Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Machine Embroidery—Tools and notions.

The tutorial will be a mix of text documents, still images, and videos(to come). It is intended for a beginner. I personally own a Brother PE 700 machine, and it is what I will be using in all the videos, but much of the information in this tutorial is generic and will apply to any single needle embroidery machine.

There is a lot to learn about machine embroidery—so it will be a while before we get to the actual sewing.

Clearly, you should do your research before you make your purchase... One general rule is the embroidery hoop size—bigger is always better. My machine is designed for a 5 X 7 hoop/frame as the largest size, (some brands have a 10 X 10 hoop as largest size!) The larger the frame size, the easier it is to do large design. While 5 X 7 is the largest basic size, I also have a 5 X 12 frame.. I can only sew 5 X 7 images at one time, but , by repositioning the frame, I can make larger designs without re-hooping—which makes larger designs easier—but doing this requires a lot of knowledge and skill with positioning—something I don't yet have, and have not done yet! Most machines will also work with smaller frames, which can be handy for small projects (less waste of stabilizer)

What do you need besides the embroidery machine? Several things, many of them come in with the machine, but there are other things that you must provide your self. List of the things I think are useful.
  1. An Embroidery Sewing machine.
  2. A sewing table. I like the idea of a table devoted to your machine. You are more likely to practice a little every day if your machine is always set up and ready to go.
  3. Bobbins.. Some might come with your machine, but extras are always useful. I like pre-filled ones-- but I also have a spool of embroider machine bobbin thread. I tend to use white bobbin thread (and black) more often that matching colors.. but matching colors are a nice touch for lace like embroideries.
  4. A sharp small scissor. (one came as part of the usual accessories with my machine)
  5. A screw driver. I like a small (but not a stubby!) one-- Useful for tightening the screws on the hoop. You can just use the stubby one that comes with your machine.. but I like a larger one, too. It is much more comfortable in my hand.
  6. A good light. I always liked good light for sewing, but as I have gotten older, it has become a nessessity. I have 2 lights—one Ott type, (but not Ott brand) flex arm light, and one white light LED desk lamp. A goose neck lamp is another option.
  7. Extra embroidery needles A new sharp needle will often solve a host of small problems!
  8. Stabilizers.. There are several dozen different kinds of stablizers-Try a few different kinds, and weight-At first, just buy a selection—as you go on, you'll learn which ones are your favorites.
  9. Spray fabric adhesive... Tacky is a must, permenent is good to have, too.
  10. A tweezer.. is great for pulling up loose threads.. I started using tweezers with my standard sewing machine, and now it is just second nature.
  11. Threads. While you can embroider with standard thread, Specialized embroidery thread is so much better. It is finer gauge, glossier, with richer colors.. I suggest buying an assortment. I have found that on line suppliers often provide a a better value.
  12. A case for the threads, or a spool rack (or 2!) (I quickly went from 3 spools of thread, to almost 100 as I learned) I bought 1 set of 63 colors (about 55 cent per spool!) and other single spools of colors I use a lot. I had some spools from doing simple pattern/fancy stitches on my standard sewing machine.
  13. Blanks---that is, something to embroider! Blanks don't have to be new stuff—you can practice embroidering towels you own—be it hand towels, tea towels, pool towels. Same goes for sheets and pillow cases—you'll want to have a bit of practice before you start working on expensive, specially bought blanks. Fat quarters are good blanks, too. I use them for samplers.
  14. Extra Hoops—Especially if you are interested in doing applique.
  15. Avery “dots” these are a real help in centering a design.
  16. A ruler—6 inch? 12 inch? Maybe both!
  17. Erasable/disappearing fabric marker pens.. a permenent markers too is useful.
  18. A note book. Useful for keeping track of what you have learned, and details and changes you've made to a project... Also good for planning projects and keeping track of ideas.My next post is  about some project ideas I have collected. Your idea list might be totally different—but it is still good to have a list!
This list is a good start—You don't need everything at once, but chances are you will find you'll enjoy yourself and sewing more with these tools.

Other handy tools include a cutting matt, and quilting grids. I already had these, and I find them helpful.

You can figure on spending $100 to $150 for supplies in the first 6 months Double that if you need to buy a table.  . In my area, (Queens NY) there are several large sewing machine centers that provide lessons. Classes (depending on the subject) cost between $55 to $150—many note that the cost of supplies are not included. Whether you deside on a course of self teaching, or plan to take classes, you'll need materials to practice with—Buying on sale, or on-line or with coupons is a good policy.

You can take lessons, and buy materials for the lessons in the store, (at a full mark-up). Or you can begin to buy and stock up on the needed supplies when you find them on sale. One of my local sewing centers provides a good discount on machine threads when you buy in bulk, (15 or more spools) but On-line sources are cheaper still. 

 Jo Anne's  isn't generally cheaper than my sewing center, but it does offer coupons—and it has better sales. It is always a case of Time and money. It is cheaper to buy one or two items here or there with coupons or sales, but it is easier and quicker(if more expensive) to make a list and do some one stop shopping. For me, I almost always go the cheaper way. Cutting and copying the list and adding to the memo app in your phone is a good way to keep track of what you need, and what you have.

You might want to do the same (that is make a list of colors you have, and colors you want)  for threads (colors) if you decide to buy them individually (verses buying a set of 50 or more colors.) If you are a particular  fan of some holiday (Christmas, Easter, or Halloween) you might want to use sales and coupons to stock up on commonly used colors (christmas red, dark green, gold, pastels pinks and blues, black and orange,) for example. For me, shades of blue are always useful--(the first spools of embroidery thread I bought were blues and turquoise!)

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