You're interested in embroidery, and you know you want to start with a kit, but you have no idea where to start. You type, "embroidery kit," into Google and find yourself faced with over six million results. How the heck are you supposed to choose from all those options? What makes an an embroidery kit good? And, most importantly, how will you know if that kit is the right kit for you?
I think about this a lot because I make embroidery kits for a living, and so do a lot of my friends (or, as I suppose I should refer to them in this context, "colleagues!"). For many of us, our kits are made with our past selves or even current non-embroidery-artist friends in mind. We might ask ourselves, for example: What could I have really used when I was first learning embroidery? How would I make this kit if I were making it for a close friend?
My subscription box kits, for example, are ultimately made for my past self and what she would have needed (and wanted!); my mini kits, on the other hand, are based on kits I've made for friends.
Because of this, kits can vary widely in terms of the designs we use, the supplies we include, and the amount and type of instruction we provide. Whether you're searching on Google, Etsy, or choosing between artists you follow and love on social media, those are the three primary things you'll want to consider as you begin to choose a kit: 1) the design, 2) the materials, and 3) the instruction provided.
In this post, I'll go over each of these three primary considerations; at the end of the post, I've included a few red flags and other considerations you might want to keep in mind as you're shopping.
1. What do you want to stitch?
The most important thing about choosing a kit comes down to choosing one with a design that you really, really love. The more you love the design of the finished product, the more motivated you'll be to finish stitching, and the happier you'll be once you're done. You're the one who's going to have to look at it on your wall, so choose something you wouldn't mind looking at every day!
2. What materials do you need (and/or want)?
Kits can be as simple as a hoop, a small cut of fabric, and just the right amount of floss for that particular project. For a lot of new stitchers, that's plenty! Other kits may come with fancy embroidery scissors, detailed video workshops, and enough supplies for more than one project. Ask yourself, what would work best for you?
There are no "best supplies," just like there's no "best embroidery artist." Take a look at the supplies included in the kit and ask yourself if you think that would be sufficient toward your goal of finishing the project and hanging it up in your home.
If you've never stitched before and aren't sure where to start, consider asking yourself these questions:
Do I want to transfer my own design (a skill in and of itself!), or would I like to skip that step entirely? If you'd like to skip this step, look for kits that have the pattern pre-printed onto the fabric. Some people love pre-printed designs, others hate it - it's truly just a personal preference. If you don't care either way, that's fine, too!
Do I want enough materials for just this project, or would I like to have leftovers? Some kits come with full skeins of embroidery floss and large cuts of fabric; others come with just the right amount of floss and fabric for that particular project. I've made kits using both of these methods in the past, and they're both great! At the same time, it's something you'll want to look at before purchasing so you know what to expect once the kit arrives.
Do I care about the brand of floss included? I've made kits with three to four different brands of floss in the past; trust me, there's no "best floss" for an embroidery kit. That said, you may live in an area where the only brand you can find is DMC, and so you'd prefer a kit that exposes you to something new (such as Sublime Stitching, Anchor, or Lecian Cosmo); alternatively, you may prefer to stick with a brand with which you're already familiar.
Do I want scissors? You can absolutely use the scissors you keep in your kitchen junk drawer for embroidery. That said, a lot of us love using embroidery scissors in our work! I offer kits both with and without embroidery scissors, and can tell you they sell about evenly - which tells me people are pretty split on whether they need or want embroidery scissors in their kits. Choose what works best for you!
These are just a few potential questions to get you started - it's definitely not an exhaustive list of everything you might encounter in a listing! Some kits may come in cute carrying cases; they may include helpful notions such as needle threaders, thimbles, or needle minders; or they may include fun extras, such as stickers, prints, or frames. The possibilities for materials included in an embroidery kit are endless!
How do you know what comes in a kit?
The materials provided in a kit are usually listed by the seller in some detail. If you're reading through a listing and aren't' sure if a materials-related question is answered, don't be afraid to send a polite message or email to the seller asking for clarification. You might write, for example: "Hey, Hope! I'm considering purchasing (this particular) kit from you, but I wasn't sure if it comes with full skeins of floss, or just the right amount of floss for this particular project? If I missed that information in the listing, I apologize! Thank you so much, (your name)."
It's also possible that none of these material-related details matter to you, so long as the design is right - and that's absolutely fine! Even if you don't have preferences, though, I would still recommend taking a look at the materials provided to make sure you're buying what you think you're buying.
3. What sort of instruction do you need?
Just as kits will vary widely in their designs and materials, so too will they vary in the type of instruction provided. There is no "best" way to provide instruction for a kit; there is only the "best" way for you, in particular, to learn.
If you work well with diagrams and wouldn't mind Googling tutorials for different stitches, then you might only need a printed or digital pattern.
If you work well with diagrams, but don't enjoy searching for tutorials, then you might need a printed or digital pattern that includes written instructions for each stitch.
If you're like me, you work best with video instruction - I learn more easily when I can watch something being done, and that's reflected in the type of instruction I provide with my kits, many of which come with full-length, stitch-by-stitch video tutorials.
Again, the instruction provided in the kit is usually described in the listing itself. If you're reading through a listing and aren't sure of the type of instruction provided, you can send a polite message or email to the seller asking for clarification. For example: "Hey, Hope! I'm considering purchasing this (particular) kit, and I was wondering if it came with a full-length video tutorial, like your other kits? If I missed that in the listing, I apologize! Thank you so much, (your name)."
Red Flags and Other Considerations
If the kit you're considering is being promoted as "the absolute best kit out there," or seems to rely on trashing other kits to make theirs seem better by comparison, I would consider that to be a red flag. In my experience, artists who trash others to lift themselves up are often attempting to make up for something - and often, that something is poor customer service or originality.
What's your budget?
Do a lot of people get into embroidery through kits? Absolutely! Is that the only way to get into embroidery? Absolutely not! Your personal budget matters, and the fact is that embroidery can be an incredibly cheap hobby to get into - especially if you're willing to hunt down supplies for yourself!
Kits include not just the supplies you'll need, but also things that can be a bit harder to quantify (like the design process, years of practice, the instruction you receive as part of the kit, etc.). If you're looking for that, and it's in your budget, kits are absolutely a great option. If you're not interested in that, and/or it's not in your budget at this time, you can still learn embroidery!
If a kit isn't in my budget, what do I do?
If a kit isn't in your budget, or if you're more interested in finding and gathering supplies on your own, you absolutely have that option! When I started getting into hand embroidery, I didn't have enough money for a kit - I purchased the bare minimum of what I needed to get started, and took off from there. I would encourage you to check out my blog, where I regularly post tutorials for how to learn! If you're very brand new and have no idea where to start, I would start with: this post on all the essential supplies you'll need for hand embroidery; this post about what sort of fabric you might like to use; and this post on an essential stitch for brand new stitchers to learn!