Embroidery for beginners – Five items beyond the basics for your bag

There's so many tools and shiny things - what do I really need?

When starting out in hand embroidery, there are a few things which we ‘must’ have to get started – some thread, some fabric and some needles.

Other things like hoops and frames are useful (and some would say necessary), but there are many an embroiderer who get along just fine without!

Today isn’t about those types of tools – today is about other ‘tools’ you may find handy to have in your embroidery bag.

1. Low Tac Tape

In Australia we call this ‘magic tape’. It’s the type of tape that isn’t overly sticky, you can use it over and over and it comes off paper without too much trouble.

What do I use it for?

Admittedly, not something you may expect to see on a list of embroidery tools!

But it comes in handy when you need to get extra fibres (anyone else have a dog or cat that sheds a lot?!) off your fabric – not just pet hair either – threads can shed too!

I’ve also found it helps to ‘repair’ fabric that has seen better days after needing to do some unpicking. By gently putting the tape on and off the fabric, the warp and wefts of the fabric come back together a little.

2. Beeswax or other thread conditioner

In goldwork embroidery most of the threads you use will be put through some beeswax. But it also comes in handy for your general stitching! 

If you are struggling to thread a silk or cotton thread into your needle, try running the end of it through some beeswax, snipping the tip, and then threading through your needle. Just remember to snip the end with the beeswax off before stitching. 

And a ‘word of warning’ about beeswax: anything to do with beeswax, should be done away from your fabric -it stains your fabric!

I personally don’t use thread conditioners, however if you are using a rayon thread or other ‘tricky’ thread to manage, they are apparently quite useful. The ‘replacement’ for Thread Heaven (which went out of business) is I believe ‘Thread Magic‘. 

If you do a search for ‘beeswax for embroidery’ or something similar, you will get a lot of pages pop up. Some are just about beeswax, others talk about the difference between beeswax and a thread conditioner, others still show you how to make your own. 

Quite a few of these little shops appear to have popped up with the demise of Thread Heaven. So shop around, have a look in your local stores, and see what you can find!

A block of beeswax used in hand embroidery. Find out more about my top 5 tools to keep in your bag! Visit hillviewembroidery.com for all the details

3. Tweezers

Tweezers are useful to have in your stitching bag – they can help to pull out threads that have gone astray, they can help to mold wired shapes into the desired shape, and they can also help you to pull needles through when it gets a bit hard to pull through!

My favourite tweezers are the ‘Uncle Bill’ tweezers. They are small, have a great grip, and are reasonably priced too. 

4. Mechanical Pencil

A pencil is an easy addition to your bag, and if it’s a mechanical one, you don’t need to worry about sharpening it!

A pencil is useful for ‘normal’ tasks such as taking notes, but you can also use it to draw in direction lines on both your pattern and your fabric.

Whilst a regular mechanical pencil works well, I prefer to use a fabric pencil (my current favourite is the Bohin one). The added benefit of the fabric pencil is that they come in multiple colours, so it doens’t matter if you are stitching on light or dark fabric. 

5. Ort Jar

Not something for your bag as such, but this is one that will help you to keep your working area a (little) tidyier! I try to have some such ‘jar’ in all my usual stitching spots so I don’t get caught out!

An ort jar is simply something for you to toss your thread ends in – so the ends you snip off when starting and finishing, any unstitched threads, and bits that you just no longer want to use.

They are not just useful for keeping your area tidy (and your vacuum cleaner liking you just a little bit more), but they can come in handy! If you are making pincushions, you can use your orts to stuff your pin cushion. This wil also help to sharpen your needles and pins. And if you are nearing the end of a project and you need ‘just a little bit more’, if you rummage through your orts you may just find enough to help you get that extra stitch or two in!

You will see from this picture below that I use old jam jars and lovely wooden jar. There is also a souvenir sweet tin overflowing somewhere too. So it doesn’t need to be fancy!

Some people prefer to make their own from fabric. Which has the added advantage that you can put it in your bag when travelling with your stitching.

Ort jars - a useful, and often pretty, addition to a hand embroiderers list of tools. Here, you can see how you can both reuse jam jars, or use something else, to keep your thread ends in! Visit Catherine at Hillview Embroidery to find out more!

That's my top 5 tips of what to have in your bag...

How about you?

Let us know which tools you love to keep in your bag and close to hand when you are working!

Embroiderers will have any number of tools in their bag. But when you are just starting out, what do you really need? Find out what Catherine from Hillview Embroidery suggests. The list may surprise you!

8 thoughts on “Embroidery for beginners – Five items beyond the basics for your bag”

  1. Definitely agree with all of those Catherine! They are all in my workbag too. I would add a needle-minder to a beginners list too as it is handy for parking your needles and keeping your tissue paper in place when stitching!

    1. Absolutely vital things, thanks, Rachel! Lighting is so important, and with some things I find consistent lighting to be just as important as good lighting. Which means lights are invaluable!

  2. Orts ~ there’s a new one for me! As for tools, I find those little snips are sooo handy. They probably have a special name, but they are scissors that sit in the palm of your hand, rather than putting your fingers through the holes. I now have two ~ one in my daytime sewing space and one in my evening space.

    1. I would love to know where the word ‘orts’ came from – I shall have to look it up. Such an unusual word for ‘bits of thread you don’t want to use any more’! I’ve not tried those little snips, though I think I know which ones you are speaking of. Thanks for the tip – I shall have to try them out!

  3. Thanks. I got the Uncle Bill’s Grippers for me and my Granddaughter. She just got her first sewing kit! She wants to learn how to “hand sew”, to mend her clothes. I told her that was great and with that you can learn to embroidery and let me know when you want a sewing machine… She informed me — Just hand sewing! I OK… and I’m waiting… LOL

    1. I hope you like the Uncle Bill Grippers, Liz! And what a great story about your granddaughter. I hope she enjoys her hand sewing of her clothes, and maybe a little bit of embroidery. I would be waiting for the sewing machine request too!

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