Hand Embroidery Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Embroidery Frequently Asked Questions

How to start hand embroidery. Answers to frequently asked questions for beginners.

One of my favorite ways to while away a quiet hour or two is with an embroidery project in my hands, and an audiobook in my earbuds.  I also love to stitch away while my husband and I watch an episode of our latest Netflix show in the evenings.  It’s a great way to unwind and make something beautiful in the process!
Designing embroidery pieces brings me such joy.  It’s like drawing with thread; the colors build and the beautiful pattern emerges, over hours and days and maybe weeks.  I sell patterns and kits in my Etsy shop.

Thanks to Covid-19, and social distancing, a lot of us have more time to stitch lately (or work on other projects we’ve been meaning to get to for a long time!) so I wanted to answer some Frequently Asked Questions here.

I’ll be sharing more in depth posts about transferring patterns, how to set up your hoop, the supplies you need to start embroidering and more over the next little while.

I receive lots of questions about embroidery, and I will attempt to answer the most common questions here.

What fabric do you use for embroidery?

Really you can stitch on anything.  Usually I tend to use linen in white, cream or light tan or a muslin in the same colors.  Every once in a while, I’ll do a piece on a different color background, but generally my style is to stick with the more neutral colors.

Where do you buy embroidery hoops?

I have found embroidery hoops many different places: thrift stores (just make sure the closures work before you buy them!), amazon, all the major craft stores have a variety of sizes and shapes (don’t forget to use a coupon!), and as gifts from my grandmothers or other people who no longer use them.
I prefer to use wooden and bamboo hoops, but plastic works well, too.  Basically as long as the hoop keeps your fabric nice and tight, it doesn’t really matter what it’s made out of.

What needles should I use for hand embroidery?

This is really a matter of personal preference.  Any needle will work, but different styles and brands may feel more comfortable to different people.  Personally, I don’t like a needle that’s too thin.  I find that with just a little bit of use I tend to bend those needles a bit (I don’t know my own stitching strength, I guess).  The needles only bend a small amount so they are still usable, but they just feel weird to me and I don’t like it. 

I also prefer a smaller eye and  a sharp, but not too sharp tip. DMC brand needles are great, as are Clover brand.  I’d recommend that you start with one of those two.  If you find you don’t like how they feel, try another option.  Luckily needles are pretty cheap so it won’t cost you more than a few dollars to experiment a little.

How to transfer hand embroidery patterns onto fabric:

My favorite way to transfer a pattern is with a product called Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy. That’s quite the mouthful! But the product itself is pretty cool.  Here’s how it works:
  • Print the pattern directly on the Fabri-Solvy (you could choose from my extensive list of PDF patterns here).  
  • Set up your hoop with fabric
  • Peel the sticky backing off the Fabri-Solvy
  • Place the pattern on your fabric and press down to secure it in place
  • Stitch the pattern (through both the fabric and the Fabri-Solvy)
  • When you’re done stitching, rinse the project in water and the Fabri-Solvy will dissolve, leaving your beautiful stitching in place. 
Another option is to use a water soluble pen and a light box.  I used this method for years! My husband made me a light box (he’s pretty amazing!), but something like this would work well also.  
  • print out pattern and tape it onto the lightbox (I usually use washi tape)
  • Lay fabric on top (be sure it is wrinkle-free and dry)
  • Trace the pattern onto the fabric using the water soluble pen
  • Place fabric in the hoop
  • Start stitching!
  • When the piece is finished, rinse off the pen with water by either spraying with a squirt bottle or run your embroidery quickly under water from a faucet, making sure all of the water soluble pen is removed.  Set aside to dry.  
  • Finish in your desired method and then display!

Here is a video showing how to transfer your patterns, using both Fabri-Solvy and a water soluable pen with an Ipad as your lightbox!

I’ve never had embroidery thread bleed when I apply water.  You may wish to do a test run first so you don’t ruin your embroidery project.  I know DMC brand thread does not run.


Hand Embroidery Tips:

Double Fabric Layer
I like to use a double layer of fabric to stitch on because I find that the finished piece both feels and looks better when I do so.  It adds a little extra stability to the piece and helps it look nicer in the end. Usually I use some inexpensive muslin as the backing fabric. 
  •  cut a piece of muslin about the same size as the main fabric
  • Layer them together, with muslin on the bottom
  • sandwich them together into the hoop, making sure there are no wrinkles/bumps in the fabric underneath
This is, of course, not necessary but I find it to be very pleasant to work with and I love the result in the finished piece.

How to finish and display finished embroidery pieces:

I love the trend of displaying pieces right in the embroidery hoop.  Usually frames are square or rectangular so it’s fun to have something hanging on the wall that’s round. It draws the eye and and adds interest to a gallery wall. I have a full wall of finished pieces that I’ve designed and I love how they look together.
Another option is to frame your embroidery in a more traditional way.  Cut a stiff piece of cardboard to the right size to fit in your frame and use it as a backing to wrap the embroidery piece around.  You can hold it in place with tape, stitches or glue.
Then slip it into your frame and hang! I prefer to use frames without glass, but that is a personal preference. You do what you love!

Do you have any other questions for me?

Find my embroidery patterns and kits here

1 thought on “Hand Embroidery Frequently Asked Questions

    • Author gravatar

      I have a couple of questions if I may. First, should I wash my piece when it’s finished to remove under lying pattern. How best to do that? And second, the back of my work is so messy. How best to avoid that. Thank you, Ellen Driscoll em_driscoll@ yahoo.com.

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