Embroidery Basics

Embroidery basics. What is embroidery and how to begin? What supplies do you need to begin?

Embroidery, like every other art form, needs to be understood to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. Insight of the principles not only creates the urge to "paint" with needle and thread but gives one the knowledge that enables a more keen perception of the old masterpieces as well as modern day pieces.

What tools will you need? The simple ring hoop is very common amongst embroiderers. The advantages these offer are their mobility and adjustment flexibility. The screw adjustment allows the hoop to be tightly adjusted to various weight fabrics.

First of all, is a frame or hoop necessary? Yes and no. If you want consistency in your stitches and wish to reduce the chance for puckering, then some sort of tension must be applied to the fabric. If you want inconsistency in your stitches and some puckering (similar to some "in period" works) then certainly do not use any frame or hoop. When you are just learning to embroider, using a frame or hoop will enable you to actually see the weave of your fabric, which will allow you greater ease in laying your stitches.

If you learn without a frame or hoop, bad habits can be learned and will be very hard to break later.

There are several types of frames and hoops on the market today. Each type has their own advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of which hoop, stand, or frame you choose, be sure to choose what meets your needs and makes you comfortable. They also allow you to move around on your pattern giving you greater flexibility in your project's size. These hoops can easily be transported allowing you the opportunity to work anywhere. The disadvantages are the quality and durability.

The next important choice is your needles. While you are searching for the right needle remember that not all needles are created equal. Each size and length has a different control factor and the ones you will employ are directly related to the thread and technique chosen. For beginners, purchasing a variety packet and encourage you to experiment with each. Generally speaking, the "Embroidery" type will work well for almost everything but you may find one particular type is the best for you. A blunt point, or tapestry, needle will be needed if you intend to work mostly on the surface, with only an occasional pass through, such as with a Weaving Stitch.

Before you begin you should study your pattern very carefully. Look at it closely. If you apply some effort in your preparation now, you will save yourself a lot of grief later.

The first step for beginners is to work a small article, or Sampler, when first attempting a new project. By taking the time to perfect your technique on a sampler, you will test out the appearance of the different stitches thereby reducing the possibility of a "tear out" later. Now is the time to bring ideas, your ideas, to the work you are about to begin.

Color Schemes

As you are choosing fabric, take into account the actual design with colors. The hardest thing when you are confronted with the vast array of colors is to choose and eliminate. The most common error beginners have in their thinking is that leaves must be green, the sky must be blue and that the animals must conform to their natural color.

Do not limit yourself but try to keep the color scheme simple.

You can achieve a variety of color illusions by varying your stitches. Light will strike one stitch differently than another resulting in the "illusion" that many color values were used. To experiment with color illusions brought on by stitch variance, try laying the different values (light, medium and dark) on your pattern. This trick will teach you to look for tone values in colors and you will learn to adjust where to put a different value or simply change the direction of your stitches.

An easy and effective way to choose your scheme is to choose a predominate, or basic, color. Pick all of the varieties of that color and lay them on your pattern. This will help you visualize the finished project. Don't be afraid of the brilliant color you see before you. They are never as bright when they are worked as they are in the skein. If you have difficulty visualizing the muted colors, cut off a few small pieces and place them instead.

Applying your pattern to your fabric can be tricky. There are several ways to apply your pattern. The easiest way is to free-hand draw. Unfortunately everyone can draw, therefore, transferring a pattern to fabric by another means is necessary.

The first is by Dressmaker's Transfer Paper. There are several brands available so, without endorsing one specific brand, purchase one that has a wax base but is removed by washing or dry cleaning. You may also use carbon paper but this will smudge and dust off. You will lose your trace before you are finished.

The method of tracing your pattern to tissue paper then basting on is another way of applying to deep piled fabric. When your project is complete, simply tear away the excess and clean. The tissue under your stitching will disintegrate. A variation of this method is a jelly-type material. This material requires a jelly ink pen. Applying your pattern is the same as the tissue paper method. You must be careful around moisture though. Even the sweat from your hands will melt away this material. I highly recommend this soluble material for deep piled fabrics such as wools and velvets.

When you have completed your project you will probably find some tracings or guidemarks that need to be removed. You also want to "set" the colors so bleeding will not occur later. Depending on the materials you used, you need to wash or dry clean.

If you have a washable project, immerse it in cold water with a small amount of gentle laundry soap. Gently rub any markings that are being difficult. Rinse thoroughly in cold water and a small amount of white vinegar. The vinegar will help "set" your colors. Wrap your project in a towel, squeezing tightly but not wringing, to soak up the excess water. Lay it out on a flat surface to dry. You may press with a cool steam iron on the wrong side of the stitching, if desired.

If your project is a recommended "dry clean only", the fluids used in the process generally removes all the difficult markings and no further attention is required.

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