Start Embroidering – The Basics

Start Embroidering

Getting Started with Embroidery is easy with this helpful overview.

To start any embroidery project you want to either draw a design onto your fabric or transfer an existing design.

Transferring Designs

The technique to transfer a design onto fabric depends on the color and thickness or weight of the fabric. DMC offers a number of different tools to enable you to transfer your designs. If you are not using DMC products, test your method first to avoid the disappointment of lines that won’t go away or, worse, bleed when washed. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s directions.There are numerous methods for transferring designs. The most common and easiest are listed below:


Draw the embroidery design onto white paper using a black marker. Place the design under the fabric and using your preferred transfer tool (DMC Soluble Pen or Chalk Pencil), copy the design by tracing it directly onto the fabric. To see the design more easily, tape the paper and fabric onto a sunny window or use a light box. This method is appropriate for light-colored and lightweight fabrics. If you are using a DMC Pen, the blue ink is completely water soluble so that once the embroidery has been completed, the markings can be removed with a lightly dampened cloth. For darker fabrics use DMC Transfer Pencils, which are chalk-based. The white pencil markings are removed with a damp cloth, just like the transfer pen, or by gently rubbing the fabric.

DMC Tracing Paper/Dressmakers Carbon

Place a piece of the DMC Tracing Paper, also known as transfer paper, color-side down on your fabric and place the pattern on top of the paper. Transfer the design to the fabric by tracing the pattern using a stylus or empty ball-point pen. DMC Tracing Paper includes four 8½” x 11? sheets of wax-free tracing paper – two yellow and two blue. Use the yellow for dark fabrics for and the blue for light-colored fabrics.

Create Your Own Computer Transfer

Scan your own design or one that’s copyright free and print it onto specialty transfer printer paper following manufactures directions. Transfer papers can be found in most office supply stores and at some needlework and quilt shops.

Iron-on Designs

Paperbacked iron-on transfer designs are available in a variety of colors and styles. Be sure to follow the manufactures directions before using.


Stencils are great for repeat patterns, mixing and matching for a unique style. Or you can use a few elements of a stencil design to create a distinctive individualized look. Tracing stencils works best on medium-weight fabrics such as cotton, lightweight denim, silk, linen, rayon and various synthetic blends.

1. Select the stencil design.
2. Position stencil on right side of fabric and secure in place (tape works well). Use the DMC Transfer Pen or Pencil to trace the design following the cut-out areas of the stencil.
3. If the fabric has any stretch to it, you may find it easier to make small dots with the DMC Transfer Pen or Pencil along the cutout lines, rather than drawing a solid line.
4. Use the Transfer Pen lightly when tracing and keep moving along the cut-outs without pausing. Holding the marker in one spot for too long could create a thicker line than needed.
5. If a textured fabric is used, more pressure may need to be applied when tracing the stencil.
6. If you need to make any corrections to your design placement, simply dab the traced lines with a damp cloth to remove markings.
7. Stitch over the traced lines with a line embroidery stitch of your choice or fill in the open areas with a filling stitch.

TIP: For best results when using any of these transfer methods, your needlework fabric should be clean and free of any starch or protective coatings, as these coatings can interfere with the ink or chalk transferring to the fabric.
Note: These transfer methods are removable and should not be confused with hot iron transfer ink pens, pencils or patterns. Heat transfer methods create a permanent image that must be completely covered by stitching to be invisible. When using a hot iron transfer pencil, also remember that a reverse image of the design will be created. This means that your pattern needs to be traced in reverse before transferring the design to the fabric.

Prepare Your Fabric or Stitching Surface

• Fabrics that will be laundered should be washed before you begin stitching. This will ensure the fabric will not shrink afterward.
• Iron out creases before stitching to make it easier to stitch evenly and ensure that you won’t end up with wrinkles that you can’t get out afterwards.
• Leave ample room around the design before cutting the fabric to allow for the finishing you’ve chosen.
• Finish the edges of fabric to prevent them from unraveling. Use a Seam Sealant, such as Fray Check from Prym Dritz. It is a liquid used to secure the edges of the fabric as an aid to stop fraying.

See below for a step-by-step on how to easily insert your fabric into an embroidery hoop.



How to use an embroidery hoop:


Loosen the screw or nut on the outer embroidery hoop and separate the inner and outer rings. The outer ring will hold the fabric over the inner ring once you have inserted the fabric.

Place the inner ring on a flat surface. Place your fabric over it, then put the outer ring over the fabric and press until the bottom ring is snug inside the outer ring. Tug the corners of the fabric slightly to make the fabric taut – make sure this is as tight as possible so the fabric won’t slip out of the hoop.

Tighten the nut or screw securely. Your fabric is now in place and ready to embroider.

Quick Tip: Never leave your work in the hoop for an extended period of time. This can cause creases in the fabric that are difficult to remove. It is best to take your work out of the hoop when you’re not working on it, as it only takes a moment to place it back in the hoop.

Prepare Your Thread

Refer to your design chart to see what type of thread is suggested. For embroidery floss the design will tell you how many strands or plys of floss the design calls for.

Floss is a 6-stranded fiber. You will usually not stitch with all 6 strands of floss so you will have to separate the floss before stitching. To start, find the end of the thread on your skein of DMC Floss. Slowly pull the end out from the skein until you have an 18” length of floss and cut it off. To separate the floss into individual strands, pull one strand up and out slowly until it is completely separated from the remaining strands. Continue to pull out the number of strands you need to stitch with. To rejoin the threads, hold them together at one end then gently stroke the lengths to smooth and recombine them.


Preparing Pearl Cotton Thread


For many embroidery projects Pearl Cotton thread looks great. Here are two ways to prepare your DMC Pearl Cotton skeins so the thread stays nice and tidy and can be easily re-used for your next project.

If you want to use Pearl Cotton in your project there are two common ways to open and cut a skein of Pearl Cotton, depending on the length of thread you prefer or need.

For approximately 19” lengths of thread: Push the two labels toward the center. Find the end with the two loops and cut through the bottom of each loop. Move the labels back into place. Pick and pull out a single piece of thread from the top loop.


For approximately 38” lengths of thread: Remove both labels and untwist skein to form an oval. Cut through all the threads at one end of the oval. Pick and remove one thread for use as needed. To keep the threads tidy for future use, put the color number label back onto the threads and slide it to the center. Fold the threads in half and set aside.


TIP: Pearl Cotton is commonly stitched using one full strand for embroideries and is not doubled up to make a thicker thread. If you want a heavier thread for your embroidery choose a Pearl Cotton 3 or a size 5. If you are working a delicate stitch or using a lightweight fabric, use a Pearl Cotton 12 or 8.

Thread Your Needle

To thread your needle it is easiest to use the DMC Needle Threader. To use the DMC Needle Threader, slide the eye of the needle onto the hook, then loop the thread on the hook and pass the hook through the eye of the needle and pull the thread through.

Here are some other ways to thread your needle without the assistance of a threader:

Pinch and Poke
Cut a clean end of thread and pinch it between your thumb and forefinger, leaving only a little of the end exposed. Holding the needle in your other hand, “poke” the eye of the needle over the tip and the thread into the eye, then pull the thread through. Pinching the thread gives you more control to guide the thread into the eye. You may have to “saw” the eye of the needle back and forth slightly to get the thread to enter the eye.

Loop, Pinch and Press
Loop the end of thread over the eye of the needle and pinch the loop tightly between your thumb and forefinger. Remove the needle from the loop and press the eye of the needle down over the thread. Pull on the loop to get the thread through the eye of the needle.


Starting and Stopping


To create beautiful “bump-free” embroidery, DMC recommends starting your stitching with one the methods described below.

In line Waste Knot Method
This “beginners” starting technique is best used to start a new design or to start stitching in a new area of the design. Knot the end of your thread and take your needle from the front to the back about 1” or so from your starting point, running the thread along the same line you plan to stitch. Bring the needle up to the front of the fabric at the starting point of your first cross stitch. Start stitching towards the knot, being sure to cross over the thread on the back with each stitch to secure it. When your stitching reaches the knot, pull the knot up and clip it off close to the fabric and continue stitching.


Away Knot Method
Another easy way to start a new design or to start stitching in a new area of the design is the Away Knot.  Knot the end of the thread and take your needle from the front side onto the back several inches away from your starting point and start stitching. When you finish stitching with that thread, pull the knot up and clip it off. Turn your work over, re-thread the needle with the remaining thread and weave the thread through several stitches on the backside to secure it.

Stitching Over Method
Pull your threaded needle up onto the front side of the fabric, leaving a 1” tail of thread on the back. Hold the tail of thread against the back of the fabric in the direction you plan to stitch and work the first 4 to 5 stitches over it to secure it into place. Be sure to check the backside to confirm that your stitches are covering the thread and clip any loose ends before continuing to stitch.

Once you have started a project, you can secure new threads by weaving the thread under several adjacent stitches on the backside. Continue stitching.


To end a thread, run your threaded needle under the last few stitches on the back of the fabric, and clip off the excess thread. After rethreading the needle to continue, simply run the needle under several stitches on the back to secure the thread and resume stitching.

Starting and Stopping on clothing, tableware & bed linens
Knotting embroidery threads are not generally recommended because they cause unsightly bumps on the fabric. The exception is when stitching on pre-finished items that will endure repeated wear and multiple washings. To assure that the stitches remain secure, small knots at the starting and stopping points are recommended.

What to do if you make a mistake
If you make a mistake when embroidering don’t worry!

  • If you make an error and notice it right away, correct the stitches by unthreading your needle and gently pulling out the stitches.
  • If you made a large error or the mistake is surrounded by other stitching, the stitches will have to be cut away. Working from the backside, carefully clip the stitches with the tip of your embroidery scissors and remove threads with a pair of tweezers.


You are now ready to start embroidering!