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Machine Embroidery Essentials: 10 Must-Have Supplies for Beginners

Bobbin threads and machine embroidery supplies

When you bring your first embroidery machine home, it’s tempting to just fire it up and create something amazing. But here’s nothing more frustrating than running out of bobbin thread halfway through a project. 

Here are the must-have machine embroidery supplies I recommend for all beginners. Keep enough of these supplies to last for several projects.

If you keep your machine embroidery supplies well stocked and easy to find, you’ll avoid frustration and save so much time when you’re working on your embroidery machine.

Fabric

While you’re learning, you should expect to go through plenty of extra pieces of fabric, scraps, and unused bolts—it’s part of the learning process! So it’s a good idea to keep more fabric on hand than you think you may need.

In machine embroidery, you’ll use fabric to:

  • stitch your final embroidery designs on
  • practice your designs on
  • test different types of cloth to see which needle works best
  • plan designs and figure out how you’ll go about embroidering your final design

Having extra fabric lying around is also great for those moments when you have an idea that you just can’t wait to try out.

Machine Embroidery Needles 

Different machine embroidery projects require different needle sizes. Some needles work better than others, depending on the type of fabric you’re working with.

So you’ll want to keep a collection of different types of needles on hand to ensure that you don’t ruin the fabric or the design.

Hoops 

Every embroidery machine will come with its own set of hoops. Depending on the projects you’re hoping to create, you may also want to keep a few extra hoops on hand.

If you can store hoops in a variety of sizes and shapes, you should always have the right hoop for every project that you want to dive into.

Having extra hoops can also help you save time. With a spare hoop on hand, you can hoop a second design while your machine is embroidering your first project.

Most craft stores and machine retailers will sell embroidery hoops. But this is one machine embroidery supply that you can also often buy second hand on Craigslist or Kijiji.

Needles

If you plan to be embroidering on a variety of fabrics, it helps to have a range of needles on hand. Generally, lighter fabrics require smaller needles while heavier fabrics require larger needles.

An embroidery needle’s eye is always one size larger than the shaft of a needle. So, if you have a size 80 embroidery needle, that needle’s eye will be the same size a s a regular size 90 needle.

This extra room is designed to keep the thread from fraying when the machine is embroidering at high speeds.

Here are some notes on the types of needles you may need (and what to use them for):

  • Regular needles: use these for wovens.
  • Ballpoint needle: use these for knits.
  • Titanium needles: these cost more but they do last much longer than regular needles. 

Embroidery Thread

The quality of your final designs relies heavily on which thread you use. Make sure you have a variety of thread types, colors, and weights in your embroidery kit. That way, you’ll be able to match each of the stitches in your designs with the thread that you need to make them look incredible.

Typically, embroidery thread is a 40 wt thread. This is much thicker than regular sewing thread, and it offers much more coverage.

Here are two of my favorite machine embroidery threads:

  • Isacord Polyester thread: this thread color won’t fade, so it’s good for items that require laundering or bleaching.
  • Rayon thread: one of my personal favorites, this thread has a high shine and it looks so beautiful in the final design (e.g. my rainbow fish design). However, it’s a little more fragile than other threads, and it isn’t bleachable, so you should expect more breakage in your embroidery designs.

Bobbin Thread

Bobbin thread is another absolute must-have. You’ll use a lot of it in your projects, so look for larger cones (3000 – 5000 yards) and buy in bulk.

In machine embroidery, bobbin thread helps to pull your needle thread to the back of your fabric. Generally speaking, bobbin thread should be a lighter weight than the thread in your needle (look for something around 60wt).

Most crafters use black bobbin thread for dark fabric, and white bobbin thread for projects that are using light fabric, so make sure you have both colors on hand.

Scissors 

I’ve written an entire guide to machine embroidery scissors, because scissors are a must-have tool for every machine embroiderer. Over time, you’ll want to build up your collection so that you have a variety of scissors available.

  • Clothing shears: use these for cutting fabric
  • Paper scissors: use these for cutting stabilizer
  • Small curved scissors: these smaller scissors are great for trimming the ends of your threads. 
  • Applique scissors: these are good for trimming around the edges of your designs

Stabilizers 

Embroidery stabilizers (aka “embroidery backing”) work by supporting the weight of the stitches so that your design doesn’t harm or alter the fabric that you’re working with. 

There are a bunch of different types of stabilizers available—cut-away, tear-away, and water soluble—and each type is typically suited to a specific type of project.

Ideally you’ll want a variety of stabilizers in your kit, but if you’re on a budget you can build your stabilizer collection over time.

Use my guide to choosing the right embroidery stabilizer for your project to figure out what types of stabilizers you need to create your designs.

Adhesives 

Adhesives keep your fabric and stabilizer centered and sitting still in the hoop, giving you an evenly stitched design. They come in a variety of options—spray adhesives, 

Fabric adhesive temporarily sticks your embroidery backing to your fabric. It can help to keep your fabric and backing in place while you’re hooping and stitching. 

  • Spray adhesives: I personally don’t use spray adhesives, as they can build up on your needle and affect how your design looks.
  • Self-adhesive stabilizers: this adhesive sticks your fabric directly to your hoop. It also helps to avoid hoop burn, which can appear on fabrics that mark easily (check out Filmoplast).

Iron 

Your machine might struggle or hit a snag on wrinkles and creases in your fabric. So it’s a good idea to iron your material before using it in your machine.

Ironing and washing your materials can also prevent your fabric from shrinking.

Markers and Pencils

Pencils are extremely handy in machine embroidery. They can help you mark and track changes that you make to your designs (making it much easier to go back and correct things if you run into any problems).

I also recommend that you print a template of your design and mark the center of it with a pencil. Then, mark the center of your fabric and use those markings to line up your design and fabric.

This will help you make sure your final design is placed exactly where you want it to be on your fabric.

What other supplies have you found useful?

Machine embroidery can be overwhelming at first. There’s so much to learn with your embroidery machine and the software you’re using. And it can seem like you need an endless amount of supplies to get the job done. 

You’ll be able to create stunning designs with the essential items I’ve listed above.

Would you recommend any other essentials for this list? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

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