Welcome to the fantastic world of embroidery! Embroidery is great because it is much cheaper than my other hobbies (knitting, beading, sewing, etc).
At the utterly basic level, you'll need: fabric, floss, needles, and a hoop. DMC is the staple six strand embroidery floss, although there are other brands. DMC floss is colorfast, cheap, and comes in hundreds of colors. It's also easy to find. If you have a Joanns near you, the floss is usually $0.37 a skein, and sometimes goes on sale for $0.25 or less a skein. Depending on how much floss you buy, you also want to consider how you are going to organize your floss. I wind them
onto plastic bobbins,
put the color name on them, then put them into a bobbin box by color
. But unless you get utterly thread happy at the store, an organizer isn't necessary until you have more thread. Hoops
For hoops, there are lots of different kinds. Personally, I prefer wood hoops. I have a bamboo one I love, and hopefully soon I'll get a hardwicke manor one. But to start with, those really cheap wood hoops at craft stores are fine. I know many experienced embroiderers who use them.Fabric
Any medium weight cotton is good, but I would recommend starting on flour sack dish towels or similar material. You do not want to start on a stretchy fabric, and you want the fabric to be heavy enough to support the embroidery (ie. not sheer) but not so thick that it's hard to put a needle through (ie. home dec fabric). I'm going to disagree with leika here, and say that Aunt Martha's flour sack dishtowels are a 100x better than those I saw at Target. Maybe her Target has different ones, but all the flour sack towels I've found at non-craft stores have a really thin weave and not something I would recommend for embroidery.Needles
There are lots of different kinds of needles, but to start with just pick up a pack of embroidery needles.Embroidery tips/techniques:
- "Strip" the thread: cut a piece of embroidery floss 10" - 16". Standard embroidery floss has 6 strands, but you normally only use 2-3 strands at a time. Select one strand of the floss and pull it away from the other strands. Repeat so that you have 2 or 3 separated strands. Then combine these threads together by threading all 3 into the eye of your needle. This insures that your thread won't be twisted. You do this every time you embroider something. I can count on one hand the times that I've used all 6 strands together.Patterns
There are two different kinds of patterns. Ones that are iron-on transfers (great to start with) or regular patterns. The first kind you just iron them pattern onto your fabric, then you can follow the lines with your stitching. For the second kind, you need a way to transfer the design onto your fabric. I don't use iron-on patterns any more, simply because there are just so many fabulous designs that can be used as embroidery patterns. Clip art, line drawings, your own drawings, all these things make fabulous embroidery patterns. In order to transfer the designs I use a sulky iron-on transfer pen. Joanns doesn't sell them, but other craft stores do. If you have a fabric store nearby, they might have it. All you do with the iron on pen is trace the paper design on the back (so it's reversed) then iron it on to the fabric. Voila! The transfer is permanenent, rather than washing out, which is the only thing I don't like about the pen.
If you're artistic, you could just get a washable blue pen (often used for quilting) and freehand draw your design directly on the fabric. Then when you're done, simply wash it and the marks go away!Books/Resources
If you have a bookstore nearby, you can look through their books. See what books work for you. However, with the wealth of information online you really don't need a book.
I think the best, most comprehensive, well written and illustrated resource is Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread. She's a fantastic teacher and writer. She also has video tutorials on many of her stitches. Start with her beginner section
. And of course, it's all free.Stitches
Start with backstitch, running stitch, and lasy daisy stitch. Then stem stitch, split stitch, and chain stitch. Try french knots. They're actually really easy, I had no problem doing them when I first started stitching, but I had someone show me how to do them, so your mileage may vary. From there, start exploring other stitches. I regularly go through my stitchonary to try new stitches.
Here's a great online stitchonary
from Sharon B.
And some embroidery basics
from Wild Olive.