Getting Started with Machine Embroidery

I post a lot about the geeky designs we create at Appliqué Geek. Sometimes people make their way to our website after doing an Internet search for something particularly geeky and fall in love with our adorkable designs only to become terribly disappointed when they realize that they would need an embroidery machine to be able to use our designs. Perhaps this is you and you are ready to see what machine applique is all about. Or perhaps you arrived on this page after doing an Internet search for “learn to do machine applique.” Whatever brought you here, we are happy to help!

Machine embroidery and machine applique can be a fun hobby or a great way to make a little extra money and it doesn’t take much to get started. First you need a computerized sewing machine that can read design files.

The Brother SE400 has a 4×4 hoop, 67 Built-in Stitches, 70 Built-in Designs, and 5 Lettering Fonts.

The SINGER Futura XL-400 has 2 Hoops, 125 Embroidery Designs, 5 Monogramming Fonts.

The Janome Memory Craft 200E has

Those are excellent starter machines. If you have the chance, you should stop into a Joanns or your local sewing shop to give them a test drive!

Once you have your machine picked out, you’ll need supplies. At a minimum, you need stabilizer, embroidery thread, fine scissors, and, of course, fabric to stitch on.


There are three types of stabilizer that you will find yourself reaching for most often. They are Water Soluble Stabilizer (often just referred to as solvy or WSS), tear away or self-adhesive tear away, and cut away.

Sulky 12-Inch by 9-Yard Solvy Water Soluble Stabilizer Roll

Exquisite Medium Weight (1.8 oz) Tearaway Embroidery Backing 20″ X 50 Yard Roll

Sulky Sticky Self-Adhesive Tear-Away Stabilizer Roll

Cut Away – Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Backing – Medium Weight 2.5oz – 12″x20YD Roll

I started with rolls of stabilizer but now find myself buying pre-cut instead:


This set of 40 Spools of Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread in Bright and Beautiful Colors is an excellent way to get started.

You’ll also need plenty of bobbin thread. You can either buy large spools and wind your own bobbin or buy pre-wound bobbins. If you go with pre-wound bobbins, make sure you get the correct size for your machine. The most popular sizes are A and L but check your instruction manual to be sure.

White Embroidery Bobbin Thread, 5,000 Meter Cone by SMB Always

144 Prewound Bobbins for Brother Embroidery Machine Size A (156)

144 White Pre-wound L-Style Plastic Bobbins for Embroidery Machines


One last note, some people prefer to spray their stabilizer with temporary adhesive spray before laying down their fabric. Here’s a great spray to use for that:

Sulky 4.23-Ounce Temporary Spray Adhesive

There you have all the supplies you need to get started. Stay tuned for an article on choosing the best stabilizer for your project!

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

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