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While some hobbies are easy to pick up in a few hours, embroidery takes longer to learn.
Of course, you can unbox your first embroidery machine and stitch a test project pretty soon after that. However, learning to produce professional results takes much longer.
So, how long does it take to learn embroidery exactly?
Here’s my answer (broken down into embroidery aspects) based on my experience learning years ago!
How Long Does it Take to Learn Embroidery?
In short, you can learn to machine embroider your first project in a handful of hours after opening your machine.
However, becoming proficient at machine embroidery will take months. Even all these years later, I’m still learning new things!
Time needs to be spent learning your specific machine, perfecting techniques, and even learning to work with embroidery designs.
Time Breakdown for Mastering Machine Embroidery
Below, I’ve put some wide ranges for the time I spent learning to machine embroider.
These estimates will vary greatly depending on your familiarity with sewing machines, your exact embroidery machine and its complexity, and your technical expertise.
Time Needed to Learn to Use The Machine Itself
Estimated Time: 3-6 hours for most basic proficiency
After you unbox and assemble your embroidery machine, you must then learn to use it.
I recommend reading the manual front to back or taking classes through your dealer on using your exact machine. (There are two three-hour classes per machine at the shop where I bought my Luminaire, for example.) You can also rely on YouTube for tutorials for popular embroidery machines.
More complex machines will take longer to master, and the same is true with combination sewing and embroidery machines. With combo machines, you must learn to use the sewing features and convert the machine from sewing to machine embroidery.
I estimate it takes roughly 3-6 hours to learn the very basics of using your embroidery machine interface and to stitch your first built-in design.
As you grow in your embroidery journey, you will continue to learn new things about your machine and become more proficient. For instance, how to transfer new embroidery designs or edit existing ones onscreen.
Time Needed To Learn Embroidery Basics and Techniques
Estimated Time: 3 hours
Before you start to machine embroider trickier projects, you must also master embroidery techniques and know which embroidery supplies to use and when.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some of these components and some links to helpful articles.
1. Stabilizer Selection
Every embroidery project requires a stabilizer on the back of the blank.
There are four main types of stabilizers: tear-away, wash-away, cut-away, and heat-away. You will need to learn to pick the right stabilizer for your project based on the embroidery design and embroidered fabric’s characteristics.
2. Embroidery Thread Selection
Embroidery thread has a better shine than sewing thread and is stronger to better withstand high embroidery stitching speeds.
Embroidery machines do best when they use thread made specifically for embroidery machines.
There are multiple types of embroidery thread (polyester, rayon, cotton, etc.), so grab a set of at least 30 colors to start with. After your first few projects using 40-weight embroidery thread, you can learn to use other weights and types of thread, like metallic or glow-in-the-dark.
Embroidery bobbin thread is different from the embroidery thread used for the top thread, so make sure you read your user manual to determine the best weight to use.
3. Embroidery Needle Selection
Embroidery machines require a different needle than sewing machines, so you must purchase machine embroidery needles.
There’s also an art to picking the right embroidery needle for your project, although I recommend a 75/11 embroidery needle from Schmetz or Organ for most beginner projects.
If you’re a beginner and need aid, the Embroiderer’s Compass is a helpful tool for helping you choose the best needle and stabilizer for your fabric.
4. Hooping or Floating Blanks
Machine embroidery requires taut (but not stretched) hooping of the fabric and stabilizer. This isn’t always easy and will take time to perfect.
If you don’t hoop tautly, you risk design puckering and misalignment, bird nests, and more.
Alternatively, if you can’t hoop projects, you can also secure them outside the hoop with a technique called floating. There are multiple methods for floating fabric that you can master to make embroidery easier.
Practice makes perfect for these techniques!
5. Working With Designs
You may also run into times you want to edit or customize embroidery designs. For instance, adding a name or monogram to a design you purchased or resizing and editing out design parts.
Many edits and design creations (beyond the basics) require embroidery software, which I will mention next.
How Long to Learn to Digitize
Time required for digitizing proficiency: At least 30 hours for me (basically, months)
Simple design editing and customization (working with fonts, editing stitches, changing basic design properties) will take a few hours to learn with rudimentary embroidery software.
However, the most challenging and biggest time suck of my entire embroidery journey was learning to digitize embroidery designs.
Digitizing is the process of creating embroidery designs from artwork (or your imagination.) Using embroidery digitizing software, you step-by-step place stitches of your desired type to create an embroidery stitch file.
Unfortunately, proficient embroidery digitizing takes significant time to master. The process will be even more difficult if you’re not tech-savvy!
Not only do you have to understand how to use your specific embroidery program, but you also have to learn digitizing theory.
Reading the user manual for my embroidery software (Hatch 3) and figuring out how to use the software to its full potential took weeks. Learning digitizing theory took several more weeks.
Then, add in the hours spent trial and error troubleshooting failed stitch-outs of embroidery designs and figuring out how to change digitizing methods. It quite simply took months until I felt comfortable digitizing my own embroidery designs!
Now, even though I’ve been doing this for years, I still have SO much to learn about digitizing, and by no means do I consider myself more than a barely passable digitizer.
Other Time You’ll Spend Learning to Embroider
You’ll also spend time troubleshooting embroidery machine problems in the beginning.
When I was new to embroidery, I spent hours trying to solve simple problems. Now, with more experience, I can more often pinpoint the causes of most problems in significantly less time!
You’ll also have to learn to clean and take care of your embroidery machine. The most important part of cleaning is giving the bobbin compartment a regular clean-out.
And that’s my answer to the question of how long it takes to learn to embroider. What was your experience with the learning process?