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Before using your new embroidery machine, you’ll need to purchase basic machine 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 then discusses things that aren’t necessary but are convenient to have.)
And, if you don’t want to buy everything separately as I’ve listed it below, you can grab the Embroidex Embroidery Machine Starter Kit, which has almost everything you need to get started!
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.
A. Tear-Away Stabilizer
Tear-away stabilizer is suitable for non-stretchy, stable fabrics such as terry towels, canvas, twill, and more.
After you stitch on the 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 thus stabilizes better. It also works great for densely stitched designs to prevent puckering.
Simply cut it away from the design after embroidery.
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.
D. Sticky Stabilizer
Sticky, self-adhesive stabilizer has one sticky side that can grip your fabric without needing temporary adhesive spray. I like using this type of stabilizer when floating embroidery blanks or embroidering tricky items like caps.
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. I prefer Sulky Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer on top of my designs.
Once done embroidering, the topping dissolves with water.
If you’re in a hurry or can’t wash your fabric, you can also purchase a heat-dissolving topping that crumbles away with an iron.
F. Wash-Away Stabilizer
While water-soluble topping goes on the top of fabric, wash-away stabilizer goes on the back of your fabric in the hoop.
It also washes away with water after embroidering and can have either a papery appearance or be a thicker clear plastic like Sulky’s Ultra Solvy.
G. Embroidery Backing
I add this to every one of my girls’ outfits that I embroider to keep the hard stitching from rubbing their soft little bellies.
Now, if you’re lost with all these possible stabilizer combinations, you can also purchase something like the Embroiderer’s Compass to take the guesswork out of stabilizer selection.
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.
If you want to start a home embroidery business and produce large quantities of merchandise, you can 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 you can sew with embroidery thread, it’s not advised to embroider with sewing thread
Thus, you need to purchase additional colored machine embroidery threads.
The most common fiber types of machine embroidery thread are polyester, rayon, or cotton embroidery.
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 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 check the preferred weight and type of bobbin thread.
5. Marking Supplies or Placement Tools
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-colored 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 that I don’t plan to wash after embroidering.
And, I have placement helpers like the above one from DIME that make it where I don’t have to mark.
6. Embroidery Scissors
Embroidery scissors are small, specialized scissors that get right next to threads and appliques to trim them. ANY 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 you will need a way to adhere fabric to your embroidery stabilizer. One example is fabric that’s floated.
To temporarily adhere tricky fabrics to my stabilizers, I prefer temporary fabric adhesive spray. My current favorite is Odif 505 spray.
The beauty of temporary adhesive is you can remove and reposition your items several times without the stickiness wearing off.
You can also use pins, painter’s tape, a basting box, or other methods for adhering embroidery items that aren’t easily hooped.
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 learn 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 that the more full-featured free ones are not as easy to use as premium software.
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 will be difficult to learn for novices.
Paid Software Options
The 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) 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’s 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.
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 a horizontal 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!
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.