Embroidery Basics: 7 Essential Supplies

If you are just getting started in machine embroidery, check out this “must have” list. You will of course also need an embroidery machine and the hoop(s) that came with it!


1) Stabilizer

  • You should have at least one cut-away, one tear-away, and one wash-away stabilizer, plus a water-soluble topping.

embroidery stabilizers

  • The topping is used over napped fabrics and items like towels to keep the stitches from sinking into the fabric pile. There is a HUGE difference in the appearance of designs stitched with or without!

embroidery on towels

For more information on stabilizers and which ones to use for different projects, click HERE to download a FREE All About Stabilizers e-book.

2) Temporary Adhesive Spray

  • Adherethe stabilizer to the wrong side of the fabric with temporary adhesive spray to help keep the layers from shifting during the embroidery process.
  • Spray one side of the stabilizer with the temporary adhesive spray and apply it to the wrong side of the fabric. Hoop the two layers as one unit.
  • If you are using two layers of stabilizer, adhere the two layers together first, then apply to the fabric.
  • Use an empty box as a “spray station” to help keep the spray from getting your table sticky.

temporary adhesive spray

3) Needles

  • Organ Embroidery Needles are my favorite – most often a size 80. An embroidery needle’s eye is one size larger than the shaft of a needle, i.e. a size 80 embroidery needle has an eye the same size as a regular size 90 needle. That extra room keeps the thread from fraying when you are embroidering at such high speeds.
  • Choose the needle size according to the type of fabric you are embroidering on, just as you would for regular sewing. The lighter the fabric, the smaller the needle. The heavier the fabric, the larger the needle.
  • Use a regular needle for wovens. Choose a ballpoint needle for knits.
  • Titanium needles cost more, but last 5 times longer. They also help to repel the gumminess that can appear on needles when using sticky-backed stabilizer.

embroidery needles

4) Embroidery Thread

  • Embroidery thread is typically a 40 wt thread. This is a thicker thread than regular sewing thread and gives more coverage.
  • My favorite is Isacord Polyester Embroidery Thread. It comes in lots of colors and is a trilobal thread – a term that means the strands of thread have three sides. That gives the thread more reflective surfaces so the thread shines almost as well as rayon.
  • Isacord Polyester thread is wonderful for use on things that must be laundered often, or for things that will need bleaching, because the thread color will not fade.
  • Rayon thread has a very high shine and is very beautiful. But expect more thread breakage during the embroidery process. Rayon thread is not as durable and is not bleach resistant.

isacord embroidery thread

5) Bobbin Thread

  • The bobbin thread should be a lighter weight (usually 60 wt) than the thread in the needle. This is what helps to pull the needle thread to the back of the fabric and makes the top look smooth and pretty.
  • The bobbin thread does not have to be the same color as the top thread since it generally does not show. Most people use white bobbin thread, but it is good to have a black bobbin thread on hand for use when you are embroidering on dark fabric.
  • You will use a lot of bobbin thread, so look for 3,000 or 5,000 yard cones.

embroidery bobbin thread

6) Small scissors or snips

  • Small scissors or snips will help you clip those thread tails closely. Even better is having a pair with curved tips. Even better than that is having a pair with curved tips AND micro-serrated blades.

embroidery scissors

7) A housekeeper and personal chef

  • Once you get hooked on embroidery, you won’t want to stop to clean house or cook!!

cleaning supplies and groceries

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2 comments on “Embroidery Basics: 7 Essential Supplies”

  • Good hints for a beginner. I’ve been using my Bernina for awhile now and I have some suggestions. I love Superior brand sewing machine needles. I think they have a bigger eye and they last quite awhile. I also prefer Floriani thread. I have Isachord, but Floriani is more jewel like. Also it’s a good idea to back fabric with shapeflex especially if you’re doing applique. It adds body and less chance of fraying.

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