Embroidery supplies and equipment

Having the correct hand embroidery supplies, equipment and accessories can help you to enjoy your needlework even more.

This page will cover the embroidery tools and materials that I couldn't do without in my own sewing box. Other pages on the site will give more information about...

For a trip down memory lane you might like to visit this list of essential items listed by a schoolgirl in 1930 from the United Kingdom. The currency used was the pre-decimal pounds, shillings and pence, that some of us still remember.  (The page will open up in a new window so you won't lose this one.)

So what else do you need to start embroidery?


Embroidery Scissors

In my opinion one of the best embroidery tools you need is a really sharp pair of embroidery scissors.

I am often surprised by the variety of scissors students bring with them to my classes. Dressmaking shears! Kitchen scissors! Scissors so blunt that they chew the thread!

Do yourself a favor and include a small pair with pointed, sharp blades that cut cleanly, amongst your counted cross stitch equipment. This is also important if you are thinking of trying hardanger or other cutwork techniques. Scissors are an ideal suggestion if family or friends are asking for ideas for gifts you might like.

Read more about embroidery scissors here.

Traditional Embroidery frames

There are many types of scroll frames available to support your work, if you do not like using a hoop. 

These are traditionally used for needlepoint but are also useful to have in your crewel embroidery supplies.

They have wooden top and bottom roller bars with webbing strips attached, and side pieces that stretch the fabric. These are available in various sizes.

You need bars that are wider than your fabric, the length of the side pieces does not matter, as the excess fabric length will be wound around the top and bottom bars.

Take some strong thread and tack your fabric to each webbing strip. Wind the excess fabric around one, or both, bars to enable you to reach the area you are currently stitching. Most counted thread work is started in the centre so you would wind an equal amount onto both bars. You can also lace the edges of the fabric to the side bars to help keep it under tension.

Slate frames for keeping your fabric taut while stitching are very helpful. Your design would need to fit within the frame as the fabric is not rolled around bars but pinned in place for the project's entirety before being released.

They are said to get their name from the frames around schoolchildren's writing slates. If the slate broke, the frames were used for needlework rather than discarded.

Modern Embroidery Frames

More modern types of frame can eliminate the step of stitching the fabric to the bars. They have slots in the top and bottom bars. The fabric is laid across the slots and a wooden dowel is pushed through that grips the fabric.

Another type consists of 4 pieces of plastic tubing that fit together by means of corner sections. The fabric is laid over the tubing and snap on covers hold it in position.

Whichever type of hoop or frame you use, it is a good idea to loosen the work at the end of a stitching session to avoid overstretching the fabric.

Lap Frame

Holding a hoop or frame can be tiring on the non-stitching hand and could lead to RSI or repetitive strain injury. By supporting the frame with a lap frame or floor stand you have two hands to stitch with, making the work easier and quicker.

Lap frames tend to come in two forms; those that have a non-removable hoop or frame and ones with a clamp so that you can use any size hoop or frame.

Floor stand

I use a floor stand to keep my hands free when stitching. They can be made of wood or metal but must be sturdy.

Some stands have places to attach accessories such as a lamp, magnifier, chart holder or magnet. The magnet is ideal for parking your embroidery threads ready for future use.

Investing in a quality stand will ensure years of stitching without needing to replace it.

If a stand looks good, in addition to doing its job well, you can leave it out as an item of furniture in between stitching sessions.


I'm a bit of an illumination fanatic, as amongst my sewing supplies are three different lamps! They help me to stitch at any time of day, in any light without picking up the wrong embroidery threads for an area of my cross stitch design. If we ever meet in person ask me about the foxes!

I have a large desk lamp that holds a daylight bulb. I like to be able to direct the light to the optimum position for my needlework.

I also have a small lamp that clips to the hoop which I use when I want to sit in the living room without disturbing my husband when he is watching the TV or when I am away from home.

However, I favor a lamp magnifier with a fluorescent tube surrounding a magnifying glass. These are ideal if you always stitch in one particular room. Being heavy, you wouldn't want to carry one around with you.

This affiliate link will take you to Amazon where you can choose from a wide variety of craft lamps. 


Due to my advancing age I find a magnifier a useful addition to my embroidery materials.

Many of my students use a magnifying glass that hangs around the neck and has little "feet" that stand on your chest. Some also have a light.

I have tried these but didn't get on that well with them. I found that every time I moved I lost focus on the fabric, or the magnifier slipped and I had to reposition it. They may work for you though and are economical. 

I prefer to keep my magnifier closer to my eyes. There are several ways of doing this. The clip on magnifers that attach to your glasses can be useful. My favourite, however, are called Mag Eyes

As you can see by the picture, this headband magnifier sits comfortably on your forehead keeping them at an ideal distance from your eyes. Hinged arms enable you to push the lenses up out of the way when you don't need them.

If you use these, do NOT do what I did. After a stitching session I pushed them back and totally forgot I was wearing them. Whilst out shopping I was wondering why I was getting strange looks!

Other items to keep in your workbox

Other items to keep handy are a tape measure or ruler along with dressmaking shears for measuring and cutting your fabric.

You may also wish to have some sort of storage system for your organizing your embroidery floss and beads (if you use them).

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