Going to the fabric store can be a bit overwhelming. Even if you aren’t tempted to buy fabric you probably don’t need, you can still get seduced by all the cool gadgets promising to make your sewing and embroidering easier. But what’s worth buying and what warrants a pass? Here’s what I think are the 10 essentials.
If you are new to machine embroidery – spring for them all. None of the items are expensive. Or perhaps a friend/spouse/parent/sibling etc… just got an embroidery machine and you want to give her a gift that well help her pursue her new hobby. Here’s a great place to begin…
My 10 essential tools that every machine embroidery enthusiast needs (in no particular order).
1) Appliqué Scissors –
These funny looking scissors are absolutely necessary if you want to stitch out appliqué designs on an embroidery machine. Appliqué scissors allow you to trim your fabric very close to the stitch line after the appliqué fabric shape has been tacked down by your embroidery machine WITHOUT cutting your base fabric. Getting a close trim is essential because the final satin stitching needs to cover the raw edge. If you don’t get a close trim, you see exposed raw edges of the fabric and it looks super sloppy.
What kind of appliqué scissors should you buy? To be honest with you – I don’t think it matters. I have two pairs – one from Walmart and the other pair a more expensive Gingher brand appliqué scissors and I really don’t have a preference. The Gingher ones seem sharper which in some cases can be difficult to use because they can more easily cut your base fabric.
Nippers are tiny little springy scissors with a puny blade that allows you to trim connector strings very close to your fabric. No other scissors can do as good of job trimming these little annoying strings. Being able to trim connector strings close to the design make your piece much more polished.
3) Stitch Eraser
The stitch eraser is amazing for removing stitches when you make an embroidery mistake or you want to redo a monogram… but only in certain circumstances. Basically the stitch eraser shaves off stitches which makes them fall out. It’s not as perfect and easy as it sounds though. If your fabric is thin and delicate, the stitch eraser will destroy your fabric. But if you are trying to remove stitches from an embroidery design that is stitched on durable fabric, then you may have a decent shot of removing the stitches. And – in my opinion – the only way you have a fighting chance of removing stitches is with the stitch eraser. It’s well worth the small investment.
4) Makeup Brush
I have a confession. I actually don’t even use a make up brush in real life. The one I bought for my sewing and embroidery machine was the first one I actually bought and I think I paid $1 for it. A makeup brush is a great tool to remove fuzz and strings from you bobbin cage and other hard-to-access parts of your sewing and embroidery machine. Keep your machines clean with a makeup brush and all your stitching will turn out SO. MUCH. BETTER.
5) Thread Stand
I learned about a thread stand the hard way. I had bought some large spools of embroidery thread and tried to put them on the thread holder directly on my embroidery machine. The problem in doing that is that they require significantly more tension to get them to unwind than standard sized embroidery thread. As a result the machine did not stitch correctly with these larger spools of embroidery thread.
Enter the thread stand. When you put your spool of embroidery thread on the thread stand and place it near your machine it diminishes the amount of tension required to pull the thread off the spool, and it stitches much, much better. I now use the thread stand with any sized embroidery thread and I no longer have any tension issues.
6) Disappearing Ink Pen
If you have done any type of sewing you have probably used a disappearing ink pen. But for machine embroidery it’s even more essential. I use mine to mark the center of my hoop on my hooped stabilizer. And I also use it to mark the position of my embroidery design on the garment. Actually I use my disappearing ink pen so much I need to get another. Hot tip: keep the caps on and your disappearing ink pen will last a lot longer.
Okay – maybe you think this is an obvious one. But I find that I use a ruler for almost every project I do. I use a ruler to mark the center of my hooped stabilizer (with my disappearing ink pen). (Here you can see how I center a garment in the hoop using adhesive backed stabilizer).
I also use a ruler just to visualize dimensions. For example, I hold the ruler up to my garment and note the measurement I think will look most appropriate. Then I size my design accordingly.
8) Quilting pins
Why I use any other pin besides quilting pins is beyond me. Quilting pins are slightly longer than regular pins and that extra bit of length makes all the difference in the world. I just think they feel more luxurious. In the context of machine embroidery, quilting pins are useful when pinning down a garment to hooped adhesive backed stabilizer. That extra bit of length makes it easier to get the pin through all the layers.
9) Binder Clips
Binder clips are awesome for holding back fabric when embroidering. I clip the excess fabric of what I’m embroidering to the hoop to prevent it from getting the excess material sucked back under the needle. Just be careful when using binder clips that when the hoop moves around the binder clips won’t interfere.
10) Seam Ripper
If you sew – you likely already own a seam ripper. But if you are doing machine appliqué – a seam ripper is essential. I use mine to remove the fabric in an enclosed shape. I have a couple of different types of seam rippers, but I think the simple classic $1.99 seam ripper (the red one in the picture) is really all you need and is most useful for machine appliqué.
Well there you go. I hope this helps you newbies or you generous gift givers. Are you a more experienced machine embroidery enthusiast? Then please share your thoughts!