I have recently taken up free-style embroidery again (haven't done any for quite a few years) and have gone absolutely mad buying embroidery silks, transfers and other items on ebay. Now I know for many of you seasoned embroiderers out there the following is not new news, but hey someone new must start embroidering every day!
Discovery No.1 - Flexible Hoops
A lot less fiddly than the traditional wooden hoops, no manual stretching needed nor fiddly brass screws to tighten and they apparently can then be used as a frame for your work, as long as of course the finished article sits nicely within it. They come with an "antique" effect loop already attached.
I have found the best way to get your work onto a hoop is to use the dining table, place the inner hoop on the table, place your material over it, then sandwich this with the outer ring. I have bought three different sizes so far and the "woodgrain" one is fab. Personally I think these are well worth buying and there is no danger of snagging your work. You still need to take your work off the hoop though when you have finished sewing for the day.
Discovery No. 2 - Embroidery Stand
Forget sliced bread - the one I bought holds your own hoops i.e. it doesn't come with a fixed hoop attached to it. Since putting my work on this I have done more in the last three weeks, than I did on the same piece of work before. I am currently working on a tablecloth and have completed one and a half corners working on the stand. Working full-time, I really only embroider at the weekends, but to see it "growing" so quicky is fantastic. You can use both hands and I haven't caught the excess material in the stitching once! I am giving serious consideration to buying a lap stand too, which does a similar job to the floor stand but the base tucks under your leg instead of standing on the floor.
A couple of recent visitors to my home were curious about the stand and I tried to impress them by saying it was an instrument of torture for the children - luckily they didn't believe me.
Discovery No. 3 - Magnifier
I bought one that clips onto the floor stand and has a flexible neck - I guess it would work just as well on a hoop, although it will make the hoop heavier to hold - perhaps one of those neck ones would be better. It takes a little getting used to, but coupled with the floor stand is a match made in heaven. Since using a combination of these two, my stitch-work particularly "stem stitch" seems to be more even - hope the difference is not too noticeable on the finished tablecloth.
So there you have it my personal tips for anyone starting out in embroidery - I am no expert but I think that these three items combined will give you a boost in confidence, especially as a beginner and if you can get these on ebay at bargain prices even better! Use the words in bold type to search in the "Crafts" section in ebay and you should get some results.
Yours in stitching . . . . .