1. How to pick out a hoop
When you buy a hoop you’re going to want to make sure there are no gaps in the space between the inner and outer hoop (i.e. the hoop on the left). When there is a gap, your fabric will slip and slide all over the place and will be a pain in general to work with. When you have to buy hoops online (as most of us do right now) try and order a few at a time. When I order in batches I usually have one or two hoops that I can’t use (and I’ll return) but most are going to work fine.
2. How to keep my fabric tight in the hoop
There is no easy answer to this one. Some people say that they never have issues with this. That person is not me. The best solution I’ve found is to pull your fabric as tight as humanly possible before you start stitching and then tighten your hoop hardware as tight as possible too. From there I constantly re-pull my fabric as I’m stitching to make sure I don’t end up with wrinkles and folds. Once I’m done I have a magic trick that I explained in this post that really helps get that fabric tight and beautiful once you’re totally done stitching.
3. How to get the pesky water soluble marker out of my fabric
THIS was my biggest problem the year I started stitching. I could not for the life of me wash out the blue marker with a washcloth. Even when I did, it would mysteriously reappear. I dreaded the moment I’d hear from someone who had bought a hoop from me saying “umm, why is there suddenly blue all over my hoop!?” Thankfully that moment never came. Now I have a really unbelievably easy way to get rid of it (it’s the same magic trick I just talked about) and you can read about it HERE (it's tip #3).
4. How many strands I was “supposed” to use
When I first started embroidering I had no idea how many strands of embroidery floss to use at once. The answer: well… it depends on what you're stitching! For general stitching I use two strands. When I need really fine details I’ll go down to a single strand and when I’m doing a satin stitch that covers a large area I’ll use 4 strands.
5. How to back my hoop
I finished the first few hoops I made by just cutting off the fabric right next to the hoop. This was a bad idea because over time those hoops loosened and the fabric started to wrinkle. In fact, one of my first hoops still hangs in my sister’s house, and I cringe every time I walk by it! Now what I do is leave several inches of fabric on the outside of the hoop, cinch it together and use a whip stitch to hand sew on a circular piece of felt. This ensures that my fabric stays nice and taut.
6. How to transfer my pattern to my hoop
It can be daunting to transfer patterns from paper to a hoop, but all you have to do is put your fabric in your hoop, hold it up to a window or lightbox (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and then trace it. Now your pattern is on the inside of your hoop (backwards) so all you have to do is take the fabric out of the hoop and turn it around. Voila! You’re ready to go.
7. What stitches to learn first
This is one of the most common questions I get, and it was my first question when I began embroidering too! I would start with a backstitch. This is by far the stitch I use most often. From there I would move onto the satin stitch. This one is a little more challenging, but once you get the hang of it your embroidery is going to look amazing. The last essential stitch is the french knot. This one was by far the most challenging for me to learn, but once you get it, it’s like riding a bike and you’ll nail it most every time.