How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question I get asked at workshops…

“Do I need to buy expensive materials and equipment for embroidery?”

Starting a new hobby can be expensive, especially when you have lots of ideas but don’t know where to start. In this post I will talk about the areas where you can save money and what you need to spend a bit more money on. There are lots of ways to save money and if you have any top tips I’d love to hear them.

Embroidery Threads

Embroidery threads vary quite dramatically in price. In my stash I have DMC threads like Cotton Perle and stranded cotton that are great to stitch with but prices start at £1.20 for a skein of stranded cotton and up to £2.55 for a ball of perle thread. My stranded cotton boxes of thread also contain bargains from the pound shop that cost £1.00 for 20 skeins. I’ve used these threads on commission pieces and for workshops and I’m happy with the results.

Your local charity shop, vintage shop or car boot sale is a great place to find good quality second hand threads. I’ve picked up expensive brands like Coats and Gutermann for less than £1.00 for a reel. I usually wind off a bit of the outside layer as it can be faded, although the colour faded reels create an interesting variegated thread to work with.


Needles are one of the areas I don’t like to skimp on, I’ve had frustrating experiences with cheap needles. They are made of poor quality metal and can easily break, they eye is also badly punched out. A poorly punched out eye can damage your threads and be hard to get threaded in the first place.

I like to use needles by John James or Prym, they can be picked up online and in haberdashery shops. Prices start at £2.75 for an assorted pack of needles. You don’t have to buy the specialist embroidery needles either, an assorted pack will have something that works for embroidery. Once you’ve decided that embroidery is the craft for you, pick up a pack of the type of needle you find best to use.


Because of the amount of embroidery I do, I have an expensive pair of curved tip scissors that retail for about £15.00. For years and all through my degree I used nail scissors from Home Bargains that cost around £3.00 a pair. If you do a lot of stitching, I would use small scissors as cutting thread with a larger pair can damage the blades.

For larger scissors, you can pick up a pair from shops like Wilko and IKEA. Make sure you keep them for fabric only, they will stay sharp enough to use for ages. Prices start from as little as £1.00 a pair.


You can use calico tote bag freebies to embroiderer onto, I know you have a stash of them in the bottom of the wardrobe. I’ve also picked up fabric from charity shops and used worn clothes and bedding for fabric. The charity shop is your friend for bargains like threads and embroidery hoops too. You can get embroidery kits from shops like Aldi and The Works that have good quality bamboo embroidery hoops in them. An embroidery hoop will last a lifetime if you take good care of it. You can sand away rough edges of a hoop using a emery board, this will prevent it from snagging your fabric.