Saturday, January 18, 2014

Witchy Stitches: Supplies You’ll Need to Hand Embroider


Well hello there, my Witchie Poos! You’re joining me for the first installment of my Hand Embroidery tutorials, the most important one… Erm… One of the most important ones? The supplies you’ll need!

First off: Patience. Granted, I don’t have a lot of it, but you’re gonna need some. I tend to get in a zone when I embroider so my low patience level tends to raise up pretty high. But I tell you what… Sometimes I hit a snag, or a knot and I just wanna snap. That’s when I’ve learned to lay it down or in lost cases I give it to my mom to clear up the knot issue.

Second: Hoops. I find it darned near impossible to do any kind of stitch work without a hoop. Maybe that’s why I don’t like hand piecing quilts. I just can’t get my hands to work with the fabric unless I have it in a hoop. The size of hoop you use depends on your project. If you have a relatively big project, you might want to consider a bigger hoop. But by no means does that mean that you have to use a big hoop for a big project. Sometimes it’s easier to use a smaller hoop on a bigger pattern and just move it around accordingly. The only drawback to that is that you will have to iron out your design when you’re done and if you have any complicated stitches, the hoop might distort them. I had that problem with one of my sisters’ projects. It squished out my satin stitching and didn’t ruin it, but made it look bad.

There’s TONS of different hoops; different shapes and different sizes.


There are round ones, which are my hoop of choice. As you see there’s four different sizes of hoops from teeny tiny to pretty good size. I think it’s a 10” diameter circle if I’m not mistaken. You can get these hoops at any crafts store like Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Joanne’s, Hancock Fabrics etc. Even my local Walmart sells them now- which is awesome, especially when you think you’ve lost your favorite hoop and you need to replace it but can’t go the extra 45 miles it takes to get to the closest Hobby Lobby. Then you find it after you purchase a new one… Oops.


These are oblong hoops. While the smaller ones are ok, this bigger one is the bane of my existence. It is huge and bulky and heavy and cumbersome. But it works the best for this large family “crossword” piece I designed for my mom. Bigger is not always better, trust me. The smaller oblong ones work well for like sceneries and other longer projects. Would work great for a TARDIS… Hmmm…

No matter what hoop you use, you want to make sure that your fabric is big enough to span the entire hoop with a bit left over. Assure yourself on countless occasions that the fabric is taut enough in the hoop by gently pulling on the corners and straightening the fabric out. You’ll also find that you’ll need to tighten the bolt that secures the hoop together from time to time as the more you handle it, the more loose it becomes.

Third: Needles. You want hand embroidery needles. They come in a variety of sizes from relatively short to long with a teeny tiny eye. My favorite is about an inch and a half long and sharp as all get out.


I’ve used it so much that it’s starting to tarnish a bit where I always hold it lol. I’ve tried using others, but this one is always my favorite. You’ll have to try a few out before you find one that really fits.

Next up: Thread.

Ok there’s a ton of different threads out there. From DMC who has pretty much the biggest collection of embroidery floss (or thread) out there; to JP Coats; to Sulky… You could get lost with the different types of thread.

I mainly use DMC (because I just recently found out that Sulky has thread- but I’ll get to that in a second) floss because it’s, in my opinion only, superior to other brands.

At DMC you can get regular floss in a HUGE variety of colors.


As you can see… I have way too much… Plus I have skeins I haven’t wound onto spools yet. It’s a sickness lol.


These are a few of the variations I have. I loooove these. They are soooo pretty to work with especially if you’re doing something like butterflies or flowers.


This is metallic thread… Which… I don’t suggest you try to use… Cause it’s a pain in the butt. I loathe this stuff…


But I got two more spools in gold….

There’s also perle yarn from DMC but I have never used it. It’s more for tapestry or needle punch work. It’s a thicker weight floss and you can’t separate the threads.

In most embroidery you use three strands of floss together for your basic stitches, unless you want a thinner outline or thinner filling stich, then you use either two threads or just one. Embroidery floss is pretty easy to separate. You just start at the top and work your way down.

Next up is one of the most important aspects of your embroidery unless you have sharp, razor-like teeth. Your scissors. I opt for a small, hand-held type scissor, like these:


They’re small, sharp and compact. Plus they’ve been in the family for… Eons? They fit comfortably into my hand and into my kit, so they’re perfect.

One of the most important aspects of embroidery are your patterns. There are NUMEROUS ways to transfer your patterns to your fabric and here are just a few.

Aunt Martha’s Iron on Transfer Patterns have long been the patterns of choice for handiwork. While sometimes it may be hard to find Aunt Martha’s patterns at places, you can buy them online by clicking the previous link. They’re easy to use and they’ve branched out from the cutesie kitschy dog and kitty patterns to more contemporary designs.


The bottom right and left are a subdivision of Aunt Martha’s patterns. They’re really cute and I’ve used them on numerous occasions. I have Aunt Martha’s patterns stashed here and there throughout my house. I just couldn’t find them all for the pictures lol. The middle is one I bought off of Etsy I do believe, purely for the Hedgehog design in it. The top two are patterns for quilting that my mom found in her stash that have embroidery designs in them.


The patterns are printed on (usually) heavy weight paper in a heat transferable ink. All wording is backwards as if it wasn’t, it would transfer backwards on your fabric and ruin your design. Wouldn’t want that, huh?

If you can’t find a pattern like these for an idea you have, there is always alternatives. One of my FAVORITE places to get funky, retro and unique embroidery patterns is Urban Threads. They have both machine and hand embroidery patterns and most of their hand embroidery patterns are just $1. Plus they always have awesome freebies. You download the .pdf and print out. Simple as that.

You can also use coloring pages you can find with a google search. I use those a lot, or I use bits and pieces of more than one to create a completely unique design.

So how do you transfer the pattern from a piece of regular paper to your fabric? Well there’s numerous ways.


You can use a transfer pencil, like this one from Aunt Martha’s. You have to press hard into your paper, and sometimes double or triple up your line. And then you have to spend close to 15 minutes trying to get it to transfer with your iron. Not exactly the most optimal for the busy embroiderer.


This is a quilters marking pen. Used on fabrics, one end (The Disappearing Ink) disappears in the air after awhile. The Mark-B-Gone side disappears with water. I suggest using the Mark-B-Gone side before using the Disappearing Ink unless you’re a super fast embroiderer. These pens are good for hand drawn details.


Lastly you have Iron-On Transfer Pens. These ones are from Sulky and while they’re not completely optimal, they’re probably your best bet. These work wonderfully well (when you get pens that work properly. Be careful of splotches and over-runny ink) if you plan on being extra particular on how much you cover. If you aren’t careful, the lines can bleed out and these pens don’t disappear. I really, really wish they did. But they are not water-disappearing like the red transfer pencil or the Mark-B-Gone pin. But like I said, they work GREAT.

Another important aspect of your embroidery is the fabric you use. You can pretty much embroider on anything and everything. Heavier fabrics work better than others as they don’t tend to separate when you put stitches in them. Lights work better than darks unless you have a chalk pencil to put down your design with.

A lot of times you can find quilt blocks or tea towels that have designs already stamped on them. Some are older, while some are newer more contemporary designs. These are fabulous, especially for the beginner.

You need to have a comfortable place to sit and do your embroidery. I sit in my grandma’s chair as it’s got a high back, relatively high arm rests (but not too high) and it reclines (I have to have my feet up when I’m going to be embroidering for a long time as my legs and ankles will swell). Plus it’s right next to my arm lamp which casts just the right amount of light on the sitiation. Yup I spelled that incorrectly on purpose. lol

So. This is your supply list! Keep your eye out, because sometime next week I’ll have step by step tutorials for your first in the series of stitches!

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