How to Start your Creative Journey with Hand Embroidery - The Basics

How to Start your Creative Journey with Hand Embroidery - The Basics

Hand Embroidery Guide for Complete Beginners
New to hand embroidery? You're not sure where to start. Welcome to my Embroidery for Beginners tutorials. In this first post, I'll explain what resources you need to get started.
I find embroidery to be both relaxing and intimate. It can be a half-hour, an hour, or whatever time you have available. You are focused on working with a design. The mind is at rest. The day's worries are gone. The result is a lovely piece of embroidery that you've created.

Let's begin

Creating a beautiful piece of hand embroidery doesn't require expensive materials. You’ll probably have what you need at home. Let’s keep it simple.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you see so many stitches and techniques online. Don’t worry. Soon, you'll feel confident and make progress.

There are many ways to embroider and get similar results. We’ll be doing freestyle embroidery. Freestyle (or surface) embroidery is any form of stitching that is not counted. The fabric’s weave has no effect on the pattern. You'll work on a simple project from start to finish while learning a few basic stitches to create specific textures and forms.

You’ll need a piece of plain fabric, floss, a needle, scissors, a hoop, a basic stitching design for beginners, and a way to transfer the design to your fabric. Choose materials and supplies that work for you and that you enjoy.

The following post is part of a series on Embroidery 101.

To thank my subscribers, I have created a free embroidery design. Get this free PDF project by subscribing to our newsletter.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to transfer a design to fabric using a sheet of carbon paper and a regular pen or pencil.

Beginner's Friendly Hand Embroidery Free Pattern

Essential Embroidery Supplies


Embroidering is possible on almost anything. If you are a beginner, cotton or linen is the best fabric to use. With those fabrics, you can stitch with even tension while using the hoop. I use natural cotton fabric as it has a smooth texture. A half yard of plain cotton fabric would be enough to start. You need a full-weave fabric (warp and weft threads with no clear gaps). Wet the fabric before using it, because natural cotton shrinks about 5 to 10%. If you wash the fabrics, please press them well before use.

Different types of fabric for Hand Embroidery


For this project, we’ll use a 6-strand cotton thread. Many brands of thread come in skeins in a wide selection of colors. Depending on how fine you want your embroidery to look, you can divide the strands. For a more delicate finish, you use fewer strands. I tend to use two or three strands, but also one or four, depending on the design. Cut a length of thread, about 13” (35 cm). Separate the number of strands required to stitch, and set all the remainder aside. Next time, we’ll see how to divide the floss. I use good quality floss as it’s colorfast and has vibrant colors. Choose the hues you like for your project.

Colorful Stranded Cotton Threads for Hand Embroidery


The type of needle to use depends on the embroidery technique. For freestyle embroidery, we’re going to work with medium-size needles. Needles 4-5 cm in length with a sharp point and a large eye. Their large eyes make threading the needle easier when using many strands of cotton thread. I prefer stitching with these needles when I’m using two or more strands of floss. Getting a set of needles in a mix of sizes is a good idea, as you can test a range before deciding which suits you best.

Needles most widely used for hand embroidery


Having a good pair of embroidery scissors or thread snips is essential. You only need them to snip thread, so they should be sharp but also small. Good scissors will cut your thread without fraying the strands. Fraying the floss makes threading the needle more difficult (which is challenging enough). Pick the one that best fits your hand.

Small and Sharp Scissors for Hand Embroidery


A stitching hoop holds your fabric taut and secure as you stitch, so it doesn't pucker as you sew. There are four standard shapes of hoops: round, oval, square, and rectangle. In general, round hoops range from 3 to 14 inches (ca. 7 to 36 cm) in diameter. The size of your project determines the size of your hoop. Select one that encircles the entire design. The hoop should be about an inch larger than the design. Choose a hoop that fits comfortably in one hand as you stitch. I'll suggest starting a project with a medium-size round hoop of 5 or 6 inches (12 or 15 cm), wooden or plastic. If you already have a smaller hoop, it'll be perfect to practice with while you learn how to use the tool. 

Wooden and Plastic Hoops for Hand Embroidery

An Easy Way to Transfer a Design

We’re going to use a simple and inexpensive way to transfer a pattern onto the fabric. You'll need ordinary carbon paper (I'm using black), painter's tape (as it peels off without leaving a residue or damaging the surface), a regular pen, or a pencil. That’s all.

Carbon paper is available at most craft stores. You can also use wax-free paper (if it's available in your country). It comes in different colors. A sheet of carbon paper has two sides. One side is like paper, while the other side has a wax coating. You need to place the carbon paper on your fabric, waxy side down. Put the pattern face up over the carbon paper and tape it or hold it in place. Use a pen or pencil to trace the design. It may be necessary to go over the lines more than once. Don't press too hard because the pen can push through the paper and stain or mark the fabric.


Carbon Paper to Transfer Embroidery Patterns

Thank you for taking the time to read this beginner's tutorial. Get in touch if you have questions, or if you'd like to share some tips, techniques, or supplies that you like. We love sharing.

Happy stitching,


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