Tomorrow, I’m teaching someone to embroider.
Now, you might think I’m a little off my nut. You might think that I teach people to embroider all the time. But in fact, I don’t. I used to, when I had space. But I don’t have space, and my dream of a dedicated studio where I can teach locally is yet a distance away.
But I have a friend who wants to learn to embroider. She is desperate for a hobby – something to provide her with a creative outlet at the end of a long day’s work.
I said, “You need to learn to embroider.”
She said, “Can you teach me?”
And I said, “Sure!”
In putting together notes on what to cover, I came up with a list of a list of 8 worthwhile topics to discuss with a beginner.
I thought I would share those with you today and provide you with links to further information on the topics, just in case you’re just starting out with hand embroidery, or you know someone who is and you want to lend a hand.
I’m always one for launching straight into a project, and, with a beginner, I like that project to be something usable. So we’re starting tomorrow with a nice simple design on a hand towel. Nothing elaborate, nothing difficult. Just something to learn several stitches on and to get comfortable with stitching in general.
One of the preliminaries for any beginner is what design to use, but this question of design is so particular, so very personal, that I can’t tell you, “Start with this.” The “this” that I choose might turn you off embroidery entirely.
Before you start to embroider, you have to have an idea of what you want to embroider. Once you’ve answered that, you can move on to other topics that you should know a little bit about.
1. How to Transfer a Design
If you’re not embroidering a kit that’s already set up for you, you’ll definitely need to know how to transfer an embroidery design.
This article covers all kinds of ways to transfer an embroidery design. Take a look at the comments, too! There are plenty of ideas in there from the Needle ‘n Thread community.
2. How to Prepare Floss
With a beginner, I always start with DMC stranded cotton. It’s just a good place to start!
First, you should know what a pull skein is and how to conquer it.
Second, you should know how to strip or separate your floss.
3. Hoops and Frames
I always start beginners with their work in a good hoop. While some teachers really promote plastic hoops with the “lip” on the inside ring (for example, Susan Bates hoops), I don’t normally go that route.
If you want a good, taut fabric surface, with tension maintained through the stitching session, use a good quality wooden hoop with solid brass hardware and with the inner ring bound.
For further reading, here are some articles on hoops and frames:
Binding the Inner Ring of an Embroidery Hoop
How to Set Up an Embroidery Hoop
4. All About Needles
You can’t really embroider without a needle. It is The Essential Tool of the Embroiderer.
This article discusses the needles you need for hand embroidery and what their different functions are.
This article is my case for using chenille needles in lots of embroidery circumstances.
This article provides all kinds of links to other articles about embroidery needles!
5. All About Embroidery Scissors
While not quite as essential as the needle, a good pair of scissors is the embroiderer’s best friend.
I’ve discussed and reviewed lots of embroidery scissors here on Needle ‘n Thread.
Sharp & Small: Scissors for Hand Embroidery is the article that sums up what I like in a good pair of embroidery scissors.
If you’d like to peruse embroidery scissor reviews, you’ll find them here under the tag “needlework tools” – along with reviews of all kinds of embroidery equipment and tools.
6. All About Fabric
Linen is my go-to fabric for most of my embroidery, although I do dabble with other natural fibers as well, such as wool, cotton, and silk.
I don’t mind natural fiber blends, either. But I don’t play around too much with synthetics.
This article, 5 Things You Need to Know About Embroidery Fabric, will provide further reading on the subject.
7. The Embroidery Environment
Everyone’s stitching environment is different. Some might have a whole dedicated room for stitching. Others might have a favorite chair and not much more space than that.
But one thing that every stitching environment needs to ensure success with embroidery is decent lighting. Good lighting not only improves your stitching, but it preserves your eyes. And you can’t really stitch without eyes!
You’ll find lots of articles that include reviews of needlework lights, magnifiers, tools, and other equipment under the tag “Needlework Tools” here on Needle ‘n Thread. Feel free to explore them for ideas and options on lighting!
8. Ten Essential Embroidery Stitches
Finally, there’s the whole question of stitches. What stitches do you really need to learn, to get started with hand embroidery?
Well, there’s no hard and fast rule on that question, but I think these top ten hand embroidery stitches provide an excellent foundation for a successful life as an embroidery addict, even if you never learn any other stitches!
And that, my friends, is enough to provide a good foundation for the beginner. The information above serves as a good springboard, too, for further explorations. But this is certainly enough – and maybe even a little overkill – for getting a person started in embroidery.
But if you have anything you think should be added to the list (or, in fact, anything that should be subtracted from it…) feel free to leave a comment below!
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