Providing the right embroidery tools for every job can make a world of difference. The beginner and the experienced embroiderer both need dependable tools to complete a variety of embroidery activities. Like the tools for any hobby, embroidery materials range from basic to specialized. The embroidery enthusiast will find there are a few essential tools and thereafter, add-ons to those basics as your knowledge and experience grows.
Embroidery Tools & Materials Tutorial
Basic Hand Embroidery Tools
Here are the basic 5 embroidery tools you will need to start. In the next section, I have outlined all the extras you will slowly need to accumulate. Many of the ones in the second section you may have already.
1. Embroidery Needles
You can’t sew without needles, and having the right needle for the right job is very important. There are three basic needles used for embroidery tools and they come in different sizes. The three main needles are crewel, tapestry and milliner needles.
- Crewel needles have a short sharp tip. The eye of the needle is medium to long and the eye is slightly bigger than the shaft. The crewel needles come in sizes from 1 – 12 with 1 being the largest and 12 the smallest size. These are the most common needles used for embroidery. Buy a packet with assorted sizes to suit different projects.
- Tapestry needles have a shorter shaft and a longer eye. The tip of the tapestry needle is blunt or rounded. This enables the needle to pass through the fabric without snagging. Tapestry needles come in sizes from 13 – 28 with 13 being the smallest.
- Milliner’s needles have short sharp eyes useful for stitches that are wrapped such as French Knots. Milliner needles are also known as straw needles. The eye and the shaft are the same sizes. This makes the milliner needle perfect for wrap-around stitches like bullion and French knots.
2. Embroidery Hoops
Next on the list of essential tools are hoops and frames. Made of wood, bamboo, or plastic, they hold the fabric taught while the embroidery is being stitched. They help keep the tension of the fabric and the stitches taut.
Hand embroidery hoops are round or oval, while machine embroidery hoops can be square.
- MATERIALS - Plastic and wood are perfect for beginners, while brass versions of hoops are available for the more experienced seamstress. I prefer the wood hoops as the plastic ones I have don't hold the fabric as tightly. If you purchase plastic, get good quality hard plastic.
- SIZES - Buy a few sizes for different projects keeping in mind that you can always move smaller hoops around for larger items. I have a couple of larger hoops that I rarely use as I prefer the way smaller hoops are easier to handle.
3. Embroidery Scissors
Another essential basic tool is a small sharp pair of scissors. Embroidery scissors differ from normal scissors because they are smaller and more pointed. They have smaller sharper blades that enable them to cut close to the threads.
Many of them have storks and designs but a plain pair will do the job just as well. If you have ever watched any of my Youtube videos, you will recognize the gold stork pair below.
The fine work involved in embroidery requires good lighting. This can be in the form of a really good spot by the window or a proper lamp. Magnifying lamps are a great asset for really fine work.
If you don't have a lighting budget then remember sunlight is free and far stronger than any of these lamps. I do use a magnifying lamp occasionally when I need a section to be especially perfect but couldn't do a whole project under a magnifier. I think you would go cross-eyed.
5. Embroidery Floss and Thread
There is a wide variety of choices to make when it comes to embroidery thread. Select the type most suited to your project and your fabric. There is floss, cotton, wool and metallics there's to choose from. Make sure the thread is durable and washable.
Cheaper craft threads should only be used for projects which won't need to be washed. You will also find that some cheaper threads are more likely to tangle and knot. DMC is a brand known for good quality embroidery floss. To keep costs down I usually use a mixture of cheaper and more expensive brands. Most of my embroidery doesn't need to be washed.
Embroidery floss usually comes in 6 strands that you can unwind and pull apart for finer embroideries. You would need to be very patient to do 1 strand embroidery. Most people tend to use 3-6 strands.
6. Best Fabric for Embroidery
Once you have all the tools in place there needs to be a suitable fabric to place your design on and get to work. There is a wide range of fabrics available and it is important to choose the correct fabric to suit the type of stitches you plan to use. For example, cross stitch needs a canvas-type fabric with evenly spaced holes to sew between.
Common Fabrics Include
Most embroidery fabrics tend to be white or cream but there is nothing stopping you from using hot pink linen if that takes your fancy. Embroidery doesn't need to look old-fashioned or boring.
Extra Embroidery Tools
The items listed under this section are all the extra bits and pieces you will use when embroidering. Some are free, some are optional and others you will have already in your sewing kit. Try to make do with what you have and slowly build up your embroidery tools kit.
7. Organizational Tools
It is important to have a good container or organizer for all the threads and pieces of equipment used in embroidery especially the multiple threads.
The number of threads grows rapidly as the enthusiast adds to the range of colors. Being able to organize them in a proper container makes all the difference. Mine are currently stored in a zip lock bag which I can't say I recommend but my house is filled with so many sewing storage bins already. If you are going to be embroidering regularly then organize your threads.
8. Measuring Tools for Embroidery
You don't need as many measuring tools for embroidery as for other forms of sewing. A simple clear plastic ruler can be useful as well as a tape measure and measuring instruments like a set square and a compass. If you need to draw grids, smaller quilting rulers can be used.
9. Needle Threader
A needle threader is a very useful gadget for threading difficult threads through the eye of a needle. These often come free in packs of assorted sharps needles so check your sewing supplies before you go out and purchase one.
Needle threaders have silver round heads that look like a coin. These simple cheap ones work just as well as more expensive versions. If you have never used a needle threader before you are in for a treat! Read my article on how to use a needle threader.
It is good to get used to wearing a thimble to keep fingertips safe and prevent blood spots on the fabric. Plastic and rubber thimbles are more comfortable for longer periods of sewing. I always find it hard to keep the metal ones on. Although not as common, leather thimbles will also protect your fingers and mold to shape with repeated use.
Further Reading: What is a Thimble?
11. Tracing Embroidery Tools
There are many options to trace or transfer the embroidery pattern onto your fabric. Tracing paper, tracing wheels, transfers, lightboxes, water-soluble pens, and iron-on transfers are different options to try out and find the one best suited to you.
If you are looking for a free option, use a brightly lit window. Hold the paper with the pattern up or tape it in place on the glass. Then hold the fabric over the paper and start tracing. If the design is intricate you may get a sore arm after a while but this is an effective and free transfer method. When you have finished you can skip arm day at the gym!
Further Reading: Embroidery Transfer
12. Marking Tools for Embroidery
Water-soluble pencils, tailor's chalk, pens, and fabric drawing inks are different options for the drawing of the pattern. Where the outlines of the pattern will be hidden by the stitching, I often use a sharp HB (lead) pencil. It gives a nice clean line.
Always test your marking tools method in case it doesn't come off when the item is washed or stains the fabrics. Stay clear of time or heat-sensitive marking pens since embroidery takes some time and the marking may disappear before you have finished.
13. Embroidery Pins
Top-quality stainless steel pins with no rust are important, and of course, a pin cushion to store them.
Further Reading: Types of Pins for Sewing
14. Seam Ripper
It is a good idea to have a seam ripper. They make unpicking so much easier in the event of making a mistake. Removing hand stitches and embroidery is much easier than machine stitching. Many times you can just gently pull the thread back through the fabric.
Further Reading: How to Use a Seam Ripper
Tweezers with slanted edges are a very useful tool for removing thread remains after unpicking.
16. Pinking shears
Pinking shears are a useful but not essential tool to keep the edges of your work from fraying while you are creating the design. Keeping the edges of the fabric neat and trim helps with the finishing off at the end of the project.
Pinking shears can be expensive so if you don't already have some then just cut the fabric larger than you need to allow for some fraying of the edges. This is what I usually do. You can also zig-zag or serger edges to prevent fraying.
Some beeswax to coat your thread prevents tangling. This is not an essential item, but if you are working on a lengthy project, beeswax to coat your threads would make tangled threads less of a problem. Make sure the residue left by the beeswax will not affect your design.
18. Pressing Embroidery Tools
Pressing your work regularly is an important part of keeping the stitching flat and not puckering. Many fabrics become wrinkled from the overhandling during embroidery or from the edges of the embroidery hoop.
Be careful with using steam in case any of the colors of the threads run on the fabric. Red always seems to be the one color most likely to run.
Softer delicate fabrics are easier to work with if they have a backing. Thin interfacing or special soluble interfacing is often used with embroidery.
Embroidery Tools - In Conclusion
So now you have some great ideas for the embroidery tools to keep in your sewing kit. Many of these, you may have already, saving money on setting up your new toolkit. Enjoy learning how to embroider and your new hobby.
Take a look at some of the links below to start learning some new stitches. If you are not sure what stitch to start with, try the basic stitch article, which gives an overview of many of the stitches.
MORE EMBROIDERY ARTICLES
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Cross Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- How to Embroider
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- French Knots
- Hand Embroidery Stitches
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Running Stitch
- Sashiko Embroidery
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch | Embroidery Tutorial
- Whip Stitch
- Embroidery Leaves
- Embroidery Flowers
- How to Transfer Embroidery
- Embroidery Letters
- Embroidery Tools