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Types of Thread and Needles Used for Machine Embroidery

Sometimes even experienced embroiderers underestimate the importance of choosing the right needle and thread. Not only do these two factors play an integral role in the outcome of the embroidery, but the right combination will make the process go a lot smoother along the way. With so many types of thread and needles to choose from, making the right choice can be overwhelming. Needles come in a variety of types and sizes and each works best with a certain type of thread. The key to making the right choice in needle and thread starts with the type of fabric being embroidered. Once you understand the different options in needles and thread and how they work together to embroider, you should be able to choose the best combination for any project.

Types of Thread and Needles

The Parts of the Needle

The uppermost part of the needle is the thickest and it is called the “shank.” Embroidery machine needles have a shank that is rounded in the front and flat in the back. This design lets you place the needle into the machine easily in the correct direction.

The point of the needle is the part that comes into contact with the embroidery fabric first. The point makes an opening in the fabric, either by piercing it or going between the threads, carrying the thread to the back of the fabric.

The long part of the needle between the point and the shank is the shaft. The shaft is smaller than the shank and larger than the point. The eye is the opening in the needle near the point. The thread is channeled through the eye so that the needle carries it through the fabric to make a stitch. There is also a visible groove at the bottom of the eye that is positioned to the front when inserted which directs the thread through the needle.

There is an indentation on the back of the needle opposite of the groove called the scarf. When the needle is on the bottom of the fabric, the scarf allows the bobbin casing to come near enough to the eye to catch the thread and make a stitch.

Standard Embroidery Needles

Standard embroidery needles are made for use with polyester and rayon embroidery threads on virtually any type of fabric. The size of embroidery needles are listed in a double number format such as 75/11. The first number represents the European metric system in millimeters and the second one is the American number system. (If you are purchasing twin or triple needles, the first number represents the distance between the needles and the second number is the European needle size.) The 75/11 needle is the standard sized needle and usually what is included with a new embroidery machine. Needles numbered lower than 11 are finer and those numbered higher are thicker.

Getting to the Point

Normally, sharp needles are used on woven fabrics while ballpoint needles are used to embroider knits or delicate fabrics. When embroidering on fabrics that tend to “fuzz up” or get runs or tears, it may be due to the sharp point of the needle. Try switching to a ball point needle to get cleaner results. Some types of fabrics may not respond as well to sharp needles as others.

Over time, and with practice, embroiderers usually find the size and type of needles that they prefer even if they are not typically what is recommended. When you are not getting the results you expect on a project, you may want to change your needle size or just change to a fresh needle to try and get better results.

Why Needle Size Matters

Once you have chosen your embroidery fabric, the next step is to choose the best size and type of needle. The way the fabric is woven will determine how big the needle should be and how large the hole should be that the needle makes when stitching.

There are also specialty needles that are used with certain types of fabrics and threads. For example, if you are embroidering with extra thick thread such as heavy wool, then a thick thread needle will have an even larger eye to accommodate the threads bulky size. Specialty needles for use on leather have a wedged point that will leave a smaller hole in the fabric. Other types of specialty needles include hemstitch needles with create open decorative stitches and twin needles used for topstitching.

While embroidery pros don’t always agree on technique, most do agree that you should change needles regularly. If a needle begins to get bent, replace it to prevent breakage. Having the right needle won’t matter if it is not in good shape.

Embroidery Machine Thread

Types of Thread and Needles

Although needle size increases as the number gets higher, embroidery thread is exactly the opposite. A higher number weight is actually a lighter weight thread while decreasing numbers are heavier. That means that a 30-weight embroidery thread is heavier than the standard 40-weight thread.

Embroidery thread comes in a variety of materials including:

· Rayon

· Polyester

· Cotton

· Silk

· Variegated

· Metallic

· Clear

· Light or Solar Activated

Rayon has long been a favorite for its easy accessibility and wide array of color choices. The biggest problem with rayon is that the colors tend to fade over time. Today, polyester embroidery thread is quickly taking the place of rayon as a favorite choice because it is strong, has a similar appearance and shine to that of rayon, and it also resists fading. Polyester threads are made from multiple filaments to create a trilobal pattern that catches light and makes embroidery shinier.

Cotton thread is often used in traditional or heirloom embroidery where a matte finish is desired. Machine embroidery using cotton thread looks more like hand embroidery making it ideal for quilting some some designs.

Specialty Threads

There are numerous types of threads on the market that are used for special types of projects. Of these, metallics are very popular in spite of the difficulty many people have in using them. The thread is made by wrapping holographic fibers around a core. Round thread tends to work best and a larger topstitch needle can help. Some experts also recommend lowering the machine tension when working with metallic threads.

Light sensitive thread that appears white in normal lighting and glows in the dark is ideal for creating holiday items, especially for kids. Clear thread is used when you don’t want embroidery stitches to show on the top of the fabric, such as with applique.

The choice in embroidery thread is based primarily on the appearance you want for your final project but the fabric choice matters here, too. The fabric should be capable of handling the thread weight for the pattern. Using a heavy weight thread for a dense embroidery pattern on a piece of lightweight fabric isn’t going to turn out well. Think of balancing out the weight between the fabric, needle, and the thread you use for the design you are creating.

Different thread content will determine whether the design is shiny, vibrant, or matte and subdued for an old-fashioned look. Even more important that the thread material is the quality. Always use good quality thread that is compatible with your embroidery machine.

Bringing It All Together

FABRIC WEIGHT EXAMPLES THREAD TYPE & SIZE NEEDLE TYPE & SIZE
Lightweight/ThinGeorgette, Satin, Linen, Lace*, ChiffonCotton or Synthetic** 60-90 Silk 50Sharp 65/9 to 75-11
MediumCotton Broadcloth, Velvet, Gabardine, Flannel, TaffetaCotton or Synthetic 60-90 Silk 50Sharp 75-11 to 90-14
Heavy/ThickDenim, Upholstery Fabric, Brocade, Poplin, CanvasCotton 30 or 50 Synthetic or Silk 50-60Sharp 100/16 Sharp 90/14 to 100/16
Stretchy KnitsJersey, Lycra, TricotSpecialty Thread for Knits 50-60Ball Point 75/11 to 90/14
Sheer Fabrics that Fray EasilyGauze, Georgette, BatisteCotton or Synthetic 50-90 Silk 50Sharp 65/9-90/14
TopstitchingAnySynthetic 30 Silk 50-60100/16 75/11 to 90/14
Bobbin ThreadAnySpecial Bobbin Thread in Various Weights to Match the Machine Thread Weight and Fiber Content

*Some sewers prefer to use a sharp needle to sew lace but other recommend a ballpoint for working on the intricate patterns. Be certain to use stabilizer underneath so that the needle and thread has a solid canvas for the embroidery. This material also makes it easier to use a sharp needle in spite of open lace designs.

**Synthetic may be either polyester or rayon thread.

Any type of fabric not included in the chart will fall in the category of “specialty fabrics” and will require the specialized threads and needles made specifically for these types of fabrics. Although you will probably run across some problems along the way, making careful choices in the fabric, thread, and needles you use for each project will help eliminate your need for troubleshooting and make you a more successful embroiderer!

Embroidery vs Monogramming: What’s the Difference?

The terms “embroidery” and “monogramming” are often used interchangeably but, while the two words are related, they do not have the same meaning. If you are requesting either embroidery or monogramming from a business, you are probably going to get what you ask for based on the description of what you want. For example, if you ask to have your name monogrammed on a tote bag, that’s probably what the business owner will do. But once you know the meaning of each of these types of art, you will understand why monogramming your name on anything is not possible! If you are offering embroidery or monogramming services to friends or customers, you should know what the real difference between embroidery vs monogramming.

Monogram

embroidery vs monogramming

A monogram is a motif of two or more initials that are used to add decoration or to show possession, depending on where it is placed. Monogramming got its start with early Greek and Roman rulers as a means to sign documents or to mark currency produced during their time of rule. Initially, only two initials were used. During the Middle Ages, monograms became useful to artisans who wanted to personalize their crafts. The monogram became a symbol of prestige during the Victorian era. Although the lower class used monograms too, they were typically imprinted using a personalized stamp while noblemen would have their monograms embroidered on household linens.

A monogram may symbolize something other than a person’s initials, but that is almost always the case. The definition still holds true whether the design is made by cutting into a material, painting it on a wall or a rock, adding ink to paper, or embroidering the design into fabric.

Embroidery

Embroidery is the art of stitching to create decorative designs on material using a needle and thread. Historically, embroidery was also used by some countries to record important historical events but the various techniques used by different countries are most commonly noted for their beauty and realism in design.

The form of embroidery used in America today reflects the various techniques brought here by immigrants from other countries. Although hand embroidery has become a common interest for many crafters, the introduction of embroidery sewing machines for the home has made it possible to create professional quality embroidery at home for personal use or for business. The internet allows home sewers to download hundreds of designs to their sewing machines where they can edit or combine them so that the scope of designs available to them is virtually unlimited.

Bringing Monogramming and Embroidery Together

Today, monogramming has become a popular form of personalization for clothes, household linens, and all types of accessories for kids and adults alike. Modern household embroidery machines may include monogramming designs when you purchase them or you can buy stand-alone monogramming software to provide you with more monogram patterns so that you can create one-of-a-kind looks.

People realized centuries ago that embroidery was a more preferable way to symbolize a monogram than with any other method available. Embroidery thread allows you to create vibrant, sophisticated, or fun monograms for any use or age that is also long-lasting. Home embroidery businesses may include monogramming as part of their offerings or they may be dedicated to monogramming gift items without providing any other type of embroidery. No matter what your monogram is embroidered on, there is simply no better way to symbolize your sense of style or your ownership!

Top 5 Trends in Embroidery for Kids

Embroidery for kids is an easy way to add fun, color, and even inspiration to kids’ clothing and accessories. Your embroidery machine is the perfect tool for creating custom designs that they will cherish. There are thousands of designs available online that you can download for your machine. Although some are obviously designed with kids in mind, current trends include some less expected methods and styles of embroidery to personalize what you make for your own kids and give as gifts.

1. Monogramming 

 Experts have long advised against printing a child’s entire name on any of their clothing or accessories to prevent strangers from being able to gain their trust. But monograms are a decorative way of adding personalization to anything without putting kids at risk. More people are having baby layette items monogrammed to give as gifts instead of just giving the solid color “onesies” that all look the same. Adding a monogram says that the giver took the time to consider the gift and they are acknowledging the importance of the new baby’s name.

Older children like monogramming too. Many like the formal, adult-like appeal of having their names on clothing, tote bags, hats, or backpacks. Another popular trend is to monogram boot cuffs. You also have the choice of using the first letters of all their names for a complete monogram or adding decorative details to the first letter of their first name and turning it into a work of art. Best of all, monograms work equally well for use on girls or boys clothing.

2. Disney –

Disney sets the standard for embroidery patterns for kids’, combining old favorites with new characters and bright colors that bring every embroidery project to life. Little girls still love the Barbie Princesses Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White, and the newest addition from Frozen, Elsa. Boys love the shenanigans of Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Snotrod from Cars and the new version of the Ninja Turtles. Whatever their favorites might be, nothing delights kids more than having them embroidered on their clothes so they are with them everywhere they go.

3. Big, Bold, and Lots of Coverage –

 Embroidery patterns that cover large portions of the material are being used to create signature pieces, be it tops or bottoms that are paired with solids for an even bigger fashion statement. They may be eclectic designs that look like a sampler of design patterns or all within a single theme. The key to duplicating the look that has hit the runways for kids this year is in choosing the right thread colors to really make individual features of the embroidery pop. Jackets are great projects for this style of embroidery since they can be used with almost any color of tops and bottoms.

4. Sports –

 The capabilities of today’s embroidery machines makes it possible to embroider sports designs that are much more complex than those usually found on kids clothing. Instead of a simple football, you can now embroider the quarterback carrying the ball to the finish line. There are all types of sports available including those that are cute and whimsical as well as more realistic interpretations of real sports figures.

5. Flowers -

 Flowers are probably one of the oldest subjects of embroidery and they remain a focus of many of today’s signs. Flowers may be small and delicate to add a feminine touch to a little girl’s dress or they may be large and colorful to make a skirt more festive and fun. A common trend being seen in kids fashion is the embroidered skirt overlay that may only hang down a few inches over the skirt or come near the bottom. If using mesh to embroider a floral background for a skirt overlay, be certain to choose a pattern that is light enough to be supported by the lightweight fabric. Another option is to embroider a floral ruffle to sew onto the hemline.

One of the advantages of having your own embroidery sewing machine is that you can design kids’ clothes and make your own designs from start to finish. The end result will be unique and stylish clothes that kids will love to wear. You can also add a touch of embroidery to socks, hats, bags, and all kinds of accessories to coordinate their outfit. The ease of embroidery with one of the new embroidery sewing machines makes it possible for you to be yours and your kids’ personal fashion designer.

What You Need to Turn Your Passion for the Craft Into an Embroidery Home Business

Nothing is more satisfying than turning something that you enjoy doing into a profitable business. An embroidery home business has many of the same advantages as other types of businesses run from home, including setting your own hours and prices for your services but with the added twist of doing something that you really enjoy. To get started turning your passion for embroidery into a business, you will need to have some basic tools on-hand so that you can just focus on providing the best customer service and quality products to your new customers.

Start with the Right Embroidery Sewing Machine

Woman operating embroidery machine.

There are many styles of embroidery machines on the market including those made for home use and those for commercial use. Most people who start a home-based business opt for a home machine. Commercial machines are designed to handle larger jobs and are built stronger to hold up to repeated use. Also, commercial embroidery machines can cost thousands of dollars more than home use machines, making them a poor investment for a business that you are just starting.

Do your research on the different type of embroidery machines and the warranties on each one. All embroidery machines use special embroidery software and a computer. When you find a design that you want online, you purchase it and then download it onto your computer. From there, it is transferred to the embroidery machine using a USB memory stick or directly from a laptop.

If you have the option to purchase a commercial embroidery machine that is used at a lower cost than a new one, consider how it transfers designs. Some of the older models work by reading cards and they are not as likely to be compatible with the newest technology. You are better off to buy a new machine at a comparable price.

Some machines include free embroidery software while others must be purchased separately. Some software is available for free while those that are for sale are quite expensive. Before you purchase a machine, find out if the software is included and how many designs are already programmed into the machine. This will determine whether you will also need to buy a USB storage device, a laptop or computer, and expensive embroidery software. If you already own a MAC, you will also need to know if the software is compatible with your existing computer or if you will have to upgrade.

Once you have purchased an embroidery machine, it will help serve as a guide for buying other tools you will need for your business including:

· Stock Embroidery Designs –

The designs you keep on-hand and programmed into your machine for your business will depend on the types of customers you serve. If you will be embroidering caps for a sports team, monogramming gift items, or using a selection of designs to use as your signature on purchased or created items, you will only need a limited number of designs that you can edit to suit each individual need. On the other hand, if you plan to encompass a broad range of designs according to the customer’s interests, you may want to start with a significant stock and then add new options as customers request them.

· Needles –

 The variety of needles that you need to stock up on will depend on the types of embroidery you will do and the different types of embroidery material you will be using. What you do need is to have enough needles on-hand to change the working needle regularly to keep your embroidery clean and sharp.

· Thread –

Polyester thread is becoming the standard choice over Rayon due to its resilience and colorfastness. You want to use high-quality thread to ensure your machine works optimally and to prevent the potential for thread breaks. A good way to save money on this basic supply is to purchase thread collections that are made to match those of the leading brands that are available at a much lower price. The key to getting quality and savings is to go with a brand that has been making embroidery thread for many years and which has a high rating among users.

· Hoops –

If you will be embroidering a variety of flat items, then get a variety of hoop sizes that are compatible with your machine. You want to use the smallest possible hoop for any design to keep the fabric tight and secure during the embroidery process. There are also specialty hoops for embroidering oddly shaped garments or those that are hard to access such as baseball caps or the legs of jeans.

· Pre-Wound Bobbins –

 Black or white thread that is made specifically for use in the bobbin is an essential tool for any home based embroidery business. Purchasing pre-wound bobbins will save you a lot of time and frustration instead of worrying about whether you have enough thread on hand and keeping it separate from your other embroidery thread. If you don’t purchase pre-wound bobbins, you will probably need to invest in a bobbin winder unless your machine has a bobbin winding function that works independently from the sewing function.

· Stabilizer –

There are four types of stabilizers including cutaway, tearaway, water soluble, and tacky. Each style is useful for different types of projects. Determine whether you will need more than one type according to your potential embroidery projects. The best rule of thumb is to keep some of each type on-hand so that you are prepared for any challenge.

· Tool Kit -

Keep a small toolkit with embroidery and regular scissors, tweezers, touch pen, seam ripper, cleaning brush, oil, and a needle-threading tool nearby for all the little details that you will face each day.

· Tax ID Number –

Although you will find most of the embroidery materials you need online at prices that are below wholesale, you may want a tax ID number if you plan to stock the items you will embroider and sell them as an entire unit. For example, men’s baseball caps, baby layettes, or women’s scarves that you can buy in bulk for consistent design, material content, and appearance will be more affordable when you purchase wholesale.


The most important factor in making your home-based business a success is to be prepared for whatever job will come through your door next. Delivering high-quality embroidery in a timely manner will help spread the word and build a reputation that will help your embroidery business thrive.

Where to Find Designs for Your Embroidery Machine

Once you have chosen a home embroidery machine, you are probably anxious to get started creating beautiful designs. Before you can get started, you have to know where to get designs for your embroidery machine. There are thousands of designs to download on the internet, some for free and others at various costs. Before you download any design to your computer, you need to determine the type of design your computer uses. Just check your user manual to see what file type to look for. Most designs are available in multiple file types.

Another thing to consider is the method of transfer used to get the design from your computer to your sewing machine. Your machine may work by direct cable connection or with a USB memory stick. Some machines use a card but these are pretty much limited to older models.

Once you know which kind of designs to purchase, you are ready to start shopping! A simple search for embroidery machine designs will take you to many, many websites. Some carry a vast number of all types of designs while others are private owned stores where people who love machine embroidery just like you have turned their passion and skills into an online business where they digitize unique embroidery designs.

Below is a list of popular websites where you can get embroidery designs from established businesses that have large followings.

Anita Goodesign is one of the top embroidery design companies in the world. With more than 50 full-time employees, they manufacture all of their products in Charlotte, NC, from conception to completion! They offer club memberships, which include access to webinars, pdf and video tutorials, and Embroidery Parties!

StitchX Embroidery offers many hand-digitized machine embroidery designs on compact disc. Most of their CDs include many designs in the most popular formats. From seasonal design, to animals and nature, you can find almost any motif at StitchX.

ThreaDelight offers embroidery supplies such as a wide assortment of polyester, rayon and metallic threads, netting and prewound bobbins. They also offer project oriented embroidery designs on CD, in a variety of popular formats, for varying hoop sizes.

Kimberbell Designs specializes in quilt and home decor patterns, including many creative machine embroidery designs. Kimberbell is the creation of Kim Christopherson, who is also the co-host of "The DIY Dish" show featuring sewing, quilting, and craft projects.

AmazingDesigns.com – True to their name, Amazing Designs has been providing high quality embroidery designs that stand out since 1996. All of their single designs and collections are offered as instant downloads and they add new designs regularly. They also offer free projects and free embroidery designs.

Amazon.com – Amazon is a great place to find embroidery designs! Collections like the one linked here are ideal for anyone who wants a lot of versatility in their embroidery or who is planning on starting a home based machine embroidery business and needs a large stock to choose from. Offerings change regularly so that there is always something new to choose from.

DesignsBySick.com – Designs by Sick has been offering embroidery designs online since 2002 and they offer a lot more. Join in their chat and forums to socialize with other embroiderers to see what they have to say. They offer a “This Hour’s Free Design” a “Today’s Free Design”, and “Today’s Free Facebook Design” in addition to their current selection of more than 31,000 unique designs and more than 2,000 designs sets or packs.

Urban Threads – Urban Threads is a small company that operates as a part of a larger team at Embroidery Library. They go in a different direction with their designs and post at least one cool new design every weekday to inspire embroiders with their artistic talents.

EmbroideryLibrary.com – This is the parent company to Urban Threads and home to embroidery designs in nearly any category that you can imagine. They have more than 100,000 designs and design packs. If you have something in mind, you will probably find it here and each design is instantly downloadable. Prices are low, from $1 to as little as $7.99.

RustyNeedleDesigns – There are many embroidery design stores on Etsy, and Rusty Needle Designs is a good one if you are looking for designs that are a little less mainstream. Check out Esty.com for even more places to get unique designs.

SwakEmbroidery.com – This company has a lot of choices in alphabet designs for monograms and other types of personalization and signage. They have designs in a wide range of categories including embossed designs and mega hoop designs.

Brother-USA.com – Or sign up with the company that made your embroidery machine. Brother offers free tips and tricks, free designs and projects, and special offers on the purchases you make.

EmbroideryDesigns.com – This company offers a lot of choices including top selling designs and packages, themed design packs, and custom packs so you include only what you want. They also offer custom digitizing so you can turn your artwork into a unique embroidery design. You can choose three of their free embroidery designs per week at no charge but you must make a specified purchased each week to receive more.

EmbroideryOnline.com – Oklahoma Embroidery Supply & Design (OESD) has more than 25 years of experience providing in-house, high-quality digitized embroidery designs. Their designs include transfer methods for PC cards, USBs, and CDs. They also offer designs that have been created by licensed artists to ensure each design is of the highest quality and will produce the best embroidery.

Ebay.com – Like Amazon, Ebay has listings for thousands of embroidery designs, both from Ebay stores and individual sellers. One advantage is that you have a wide variety of styles and unusual designs to choose from. But be careful about purchasing designs from individuals who don’t have a selling history or who don’t have a nearly perfect rating.

This is just a sampling of the online websites where you can find embroidery designs for your machine but they represent a diversity of styles and options. Most require you to sign up for an account to begin trading with them but the bonus is in getting tips and tricks offered to members and having the chance to chat with other sewers who may have had some of the same challenges as you and have overcome them.

Once you have tried your hand at creating a few designs, you will probably begin to get an idea of the styles you prefer and where to find them. If you aren’t happy with these choices, you can always find more with an advanced search for the specific type of designs you have in mind!

The History of Embroidery

History of embroidery

Embroidery is a craft that relies on needles, thread, and a variety of stitches to create designs on fabric. Embroidery may be a hobby, a source of income, or a necessity for bringing beauty and art into every area of the home. The skills of the crafter determine the quality of the final project, while the techniques and choice of materials make the difference between a realistic work of art and a merely functional piece. While the craft of embroidery may seem entirely new to some,the history of embroidery has led to the perfection of the craft and the improvement in tools used to create it.

Embroidery’s Primitive Roots

History of embroidery -  hides

Primitive man relied on animal hides to craft clothing. The tools used to sew the clothing were made from ivory or bone while fibers from plants or the fibrous tissue from the animal’s flesh to make thread. Over time, the sewing technique used to hold animal skins together was transformed into a method of embellishment that implemented stones, bones, and beads into the work to make their clothing more decorative.

Prehistoric Embroidery in China

Possibly, embroidery goes back further in history in China than any other place on the planet. The practice has been dated back in that country to 3500BC with a number of impressive pieces still available today from the era of 1045BC to 246BC. One of the distinctive features of Chinese embroidery is the use of fine strands of silk thread which result in a more realistic representation of the subject matter. The use of silk thread and the variety of stitches used in this embroidery has been passed down through the generations to preserve the artistry that is still performed today. It is also important to note that many cultures including the Babylonians, Ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians have a long history and their own styles of embroidery.

Embroidery Through the Middle Ages and Beyond

History of embroidery - tapestry

During the middle ages, the practice of embroidery grew rapidly. Wealthy traders and merchants would pay high prices for embroidered clothing, considering it a luxury. During the Renaissance Period, embroidery was no longer used primarily for clothing but also to decorate tapestries, curtains, and other household linens.

The Age of Enlightenment

Following the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment brought with it a number of changes in how women dressed, particularly the focus on the color yellow. Clothing styles transformed from wide skirts and back pleats to neater, close robes with fitted pleats. Chinoiserie, the use of Chinese motifs and embroidery techniques, became popular and was used in the design of elaborate clothing. Men’s clothing remained in the previous styles of waistcoats and breeches, but with the addition of elaborately embroidered dress fabrics, specifically silks and velvets.

The Introduction of the Embroidery Machine

Jacob Schiess started the first commercial embroidery manufacturing business in America in 1848 soon after coming to this country from Switzerland. Unlike today’s industrial embroidery businesses which rely on high-tech computerized embroidery machines, the facility operated with fifteen women who stitched by hand to create intricate designs.

Machine embroidery was introduced to America in the 1800’s when Joshua Heilmann designed a hand embroidery machine that is credited more for revolutionizing the industry than for the sales it inspired. The invention was soon followed by more modern embroidery methods, such as chain stitch embroidery and the shuttle method.

During the late 1800s, Issac Groebli of Switzerland is credited with inventing the first Schiffli (German for “Little Boat”) embroidery machine. He based the design on the principals used in the new sewing machine, utilizing a continuously threaded needle with the shuttle which contained a bobbin. The name of the Schiffli came from the shuttle’s resemblance to the hull of a boat.

When Dr. Robert Reiner recognized the need for industrial embroidery machines in America in 1903, he secured a position as the American agent for Vogtlandishe Machine Works in Plauen, Germany. Reiner started importing embroidery machines to Hudson County, New Jersey which continued until 1938 when the company in Germany stopped production because of WWII. In 1953, Reiner introduced the first Schiffli machine made in America.

Modern Embroidery

Today, embroidery continues to be a popular craft that is sometimes collected for its beauty and uniqueness. Both hand embroidery and machine embroidery are popular, depending on the specific goals of the crafter. Many prefer the uniqueness of hand embroidery when the craft is done for pleasure whereas embroidery machines are the obvious choice for any degree of commercial use.

The diversity of cultures in America has brought an influx of embroidery techniques to the country that give embroiderers more option for attaining a broad range of results. High quality threads and needles facilitate the creation of beautiful works of art that compare to the beauty of those kept from centuries past.

Most of today’s embroidery machines are connected with a computer to download and digitize embroidery designs that the machine will then translate onto fabric. There are thousands of designs available online that can be edited and used repeatedly to produce identical or varying designs. The ease and diversity of use have resulted in a growing number of home and small businesses that offer embroidery of different types of items.

Embroidery has been a decorative method for nearly as long as people have made clothes to put it on. It has also been used to record history and to symbolize important events throughout the times. For many, it continues to be an artistic form of expression that is just as decorative and beautiful as it is functional.

Hand vs Machine Embroidery: What are the Differences?

You might imagine that the only difference between embroidery done by hand and that created by machine was the method used. There is also the notion that items embroidered by hand have a greater value and are more sentimental than those embroidered by machine. But when you get down to the details, there are numerous other differences as well. Here we will explain the differences between hand vs machine embroidery.

Hand Embroidery

Hand embroidery begins with a piece of fabric tightly stretched over a wood or plastic hoop. From the time the first stitch is made, the crafter will make decisions about the color of thread and the type of stitch used. As the work of art unfolds, they may change their mind about which choices will produce the best results.

Hand stitching results in a unique piece of work every time it is created. Even if the exact pattern and thread colors are replicated, there will be subtle differences in the way the stitches are made and the area where colors and shading are used.

The type of thread used for hand embroidery differs from that used in embroidery machines too. Hand embroidery thread is stranded and comes in silk, cotton, or wool. The strands may be separated to make some areas flatter or more delicate, or combined for bulkier areas. This process gives the embroidery more texture and distinction between various areas.

Machine Embroidery

Hand vs Machine embroidery

The process of machine embroidery is much more exact and uniform than that of hand embroidery. Although the crafter can choose from thousands of designs and determine the thread colors they want to use, there is no room for editing along the way. Pre-designed patterns are loaded into the machine and the exact same pattern is produced every time. Machine embroidery is like running papers through a copy machine; each piece is identical to the original.

The thread used in an embroidery machine is heavier than what is used for hand embroidery and it is typically made of polyester, metallics, or rayon. This thread is not stranded and cannot be separated to change the texture of any part of the embroidery. The same thickness will occur throughout the pattern, giving it a flatter appearance.

So Which Is Best?

Hand embroidery and machine embroidery are two very distinct methods of stitching and each has its purpose. It just depends on your end-goal.

A hand embroidered work is more artistic and personal, making it the ideal way to create a special heirloom or a source of pride for the embroiderer. The process requires an investment of time and heart to include the details that will make the embroidery stand out. Depending on the skills of the person with the needle, hand embroidery can result in a lifelike piece of art that will make a unique display to be enjoyed by all.

Machine embroidery, on the other hand, produces more professional looking work in a fraction of the time it takes to do something similar by hand. The broad selection of designs available today provides everything that is needed for personal use and for small businesses as well.

Some home embroidery businesses focus on monograms while others might embroider men’s caps. These are all uses that require the professional results of an embroidery machine.

The same is true for sewers who want the versatility that an embroidery machine brings to their craft. They may want to add decorative detailing to home items like placemats or curtains, or add cute animals or cartoon characters to their children’s clothes. Even the smallest embroidery detail adds interest and value to all types of everyday items.

If embroidery is a new area of interest for you, your lack of experience doesn’t mean that you are limited in your choices. Every person who has become an artist with a needle and thread had to start with their first piece.

If you prefer machine embroidery, no previous embroidery experience is required. Today’s embroidery machines are virtually decision-free! Once you decide what you want to embroider and in what colors, the machine will do the rest.

Singer EM200 Superb Embroidery Machine Review

Singer EM200 Superb Embroidery Machine

The Singer EM200 Superb is a dedicated embroidery machine that features a sleek new design inspired by iconic machines from the Singer brand. The embroidery machine includes a lot of features that make it easier to maneuver the hoops and the fabric while also providing exceptional visibility. The versatility of this machine and the user-friendly functions make it ideal for personal use or for home-based embroidery businesses.

Pros

Users like the extra-large embroidery area that gives them the room they need to create larger designs. Many of the automated features, like the thread sensor, thread cutter, and automatic thread tension make it easier to focus on the project at hand without worrying about the small details.

Cons

We found that the machine takes some trial-and-error to get the right combination of fabrics, needles, etc to get the best quality stitching. Although the numerous features and options can make it difficult for beginners, they make it the ideal choice for more advanced sewers who want to get professional quality results. We found that if followed the instructions in the guide found that it was fairly easy to resolve most of our issues.

Customer Reviews

Many customers who bought the EM200 Superb feel that the large embroidery area makes this machine a great value in comparison to more expensive machines with the same feature. Most agree that there is a learning curve for the machine but that it can be used efficiently when buyers take the time to learn about the operation in the manual. The touchscreen display, snap-on embroidery hoops, and easy design transfer using the provided USB stick are just some of the features that get this machine high ratings.

Even those users who give the EM200 the best reviews agree that the machine was not designed with the beginner in mind. Many suggest that the company make more video tutorials to make the machine easier to use. Buyers can find an assortment of YouTube tutorials here.

The EM200 comes with two embroidery hoops including the large 10-1/4” x 6” and the small 4” x 4” hoops for more versatility in embroidery options. The machine includes 200 built-in embroidery designs and six alphabet options and complimentary software can be downloaded to enhance creativity by providing even more embroidery options and ideas. The software is also updateable so that sewers can enhance the machine’s capabilities as technology continues to grow.

Price

The list price for the Singer embroidery machine is $1,400 but buyers can find the best prices at Amazon.

Singer EM200 Superb Features

Endless Design Options

The 200 built-in designs and 6 alphabet options make the EM200 an endless resource for embroidery and monogram designs.

LCD Touch Screen

The generous LCD touch screen makes it easy to select embroidery settings.

USB Stick Embroidery Design Transfer

Use the included memory stick to store and transfer designs from your computer to your machine.

Speedy Stitching

The Singer EM200 Superb features a 700 stitch-per-minute speed that means projects get finished faster.

Automatic Needle Threader

You never have to waste time trying to thread the needle again.

Automatic Thread Tension

Automatically balances stitches for more even sewing.

Thread Cutter

Just touch a button to cut the top and bottom thread.

Bobbin Winding During Embroidery

You don’t have to stop your project and then start over when the bobbin runs out. The machine winds the bobbin at the same time it embroiders.

Start/Stop Button

Lets you operate the machine without using the foot pedal.

Upper Thread Sensor

Signals you before the thread runs out.

Accessories

Other accessories include an embroidery foot, spool pin felt, needle plate screwdriver, thread spool net, screwdriver, seam ripper, thread spool caps, lint brush, auxiliary spool pin, USB embroidery stick, bobbins, and needles.

The 5 Best Books for Learning Embroidery

Embroiderers have the same goal at every level; to learn more about creating the perfect stitch and broaden their capabilities for making more designs. Even the most talented stitcher needs a reference to come up with new ideas and understand the combination of stitches, colors, needles, thread, and fabric that will produce the best results. Learning embroidery is an ongoing journey. Following is a list of five embroidery books that will help inspire both hand and machine embroiderers in every situation and at every level.

1. Embroidery by DK

The one-word title sums up what this book is all about. It includes 160 pages of instruction on techniques for sewing clothes, doing needlepoint, and making embroidery stitches. There are 200 stitches featured along with step-by-step instructions for users at all levels of difficulty and ideas for their use. The book includes lots of illustrations that make it easy for even beginners to follow and make the right choice in stitches for every project.

2. The Sewing Machine Embroiderer’s Bible by Liz Keegan

There are hundreds of embroidery designs available online in a variety of types and formats. The Sewing Machine Embroiderer’s Bible explains the differences between them and what you need to do to transfer them to your machine. It also contains tips on stabilizing material, selecting needles and threads, and making the most of each embroidery project. Owners of any type of embroidery sewing machine will benefit from this 128-page guide and help you use the features that would otherwise go unused. There is even an extensive section on editing and organizing designs so you can save them in your machine and have them ready to go the next time you want to use them.

3. The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden

This embroidery book is 256 pages of full-sized samples and fully described and illustrated stitches along with a list of uses for each stitch. This book really takes the confusion out of embroidery by giving alternative names and providing notes on the working method. There is a chapter on choosing appropriate materials and equipment for different techniques in addition to basic tips that apply to all styles and types of embroidery to achieve the specific effects that you want.

4. Colour Confidence in Embroidery (Milner Craft Series) by Trish Burr

This 256-page embroidery book focuses on the impact of color on embroidery. Color can be used to make embroidery designs pop, create a sense of softness, or to add dimension. The book acts as a guide to help crafters bring life to their designs through the best choice in colors to create contrast and shading needed to give definition that makes the details stand out. It includes over 200 stitched examples along with a number of color schemes and projects for crafters to try their skills on.

5. Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches by Mary Thomas

This 298-page book of embroidery has been around since its original publication date in 1934 and continues to provide valuable information to embroiderers of all levels. The version available today has been updated by Jan Eaton to include more than 400 embroidery stitches with pictures and includes their usage. The broad range of stitches, from basic outline and border stitches to those that are more complex, make it the ideal companion for any embroiderer looking to master their craft or expand their skills.

Making the best choice in an embroidery book will depend on the type of embroidery you do and your goals for expanding your capabilities. Any book that is designed for use by crafters at all levels is more likely to be easier to comprehend through the illustrations and instructions provided. Whether you are just getting started at hand embroidery or you are attempting to get the most from an embroidery sewing machine, the right embroidery companion will help you make the best choices in color selection, materials, and techniques to achieve the final project that you have in mind.

How to Set Up an Embroidery Machine and Use it Properly

Getting a new embroidery machine can be an exciting time for a crafter who is looking for ways to expand their sewing skills. What you may find once it is time to take the machine out of the box is that learning how to set up an embroidery machine  is a lot more intimidating than you expected. This is the point where you have to start making decisions about embroidery designs, which thread to use, and what material is best. The process of embroidery is automated, but the choices you make prior to the actual embroidery process will determine how successful you are at your new craft.

Step #1: Get to Know Your Embroidery Machine

How to Set Up an Embroidery Machine

There are many brands and models of embroidery machines and each differs to some degree. If your machine is brand new and comes with a guide, this is a good place to start with setting it up. It will let you know which foot to use for the embroidery and how to go about loading designs to the machine. Not all designs are compatible with all machines and some won’t fit the embroidery hoops that are compatible with your machine.

There are many YouTube videos demonstrating the setup and use of a number of the most popular embroidery machines sold and used today. For many, seeing a visual demonstration makes it much easier to understand the different parts of the machine and how to use them. It’s also a good way to learn how to thread the machine; often one of the most complicated feats when using a new sewing machine of any kind!

Step #2: Select the Right Needle and Thread

Embroidery needles range in size from 60/8 to 120/19 with the numbers on the lower end being the finer, more flexible ones and those on the upper end of the range being heavy-duty. The higher number refers to the diameter of the shaft in millimeters and the lower number represents the number assignment according to the U.S. system.

The right needle for the job depends on the type of fabric and thread being used. The size and sharpness of the needle determine how the point goes through the fabric and how big the hole is that it makes. The idea is to choose a needle that will penetrate the fabric easily without doing any damage to the fabric or putting too much stress on the needle. The basic types of needles are:

· Universal – These needles usually work well with most fabrics including both wovens and knits. They have a ballpoint tip that is tapered so that it goes through the fabric easily. While these needles might be considered “standard”, there are some projects that require a different type of needle.

· Sharp – Sharp needles have a sharper point that makes them ideal for penetrating heavier knit and woven fabrics as well as embroidery for lace or cardstock. Some sewers prefer sharp needles for a broad spectrum of projects because it makes a smaller hole in the fabric and results in well-defined embroidery patterns.

· Ball Point – This type of needle has a rounded point like that of a ball point ink pen. The idea behind these needles is to slip between the weave of the fabric instead of penetrating it. Many embroiderers recommend using these needles for knits to prevent damaging the fabric with holes or runs.

The needle and thread work together to create embroidery and they should be compatible for each type of project. Embroidery threads come in different weights and are made of a variety of materials including rayon, cotton, polyester, silk, and metallics. One common misconception about thread is that the higher the weight, the heavier the thread. In fact, a higher weight means that the thread is finer than one of a lower weight. Rayon thread that is 40-weight is considered the standard for embroidery.

When using a heavier weight thread, you will want to use a thick thread needle that has a larger eye to accommodate the thickness of the thread. There is also a special embroidery needle for leather and suede that is designed with a wedge point that makes a smaller perforation. Other types of specialty embroidery needles include those for use with metallic threads, for quilting, and for topstitching.

Of course, the thread color is also important to the outcome of the design. Embroidery threads are numbered according to color and these numbers will be included in the designs. You can purchase thread individually or purchase sets that include a comprehensive color palette. Collections are usually more cost-effective but you should make sure that they are high quality threads. During the embroidery process, the machine will prompt you when it is ready to go to a new color and will provide you with a digital display of the number for the color of thread to put into the machine next.

Step #3: Use Stabilizer

Stabilizer is a thin sheet of material that goes underneath the embroidery fabric to help keep it in place during the embroidery movements and it prevents puckering or pulling of delicate or sheer fabrics. It also provides a surface for embroidering open-weave fabrics such as lace. There are four types of stabilizers for different uses including:

· Cutaway – Used as a permanent stabilizer

· Tearaway – Less permanent

· Water Soluble – Temporary, dissolves when placed in water

· Tacky – Allows you to move the stabilizer and reposition

Step #4: Start Small

Taking on too large of a project before you have mastered the machine can end with disappointment when things don’t turn out the way you expected. Start with a small, beginner-level project to practice on so you won’t be discouraged if it doesn’t turn out perfect. Think of your first project as a learning experience and an opportunity to troubleshoot problem areas.

Even if you have been doing hand embroidery for years, machine embroidery is different. Something as simple as failing to use the embroidery foot instead of the standard one could result in a poor quality piece of embroidery.

Step #5: Master the Software

Most of the embroidery machines on the market today come with a specified number of designs loaded into the machine. There are also thousands of designs you can access online. If you plan to use these designs, you will need a software program to get them to your machine. Embroidery software reads designs that are digitized for this purpose.

When you purchase one of the designs online, it will need to be downloaded into your computer. The embroidery software will let you open the design where you can see it. Once open, you can edit the design to suit your needs. Once the final design is ready, you will use the embroidery software to transfer the design from your computer to your machine. Depending on your machine, this may be done by using a USB memory stick, hooking the computer up directly to the machine, or, in older models especially, by reading a card. Once you have purchased a design, you can store it for later use and for any further editing you may require.

Also, become familiar with the different settings on the machine and learn what the digital displays mean. Otherwise, you may have many more options for manipulating the appearance of your designs than you realize.

Step #6: Learn to Hoop

The embroidery hoop is the part of your embroidery machine that stabilizes the pattern. The hoops come in a variety of sizes and most machines will list the different sizes that are compatible. You should always use the smallest embroidery hoop possible with any design to make it more secure.

The hoops should be placed with the text and markings right side up in the position where you can read them. A quick-release button will be in the corner, along with a screw that will allow you to loosen and tighten the hoops. Raised marks on the sides will mark both the vertical and horizontal center of the embroidery area and not necessarily the center of the hoops themselves. Putting a light finger crease in the fabric will allow you to line up the center of the fabric with the center of the embroidery hoop.

The fabric and stabilizer are placed between the inner and outer rings to create neutral tension. The fabric should not be stretched too tight and it should not be loose. If it is difficult to push the outer ring over the inner ring and the fabric, loosen the hoop. Once loaded, the hoop will go under the foot and snap into the hoop connector on the side of the machine. Make sure it snaps securely into place. Do not use your embroidery fabric the first time you hoop. You don’t want to find out too late that the hoop isn’t set right.

Once you have the hoops in place, turn the machine on. Depending on the machine, it may require calibration before it begins to embroider the pattern. If so, the digital display will guide you through the process.

You will have the option to edit your design at this point, such as making it smaller, larger, or off-center. Again, the options you have for altering your design will depend on your specific brand and model of machine.

Press the start button and the machine will continue with the embroidery design until it is complete or until you are prompted to change the color of thread. If the end result is not what you expected, go back through these steps and try to troubleshoot what might be wrong. A little trial and error with the machine needle and thread and material selection will probably have you embroidering like a professional in no time!