Tools. If there is one thing we've learned from all of the HGTV, Magnolia Home, Extreme Makeover, onslaught of "fix up something to be more beautiful with a cast of 4 and an unseen team of 20" shows, is that your tools are everything.
When I sit down to create a new pattern, start a new embroidery project, or finish up a wip from 3 years ago, there is no team in the background laying out the essential tools to help me along the way. I had to learn what works best the old fashioned way. Using what I had, getting frustrated, searching for better and reading things written by those who have gone before (the queen, Mary Corbet, NeedleNThread).
When I teach my embroidery courses I always have students that come armed with a wooden hoop, some of their moms needles and a janky piece of fabric. So cute, the newbies, I was once them. I start each class going through my tools, explaining why I love each one and then let them borrow what they need for the class. By the end they are lining up to purchase because they have learned that Tim the Tool Man and Kim the Teacher are right. The right tools bring joy to the work.
Whether you are deep into hand embroidery or if you are interested in getting started, I am going to save you a world of issues, time and money and help you get the right tools into those lovely, restless hands of yours.
HOOPS: Wooden hoops are cheap and a dime a dozen. I love them...for finishing. Never use a wooden hoop to stitch. You'll never get the taunt fabric you need for smooth stitches. Plus, you have to constantly readjust and tighten as you stitch. This is irritating and leads to bottles of vodka being opened or too many HoHo's being consumed. I use wooden hoops for the end product, when I need to frame my piece. That is the only time I use wooden hoops. I like to milk paint them, stain them or wrap them for a really inexpensive but pretty finish.
The only hoop that I will use or allow my students to use in class is the mother of all hoops, The Morgan NO SLIP hoop. This thing has a dang lug nut on it, which makes me feel empowered. I can pull my fabric so tight that you can bounce a quarter off of it and once secured, I tighten the lug nut and I swear...no adjustment. I push and pull the project out of bags, travel with it, run a needle in and out over hundreds of times and my Morgan holds my fabric tight. It is a beautiful thing. I have seen students literally light up when they first use a Morgan NO SLIP.
Here is a little tip from me to you. I like using a 9" and a 7" for just about everything. If I am making a 3" or 5" piece, I do it on a 7" hoop. It allows me to stitch right up to the very edge of my design without hitting the edge of the hoop. Same with a 7" or 8" piece, I do it on my 9".
PENS: I used to draw my original patterns or transfer patterns to my fabric using chalk pens. The issue is that as my needle goes in and out, the chalk disappears. Enter, the Frixion Pen. I draw right onto the fabric, stitch and then if there is any pen showing I run an iron over it and poof...the ink is gone. Now, in some rare cases, if your project gets chilly, the pen mark can slightly come back. I don't worry about this because usually I have stitched over everything plus, I do not keep my house below 68 degrees. If I lived in Alaska I may need to find an alternative...but so far, I am a Frixion fanatic.
With this said, I still love chalk for certain other things, like wool appliqué Enter the SewLine Trio Color Chalk Pen. What sweet mother of an inventor came up with this beauty??
White, black and pink chalk, all in one pen. Switch color with one click plus, the chalk stays! So much so you should have some remover on hand just in case. I love using this when I am designing something on a dark fabric.
BOOK: I want to hear from you, because I know you have a stitch book that you treat like
your bible for stitching and I love learning about new resources. My favorite (I have two of them in two different work areas) is, Creative Stitching by Sue Spargo. I know, Sue does wool appliqué, but that doesn't matter, she uses the same stitches I use when doing hand embroidery and her book (second edition) is the best. Tons of pics, great explanations, and lots of funky ideas.
NEEDLE: I am not going to go deep into needles. There are thousands of sizes, brands, and tips. I am going to keep it simple and say, go get some Chenille needles and start there. Actually, you will probably end there as well and fall in love with them like I have. With their big eye, thick shaft and wicked sharp point, they are the sexy needle of the bunch and I love sizes 22-26. The long eye makes it easy to use specialty threads without jamming them through the eye and causing fray.
So there it is. The best, but very basics, that you need in your stitching tool belt. If you have a product you love we would like to know about it! Comment here or shoot us an email! Happy stitching.
From L to R: A Garden Pea Pod commission I designed for a client. Some fun button embroidery and a little hoop for a new nursery. This was one of my first steps into lettering and I've learned a lot since then.
Kim Weitkamp-Gum is the founder of The Secret Stitching Society and an avid gardener
She is a creative soul and the guardian of a glorious thread stash that she likes to look at while drinking wine. Kim is also a writer and performer with 8 audio collections and an armload of awards. Her true passion is empowering others to find their creative self. Find out more about Kim at www.kimweitkamp.com or on instagram @kimusic @kim_broidery