Four years ago, I picked up a needle and thread out of sheer boredom and began to teach myself embroidery. Embroidery started as a relatively cheap and easy hobby for me to do in the evenings, but quickly I realised that it was also an excellent tool for mindfulness - it has helped me to cope when my mental health has been suffering.
In light of all that's going on in the world right now (Covid-19), with many of us in self isolation and the rest staying home, with lots more time on our hands and with higher than usual anxiety levels for some, embroidery could be a great tool for you to learn.
With the help of Instagram friends - thank you! - I have gathered some information below that might help you to take your first steps into learning how to embroider.
Before you start, you will probably need some supplies! The basics include:
- Embroidery hoop. For beginners, I'd recommend working with a 5" or 6" hoop, as the larger ones can be difficult to grip for long periods of time.
- Needle. You can get all sorts of needles in all different shapes and sizes, but I find that most will do the job fine. If you have some basic sewing needles to hand, use those. If not, order a small selection pack and experiment to find your preferred size.
- Thread. Personally, I always use DMC embroidery threads. They are available in hundreds of different colours and are good quality.
- Fabric. Theoretically, you can embroider on any fabric! However, for beginners I'd recommend something light coloured (easy to trace your designs onto) and non-stretchy, like a cotton poplin.
- Scissors. If you're just starting out, there's no need to invest in fancy little embroidery scissors, just use whatever you have in the house!
- Erasable pen. There are a few different methods for transferring your pattern onto fabric and it can depend on what fabric you are using, but a good starting point is an erasable pen. Frixion pens (the ink disappears with an iron or hair dryer) and vanishing markers (the ink disappears in water) are both easy to find and use. Please be aware that erasable ink can leave a ‘ghost’ line on fabric once erased, so double check your placement before tracing your design. I would advise only using erasable ink on areas that you will cover with embroidery.
I have created a basic embroidery kit for beginners with all of the supplies above (excluding scissors as I think you probably have some at home!). Alternatively, the following websites offer many of the supplies mentioned above and are either favourites of mine or have been recommended by friends:
Blue Haze Arts & Crafts - general craft supplies
Cloud Craft - general craft supplies
Lakeside Needlecraft - general craft supplies
Organic Textile Company - variety of organic cotton fabrics
Patterns & Kits
Embroidery is an incredibly versatile craft (I like to think of it like drawing, but with thread) and it's easy to create your own patterns. However, I find it easier to practice mindfulness when embroidering from someone else's pattern - it's much easier to 'zone out' than when you're creating something yourself.
There are thousands and thousands of patterns available to download online (which you can print at home), or you can order a full kit (which usually comes with all materials required).
Here are just a few favourites:
*A note on art theft*
Copying illustrations or embroideries that you find online and replicating them in your own work is art theft. Please show respect for the artists who have not only created the artwork, but who have spent years practising and refining their skills. If you find something online that you would like to embroider, find the original artist and either purchase the pattern from them or ask for their permission to use it. If they say no, please respect their wishes!
I learnt embroidery entirely from YouTube videos - just start by searching for 'embroidery basics' and go from there, or have a nosy at these lovely embroiderers and their video tutorials:
Delicious Monster Tea (that's me!)
The online embroidery community is strong and supportive. Instagram is a great place to find like-minded embroiderers, or there are several Facebook groups that welcome and support beginners. You can ask questions, share your work, meet other embroiderers or just ogle all the amazing work that other people share!
Currently my favourite Facebook embroidery groups are:
I hope that this little guide has armed you with the information you need to get started on your new embroidery hobby! If you have any other suggestions for where to source supplies, patterns, kits, tutorials or inspiration, please share in the comments below.