I get asked a lot of questions about my process and what I use. Here is a basic outline of everything about me.
What machine do you use?
I use a Baby Lock Valiant – 10 needle embroidery machine. It’s fabulous. Highly recommended..
I want to start embroidering. What do you recommend?
I would honestly start with a dedicated embroidery machine. It’s actually harder to use a machine that goes back and forth from sewing to embroidery since there are a lot of things to change and fix, and there may be some setting issues that may make it more difficult.
The machine I recommend is a Babylock Spirit – it has a 7″x12″ area for embroidery – which can be upgraded ot 8″x12″. I do recommend the upgrade. These machines are great brand new and used, and would really recommend the used market if price is an issue. However, if you do need to finance your machine, buying new tends to be easiest since a lot of companies run 0% financing over 6 years deals that are really nice to use. This is how I got my first machine – part of my first paycheck as a doctor, as well as a great financing deal.
Overall, just look around and try to find something that works for you. Things to look for: a large hoop size (the largest around is 14″x8″ but that’s really rare short of the 10 needles). I would recomend a one needle to start until you get better at managing it. When you have 10 needles, its 10 times the places for a machine to screw up- but also 10 x as fast. I also recommend looking for a needle that has a thread cutter. FYI: The spirit does have one.
What fabric do you use?
The thicker the fabric, the less the fabric will “pull”. So I recomend thicker fabrics like wools, twills, and doubled faced silk duchesses.
My personal fabric to use is double faced silk duchesse from nydesignerfabrics.com – just because it’s so thick, has a great drape and tends not to pull while sewing.
What I recommend not using: Any thin taffetas are VERY challenging. Not impossible – just challenging. Also, don’t do shot taffetas. They tend to look awful embroidered because the pulling tends to take away the “changeable” aspect of the silk around the embroidery.
My suggestion? Experiment!
What interfacing do you recommend?
I get asked this all the time and I really don’t like answering it. Mostly because there is no right answer. It depends on the density of the stitching, the speed of your machine, the type of fabric you’re using, and so forth. I feel like I can write a novel about what interfacing to use with what fabric. And honestly, other smarter, better people than me already have! I recommend Denise Hendrick’s Guide to Stabilizers for Historical Costuming Fabrics.
In general, I recommend:
- for lace making, the Baby Lock dissolvable interfacings are great.
- for thicker fabrics like wools and double faced silk duchesse, I recommend a strong tear away interfacing. The interfacing should be thick enough for it to handle the density of historical embroidery, while being thin enough to tear away. Baby Lock honestly has a great tear away selection as well.
What threads do you recommend?
I use polyester for my test runs. It’s cheap, it’s strong, and does a good job. I personally prefer Madeira for this purpose.
For my finals, I use Tire Silk threads – #50 wt threads. I usually buy it at either superior threads and as well as Red Rock Threads.
For my machine made lace and fichus, I usually use Kimono Silk since it’s thinner and lighter than the Tire silks.
What do you digitize with?
I use Baby Lock Palette 11 for my embroidery digitizing. If you can, try to bundle this when you buy your machine so you can get a better deal on both. Please note that ALL embroidery software is quite expensive since it’s such a niche product.