your group.