Sewing Machine Fun is reader-supported! If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Before using your new embroidery machine, you need to buy basic embroidery supplies. Stabilizers, embroidery threads, and embroidery needles, for instance.
However, if you’re a beginner, you might not know where to even start when determining must-have machine embroidery supplies. So, for you newbies out there, let’s talk about what supplies you need for machine embroidery so you can get started stitching right away!
Supplies for Machine Embroidery – Must-Haves To Get Started!
Here are the things I consider essentials to getting started with machine embroidery. The next section will discuss things that aren’t necessary but are still really nice to have.
Also, if you are new to embroidery, check out how to use an embroidery machine: beginner tutorial!
1. Embroidery Stabilizer
Embroidery stabilizer is the material that goes in the hoop on the back of the item you plan to embroider. Stabilizer is one of the most important machine embroidery supplies, ensuring your design stitches accurately and efficiently on the fabric.
There are many different types of stabilizers available. Each type has its own intended usage. My printable machine embroidery stabilizer chart has more in-depth information, but below is a brief summary of the types of stabilizers.
Tear-away stabilizer is best for non-stretchy, stable fabrics such as cotton (including quilting fabric), canvas, and more.
After you stitch on tear-away stabilizer, you gently rip it off from the back of the fabric.
Cut-away stabilizer is great for knits and other stretchy fabrics because it has less stretch and thus stabilizes better. It also works great for densely stitched designs to prevent puckering. Simply cut it away from the design after embroidery.
PolyMesh stabilizer is a type of soft, yet strong cut-away stabilizer that is great for knits when you’re wanting to minimize show-through on light fabrics.
Water-soluble topping is a MUST-HAVE when embroidering on fleece blankets, towels, or fabric with fluff or nap (and many other fabrics, such as certain knits!)
This topper keeps embroidery stitching from falling into the top of the fabric and becoming lost. When you’ve finished embroidering, the topping dissolves with water. I like to use Sulky Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer on top of my designs.
If you’re in a hurry or can’t wash your fabric, you can also purchase a heat-dissolving topping that is removed with an iron.
While water-soluble topping goes on the top of fabrics (and you could use it on the back for some applications), wash-away stabilizer goes on the back of your fabric in the hoop. It also washes away with water after you’re done embroidering.
It’s popular for its use when embroidering free-standing lace, and I recently used it when embroidering tulle.
Sulky Tender Touch Backing
Sulky Tender Touch backing is a soft embroidery backing that you iron onto the back of your finished embroidery design. I add this to every one of my girls’ outfits that I embroider to keep the hard stitching from rubbing their soft little bellies.
Embroidery Items and Applique Fabrics
If you’re wanting to start a home-embroidery business and want to produce large quantities of merchandise, find a wholesale distributor to buy in bulk. If you embroider for fun only, start checking out local stores for embroidery machine blanks. I’ve found Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and JoAnn to have a large selection of blanks.
If you plan to applique, you also need to have applique fabric. I’ve been doing much more online shopping now that the pandemic has begun and like to repurpose items around the house as fabric sources. (Check out: where to buy cheap fabric online and where to find fabric to repurpose!)
There are many instances when using a non-fusible stabilizer that you will need to temporarily adhere it to your fabric. One example is when floating fabrics. (Read: how to float in machine embroidery.)
To temporarily adhere tricky fabrics to my stabilizers, I often use temporary fabric adhesive spray. The beauty of temporary adhesive is you can remove and reposition your items several times without the stickiness wearing off. I like to use Odif 505 spray.
You can also use pins, painter’s tape, a basting box, or other methods for adhering embroidery items that aren’t easily hooped.
While you can use sewing machine needles for many projects, it’s often better to use specialized machine embroidery needles. (Learn more in my post about how to choose the best machine embroidery needle.)
There are different sizes (70/10 to 90/14 and larger), points (ballpoint, sharp, or universal), and different finishes. When in doubt, a size 75/11 universal embroidery needle is a good place to start and then fine-tune from there, if needed.
Embroidery Thread and Bobbin Thread
While your machine may come with one spool of thread and a few pre-threaded bobbins, you will need to purchase additional thread.
In most cases, pick a polyester, rayon, or cotton embroidery thread. There are a lot of options for thread brands, but I recently switched to the budget-friendly Brothread threads without any issue! (Read: how to choose the best embroidery machine thread to learn about weights and materials!)
In addition to the upper thread, you will need bobbin thread for your machine. In most embroidery patterns, the bobbin thread color will not matter, so I like to buy pre-wound bobbins of white thread rather than winding bobbins myself. If you choose to wind your own, purchase additional bobbins for your machine and special bobbin embroidery thread.
Check your machine manual so you can make sure to purchase the best weight of embroidery thread for your machine, especially for the bobbin thread!
And, if you’re looking for ways to organize your threads, check out my embroidery thread organization ideas.
It is important to be able to mark the center of your fabric temporarily in order to line up your design.
I like to use a washable marker to mark the center on lighter color fabrics. The temporary ink washes out with water after you have finished the design. For darker fabrics, I prefer to use a chalk wheel. I also use embroidery placement stickers at times.
Embroidery scissors are small, specialized scissors that will get right next to threads and appliques to trim them. There are MANY different types of scissors that are specialized for embroidery work. For instance, double-curved embroidery scissors, duckbill applique scissors, and embroidery snips. You can see some of my favorites in my tutorial for how to trim jump stitches.
One of the necessary Brother embroidery supplies for newer machine models is a USB. Make sure to check your machine box to see the method of import to find out if you will need to purchase a USB to add designs.
Not Essential Embroidery Supplies
All in all, embroidery software is not necessary if you plan to use your machine’s built-in embroidery patterns and editing features or download patterns off the Internet. (Here are my favorite sites to download free machine embroidery designs and where to get free or paid in-the-hoop embroidery patterns!)
However, there are MANY times when having at least basic embroidery software is nice to have. Here’s a quick overview.
Free Software Options
First, I have an entire list of the best free embroidery software for digitizing and editing. Just be aware, the more full-featured free ones are often not as easy to use as premium software.
The most extensive free embroidery software is Ink/Stitch, which is an extension of Inkscape. This is free, open-source software that rivals many paid programs. I like to use Inkscape to create SVG designs for my Cricut and then sometimes use Ink/Stitch to transform them into embroidery patterns. It does not come with a large amount of user support or tutorials and as such may be difficult to learn for novices!
Paid Software Options
Your most beginner-friendly software is going to be paid software. Spend some time getting to know the options and figuring out what you want to embroider and which software will get you doing what you want to do.
If you want to auto-digitize (which does have many limitations), consider SewArt.
If you want to learn to manually digitize (this produces the best results), Embrilliance Stitch Artist and Hatch 2 Digitizer are very popular and easy to use!
If you think you’ll want to embroider hats, having a special hat hoop can be helpful for keeping the hat stabilized on single-needle embroidery machines.
For my older Brother SE625 embroidery machine, this is the compatible hat hoop that I used. It’s not necessary to have a hat hoop, and I’ve had good success without using one as well on my Brother SE1900!
If you are working on more than one project at a time, it is nice to spend active stitching time setting up for the next project in a new hoop. Furthermore, if your included hoop size with your embroidery machine is huge, it’s nice to have smaller hoops to use to hoop small items like baby onesies.
I have a set of 3 Sew Tech embroidery hoops to also use with my machine. When buying extra hoops, just make sure you check that they’re compatible with your machine!
Thread Stand Holder
If you plan to purchase extra-large spools of thread or use cones to save money, you will not be able to fit them in the spool holder. You will need to purchase a thread stand.
Also, if you’re interested in embroidering with metallic machine embroidery thread, at least a single thread stand will help with even feeding.
My Embroidex thread stand above is a monster (and a mess!) but it’s really helpful when I need to line up multiple colors of thread for an embroidery project.
Spool Huggers and Bobbin Clamps
These are in no way necessary but are REALLY nice to have around to keep things tidy organized.
And that’s it. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for machine embroidery supplies for beginners to add to my list!