In the beginning… An intro to Machine Embroidery

I’ve been asked about some basic equipment items for machine embroidery. So I thought I’d go over some basics here..

At this time I am not an amazon affiliate.

Brother PE800 typically found on Amazon for around $600.

First, you need a machine. There are some FANCY machines on the market that will set you back up to $18,000 to $19,000. for a single needle machine. I personally don’t think it’s a good beginner machine. But you want something bigger than a 4×4 hoop, go with a 5×7 hoop. Once you’ve been embroidering for awhile, I suggest then looking for a used machine. Offer up, Market Place on Facebook, and sewing retail shops are good places to start.

I am a fan of Brother and Baby Lock. My class machines for beginners are Brother PE800. Brother/Baby Lock are very similar, Brother being the a little cheaper $$. Same software used for designs (.pes) and both are easy to use, as well as tough!

You are also going to need some stabilizer…Stabilizer is paper like material used on the back side of items we embroider. It gets “hooped” in the embroidery hoop along with the item we are adding our design to. Stabilizer helps hold your stitches to the material, felt, fabric, vinyl, etc.

Tear away stabilizer

Tear away: Much like it says, this is stabilizer gets removed after you’ve stitch your design. Typically this is a simple design with very few stitches, like less than 5k stitches. or used as a second layer of stabilizer if your design is super dense. If you see your design starting to pucker while you are still stitching, you may want to slip an extra sheet of tear away under your hoop. I like to get the precut sheets, I have the roll too for larger jobs but the precut sheets are so much easier to work with.

Cut Away Stabilizer

Cut away: This is thicker stabilizer that stays with the material after it is stitched. Used for woven fabric, thin fabric, very dense designs (10k or more stitches). Sometimes also used on towels. At first the stabilizer is stiff but after a couple washings it’s less stiff. A great example of WHY to use this or what happens if you don’t, and I know we’ve all seen it, is when something has been embroidered and where the stitches are is all warped. Maybe even itchy. That’s a lack of the CORRECT stabilizer.. and sometimes you do need more than one.

Wash Away Topper

Wash Away Topper: This typically goes on TOP of the fabric. Usually towels, to keep the stitches from sinking too far down and it helps keep those towel loops from getting caught. It’s water soluble, water makes it melt. This is also used for free standing lace work too.

Prewound for Brother PE800

Let’s talk about bobbins, you’ll need them when you are in the middle of a project – ALWAYS! ..and I get the prewound type. I tried doing it myself and now I only fill a bobbin when I need a color other than white. I also save my empties, so I have plenty to wound when I need a color, might as well do a few while you are at it!


Thread.. there is MORE than every color in the rainbow available. ..and you don’t need them all. I learned the hard way and have ended up with a few favorite colors. Get the standard white, black, red, brown – or whatever you find yourself using the most, in bigger spools. Meanwhile, keep it simple and read reviews if you want to see how well something works. You will know when you are using a brand of thread that your machine doesn’t like. Your machine will throw a fit by breaking the thread end-less-ly! Don’t skimp too much on the cheap stuff, if you are going to take the time to stitch it, make it last.

So there is a start.. More to come!

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