Is embroidery hard?
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The idea of owning an embroidery machine can be pretty exciting. You may have visions of stitching your kids’ names on every item of clothing, or fantasize about monogramming bags for all your friends. Or, maybe you would love to run an embroidery business out of your home. This is all very doable. But in order to achieve these dreams, you will need to know how to use an embroidery machine. But, will you be able to learn? Is embroidery hard?
In order to answer this question, I turned to my embroidery friends because I needed them to refresh my memory. After you have been embroidering for so many years, it’s hard to remember what it was like to be a newbie. These embroidery friends, all with different levels of embroidery experience, provided a lot of great insight about learning machine embroidery.
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It’s not as simple as you may think
“Many people think machine embroidery is easy. All one does is turn the machine on. What they fail to see is what happens to get a beautiful product. It’s not that easy.”
I totally agree with this statement. It’s not like putting a dish in a microwave for 2 minutes, and then you are done. Embroidery requires some critical thinking and decision making. But, knowing what decisions to make takes time and experience.
So, is embroidery hard?
“Embroidery is hard on the wallet…especially when you’re first learning and wasting things due to mistakes”
“Machine embroidery is no harder than any other specialized skill you are willing to spend hours and hours and weeks and weeks to learn.”
“It’s a skill that requires learning to use a technical machine and learning techniques for each step of the process. It also requires problem solving for various challenges. It’s not hard; it’s merely a learned activity.”
“There is definitely a learning curve. There are techniques for different fabrics and items, some designs are better suited for some fabrics than others. It is worth the effort to learn to do it properly. It’s not necessarily hard, but there is more to it than pushing the button on the machine, as a lot of people think. The machine may do the stitching, but like a building, the foundation (stabilizer, proper hooping, needle and thread selection) can make all the difference.”
“It’s tricky at first- there is so much to remember. But you get the hang of it- hooping/floating, stabilizers, needle choice etc, it’s pretty easy.”
“Just like anything else…you learn by trial and error‼️”
Learning machine embroidery is like learning anything new. It takes time to get comfortable with all of the new terms and techniques. You must be willing to try and fail. It’s only from these experiences that you learn to do better. Accept the fact that you will make mistakes. Sometimes you will figure out creative ways to fix mistakes and sometimes it’s a lost cause.
What part of machine embroidery is the hardest?
So, you get it. Machine embroidery is not necessarily difficult, it just requires a lot of practice. But, where do you encounter the biggest learning curves? The following are common stumbling blocks that can make embroidery hard.
Just Getting Started
Getting the machine out of the box and just digging in can be a non-starter for some. I actually did not take my embroidery machine out of it’s box for a couple of years after I first got it! For me, the fear was that once I opened the box, I would be sucked in for hours trying to figure it out. Think of all the time embroidery time lost!
My buddy, Rosselyn was in the same predicament. She actually took her embroidery machine out of the box, got frustrated trying to learn, then put it back in the box! I wanted to help get her started with machine embroidery so I coached her through setting up her embroidery machine. A few hours after our session she was sending me pictures of all the items she had embroidered!
What helped me get started with my embroidery machine was attending a few classes through the dealership that sold me my machine. It was only a lesson or two, but it got me familiar with some of the basics, and after that I was on my way.
I know that many people purchase used machines or order them online so it’s impossible to attend lessons at a dealership. For this reason, I created the e-book (and embroidery design set), Machine Embroidery Quick Launch.
Getting the right supplies
“Oh the supplies are endless and, at times, costly. We must have fabric, bobbins, thread, multiple sizes and types of scissors, stabilizer (there are many types), rulers, quilting rulers (another item that comes in different sizes), sticky spray, the perfect iron, hardware for purses and key chains, cutting table/mat and sew many other needs to get the perfect product.”
The supplies you need for machine embroidery can be a bit overwhelming. But, you really don’t need that many extra tools and supplies when you are getting started. Check out my list of 10 essential tools you need for machine embroidery.
“Hooping and stabilizers are the hardest for me.”
Hooping can be tricky. when I was getting started, I actually tried to hoop a thick terry cloth robe. It was nearly impossible. Later I learned that you don’t have to hoop everything. In fact, hooping certain fabrics can leave a permanent mark in some fabric (which is called hoop burn).
Then I learned how to float. Floating is when you hoop a piece a stabilizer and then stick your fabric or garment to the stabilizer. I float just about everything I embroider because I own a single needle home embroidery machine. Hooping is a bit easier if you are working with a multi-needle machine because the item you are hooping can hang below the hoop and you don’t have the embroidery module in the way.
Choosing a stabilizer can be a bit like shopping for mattresses. There are a lot of different names for products that do the same thing, so it’s easy to get confused. But, I find that I only use 5 different stabilizers: adhesive-backed tearaway, cutaway, water soluble stabilizer, water soluble topper and fusible poly mesh. And that’s it. Learn when to use what type and you’ve mastered stabilizing.
A tool that can help you decide what stabilizer to use for any project is the Embroiderer’s Compass by DIME. You just set the compass on the fabric you are embroidering on and the compass tells you what stabilizer to use.
I’ve embroidered plenty of crooked and off-center items throughout my machine embroidery career. But, once I acquired a few tools and techniques to help me position items, it’s no longer an issue. My favorite trick is the folding method which helps me to place items in the center of a garment or towel. I would also recommend DIME’s perfect placement kit which includes placement templates for a variety of different projects.
Troubleshooting stitching problems
When your embroidery machine is not stitching the way it should, it can be frustrating to figure out why. It takes a bit of time and experience to recognize the common culprits that cause problematic stitching, like the bobbin thread showing up on top or your thread constantly breaking. But, once you solve your problem, you will be armed and ready when you encounter it again.
Mastering the computer part
“I always tell people that not only is there a lot to learn about the actual embroidery, but if you don’t have decent computer skills, it will be very frustrating.”
So, there is a computer part to machine embroidery. After you test stitch out all the designs and fonts that come with your embroidery machine, you are probably going to want to stitch other things. At the very least, you will need to know how to download, uncompress and load an embroidery design onto your machine. If you want to start combining designs, then you will need to learn a bit more about embroidery software. Then, if you want to learn to digitize embroidery designs yourself, there will be a whole next level of software mastery.
If you are not particularly computer savvy, take baby steps! Try downloading and uncompressing some free embroidery designs. Practice with those, then start with an inexpensive software like SewWhat Pro to begin to combine and modify the designs.
So is machine embroidery too hard?
No. Absolutely not! There are tons of people making beautiful projects on their embroidery machines right at this very moment. If they can figure it out – so can you.
Even though my buddies acknowledged that machine embroidery can be hard and frustrating at times, it’s well worth the “blood, sweat and tears.”
“If you commit to putting a bit of time in, you will master your machine in no time. ”
“I love machine embroidery. It keeps my mind alive and my fingers nimble”
“It starts with a small machine and one’s love to create beauty. With a little practice, you will be making art on fabric.”
Ready to get started? You got this!
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