Embroidery is a great way to slow down your sewing practice and focus on the details. Add small embellishments to pockets, shirts and bags or go wild and embroider an entire garment or your fabric prior to construction. The sky’s the limit. You need only a few basic supplies to get started and luckily embroidery supplies tend to be very affordable which makes entry into this craft so accessible.
I’ve added embroidery to quite a few of my makes and have some ambitious plans for the future! Here’s links to some of my favorite projects so far:
- Haslam 1940’s Pajamas with Embroidered Patch Pockets
- 1940’s Haslam Skirt in Cream Upcycled Denim with Embroidered Thorn Pockets
- Vintage Simplicity 5688 Skirt with Embroidered Pockets and Retro Stripe Rib Turtleneck
- Organic Denim Jeans + Embroidery
- Vintage 1950’s Seahorse Embroidered Beach Jacket, McCall 1524
- Indigo Dyed Jeans- Finally Completed!
Getting Started with Embroidery:
NOTIONS & SUPPLIES
I suggest purchasing embroidery scissors or small snips, a simple thimble (metal or silicone- especially useful on heavy weight fabrics like denim). A tape measurer and ruler to place your design evenly. You’ll probably want a seam ripper to remove any mistakes quickly and easily. Graphite/carbon paper or dressmakers transfer paper and tailors chalk/marking pens for transferring designs to your fabric.
Floss comes in many different weights and styles. My favorite is Pearl cotton #5 – it has a nice weight and sheen and gives a denser stitch especially if you don’t separate your strands. You can also find vintage floss, silk, metallics, wool and crewel flosses.
Be sure to match your floss to your project: silk for delicates, cotton for sturdy fabrics
How to separate your floss:
You can use Embroidery + Crewel needles for finer stitches (1-10)
For Pearl cotton I suggest: Chenille: 18-24 or Tapestry 22-26, these needles have a larger eye which makes threading larger threads a breeze.
Hoops come in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes. I generally work within a range of about 3-13 inches in bamboo or beech. I prefer 6-8″ for medium sized designs and a 4” hoop is great for detail work like cuffs and collars. You can also use scroll and stretcher frames for larger projects and purchase stands to hold your projects as you advance in skill.
For a demo on hooping and stabilizing with twill tape be sure to View my You Tube Video Linked Below:
You can use just about any fabric for embroidery- from embroidery Aida cloth to fashion fabrics like silk, wools, cotton and denim. I prefer Natural fabrics because they have a more stable and visible weave which makes it much easier to stitch. I suggest Linen for beginners for just this reason. It’s a joy to stitch and the weave makes getting straight lines super easy.
Because we’re stitching directly on fashion fabric you’re stitches won’t be as perfect as when working on canvas, especially after laundering. Try not worry about imperfections- they’ll never be noticed by anyone but yourself. You may notice a bit of puckering but the only way to avoid that is to never wash your makes. The reason hooped projects look so perfect is because they are stretched and unwashed. So embrace the imperfections and enjoy your creations!
You can experiment with different stabilizers, from sprays and starches to interfacing. Before you start any project be sure wash and dry your fabric and then press. You may also want to finish your edges using pinking shears, a zig zag stitch on your machine or serging. After you’re finished you can use interfacing or add a lining to protect your stitches.
TRANSFER YOUR DESIGN
There are many methods for transferring your design to your fashion fabric. I prefer carbon or graphite paper as its simple to see and stitch on.
- Line up the digital design you’ve printed out over your fabric with a piece of dressmaker’s copy or carbon paper in-between the layers. I suggest working on a flat surface with a bit of padding to protect delicate surfaces.
- Use a sharp pencil or pen to trace the design onto your fabric. Pretest a sample if desired to be sure you’re transfer method will wash out after you’re done.
- Alternatively, you may lay the design under your fabric and use a light box or a bright window to trace the image.
- Transfer pencils can also be used with the reverse design and can then be ironed directly on your fabric with special supplies like Aunt Annie’s transfer paper and pencils.
There are also quite a few wash away stabilizer papers available that can be sent through your printer and applied to your fabric. My favorites are Stick ‘n Stitch by Sulky and Fusible Peel and Stick by Kimberbell- both are stick and peel and wash out with water quite easily. Printworks also has an Iron On product that is super easy to use but does need a bit more laundering to remove.
Demo in YouTube Video linked above
- Prepare hoop by wrapping edges with bias cut fabric/binding to help keep stitching secure.
- Next mount the hoop. Top section (with turn screw) goes on top, fabric in middle, inner hoop on bottom.
- Gently push the fabric from behind into the outer hoop and gently pull until tension is even.
- Tighten screw on top of hoop.
- Knot one end of your thread and pull needle from front to back about an inch from your starting point.
- Start stitching until you reach knot and then snip/cut knot close to fabric.
- Start stitching in the same method as waste knot leaving a long tail when you start.
- After completing front stitches re-thread the tail and weave back into the work on back.
- To stop your stitching you will weave your floss into several stitches on back before trimming.
- A small knot can be used when working on clothing as it will be covered by either lining or interfacing in the projects we’ll be working on.
- When you’re done be sure to trim- weave in your ends as you go to avoid tangles.
- Try to keep the back of your work neat, especially on light colored fabrics where it may show through.
And that’s it. You’re all ready to get started!
Sew Pomona Patterns
If you’d like to try out one of my patterns the image above links directly to my Etsy Shop, Sew Pomona. I designed these patterns to be beginner friendly but practical samplers to teach you some great basic stitches as you create.
Just for you- Use code GETSTARTED for 20% off all patterns in my shop.
Fashion Embroidery Inspiration:
I thought I’d end by sharing some of my favorite fashion embroidery! There’s so much you can create with just a few simple stitches. I do suggest starting small, with samplers (like those offered in my Etsy shop) to learn the basics. There’s a reason that children started learning this way before embarking on more complicated embroideries. I will be offering more advanced patterns in my shop soon as well as Spoonflower designs for allover fabric embellishment. Most complicated looking embroideries are very doable- it’s just a matter of how much time you’re willing to spend. Fashion embroidery isn’t usually overly complicated, just time consuming.
Check out my Pinterest board and get inspired!
I hope this tutorial get’s you started on a fabulous new hobby! Happy Sewing!