What you need to get started with machine embroidery

By on June 1st, 2022
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What you need to get started with machine embroidery
free machine embroidery designs

If you’re interested in learning machine embroidery, then you need to make sure you have the right supplies. In this article, I will break down exactly what you need to get started with machine embroidery.

Obviously, you need an embroidery machine (preferably one suitable for beginners). However, there are other things that are required as well, such as fabric, stabilizer, thread, and other essential supplies for machine embroidery.

So, if you are new to this craft and want to make sure you have everything you need, read on for the essential information about what to buy!

What you need to get started with machine embroidery: essential supplies

There are few supplies that you will go through as you execute your machine embroidery projects. These are the supplies that are absolutely essential for machine embroidery.

Machine Embroidery Thread

One of the most important things you need for machine embroidery is high-quality machine embroidery thread.

Machine embroidery thread is different from sewing thread for a couple of reasons. You may have noticed that machine embroidery thread has a shinier appearance than regular sewing thread. This is because embroidery thread is decorative whereas sewing thread is more functional.

Machine embroidery thread also has different properties from sewing thread as it must glide more seamlessly through an embroidery needle. The process of embroidering requires a lot more stitches than simply sewing.

The tricky thing about thread for machine embroidery is that you will likely want a variety of colors which can mean a significant upfront investment. This is unlike sewing where you can acquire one spool of thread at a time for each project you make.

Some embroidery designs can require 10 or more thread colors, so you will want to have a variety of machine embroidery thread colors. You can actually purchase a variety pack of machine embroidery thread from Amazon which is a great option for a beginner.

There are many different brands of machine embroidery thread, and you can find them from all of the embroidery suppliers online or at your local Joanns. While some machine embroidery enthusiasts have very strong opinions about which is the best brand of embroidery thread, the truth is that many of them will work just fine with your machine.


Another important item you need is stabilizer. Stabilizer helps to keep your fabric from stretching and also keeps the design from getting distorted. There are different types of stabilizer depending on the project you are working on.

The three primary categories of stabilizer you may need are tearaway, cutaway and water soluble.


Tearaway stabilizer is removed after the design is complete. It literally tears away. Some tearaway has an adhesive surface which helps hold the fabric to the stabilizer.

I use tearaway for just about any project I’m working on. Typically I hoop my stabilizer and then float the fabric on top.


Cutaway stabilizer is left in and trimmed around the design. Typically cutaway stabilizer is used when you are embroidering on wearables.

Cutaway comes in a variety thicknesses and materials. A stiff cutaway works well on heavier, thicker fabrics. A fusible poly mesh cutaway works well on stretchy fabrics.

Water soluble

Water soluble stabilizer is used primarily for in-the-hoop projects as it dissolves in water.

You can find all of these types of stabilizer at most fabric stores or any of the online embroidery suppliers. If you are unsure about which type of stabilizer to use, check out my previous post about all about embroidery stabilizer.

I would start with a basic cutaway and a basic tearaway, and you will have a suitable stabilizer for a variety of products. As soon as you start working with knits, though, you will want o get some fusible poly mesh cut away stabilizer.

Embroidery Needles

You can not embroider unless you have needles in your machine.

While embroidery needles may look similar to sewing machine needles, it is very important that you do not use regular sewing needles in your embroidery machine. Embroidery machine needles have a larger eye than sewing machine needle, allowing thread to glide better through it.

Embroidery needles are sized similarly to regular sewing needles. They come in many different sizes, the most common being 75/11, 80/12, and 90/14 . The size you need will depend on the thickness of your material. Generally, you should use a more substantial needle when embroidering on more heavy duty fabrics.

Another type of embroidery needle you will likely want to acquire is a ball point machine embroidery needle. This type of needed is used for stitching on knit fabrics to prevent tearing of the fabric.

Bobbin thread

Your embroidery machine should have come with some bobbins. If you sew, you are likely well aware of the fact that you need bobbin thread in order to make a stitch. In machine embroidery, it is no different. You need to have bobbin thread.

Unlike when sewing, in machine embroidery your bobbin thread should not match your top thread. You should be using bobbin thread specifically for machine embroidery.

Bobbin thread used in embroidery machines is slightly thinner than regular embroidery which causes an imbalance of tension, pulling more of the top thread to the back of the embroidery. This helps to ensure that your bobbin thread does not show up on top.

You have two options when it comes to bobbin thread. You can either buy a large spool of bobbin thread and wind your own bobbins. Or, you can purchase prewound bobbins and pop a new one in every time you run out of. bobbin thread.

Either way – be sure to buy the bobbin thread (or prewound bobbin) designed to fit your embroidery machine.

Fabric and blanks

The last thing you need machine embroidery is fabric (unless you are creating a free standing lace project). While you can certainly embroider on a variety of fabrics, some fabrics are easier to embroider on than others.

If you are just starting out and want some fabric to stitch out some test embroidery designs, there are many sources for cheap fabric. Find some pieces of durable canvas or low pile towels or even fleece. These materials hold up well to embroidery and don’t stretch much.

As you get more experience with your embroidery machine, try stitching out embroidery designs on a variety of fabrics and blanks. There are a lot of great blanks suppliers specifically for embroiderers like us. You can also find a treasure trove of blanks on Amazon.

What you need to get started with machine embroidery: nice to have

Once you have your stabilizers, needles and thread, you are ready to start embroidering! However, there are a few other supplies that will be helpful to have on hand.

Temporary fabric adhesive

A temporary fabric adhesive is not absolutely necessary, but it can be helpful when working with tricky fabrics. This type of adhesive helps to temporarily attach the fabric to the stabilizer before it is secured in place with the embroidery. It is applied to the wrong side of the fabric and washes away easily when you are finished.

There are a few different brands on the market, but I like to use Odif temporary adhesive as it isn’t as messy as other brands and has a reputation for not gumming up your machine.

HeatnBond Lite

If you are doing appliqué, then I highly recommend getting a bit of HeatnBond Lite. It gives your appliqué fabric a bit of tackiness to help it stick to the base fabric. It also helps prevent fraying of the appliqué fabric.

You can also use HeatnBond Lite to make adhesive patches, which is a very in-demand product on Etsy and at craft shows.

Embroidery designs

Of course you can stitch out the designs that come with your embroidery machine, but where is the fun in that?

There are a ton of great places to find embroidery designs online. And, if you dig a bit, you can find a lot of free embroidery designs. It’s easy to download embroidery designs and load them on your embroidery machine.

Embroidery fonts

You can also build names, phrases and monograms with the letters built in to your embroidery machine, but you will soon realize that your options are a bit limited. If you purchase embroidery fonts, you can get much more creative with your embroidery.

Many digitizers sell fonts that you can use to build word names, and monograms. And, like embroidery designs, you can find some for free.

Now you have everything you need to get started with machine embroidery

While machine embroidery may seem intimidating at first, with the right supplies it’s easy to get started. In this article, I’ve outlined what you need to get started machine embroidery – from needles, thread and bobbins to fabric and blanks. With these supplies, you’ll be ready to start stitching out custom embroidery designs in no time.

Oh – but what about the tools? Check out this previous post about 10 essential accessories that will make embroidering so much easier.

Good luck and happy stitching!



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