Embroidery 101, Part One

“Rabbits Prefer Embroidery” is back from the quilter! Now its binding time, and then off to the photographer. Before too long we will have a new pattern available!

If you’re new to embroidery, I’ll share a few tips with you over the next few posts. I hope to get you started on the road to embroidery heaven. Yes, there is such a place… you’ll find it in front of the TV every evening. Just sit down, relax, and embroider away on your favorite project.


Supplies & Basics:

  1. Embroidery floss or pearl cotton; there are so many wonderful choices on the market! Pick and choose from some or all! DMC, Valdani, Weeks Dye Works, and Lecien just to name a few.
  2. Small sharp scissors
  3. Embroidery needles of assorted sizes
  4. Embroidery hoop: size 5 is all purpose
  5. Backing
  6. Pigma pen, water erasable marker or fabric pencil

Embroidery Floss:

Hold the skein of floss in one hand and shake the floss to release the cut end. Pull this end of the floss and cut off about 18 to 20”of floss .


Now separate the strands of floss, one thread at a time. Grab one strand of floss and pull it up, straightening the remaining floss as you pull. Repeat for the number of threads you need. Do not try to pull off two or three threads at one time. Oh what a mess you’ll have!

Embroidery Needles:

Embroidery needles have a larger eye than regular sewing needles. The smaller the number the larger the eye (and the longer the needle).

I prefer a short needle for stitching and use a size 10 for most of my work. The short needle gives me more control and makes it easier to sew tiny stitches. If I’m using a pearl cotton or more than two strands of floss I’ll switch to a size 6, 7, or 8 embroidery needle.

Markers: What’s up with all these?


Pigma Permanent Pen, size 01, makes a fine line that is easy to cover with stitching. It’s the pen most embroidery patterns call for. But keep in mind that the pen mark is permanent. If you make a mistake, or go out of the line, you can’t go back and change it.

Clover water erasable pen; Such a bad rap this marker has, but I use it to mark a lot of my embroidery. The secret to using this pen? Use only the Clover eraser pen to remove the marks and not water.

Fabric pencil; fabric pencils glide easily over the fabric and do not “grab” the fabric like a regular pencil. Most fabric pencils can be erased with a fabric pencil eraser. I suggest not trying to use water to erase the marks, as most products claim you can. I found the results disappointing.

Backing Stabilizer:

Backing hides the thread tails and gives the embroidery more stability. It is not a necessity, but most embroidery patterns call for it. I choose from two types depending on the look I want;

Lightweight fusible interfacing; Gives the embroidery fabric more stability and makes it easier to get an even tension. Cut the interfacing the same size as the background fabric. Trace design onto the background fabric and then iron the interfacing to wrong side of the background.

Lightweight flannel; gives the embroidery a slightly softer look. It’s the backing I used for “Rabbits Prefer Embroidery”. Treat the backing and embroidery fabric as one when you are piecing together your quilt as shown in the photo below.

Back of quilt


To hoop or not to hoop! No groaning allowed. Remember, hoops have been around for YEARS and do have a purpose! Hoops keep the fabric taunt and make it easier to control the tension. The thinner the background fabric the more necessary the hoop becomes. A simple 5” plastic hoop will probably be all you need.

When I use a flannel backing I only use a hoop when I come to an area where I need a lot of control.

Are you ready to do some stitching? I’ll be back with a few tips on that too!


Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • Gran - Wanted to say thank you for the tutorial. I left a little message earlier but it got lost. I hope this one gets through.ReplyCancel

  • Karen - I have wanted to try embroidery for awhile now, but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for all the helpful tips!!


  • Anonymous - your tips are really helpful. i am self taught i just follow the pictures, but some stitches lokk complicated, i hsve mastered the bullion stitch just from my freind showing me, I have learnt to make very “cute” bunnys. I will keep checking back as i might pick up some other useful tips on embroidery. thanx. love your blog.ReplyCancel

  • Peddlecar Quilts - Very good info Anne!! I have a question, do you prefer the pearl cotton #8 or the floss? I find the floss is much smoother, but so many patterns call for the pearl and I have a lot of it so I want to use it!! The stitching seems to be more bumpy though–any suggestions?

  • Jackie - Wonderful information, Anne! Thank you! Love all the colorful floss.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - Thank you so much for the tips. They will be put to good use here. I’m also enjoying your BOM and wanted to say thank you for that as well. Stay warm.ReplyCancel

  • Linda - Anne,

    Thanks so much for the tips. I understood everything about the interfacing but am unclear about when to use the light weight flannel. Is that in addition to the interfacing?

    Thanks so much,


  • pdudgeon - thanks so much for the tips!i’ll have to try using the lightweight interfacing–that’s a good idea.
    love that drawer full of perle cotton! oh my!!!!ReplyCancel

  • StuckinGeorgia - I am excited to read your first post on Embroidery. Thank you also for your BOM. I hope you will teach us about starting and stopping our threads.ReplyCancel

  • amy - THank you so much for this great post–I eagerly await Part Two (and beyond??)! Lecien has embroidery threads??? Do tell us more!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - Terrific tips. I embroidered many long years ago. Such terrific threads out now. Makes me want to have them just because they’re pretty!ReplyCancel

  • EJ180 - Anne, thanks for your tips. I posted a link back to your blog on the HGTV quilting message board. There are several ladies there doing embroidery. I know your tips will help them as well.

    I’m excited to hear your “Bunnies Prefer Embroidery” is almost ready for release.


  • Donna - Thanks so much for the great tutorial. I am already a stitcher but covet those beautiful, small, consistent stitches you make. Looking forward to more!!ReplyCancel

  • Carrie P. - Thanks for the tips.ReplyCancel

  • Oma - Thanks!! I will be passing on to others you are doing this. I know that I could use some pointers!!ReplyCancel

  • Marie - Thanks for the refresher course, I really needed it and we all do at times. Have a grand day. Hugs, MarieReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Thanks for the little tutorial update on embroidery. I do use a lite weight either cotton or interfacing behind my focus fabric that I am working on. Helps to hide the thread tails. Looking forward to your newest bunny pattern. Can never get enough of those..Thanks also for the second free pattern in your series.

  • Sinta - Thank you for the “embroidery info/pics”. My goal this year is to hone these skills. So your BOM is now being done in redwork also:)ReplyCancel

  • Quilt Monkey - Such wonderful and useful information! I am a quilter and picked up embroidery again last year after not having done any in many years. I only just recently learned about using fusible interfacing, and now these tips you’ve shared will help me greatly. Thanks much!

    Kathy in CaliforniaReplyCancel

  • Sew Create It - Jane - Great post…can’t wait for installment #2.

    BTW, just wondering..I’ve just bought an Iron-on transfer pencil…have you every used one and what is your opinion of them?ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Nice job! And ohhhh, what a yummy picture of the balls of floss! I have fabric threads in drawers like that! Nice to be organized isn’t it?ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - Thank you for the Embroidery 101. This is very helpful. You’re my favorite Blog! You Go Girl!!ReplyCancel

  • Bobbie Lynn - Thank you so much for the embroidery tips.ReplyCancel

  • DianeH - Thank you for your perfect timing.
    I’m all set to do the basket BOM in redwork and I’ve never done embroidery on a quilt before. I didn’t quite no where to start.
    Staying tuned for further instruction,

  • Little Green Doll - Thank you very much for your tips! They’re great for a beginner like me!!!ReplyCancel

  • Simply This and That - Great post! Awesome photos! Thanks Anne. ooxx`jodReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - How timely your post is for me; I’m in the process of learning embroidery so I can participate in the Bunny Hill BOM. I’ll make sure to stay tuned for your tips and tuts. Thanks.


  • Dawn - Great class!!Looking forward to 102!!ReplyCancel

  • Quiltsmiles - Anne,

    Love your bunnies and chocolates theme. Can’t wait to see the whole thing. Keep creating and enjoy!


  • from little acorns - ” . . . embroidery heaven” . . . that’s a great way of describing it! (great tutorial!. . . I’m smiling over your Valdani ‘nest’!. . . looks a lot like mine. . . they are great to use – but just as nice to simply look at!)
    xoxo, BrenReplyCancel

  • Vicky - Thanks for the tutorial, Anne. I’m staying tuned for the next installment! xoReplyCancel

  • Christine Thomas - Hi Anne…thanks for these tips. It’s always fun to read others’ takes on a craft. Would you mind enlightening us in your next tutorial about Pearl cotton and the differences in threads. What do you have pictured?
    Your BOMs can not come out fast enough.
    Thanks again for being so thoughtful.ReplyCancel

  • piecemaker - Just found your blog etc Love that bunny pitcher,your latest ebay “bargain”ReplyCancel

  • Mandi - OOOooohhh I love the colors of the floss! You are an awesome teacher, very thorough in what a newbie needs to get started. Can’t wait for the rest!ReplyCancel

  • Marci - How do I find out what is the best thread to use? I went to the local quilt shop and they had size 8,12 and 16. ??? I’m going to try this but am finding out how much I don’t know. Gulp!ReplyCancel

  • Mark Lipinski - I just love your blog! It’s always such a pleasure to visit! xoxom


  • julia - Hi Anne,
    what beautiful pictures for your tutorial! I love the rounded frames {do you do them on your own or is there a template? I still haven’t found something fitting for using in PSE…}
    I definitely need more time in heaven…desperately need it…last week I didn’t make one single stitch!
    Hope you’re doing well,

  • Rosanna - I Love this site, Annie you have always great informationm and beutiful things to make, and all ther freebies.
    Thanks heeps RosannaReplyCancel