Essential machine embroidery supplies

If you want to do machine embroidery, you need more than just an embroidery machine. You’ll also need to invest in some essential machine embroidery supplies and, of course, blanks.

Fortunately, when it comes to supplies, you really don’t need all that much to get started.

If you walk into a sewing / embroidery store, it may seem like you need to buy a lot. But the reality is, you only need a few essential machine embroidery supplies, including:

  • Stabilizer
  • Machine embroidery thread
  • Needles
  • Bobbin thread
  • Blanks

Let’s take a look at each one of these types of essential supplies. I will explain the bare minimum of what you need to get started, and what you might want to think about acquiring as you get a bit more experience.


When you look at one of the charts that are produced by stabilizer companies, it can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many different types, and it’s not immediately apparent when to use what.

But I think that is by design. Stabilizer manufacturers are interested in having you buy every type of stabilizer that they sell, which is maybe why they make so many different types.

Try not to get seduced into buying every different type of stabilizer, because you really don’t need that many.

store stabilizer on a wrapping paper holder
I store my roll of adhesive backed stabilizer on a wrapping paper dispenser.

Tear away stabilizer

Probably the most essential type of stabilizer to buy is a tear away stabilizer. This is a great kind of stabilizer to use when you’re embroidering on towels (which tends to be a common beginner project). As the name suggests, you can just tear away any excess stabilizer after the embroidery is complete.

I personally like to use sticky back tear away stabilizer because I don’t have to use any spray. I just hoop the sticky back tear away, score away the top paper, and then stick my towel onto the sticky surface.

Another advantage of sticky back stabilizer is that you can save your scraps and patch your stabilizer after you tear away your project from the hooped stabilizer.

Cut away stabilizer

Once you get into embroidering on wearables, then you will need to start using some permanent type of stabilizer. This is called cut away stabilizer.

Have you ever noticed on the backside of embroidery in a coat or a t-shirt that the stabilizer is still in place? This is cutaway stabilizer, and it is intended to remain in in the garment or on the garment after the embroidery is done.

If you know you want to do embroider on garments, then you should pick up some medium weight cut away.

One type of cut away that I particularly like, is a fusible poly mesh stabilizer. It’s much more flexible than a standard cut away, which makes it an appropriate type of stabilizer to use when embroidering on net fabrics like t-shirts or even something as sketchy as a swimsuit.

Water soluble stabilizer

Once you get into in-the-hoop projects or freestanding lace, you want to acquire some water soluble stabilizer. As its name implies, this type of stabilizer dissolves in water.

There are two general types of water soluble stabilizer. There is a fibrous one, which is what you would use for the in-the-hoop projects, but there’s also water soluble topper, which is intended to go on top of nappy fabrics like towels, so that the fabric fibers don’t poke through the embroidery.

If you plan to embroider on towels, I would get some water soluble topper right away. You can wait on the other type until you are ready to explore in-the-hoop and free standing lace projects.

So that’s all of the different types of stabilizer that I keep in my sewing room.

See? You really don’t need that many.

Machine embroidery thread

There are a few things you should know about machine embroidery thread before you get started with machine embroidery.

Machine embroidery thread is different from sewing thread

First of all, machine embroidery thread is different from sewing thread. It is a different weight and has a different sheen. Make sure that when you buy thread for your embroidery machine, you buy machine embroidery thread.

While you won’t go to machine embroidery jail if you use regular thread in your embroidery machine, it’s probably not the best idea. First of all, your embroidery won’t look as good and secondly, it may mess with the tension of your machine. So, my advice is to just stick with machine embroidery thread.

Types of machine embroidery thread

Under the umbrella of machine embroidery thread, there are many different types, the most common being 100% polyester. But there is also rayon and cotton.

If you are looking to expand your thread repertoire, check out some of the cool specialty varieties that are available such as glow-in-the-dark, varigated, and metallic machine embroidery thread.

Best brands of machine embroidery thread

If you venture into any machine embroidery forum, you’ll quickly learn that people have strong opinions about machine embroidery thread. Some people are pretty brand loyal and only purchase a specific brand of thread.

This can be helpful because some embroidery designs refer to specific thread color numbers in a specific thread brand. That doesn’t mean you need to use them though. But, if you think you might be wanting to embroider very color specific design, then you might want to commit to a specific brand of machine embroidery thread.

But what brand of machine embroidery thread is the best?

Well, the jury is still out on that. While many people have strong opinions about the best brands of machine embroidery thread, I do not. I will use whatever I can get my hands on. If I were just starting out, I would recommend getting a variety pack of Exquisite brand machine embroidery thread from Amazon and see how you and your machine like it. It’s not expensive and you have a nice variety to get started.

Once you see what colors you use the most, you may want to buy the big spools of thread. I normally buy them from AllStitch.


Machine embroidery needles are another essential supply that you need to have on hand. Like thread, needles for machine embroidery are slightly different from their regular sewing machine counterpart.

The main difference between sewing and embroidery machine needles is that embroidery machine needles have a larger eye so that the thread can slip through faster.

Embroidery machine needles (like sewing machine needles) come in different sizes, with the most common being a 75/11. Start with these for any embroidery you do on mid-weight fabrics.

If you start getting into embroidering on very delicate items (like handkerchiefs), I would switch to a finer needle. Conversely, if you embroider on more heavy duty fabrics like leather and denim, then switch to a heavier weight needle.

For knits, it is recommended that you embroider with a ballpoint needle as the ballpoint pushes the material out of the way instead of piercing through it.

Bobbin thread

prewound bobbins for machine embroidery

The final most essential supply you’ll need for machine embroidery is bobbin thread. But, this is another area where machine embroidery is different from sewing. When using an embroidery machine, you don’t usually want to match your bobbin thread to your top thread. The exception would be when you are doing in-the-hoop projects or making freestanding lace.

Machine embroidery bobbin thread is a lighter weight than machine embroidery top thread. This imbalance in weight is by design and helps pull the top thread to the back of your embroidery. It helps to prevent your bobbin thread from showing on top.

You can buy bobbin thread one of two ways. You can buy it on the spool and wind your own bobbins. Or, you can buy pre-wound bobbins which are pretty convenient but slightly more expensive.

So these are the most essential machine embroidery supplies you need to get started. You can purchase all of these supplies from specialty companies – or you can find all of the aforementioned items on Amazon.

Once you have all the supplies to do the embroidery, then you need to have something to do the embroidery on.

This is why you need blanks.

Blanks for machine embroidery

Blanks for machine embroidery are basically a blank canvas for your designs. They can be anything from t-shirts to bags, towels, and caps.

While you can buy blanks from just about anywhere, there are companies that specialize in machine embroidery blanks. And some of these companies have some really cute stuff. And some of them will give you a great price if you are a business who is reselling the items after you embroider on them.

In addition to these suppliers, I have found Amazon to be a tremendous resource for embroidery blanks. Getting the items within 48 hours has been very helpful when I’ve need to come up with an inexpensive gift in a pinch.

Now that you have all your essential machine embroidery supplies, are you ready to start embroidering?

I hope you can see now that there really aren’t that many machine embroidery supplies and blanks are essential for getting started with machine embroidery. Just invest in the bare minimum and acquire as needed.

Good luck!

Happy Embroidering!