8 Essential Machine Embroidery Supplies (List for Beginners)
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Before using your new embroidery machine, you’ll need to purchase basic embroidery supplies such as stabilizer, embroidery thread, and embroidery needles.
However, beginners might not know where to start when determining the rest of the must-have machine embroidery supplies. I know I was a little confused at first!
So, for newbies, let’s talk about what supplies you need for machine embroidery so you can start stitching!
Supplies for Machine Embroidery – Must-Haves To Get Started!
First, these are the things I consider essential to getting started with machine embroidery. (The following section will then discuss things that aren’t necessary but are still really nice to have.)
I’m assuming you already have an embroidery machine.
If not, I recommend the Brother SE1900 or Brother SE600! They are two great embroidery machines for beginners.
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 essential machine embroidery supplies, ensuring your designs stitch accurately and efficiently on the fabric.
There are many different stabilizers available; each type has its intended usage.
My printable machine embroidery stabilizer chart has more in-depth information, but below is a summary of the types of stabilizers.
You can also purchase something like the Embroiderer’s Compass to take the guesswork out of stabilizer selection.
A. Tear-Away Stabilizer
Tear-away stabilizer is suitable for non-stretchy, stable fabrics such as terry towels, canvas, twill, and more.
I like to buy pre-cut stabilizer sheets to use for convenience, but you can also purchase rolls of tear-away stabilizer.
After you stitch on tear-away stabilizer, you gently rip it off from the back of the fabric.
B. Cut-Away Stabilizer
Cut-away stabilizer is great for knits and other stretchy fabrics because it has less stretch and stabilizes better.
It also works great for densely stitched designs to prevent puckering.
Simply cut it away from the design after embroidery.
You can buy it in rolls or pre-cut stabilizer sheets.
C. No-Show Mesh Stabilizer
No-show mesh stabilizer (also known as PolyMesh) is a soft, strong cut-away stabilizer that is great for knits when you want to minimize show-through on light fabrics.
When deciding which no-show mesh stabilizer to choose, you have a fusible option to iron on or a non-fusible option.
D. Sticky Stabilizer
Sticky, self-adhesive stabilizer has one side sticky that will attach to your fabric without using temporary adhesive.
You can purchase sticky tear-away, sticky wash-away, or even sticky cut-away stabilizer.
E. Water-Soluble Topping
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.
F. Wash-Away Stabilizer
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 patches and free-standing lace, and I recently used it when embroidering tulle.
G. Embroidery Backing
Sulky Tender Touch backing is one example of an 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.
2. Embroidery Items and Applique Fabrics
One of the most important machine embroidery supplies is your embroidery items or blanks!
These are your blank t-shirts, onesies, towels, hats, etc., that you plan to embroider.
Here’s my list of the best places to buy blanks for machine embroidery, including my favorite websites, big-box stores, and online apparel suppliers.
Now, if you want to start a home-embroidery business and produce large quantities of merchandise, do locate a wholesale distributor to buy in bulk.
If you plan to applique, you also need applique fabric.
While quilting cotton is my favorite for ease of use, I also 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!)
3. Embroidery Needles
While you can use sewing machine needles for many projects, specialized machine embroidery needles are better in most cases. (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.
4. 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 threads.
In most cases, pick a polyester, rayon, or cotton embroidery thread.
There are many, many options for thread brands, but I recently switched to the budget-friendly Brothread threads without any issue, although I prefer the color selection of my Exquisite threads. (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.
For most embroidery designs, the bobbin thread color does not matter, so I prefer to use pre-wound bobbins of white thread rather than winding bobbins myself.
However, if you choose to wind your own, consider purchasing additional bobbins for your machine and special bobbin embroidery thread.
Make sure to check your machine manual to discover the preferred weight and type of bobbin thread.
5. Marking Supplies
It is important to temporarily mark the center of your fabric 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 for some projects.
6. Embroidery Scissors
Embroidery scissors are small, specialized scissors that get right next to threads and appliques to trim them.
MANY different types of scissors are specialized for embroidery work.
For instance, double-curved embroidery scissors, duckbill applique scissors, and embroidery snips.
You can learn more about the different types, plus when and how to use them in my best scissors for machine embroidery article.
7. Temporary Adhesive
There are several 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 like temporary fabric adhesive spray.
The beauty of temporary adhesive is you can remove and reposition your items several times without the stickiness wearing off.
My current favorite is 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.
Some embroiderers hate this adhesive type, but I love having mine handy.
8. USB Drive
One of the necessary Brother embroidery supplies for newer machine models that don’t use WiFi is a USB.
And, even though my newest machine has WiFi design transfer, I still install updates to it via USB.
Just make sure to check your machine manual to discover the import methods and any required specs for USB drives. (Hint: huge drives with millions of files take forever to load on my machine!)
Not Essential Embroidery Supplies (That You Might Still Want!)
All in all, embroidery software is not necessary if you plan to use your machine’s built-in embroidery designs and editing features or download designs 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 a list of the best free embroidery software for digitizing and editing.
Just be aware, the more full-featured free ones are 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 much user support or tutorials and may be difficult to learn for novices.
Paid Software Options
Your most beginner-friendly software is paid software.
Spend some time learning the options and figuring out what you want to embroider and which software will get you doing what you want to do. (Learn more in my reviews of embroidery machine software options.)
For beginners who want to edit and customize designs, Sew What Pro (read: Sew What Pro review of features) and Embrilliance Essentials are two of the most popular editing software.
If you want to auto-digitize (which does have many limitations), consider SewArt.
If you want to digitize manually (this produces the best results), Embrilliance Stitch Artist and Hatch 3 Digitizer are very popular and easy to use! I prefer Hatch, but that’s just me.
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, make sure you check that they’re compatible with your machine!
I also really like magnetic hoops, which I use when adding quilting stitches and working with other hard-to-hoop items.
If you think you’ll want to embroider hats, having a special hat hoop can help keep the hat stabilized on single-needle embroidery machines.
For my older Brother SE625 embroidery machine, this compatible hoop is the one I used.
It’s not necessary to have a hat hoop, and I’ve had decent success without using one as well on my Brother SE1900.
Thread Stand Holder
If you plan to purchase extra-large spools of thread or use cones to save money when embroidering, 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 to line up multiple thread colors for an embroidery project.
If you have difficulty centering blanks and your hoop, one helpful tool is an embroidery laser like the PAL from dime.
At first, I wasn’t sure if it would have much use in my embroidery room, but it’s been SO helpful with difficult blanks.
If you like reading print text, check out some of my favorite machine embroidery books!
I read every book I could get my hands on and listed the ones I thought were most helpful for beginners.
Embroidery Removal Tool
All beginners make embroidery mistakes, and removing machine embroidery is difficult!
However, tools like the Stitch Eraser or Stitch Ripper make the job much easier!
Spool Huggers and Bobbin Clamps
These are in no way necessary but are REALLY nice to have around to keep things tidy and organized.
These thread spool huggers wrap around your threads and keep the ends from unraveling.
Meanwhile, bobbin clamps do the same thing for bobbin threads.
Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for machine embroidery supplies for beginners to add to my list!
And, if you’re feeling like splurging on yourself or dropping hints to people who love you about more fun things, check out my big list of unique gifts for embroiderers.
Thank you this is been very helpful! What kind of thread do you use for just sewing?
Thanks! I used to use cotton thread for sewing, but I’ve gotten away from that and generally use all-purpose polyester thread now.
Thanks so kindly I learned a lot regarding stabilizers. I am a beginner and I have the se600
Thank you so much. I learned a great deal. I appreciate the time and thoughtfulness you provided in explaining the necessary items a beginner should purchase. It eliminates the guess work. Thank you again.
I do have a question. Do you have to use all of the 4×4 space provided by the embroidery hoop or does the Brother SE600 allow you to use less of the space provided? Thank you
You can fill as much of the 4″×4″ space as you want! With the built-in designs on the machine, there is only so much resizing you can do, though. With designs you purchase or make, you can resize much more with embroidery software.
If you want to use less stabilizer, you can also purchase a compatible 2″x1.5″ hoop for those tiny designs. I do like having a large variety of hoop sizes for my machines!
Thank you so much, Aly. I really appreciate your help.
I haven’t received my Brother SE600 sewing-embroidery machine yet. Can anyone tell me if it includes Whinnie the Pooh embroidery patterns for example? If it doesn’t can anyone recommend embroidery software with Disney Characters that I can purchase?
I use embroiderydesigns.com. They also give away 3 free designs a week unless you purchase, then the free amount increases.
Thank you so much for all of the valuable information you have provided. Can you please tell me what to do to join your blog? Also, I’m looking for more embroidery patterns than what my Brother has and the websites that provide free embroidery patches. I would love to edit or create my own embroidery. Can you please recommend software that is easy to use? I am a beginner so the easier the better.
For editing, Sew What Pro and Embrilliance Essentials are good places to start. If you want to auto-digitize an embroidery file from an image file, you can try Sew Art. There are lots of tutorials but there are many limitations to auto-digitizing images.
If you want to digitize manually (ie create from scratch), that has a VERY large learning curve. I think Hatch Digitizer and Embrilliance (you’d need at least Stitch Artist) are some of the easiest to learn.
I also should mention Inkscape with the Inkstitch extension is the best free option. Full-featured digitizing software is VERY expensive.
As for joining the blog, there should be an email signup form floating around somewhere on your sidebar or the bottom of your screen depending on the device. I also have several social media accounts you can get to if you visit my home page!
You mention the brother se625z. Is this a machine you would recommend to a beginner in embroidery? Also the area is 4×4. That seems like a generous size to embroider most of what I want to do. Do you find that adequate?
Thank you for all the great info
Brother se625. The z is a typo
Yes, I loved my SE625 when I had it! (The newer version of it is now the SE630.) It didn’t cost me an arm and a leg (in comparison) and I was able to make all my beginner mistakes on it. It was also easier to learn to use because it had less functions and features to confuse me at first! The 4×4 machine did do most projects I wanted it to, which was convenient. (I wrote a post about all the things I embroidered with my 4×4 machine actually if you want an idea!)
However, over the following 5 years, I learned how much I loved embroidery, and I eventually upgraded it to a 5×7 machine and then purchased a 10 5/8″x16″ machine a few months ago. I do not recommend the ultra-snazzy machines to beginners because they are complicated to use if you aren’t familiar with embroidery already!
All that to say, I started with the SE625 and I have absolutely zero regrets about it!
What’s the largest size letters and the smallest letters that can be embroidered with this machine?
Technically, you could embroider a letter up to 4″x4″ in size during one hooping. You’d have to rehoop each letter to create an entire word, though.
As for smallest, it depends on what font you choose.