The Definitive Guide of How Embroidery Works

Bored at home and thinking about taking up embroidery as a new hobby? Well, I must say this is an excellent choice! In addition to being an activity that is guaranteed to kill time, embroidery is a productive and interesting hobby.

However, learning embroidery can be a little tricky. Some people give up on it because they just can’t understand how embroidery works. Worry not, though. I’m here to explain to you how to embroider in the simplest way possible.

What do You Need for Embroidery?

Thinking about getting into embroidery but don’t know where to start? Then this article is for you.

Today, we’re offering a thorough answer to the question: “what do you need for embroidery?”.

From must-have embroidery supplies to basic stitches you need to learn, this is an easy-to-follow guide that’ll have you ready to embroider in no time!

Before you get started, prepare everything you’ll need first:

  • Embroidery hoop: this is a ring that consists of two parts. You place the fabric between them and tighten a screw at the top to keep it taut, making your work easier. Investing in at least a couple of embroidery hoops of different sizes is very important if you plan to do stitching on fabric. Embroidery hoops range from just a few inches to more than a foot in diameter, and they’re available in many styles well. Embroidery hoops are usually made of wood or plastic. A 6-inch hoop of either material offers a good start for a variety of projects.
  • Fabric: one of the great things about embroidery is that it has so many styles that you can do on a lot of fabric types. But if you’re just getting into the world of embroidery, you should start with something simple. For your first project, it’s a good idea to work with light-colored quilting cotton or even weave fabric, such as linen. If purchasing by the yard, 1/4 yard should be plenty enough for several projects. Avoid using Aida cloth when it comes to beginner embroidery. It’s best suited for cross-stitching.
  • Embroidery thread: embroidery thread, also known as floss, is available in hundreds of colors. Select a few of your favorite colors, preferably of cotton embroidery floss. DMC brand is the industry’s standard for floss. It’s super easy to find, affordable, and offers good quality. Stay away from floss that’s meant for craft projects (such as friendship bracelets) because it can be frustrating to learn/work with.
  • Needles: obviously, you’ll need a needle to embroider, but you should know more about this tool. Similar to hoops, there are many types of embroidery needles out there, numbered 1 to 12 where the lower number means bigger size. Luckily, any sharp needle with a large enough eye to thread embroidery floss through will work. Still, your easiest option is to choose a pack of needles labeled for embroidery that includes different sizes.
  • Scissors: when shopping for scissors, you’ll find there are scissors meant for different tasks in embroidery. You don’t have to buy anything fancy though – you can use any pair of scissors you have lying around. Just make sure that it’s sharp enough to cut the floss cleanly so its end doesn’t fray. The last thing you need is to get stuck trying to thread a needle with frayed floss!
  • Water-soluble pen​: if you’re just starting your embroidery journey, you’ll most likely need to follow an already made pattern. There are several ways to transfer a pattern to your fabric depending on the project at hand, but tracing is always the simplest. A regular pencil can work, but a water-soluble pen will ensure you’re not left with any stray markings. This type of pen will stay on your fabric until you wash it away using water.

Now that everything is ready let’s start embroidering!

Step 1: Put the Fabric Between the Hoops

Cut your fabric in a square shape bigger than the hoop, then separate the hoops by loosening their screw. Afterward, place the fabric inside the hoop and close the hoops by tightening their screw.

When you’re done, keep tightening the screw of the hoop to pull the fabric taut till you feel it’s enough.

Step 2: Pick a Stitch. Basic Embroidery Stitches

There are many kinds of well-known stitches you can do. Here are some:

Straight Stitch

this stitch is so simple that you probably can do it without even learning it! The ​straight stitch doesn’t even require an explanation because you only need to bring the needle up through the fabric and then go back down.

Still, you should explore the many ways you can use this building block embroidery stitch. You can create stars, scattered fills, textures, and more. Continue to practice length and placement so you can easily incorporate this versatile stitch into your projects.

Back Stitch

You do it by pushing the needle to the front and taking a stitch to the right, then back to the front but a little to the right. Afterward, use the hole at the end of the first stitch to push the needle to the back. Finally, bring the needle back to the front through the hole at the end of the stitch at the right and repeat. it’ll take you only a few stitches until you have the backstitch down – yes, it’s that easy. It’s important to learn this basic stitch because you’ll probably end up using it the most.

The backstitch is great for any type of outlining, and it also pairs well with other stitches. You can use weaving or wrapping to embellish this stitch and transform it into the Pekinese stitch for a more decorative approach.

This stitch can be used in outlining and in pairing with other stitches. You can also use it to embroider letters.

Split Stitch

You can do this stitch by pushing the needle up and making a small stitch, then pushing it back up in the middle of that stitch. You then push the needle down in the same direction but a bit further away. the split stitch is a raised decorative stitch that works much like a backstitch and shares the same uses as well. This stitch is great for when you want to add a bit of texture. For example, treetops, flowers, and cupcake frosting.

This stitch is good for textures and outlines.

Running Stitch

You do this by pushing the needle up and down, like a repeated straight stitch. You can control the length of each stitch and the length of the space between the stitches. This is a simple embroidery stitch that works well for making dashed outlines and adding details to your project. It’s even the fundamental stitch for Japanese sashiko embroidery.

Although it’s basic and done just as in regular sewing, the running stitch is highly adaptable and can become complex as you want. You can make the stitches short or long, and you can change the look by adjusting spacing or adding a second row of stitches. The running stitch is also good for weaving and wrapping.

You can use this stitch to make dashed outlines and to decorate your embroidery by adding more details.

French Knot

This one is a little complex. You do it by pushing the needle to the front and wrapping the floss around it to form a knot, then holding the floss tightly while pushing the needle down and pulling it all the way with your other hand. No one said it was easy!

For many embroiderers, making French knots remains a challenge even after acquiring more advanced skills. No one would think about ditching the French knot though, it’s just too beautiful to give up.

While it may take you some time to learn, it’s so worth the effort. The best thing about this stitch is that knots never look the same.

The French knot is a common stitch to find in embroidery patterns, and it’s a good stitch to use when you need to add a textured fill or other design elements such as eyes, polka dots, and the center of flowers.

This stitch will have you wrap the needle to form a knot on the surface of the fabric, but the key to making French knots is to hold the working thread taut without it being too tight.

Nevertheless, the french knot is very decorative and looks very pretty.

Satin Stitch

A satin stitch is a bundle of straight stitches. You can either draw something on your fabric and fill it with a satin stitch or make an outline with back stitches and use the satin stitch to fill the gap.

Satin stitches add color to your embroidery and can fill in all shapes.

Woven Wheel Stitch

This is one of my favorites. You can do it by making straight stitches to form a star, then weaving the thread, making a flower.

The woven wheel stitch looks so pretty and can add a lot to your embroidery.

Step 3: Finishing the Embroidery

After finishing off your embroidery, you need to loosen the screw of the hoop again to take out the fabric. You may also need to clean the fabric from any dirt it could get or from the water-soluble pen.

Now, you should be ready to show off your embroidery. However, if you’re still having trouble with embroidering, maybe you should consider getting an embroidery machine.

What’s an Embroidery Machine?

Nowadays, instead of embroidering manually, some people resort to buying embroidery machines. Though they’re more common among those with clothes-selling businesses, some embroidery machines are suitable for home use.

The key difference between embroidery machines and regular sewing machines is that embroidery machines can do embroidery stitches based on how the user sets up the machine. Meanwhile, most sewing machines can only do regular sewing stitches.

The benefits of embroidery machines include producing better quality of work quicker. They can also be useful for people who are not good with handicrafts but are still passionate about this kind of decoration.

Typically, to use an embroidery machine, you need to have floss, fabric, needles, an embroidery stabilizer, computer software, and a bobbin. Then, you’d need to set up your embroidery machine based on your preferences. Rumor has it that using an embroidery machine can be challenging at first, but gets easier once you grasp how it works.


I strongly encourage you to learn embroidery. Though it requires patience and practice, I believe that you’ll find it a good opportunity to be creative and pass the time.

Remember to start simple. I suggest you begin with a basic straight stitch, then a running stitch. When you’re confident enough, try more complicated stitches like the back stitch and the split stitch. When you finally succeed in making a French knot, make sure someone’s there to applaud you for me.

Moreover, if you have kids, make sure you involve them in the process. That way, they can learn a new skill and also exercise their finger muscles! Check out this page if you want to learn how to remove embroidery.