The Stabilizer Basics – How do I get started?
When I first started doing machine embroidery I did it all wrong. I used the wrong stabilizer, I used the wrong size hoop, and I used the wrong needle! The only thing I did right was use Sulky Rayon Thread. I ruined a great deal of fabric and spent a lot of time spinning my wheels. I didn’t want to call and ask my friends who did embroidery every time I wanted to put a silly letter on something (letters were all I did for the first year or so!). Does this sound like you? You have the machine, and you may have even taken a class on how to use that machine, but now you are sitting in front of that machine with a shirt or bag in hand and all you want is to put a letter on it but you just aren’t sure how to begin.
I am here to help! Here are my tips for how to get started with confidence:
- There is one basic rule or starting point, I should say: In general, you use a tear-away for woven fabrics and a permanent cut-away stabilizer for knit or stretchy fabrics. This isn’t always true, but when you are starting out, it’s good to have a “simple” rule to guide you.
- Have the right supplies! If you just got your machine and don’t have any embroidery supplies at all this is what I recommend: 1 roll of Sulky Tear-Easy™, 1 roll of Sulky Solvy® (the lightest weight), 1 roll of Soft ‘n Sheer™, 1 can of Sulky KK 2000, Schmetz 12/80 machine needles, (maybe a couple of 14/90 needles, too – depending on what you’re stitching through) and a few spools of Sulky 40 wt. Rayon in your favorite colors. This will give you just enough to play and learn with, without breaking the bank. All of these supplies are available at most major chain fabric and crafts stores as well as independent stores and at scads of online sources (www.speedstitch.com for one).
- Get to know your machine. I know this is going to sound crazy but read the manual. Yes. read it. The whole thing. You may even want to get a piece of muslin and stitch a few things out. Does the manual give you instructions on how to change your machine from embroidery to regular sewing? Do the steps! Try changing it. Practice changing the needle, using the automatic needle threader, and the decorative stitches. Try switching out a few of the built-in designs or even just one letter.
- Practice. Take some old t-shirts, towels, reusable grocery bags, your hubby’s underwear and start monogramming! When I first started all I did was letters using the ones that were already in the machine. I put my kids’ names or initials on everything and yes, the hubby did have a couple pairs of undies with his name on them. This will help you get to know your machine and let you see mistakes on things that don’t matter. Do you really care if there is tunneling in your letters on the reusable grocery bag that you got for free? No! But you can figure out why it happened (probably not enough or the wrong kind of stabilizer), and fix it before you try and embroider on something you spent good money to buy.
- Find some blogs you like. Find a couple blogs that not only talk about machine embroidery and give you inspiration, but that will help you with your pitfalls. If you ever have a question about anything, you can always email me or comment on a post. If I don’t know the answer I will ask the person who does. The great thing about that is then we all get to learn.
- Join an embroidery FB group and like embroidery club pages. I am in several of these groups and the great thing about them is you can ask questions and people answer. You can also get great ideas and inspiration from what other people are doing. I suggest Sulky Of America and the Sulky Embroidery Club as some of the pages you should like on Facebook 🙂
- Email me. There are no dumb questions. Trust me, I have asked a lot of very basic questions. And here is the great part! I may not know the answers but I know the people to go to who do know the answers!
- Here is the Silver Bullet to doing machine embroidery perfectly: Trial and Error. Just keep doing it! The more you do, the better you will be, but can I ask a favor? Share your success and failures with me! Post your pictures on my Facebook page and send them to me via e-mail. That way we can also learn from each other by trial and error.
Do you have any tips to help someone get started in machine embroidery? Share them in the comments!
Why does your On-Line Teacher Certification have the same projects I had in my face-to face classes. I took the class three years in a row and also the first Zen I class. I really enjoyed these classes and learned so much. I would like to take another class, but not with the same projects.
Betty, We are working on brand new projects and those classes will be available later this year.
Can you show how to combine leftover pieces of solvy with a bit of water and wax paper ?
Great idea! I will do a post about that in this series.
Is there any way to use left over pieces of cutaway? Ideas, please!
Thank you so much for your blog. I purchased my fist embroidery machine about six weeks ago. At first I would sit and stare at it. Then I got brave and started playing around with it. Even read the manual and watched numerous YouTube videos. Got even more brave and did some projects. Only to be overwhelmed by all stabilizer choices. Then I found this blog. My questions have been answered. Thank you and Sulky a name you can trust.
Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so happy that you have been using your machine and that we can help.
The one we all have to learn- make sure it is clear all the way around. I have been embroidering fo 12 years and every once in a while, I don’t check and I sew the hoop in…!?!?
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