Embroidery or the craft of decorating fabric with a needle, thread, and the yarn has been practiced as early as the Cro-Magnon Period or 30,000 BC. The craft is believed to have originated in the Orient and the Middle East. One of the oldest pieces of embroidery discovered was found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Some of the ancient forms of embroidery like shells embellished with stitched animal hides were found in Siberia and date back to around 5000 and 6000 BC. In China, thread embroidery dates back to 3500 BC, with the earliest silk embroidery discovered from a tomb in Mashan, in Hubei province, which dates back to the Zhanguo period (5th -3rd centuries BC).
The art of embroidery has survived the test of time and poses itself as an easy to learn and budget-friendly hobby. If you want to take up this ancient handcraft, you’ll need a few simple tools to get you going.
Table of Contents
Dress Maker’s Scissors
There are a number of different types of scissors that you are going to need if you want to take up embroidery, and the ones that you are going to use the most are dress maker’s scissors. These scissors are rather large, and while they may look just like the regular scissors that you use to cut paper and other items around the home, they have very sharp blades that should only be used to cut fabric or thread.
Using them on any other material will quickly dull the blades and require you to buy new scissors. Look for ones that are very comfortable for you to use and have plenty of space in the handles for your hands to fit through so that you don’t get a hand cramp when holding and using your scissors, as you will get a fair amount of use out of them, especially when you are getting started on a new project.
If you want to be able to have better control over your fabric while you are working, but have found that an embroidery hoop is just too difficult for you to easily control, then it is time to consider buying an embroidery table stand.
This is a giant hoop that is specifically designed to sit on top of a flat surface while you work, making it much easier for you to control your fabric without having to hold onto a hoop with one hand. It’s a good idea to consider a few things before buying an embroidery table stand, including the size, the mobility, and the adjustability.
You want to make sure that your table stand is the right size for the piece of embroidery that you want to do. If you are working on a very small piece, then you may be better off using an embroidery hoop, as it can be difficult to put a smaller piece of fabric on this frame and stretch it correctly.
Additionally, consider if you want to be able to move the hoop around your home from place to place or if it will be so big that you can’t do that. Finally, think about how easily the frame can adjust. You should be able to tilt and maneuver the frame easily so that you can put it in a position that is easy for you to work on without a lot of hassle.
Because you want to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes on your embroidery and that you are always able to work in a straight line, when necessary, consider buying a see-through plastic ruler that you can place on your work and measure. Additionally, if you are going to be using an embroidery hoop or a frame, then you need to make sure that the ruler is short enough to fit inside of this space so that you can quickly and accurately measure your work.
Small Pointed Scissors
While you need to have larger scissors to cut your fabric down to size, you will additionally need smaller scissors that are incredibly sharp and pointed so that you can easily slide the tip of the scissors underneath your threads and clip them.
If you do not have a pair of these scissors, there are a few other options that you can use, but they are the easiest to use quickly and easily and you won’t have to worry about making a mistake and accidentally clipping the fabric itself. Never use these scissors to cut anything other than threads, as regular use will quickly dull them and you will either have to pay to have a professional sharpen them or get new ones that will work.
While it is possible to embroider a piece of fabric without using a hoop, if you want to make sure that your fabric is taut at all times and will look the best possible when you have finished your project, then you will want to invest in a hoop.
This tool is perfect for embroidery, as it will hold the fabric tight without stretching it and allow you to maintain even pressure during the project. Since they come in a wide variety of sizes, you can generally find one that will fit your project perfectly without a lot of hassle. It’s a good idea to remove or loosen the hoop each time you are done working on your embroidery for the day so that the fabric isn’t marked by the ring.
Thimbles are used by wearing them on the tip of your finger and then using them to help push your needle through the fabric. They are available in a number of different styles and materials, which makes it fairly easy to find a thimble that is comfortable and you won’t mind wearing.
They have grooves or dimples on the surface that will catch the eye of your needle and prevent it from slipping while you are hand sewing or embroidering. Not only will a thimble help to prevent you from hurting your finger, but it also protects the eye of the needle and makes sewing significantly easier by relieving strain on your fingers and making it simple to push the needle through the fabric without having to try to pull it.
Very similar in appearance and size to embroidery needles, chenille needles have incredibly sharp points and large eyes, making it very easy to not only thread these needles but also to push them through your fabric without dealing with a dull point. They are generally wider and shorter than your typical embroidery needles and have very long eyes.
While some people think that a needle threader is completely unnecessary because they don’t have any problems threading their needles quickly and easily, if you struggle at all with threading a needle, then you will want this small and handy tool. Needle threaders make threading your needles significantly easier since you don’t have to try to see the eye of the needle and put the end of your thread through it.
If your eyesight is failing or you don’t have great hand-eye coordination, then a needle threader will reduce a lot of the frustration that you feel when working on an embroidery project, especially one where you will be changing colors often and need to thread your needle on a regular basis.
Crewel Embroidery Needles
It’s important that you don’t try to use a regular sewing needle if you want to embroider, as they are simply not the right size or shape for the job and will make it much more difficult to create embroidery that you are proud of. You will need to buy embroidery needles that have larger eyes and much sharper tips than regular sewing needles do.
The eye will be able to accommodate the larger embroidery threads and the sharp tip is necessary so that you can push the needle through thick layers of thread and fabric. Because you will often be putting stitches right on top of each other and your thread will be very tightly packed and woven, you will need to buy needles that are sharp enough so that they can penetrate the other threads without getting caught or causing damage.
Another type of embroidery is needle punching, which involves looping ribbon, floss, or yarn through the fabric to create a pattern. While not the typical embroidery that many people picture when they think of this handicraft, needle punching is growing in popularity.
There are arguments that needle punching began either in Russia or ancient Egypt. These needles have a hollow shaft, as well as a depth gauge. The pointed side of the needle has the eye and is inserted into the fabric to put some of the thread into the pattern.
It’s a good idea to have a tape measure on hand so that you can measure the work that you have done, and this tool can take the place of a hard ruler if you are worried about how easy it will be to read. One thing that you will want to consider when buying a tape measure for any type of sewing craft is that you buy a smaller and more flexible option.
While you could technically use a longer and harder tape measure that is designed for construction work, this is overkill and it will be difficult to use. Instead, reach for a smaller and more flexible fabric tape measure that will allow you to bend the tape to rest on your piece without kinking.
While these scissors are also used to cut fabric, they will create a zigzag pattern along the cut edge when you are finished. This isn’t ideal for displaying your work, as most people will want a straight edge that looks a little nicer, but the zigzag edge does serve a purpose.
The reason that you want to use pinking shears along the edge of your project is that the way that they cut the fabric will actually prevent it from fraying. This is beneficial no matter if you want to frame your piece and display it or if you are going to store it until a later time, as you do not want the edges to fray and threaten the integrity or beauty of your piece.
Also known as a “tambour hook” or a “tambour tool,” a beading needle is used when you are going to be completing bead embroidery as well as tambour work, or a decorative chain stitch. They have a very small and bent tip that looks similar to the way that a crochet hook looks that will allow the user to easily catch the thread on the underside of the fabric they are working with and then pull it to the front so that they can loop it to attach any sequins or beads.
Because these tools aren’t terribly popular, it can be a little difficult to find them in a local store. When you are shopping for a beading needle or tambour hook, you will want to make sure that you can easily remove the needle to replace it or change it to a different size. Look for a needle that comes with a number of different size options that you can change out and use so that your tool will be as multipurpose as possible.
There are other tools that will have a single needle permanently attached to the tool, which does limit the number and scope of projects that you can work on, so it is important to consider how many different projects you want to use this new tool on before buying one that has an attached needle.
If you don’t have a pair of small and very sharp fabric scissors to slide under your embroidery and cut any accidental threads, then you will want to invest in a pair of thread nippers. These tools are generally fairly small and have incredibly sharp blades that can easily snip through a large number of threads without any problems.
You can use them to remove work that you have done when you made a mistake and also to snip seam allowances. Because they are so small, they tend to be rather easy to lose, so it’s a good idea to look for ones that come with a neck strap or to add a neck strap to your thread nippers.
This will ensure that you don’t accidentally leave them behind or drop them when working on a project and it will make it very easy for you to perform maintenance work while stitching, such as cutting threads so that you don’t have to complete this work at the end of your project.
Because it can be very difficult to see what you are working on, especially if your eyesight is failing or you are working in very dim light, it is a good idea to invest in a pair of magnifiers that will help you to see your work more easily. While some people automatically think about buying a magnifying glass, this will not be very useful for you as you will have to hold it continually while you are embroidering, which will tie up one of your hands and make your work much more difficult.
The best option for when you need magnifiers is to look for a pair that will rest on your head, such as a cap, and has a frame that will hold the magnifiers in front of your eyes. These can generally be adjusted up or down which allows you to be able to put them right in front of your face so that you can look through them without straining. Because these are hands-free, as well as very comfortable, you can easily see what you are working on without having to worry about holding on to a magnifying glass while working.
Also sometimes called “duckbill scissors” because of their shape and the way that they look, these scissors have a very specific job of removing extra fabric. If you are going to be cutting around your work when you are finished, then you will want a pair of these scissors, as they push the fabric away from the cutting edge so that you do not accidentally clip your work and make a mistake. You will have a very clear cutting path when you use these scissors and you will be able to cut incredibly close to your stitches without having to worry about whether or not you are going to make a mistake.
Chances are very good that you will have a number of different needles that you will be using when working on an embroidery project, and to keep them all safe and in one location you will want to have a pin cushion. Needles are rather small and if they fall on the floor or in between the couch cushions they can be very difficult to retrieve, so it’s a good idea to take steps to ensure that you always know where your needles are.
Pin cushions come with a number of different types of fillings, so you need to make sure that you do your research to find the material that is right for you. If you opt for wool or cotton, then your pin cushion will be a little heavier, and the lanolin in the wool may help to keep your needles shiny and smooth.
Polyester is another option, but the pin cushion will be very light and easy to knock off of your table. Some companies make pin cushions that are filled with sand or a powder, and while these are nice and heavy, if they are damaged they can make a real mess.
If you are very unhappy with a large area of work that you have done, then you will want to be able to remove it as quickly as possible. While you can use scissors or snips to clip through each individual piece of thread, a much faster way to remove large areas of work is with a seam ripper.
You will want to put your piece of embroidery back into the hoop so that the fabric is nice and taut if you are going to use a seam ripper, as otherwise, it can be difficult to get the tension that you need to tear through multiple threads quickly. Seam rippers generally have a tip that is shaped like a U, and the inside of the U is incredibly sharp.
You will be able to slide the tip of the seam ripper under any stitches that you want to remove and then simply lift it up at an angle from your work to rip through the threads. As long as the blade is nice and sharp it will quickly tear through your threads.
If you are going to be laying multiple threads near each other and want to make sure that they are flat and smooth, then you need to invest in a laying tool. These tools can be made from a number of different materials, including glass, plastic, bone, wood, and metal. They are very thin and long tools that look similar to an awl.
This tool is used at the same time as a needle is and is used to hold the thread close to the fabric and to keep them spread apart and flat so that you can control how they look when the stitch is tightened. With a little practice, you will be able to control your stitches and ensure that they look full.
It can be very difficult to remove some stitches even when you have cut the treads, as you don’t want to make a mistake and pull the wrong piece of thread. Tweezers make this task very easy and will allow you to remove single threads at once without worrying about damaging your work.
Additionally, if you are going to add sequins or crystals to your embroidery, then you can use tweezers to pick them up with greater control and precision. Look for ones with flat ends if you want to be able to handle and control beads, while ones with angled ends are significantly better for removing cut threads with precision.
This electric tool looks a lot like a pair of clippers and is used in much the same way. If you want to remove large areas of your embroidery or even to start over completely, then you can use this tool to cut through all of your threads at once.
Working from the back of your embroidery, turn on the eraser and run the cutting edge gently over your fabric. It will cut through the threads, allowing you to remove them without having to worry about how you will cut each individual thread.