Embroidery: Preparing Fabric and Thread

Before beginning an embroidery design, make sure that your fabric is clean and ironed. If you plan on using your embroidery to embellish a handmade garment, begin by tracing the apparel pattern piece directly onto the fabric. Use a washable or erasable marking tool to draw in the seam allowance lines, and then place the embroidery design on the fabric using your desired transfer method.

Embroidery Hoops

The purpose of an embroidery hoop is to hold the fabric taught during stitching and to keep the tension of the thread even and consistent. Hoops come in various sizes and can be made out of plastic, wood, or even metal. If using a thinner or easily damaged fabric, be aware that some wood hoops can catch or snag the fabric on a splintered edge.

Separate the two hoop pieces, setting the smaller inside hoop on a flat surface. Put the fabric on top of the inner hoop, centering the design inside the space. Place the outer hoop on top of the fabric, and adjust the screw to ensure a snug fit around the inner ring. A perfectly stretched hoop should feel like a drum when tapped. If embroidering on a garment, be sure to always release the fabric from the hoop before storing away. If fabric is left stretched in the hoop too long, it may
permanently warp the fabric.


Standard 6 strand Embroidery floss can be found online or at any fabric or craft store. These loosely twisted yarns will be separated into strands of 1, 2, or 3, depending on the stitch type being used. Begin by cutting a piece of floss approximately 18"-25" in length, then separate the strands into the required amount specified by the pattern. Wrapping the leftover strands around a floss bobbin or clothespin will help to keep them untangled and ready for use at a later time.

Embroidery is generally worked with a double thread, so your floss will be pulled through the needle and have both ends tied together in a single knot. This means a strand of one will now be two, a strand of two will now be four, and so on. Tying the thread like this helps to make the design neater and keeps the needle secure. Because Embroidery needles sometimes have small heads, it may be easier to use a needle threader for thicker strands.


To start an embroidery project, insert the needle and thread through the back of the fabric. Create your first stitch, bringing the needle and thread to the back of the fabric again. Insert the needle between the threads next to the knot, then pull tight. The knot is now secured through the first stitch, keeping it from being pulled through the fabric.


When reaching the end of a thread or embroidery, make sure the needle and thread are on the back side of the fabric. Tie a knot with the thread around an existing stitch, then weave some of the leftover thread under and around the other stitches. Cut off the excess tail of thread.