6 Essential Hand Embroidery Tools

Getting started with embroidery

Do you want to try a new hobby? Have you seen embroidery and thought, "I could do that," but aren't sure what you need to get started? This blog post will map out the top 6 essential items needed for hand embroidery - plus a few bonus items, just for fun.

If you'd like to pick up all the items listed here at a discount, we've wrapped them up in one easy-to-start place, check out our Embroidery Beginner Bundle

6 Essential Hand Embroidery Tools

  1. Embroidery pattern - It all starts with the pattern! Pick a pattern that inspires you. If you don't love the pattern you're stitching, chances are you won't want to work on your project. The pattern might come as a kit, a digital PDF pattern, or be something you draw yourself.
    Bee Kind Bumblebee embroidery pattern

    With over 80 embroidery patterns made with beginners in mind, you’re sure to find one that you love on penguinandfish.com. Grab an embroidery kit with all supplies included, or pick up a downloadable PDF pattern - more info below on transferring a pattern.

  2. Embroidery needle - An embroidery needle is essential because it's the sharp point of that needle that allows you to stab through the fabric. We like to use chenile needles which are the same as an embroidery needle, but with a larger eye, making them a bit easier to thread. Every Penguin & Fish embroidery kit includes an embroidery needle so you can start stitch right away!
    embroidery needle, chenile needle

  3. Embroidery floss - Embroidery floss, sometimes called embroidery thread or stranded embroidery floss, is made of 6 inidivudal threads that are intended to be separated, allowing a crafter to choose the thickness of their thread. Choosing different amounts of thread to use is a creative decision and can add depth or texture to a piece. 
    hand holding a bundle of embroidery floss skeins

    For example, you may want to use 4-6 strands to create a bold line, or stick with 1-3 for a light outline. If you see a pattern calling for 3-strands, this is referring to 3 individual strands from the 6-stranded floss. Refer to our Ultimate Guide to Starting Embroidery blog for information on how to separate strands. Note: 3-strands does NOT mean three cuts of the 6-stranded floss. This would be very very thick and likely not fit in the eye of your needle.
    drawing of a hand pulling out one strand of embroidery floss

  4. Fabric - We can't embroider without fabric to stitch on! When choosing fabric, think of what will work with your pattern. Start with a plain color such as white or cream fabric to make transferring and stitching easier, especially if you’re new to embroidery. Our favorite types of fabric to use are cotton muslin or quilters cotton. Both have good integrity while not being woven too tightly to easily stitch through.
    embroidery fabric close up

    If you're ready to get started right away, check out our pre-cut pieces of fabric in the shop in both unbleached and white. Or, if you’ve got a big project, pick it up by the yard!
    Pre-cut embroidery fabric

  5. Embroidery hoop - Although it is possible to do embroidery without a hoop, having one will help to keep your stitching more consistent. Embroidery hoops come in all different shapes, sizes, and materials (bamboo, wood, plastic, or metal). In general, you’ll want a hoop that’s a couple inches larger than your finished piece. So, if you’re stitching a design that's 5”x6”, an 8” hoop would be perfect. This will give you extra space to start and stop your stitching without the edge of the hoop getting in the way.
    Embroidery hoop with fabric in it

    We love bamboo embroidery hoops. They not only work great for stitching, but you can frame your finished piece in them to display your work of art. Check out our bamboo hoops here
    8-inch bamboo embroidery hoop

  6. Tools for transferring - If this is your first time doing embroidery, a pre-printed design is the easiest way to start. If this is not an option, you’ll need a way to transfer your pattern to your fabric. Here are a few of our favorite transfer tools which are especially useful when stitching onto specialty fabrics (like a tea towel, article of clothing, or dark fabric): 
    Outer Space embroidery pattern pre-printed on fabric

    Mechanical Pencil: This is the cheapest way to transfer a pattern. Simply print your digital PDF pattern, place your light-colored fabric on top, and trace! A mechanical pencil will give you a nice sharp point for thin lines. 

    Stick’n Stitch
    : This is more than a transfer paper. It's also a fabric stabilizer, making it a great option for embroidery on clothing. Print a pattern from your home printer onto the stick'n stitch sheet, then peel off the back and stick it onto your fabric. Stitch the design and wash away the sticker when you’re done. Great for hard-to-trace fabric, dark fabrics, and sweatshirts. Grab a pack here.
    Sulky Stick'n Stitch embroidery pattern transfer method

    Water Erasable Pen: A pen with a precise tracing tip that rinses off with water. Great for lighter fabrics that are okay to get wet. We like this method for adding letters or additional details to an embroidery pattern as well. Shop for a water erasable pen here.
    Hands tracing embroidery pattern with water erasable pen

    Graphite Paper: Often referred to as carbon paper. This transfer method is handy for dark fabrics. Follow instructions for your specific graphite paper.
Beginner Embroidery Bundle

Bonus Embroidery Tools

We've covered the basic embroidery tools and now it's time for a few of our favorite bonus tools! These may not be necessary, but they can bring a little bit of cuteness, and ease, to your crafting time.

1. Embroidery Scissors - You will need a pair of scissors to snip thread while you're stitching. They don't have to be fancy, but some embroidery scissors are just too cute to pass up! Plus, we like to match our scissors to our project.

hand holding blue embroidery scissors

2. Needle threader - If you struggle to get that pesky thread through the eye of your needle, a needle threader might be nice to have on hand. Anything that can take away a barrier to stitching is beneficial! Learn more about how to use a needle threader here


Pink needle threader pulling a grean thread through the eye of a needle


3. Needle minder - A needle minder is a magnetic tool that can be placed on your embroidery piece to hold your needle while you're not stitching. No more losing needles in the couch or on the floor. Place your needle close to the needle minder and the magnet will grab it and keep it safe until you're ready to stitch again. Needle minders come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and designs. Get a Penguin & Fish swag needle minder, while supplies last!


Penguin & Fish red needle minder holding a needle with thread



Magnetic back of needle minder


We hope these 6 essential embroidery tools have helped you feel more conifdent about jumping into embroidery! Here at Penguin & Fish we like to say, If you can color, you can embroider. You can do it, and we are here to support you. To encourage you further, we've created an Embroidery Beginner Bundle that includes everything you need to jump in and give it a go. Pick your favorite pattern and order your bundle below!

Shop Embroidery Beginner Bundle

Beginner Bundle with Stitching Raccoon Sampler Kit
Free Stitching Raccoon Sampler Pattern

FREE Stitching Raccoon Sampler

Take your new craft to another level! Learn basic embroidery stitches with our FREE Stitching Raccoon Sampler! Refer back to your finished sampler for future projects or hang it in your craft space for a spark of joy.

How it works: Sign up on the form below and then add the free pattern to your cart. Go through the checkout process (you will not have to enter payment unless you add additional products). A link to the pattern will be emailed to you after checkout. This process will store the pattern in your Digital Library on penguinandfish.com as well.

Stitching Raccoon Sampler - Free PDF Pattern

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