Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hand Embroidery Tips

The first thing I embroidered was about 11 years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby. I bought a couple oneies and a few different colors of floss and stitched some little motifs to decorate the oneies with. I didn't have anyone to show me how, I had just seen finished products and figured it out from that. I didn't use a stabilizer or even a hoop to help me. They turned out cute though and we were such poor college students that really it was all I could afford to do for my little ones wardrobe.
Since then I've stitched so many embroidery projects I really have no idea where they all are or how many I've even done. It's a lot.
I've learned a couple things in the past 11 years about embroidery, but it's such a simple craft that you can grab a few onesies, floss and a needle to make something very sweet and memorable. There are a few things I would suggest you use though...

1. Erasable pens. My first projects were drawn with pencil. Soon after I started using water soluble markers that disappear when you get them wet. They are fine and work well, but I LOVE the Frixion Pens! They erase with heat, like the heat of your iron, not water, so you don't have to get your project wet.

2. Hoops. My favorite hoop to use is the Susan Bates Hoop-la Hoops. They are durable and have a little lip that helps to keep you fabric nice and tight while you are working.

3. Floss Storage. I use mostly DMC floss. But I have used Weeks Dye Works, Gentle Art, Valdani, and Cosmo floss. I still like DMC best. I can't help but love the price, as well as the huge color selection. As you collect floss you have to keep it organized or it will get EVERYWHERE. It unravels and tangles and makes a huge mess. My favorite way to organize my floss is in a handy little clear tackle box I bought in the sporting goods section. I take a stack of my husbands business cards, cut them in half, right the name (number) of the floss on the card and wrap it around that. You can buy special cards for wrapping you floss around. They are cheap and keep your floss very neat. But I prefer free and old business cards work for me.

4. My last tip for you is to stitch through 2 layers of fabric instead of one. Or a lot of people like to stitch through a layer of fabric with quilt batting behind it. The batting gives it a cute puckered quilted look. If I'm not going for that look I'll just double up my piece of fabric and stitch through that. By doing this it not only hides all your nasty knots and tangles on the back (which are pretty inevitable) so you are unable to see those through your fabric (with just one layer you can often see a dark thread show through to the front) but it looks much nicer, cleaner and more professional. I highly recommend it.

Just a couple other reminders would be...
-Apply a stabilizer to the back of knit fabrics before you embroider.
-Smaller lengths of floss will make for less knots in your floss. Even though you'll have to re thread your needle more often it's less of a pain than picking out a knot every other stitch.
-Get a tiny, sharp pair of scissor to keep in you storage box. You'll have everything you need right there with you always.
-I wish I would have put a lock on my floss box the day my babies decided to get into my newly purchased, newly organized for that special project floss and string it through the house. Just a thought if your kids are still little :)


  1. Hi Nancy:

    I learned to embroider as a Girl Scout. We used thick yarn on heavy, coarse burlap. I think it was more like crewel work.

    I like free cards too. You can even cut a wide notch into each side of the card, like the retail floss cards.

    Your tip re: using shorter lengths of thread is a good one. I hate those kinks, and I hate re-threading. Just choose the lesser of two evils, lol.

  2. I think its a very interesting tips and helpful for beginners.
    Hand Embroidery

  3. I have been embroidering for a long time, 50 years of so. About 15 years ago I spent the money for a Plano tackle box that had 3 large removeable containers, that holds all my DMC floss. It also has storage in the top. They now have a bigger, soft sided box with 4 removeable boxes and side storage as well as on top. As you try new threads and acquire more floss, you might want to try looking in the fishing department for storage options. I don't know if they still make them, but there used to be a kind of scissor called "Lift and Snip" that had a little sharpened hook cut into the tip of the blade. They are wonderful for Frogging (ripping stitches out). I love the fact that younger women are learning how fun embroidery and sewing can be. Best wishes in your journey.

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