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20 Common Embroidery Mistakes

Mistakes 1 through 10

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20 Common Embroidery Mistakes
© Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to About.com

Every hobby has its learning curve, and embroidery is no exception. Avoiding mistakes can save you time, money and frustration.

By reviewing these top 20 common - and avoidable - embroidery mistakes on these 2 pages, you'll be a step ahead by knowing what to avoid before starting your next embroidery project.

1. Not reading the instructions before starting a project
Always read the instructions thoroughly. One of the most common errors that happens when instructions are skipped, is that the wrong thread or number of strands of embroidery floss are used. This can lead to running out of thread before completing the project, or not having the proper thread coverage (thread is too thick or too thin for the area being stitched).

2. Choosing the wrong embroidery fabric for the type of embroidery
Most forms of surface embroidery require a firm fabric foundation, often with a thread count of 28 or higher. Using an embroidery fabric with a lower thread count can result in poorly-formed stitches. Counted Thread or Pulled Thread projects require a lower, looser thread count. This makes it easier to pull and remove threads, and create lacy stitches.

3. Selecting the wrong size of needle
Using an embroidery needle that is too large for the project can result in holes in the fabric where the needle and thread enter or exit. It can also cause puckered fabric. A needle that is too small can be difficult to thread, and can cause unnecessary wear on thread, resulting in unwanted “fuzzies.”

4. Using a sharp needle when a ball-point needle should be used
Sharp needles should be used when the needle and thread need to pierce the fabric, as in surface embroidery and crewel. Ball-point needles are used when the needle needs to slip between threads in the fabric without piercing them, as in counted thread, pulled thread and Hardanger embroidery.

5. Starting and ending a thread with knots
Knots should always be avoided in any type of embroidery project. Instead, start a new thread with a waste knot, away knot, or by weaving it into the back side of an area that has already been stitched. Knots cause unwanted bulk on the back of the piece, resulting in the work not lying flat when pressed or mounted. Knots in projects that will be laundered frequently tend to work themselves free, leaving you with missing embroidered areas.

6. Selecting an embroidery thread that is too heavy or light for the task
Bold lines of embroidery require thicker embroidery threads, and narrow lines require finer threads. Threads can be combined to make a thicker strand, and floss can be separated into single strands or groups of strands. Also, using a thread that is too thick for the fabric chosen can cause problems as well - the threads in the fabric are moved and shifted to accommodate the thickness of the thread used, causing puckering.

7. Using a craft thread rather than an embroidery thread
Inexpensive thread sold in packages as a “Craft Thread” (often 6-strand floss or #5 pearl cotton) are meant to be used in craft projects such as friendship bracelets, macramé or children’s crafts and should not be used for embroidery. The quality of craft threads is much lower than embroidery-quality thread. Craft threads fray easily and don’t come in as wide a range of colors. They also may not be colorfast, and the color can bleed into the fabric during laundering.

8. Marking your fabric with a pencil or pen
Always use a water-soluble fabric marking pen, chalk pencil or fabric pencil to mark an embroidery design on your fabric. Do not use any type of pen or pencil designated for use on paper. Regular pens (sometimes even those labeled as “permanent”) can bleed into the fabric with handling or laundering, or may not wash out completely.

9. Using a transfer pencil instead of a water-soluble fabric pencil or pen
Heat transfer pencils are permanent and are used for iron-on designs. This means that the marked lines need to be completely covered with embroidery or they will show in the finished project. Instead, use a water-soluble pen or pencil to mark the design on your fabric.

TIP: When in doubt, test the pen or pencil on a scrap of the fabric you will be using to make certain it will wash out.

10. Iron-On transfers are fuzzy or distorted
Iron-on is a misleading term. Press-on transfers would be a better term, as pressing and ironing are two different things. When using transfers, fuzzy markings result when the pattern is ironed onto the fabric – the iron is slid back and forth on the paper (ironing), rather than carefully lifting the iron carefully and moving it to the next spot (pressing). Always lift the iron when moving to another section – do not slide it.

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