Embroidery: An Essential Guide for Beginners

What is Embroidery?

Embroidery is a needlework technique that involves using a needle and thread to create designs on fabric. There are many different types of embroidery stitches, each with its own unique look and feel. Some popular embroidery stitches include running stitch, backstitch, French knot and Satin stitch.

Cross Stitch is considered an embroidery technique too.

Embroidery is a beautiful and rewarding craft that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is a great way to express your creativity and add a personal touch to your home décor or create handmade gifts. If you are new to embroidery, this guide will provide you with the essential tools and techniques you need to get started.

Table of Contents

Heads up, some links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through them, I might get a small commission (thanks!).



A hoop is a frame that helps to hold the fabric taut while you are embroidering. Hoops come in a variety of materials, shapes and sizes.

Embroidery hoops
  • Materials: you can find wooden hoops or plastic hoops. I personally prefer plastic hoops because, in my opinion, they hold the fabric much better, but I appreciate that for environmental reasons you might prefer wooden hoops.
  • Shapes: the most common hoops have a round shape, but you can easily find ovals, rectangles, etc.
  • Sizes: you find hoop of every size, you should buy hoops that match your designs, at the link below you will find that you can buy multiple sizes in one go so you will have most of the sizes you might need with just one purchase.

Keep in mind that, as average, the most common size for round embroidery pattern is about 5’’ / 6’’

Here where you can buy them:

  • Round Plastic hoops – link 
  • Round Wooden Hoops – link

Those are hoops “to work” your pattern, you can use the same hoop to display your finished product or you can choose a slightly more professional hoop to hang or gift your work.

It’s always important that you check the size!

You can find these display loops here.

Here you can find a video that will teach you how to insert the fabric in the hoop.


Any type of fabric can be embroidered, but some fabrics are easier to work with than others. Lightweight cotton and linen fabrics are a good choice for beginners.

If you don’t want to buy fabric straight away because you want just to practise, you could use old bedsheets, old pillow case etc.

In terms of colours, you can use any colour you prefer, just be mindful of the thread colour you will use.

Embroidery fabric

There are many different types of embroidery needles, each with its own purpose.

For beginners, I recommend using a sharp, universal needle like these – link.

Embroidery needles

There are different colours, weights and brands of embroidery thread available.

First of all, be sure to buy thread for hand embroidery and not machine embroidery, it can be different.

Then, I recommend using a good quality thread: online you can find some very cheap options, such as 100 embroidery thread for £10 but, trust me, the quality is not good at all, they will break, split, etc.

Embroidery Thread

So my suggestion is, at least at the beginning, to buy only the colours you need for the project you are thinking of making, by giving priority at the quality rather than the quantity.

A couple of good and famous brands are DMC and ANCHOR.

You can find them in craft shops, often in fabric shops and also online: directly on their websites or on Amazon with a generic search such as “DMC Embroidery thread” (see the results of this specific search at this link).

One thing, instead, that you can buy on Amazon or a craft shop is a thread container, like the one in the picture above: they are very useful and some of them come also with a manual thread winding machine which is a very helpful tool too – you can find the organiser box set at this link.


These are used to cut thread and they are usually small and sharp.

Here a few options:

  • Standard With cover: link
  • Bird shape: link
  • Unicorn shape: link
Embroidery scissors
Transfer Pens or similar methods

There are many different methods to transfer your pattern to your fabric, from water solvable pens to heat transfer pens to washable transfer paper, let’s see how they work.

Embroidery Erasable Pens
  • Water Solvable Pen: as the name says, the ink dissolves once you put the fabric in water. What you will do is positioning your fabric on the pattern, the wrong side of the fabric will be touching the pattern so that you will trace the design on the right side of the fabric. For better result, you might want to use a light source like a window on the back of pattern + fabric to see better through the fabric. Then, when you will wash your work after you embroidered it, any residual of the ink will disappear. You can find the water solvable pen at this link.
  • Heat Erasable Pen: this pen works like the Water Solvable Pen with the difference that it doesn’t dissolve in water, but with heat: you can use an iron, even at low settings or a hair-dryer.

    This is my second favourite method and I can use these pens also for normal sewing when I mark pieces of fabric to be joint together.

    You can find the Heat Erasable Pen at this link.

  • Washaway Embroidery Stabilizer or Stick and Wash Paper: this is, so far, my favourite method!


    It’s a sheet of special paper with two layers, one adhesive layer and one layer of normal paper: you can draw on it or  you can insert it in your printer at home and print the design on it.

    Then you remove the adhesive layer and you stick it onto your fabric, you keep it on while you’re embroidering and then it dissolves in water when you wash your project.


    There are different brands that sell them, but I found that this one works perfect in my printer.


An iron can be used to press the fabric before you start embroidering and also after you finished to remove wrinkles.

I’m sure you have an iron at home, but for embroidery or small sewing project you might want to get a small one, like a travelling iron.

I use this one that also has the steam option in case you need it.

The same for the ironing board, when I do embroidery or sewing I prefer a small one, so I bought a small ironing board that I put on top of an Ikea trolley so it also has wheels in case I need to move it around.

This will work just fine – link.

Thimble (optional)

Many people use thimble while hand-sewing, I always found hard to use one, but in case you would like to try it, you can find two main versions: the metal one (link) and the ergonomic one (link)


Once you have gathered your supplies, you are ready to start embroidering.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:


Choose a simple design to start with. There are many easy embroidery patterns available online and in books.

DMC for example has a lot of free pattern on their website – you can find them here.

When you have the basics, you could move on to more complicated patterns.

You can find them on Etsy – here is the link to my Etsy shop for example, but if you search in the top search bar for “Embroidery Patterns” adding the category (for example “Cats”) you will have many options to choose from.

  • HOOP

Use a hoop to hold the fabric taut: this will help you to keep your stitches even – see above to learn more about hoops and how to insert the fabric in it.


Start with a simple stitch, such as the running stitch or back stitch. Once you have mastered these, you can move on to more complex stitches – below in the page we will go through the main stitches to learn.


Take your time and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes when they are learning a new skill. The important thing is to keep practicing.


There are many different embroidery techniques, but let’s start with some of the most common stitches with video tutorial for each one of them:

Running Stitch

Satin Stitch

French Knot

Back Stitch

Stem Stitch

Long/Short Stitch

Lazy Daisy and 

opposite Lazy Daisy

Chain Stitch



Knowing the right embroidery tools and stitches is the basics of any embroiderer. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to create beautiful and creative embroidery projects. So what are you waiting for? Start embroidering today!

Happy Embroidering!

If you like to share...