I have always wanted to learn how to do machine embroidery. So, last Christmas my husband bought me a Brother SE400 Sewing and Embroidery Machine. (In the past they’ve gone on sale on Black Friday/Cyber Monday for $150, so I sent him a link when I saw the deal go live!) While I’m still a novice, over the course of the last few months I have learned so much about my machine, sewing and embroidery in general. To even get to this point has required a lot of patience and reading/researching on countless blogs.
One of the most frustrating things when I was first starting out was figuring out exactly the supplies I needed to get started on various projects. What type of stabilizers do I need? What size needles should I use? Do I have to use embroidery thread or can I just use regular?
I longed for a resource that would list out exactly what I needed to buy so that I’d have all the supplies on hand to applique, embroider or sew on any fabric that I wanted. Since I never found that, I’ve decided to share my wisdom so other beginners starting out with their Brother SE400 can have it all in one place.
In this post I will share:
- Why I chose the Brother SE400 machine
- All the c
- Stabilizers you should buy to embroider on various types of fabrics
- What size/type of needles to use for embroidery on the Brother SE400 machine
- What you need to get started with applique
- A list of general sewing supplies that are handy to have at the ready
Why I chose the Brother SE400 Machine
Last year at my friend Allison’s wedding I got to talking with one of my friends and fellow bridesmaids Courtney about how she’d recently taken up embroidery. It was something I had always been intrigued by, but thought the cost of the machine was too prohibitive to getting into it just as a hobby. Then she told me about how she bought her machine, a Brother SE400, on Amazon on Cyber Monday for less than $200! I was so excited. I just had to have one for myself!
From that August to December I did research on other machines and stalked the internet ready to pounce on a good deal. What I learned is that the Brother SE400 is a great entry level embroidery machine for beginners. With it you are limited to a 4×4 hoop size, but with some skillful maneuvering you can get it to sew larger designs. (I still haven’t tried/figured this out yet.) I also loved that it serves as either an embroidery machine or a basic sewing machine. I like being able to have one machine instead of two. Lastly, there are TONS of YouTube tutorials dedicated to this machine, so it would make learning that much easier.
I let my husband know that was what I wanted for Christmas, and when it went on sale on Cyber Monday I not so subtly sent him the link. On Christmas morning I was so excited to open my new toy and was overjoyed to learn that my mom had purchased me a set of embroidery thread and some stabilizer so I could get started right away.
Though I know the basics of sewing, which my Grandma taught me one weekend years ago, it had been ages since I had actually practiced. Luckily, my mom is a great seamstress and helped me get my machine set up and together, with some trial and error, we got things working pretty quickly.
Below is a list of all the supplies I have purchased over this year to do the various projects I’ve taken on. Honestly, I didn’t realize till I started typing this out just how much you need. I figured this out over the course of months and would have to wait 2 days (gotta love Amazon Prime) between starting a project and ordering the supplies to get what I needed, so most of this stuff I’d just go ahead and buy.
You may have some of the things (like scissors), so don’t worry too much about those. I put links to things on Amazon but a lot of this stuff they have at Hobby Lobby, Walmart and Joann’s. (I bought most of my stuff on Amazon or at Walmart.) They don’t have this stuff at Michael’s, so don’t try there. On to the list!
Supplies Needed to Get Started with Machine Embroidery
The machine comes with most everything you need to embroider, except stabilizer. You cannot embroider with out stabilizer. You’ll end up needing several different kinds depending on the types of fabric you’ll be embroidering on, so I’d recommend just going ahead and tossing all these in your Amazon cart and investing in them up front. There is nothing more frustrating than going to start a project and not having all the supplies you need!
- Cut Away Stabilizer – World Weidner Cut Away Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Backing 100 Precut Sheets 8″x8″ Medium Weight 2.5 Ounce Fits 4×4 Hoops - Cut Away stabilizer is what you’ll use for knit (stretchy) fabrics. This is what you’ll use most. If you’re limited to a 4×4 hoop, as you are with the Brother SE 400, it’s nice to have these pre-cut into 8×8 squares.
- Tear Away Stabilizer – Tear Away Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Backing 100 Precut Sheets 8″x8″ Medium Weight 1.8 Ounce Fits 4×4 Hoops - Tear away stabilizer is good for woven fabrics. I use this for doing towels. I thought at first I’d use this for everything but I’ve since learned that you can’t use this for knit fabrics such as t-shirts.
- Water Soluable Stabilizer – Sulky 12-Inch by 12-Yard Totally Stable Iron-On Tear-Away Stabilizer Roll - I originally bought this just to use for towels, but I’ve begun to use a layer on top for embroidering almost everything. It helps give a nicer appearance.
- Tender Touch – Sulky Of America Cut Away Tender Touch Iron-On Backing White, 8″ by 9 yd, June Berry - I use this to iron over the top of the back of projects that need a soft backing and use cutaway stabilizer such as baby onesies.
- Basting Spray – Sulky 4.23-Ounce Temporary Spray Adhesive - I use this to temporarily adhere the stabilizer to the fabric to make hooping easier.
If you plan to use the embroidery feature regularly, I also recommend investing in a set of embroidery thread and extra needles. My mom bought me the set below that has all the colors I’ll really ever need. It’s nice to have several colors on hand to match whatever you’re trying to stitch on.
- Embroidery Thread – 40 Spools Polyester Embroidery Machine Thread - This set offers a great range of colors.
When you’re first learning you’ll inevitably break a lot of needles. (Or I did!) So go ahead and buy an extra pack or two.
I did a lot of fretting about what type/size of needle I needed. I am a sewing novice so I wanted a straightforward answer. Here is the official guide from Brother for the SE400 machine. I learned that when embroidering it’s important to have an actual embroidery needle. (Learn more about needles from the Seasoned Homemaker.)
For most embroidery projects you’ll need a 75/11 embroidery needle. I bought mine at Walmart, but you can buy them online below at Amazon, or Hobby Lobby or JoAnn’s.
- Extra Embroidery Needles - Schmetz Machine Embroidery Needles 75/11
- OPTIONAL - Alcohol Swabs – Covidien 5750 Curity Alcohol Prep, Sterile, Medium, 2-ply (Pack of 200) – I read that basing spray can gum up your needles, so to have these on hand to wipe down your needles between projects to make them last longer. I don’t know how much truth there is to this but I figure it couldn’t hurt.
Extra Embroidery Hoops
OPTIONAL - Extra Hoops - 3-Piece Embroidery Hoop Set for Brother Embroidery Machines - You might hold off on ordering this at first, but once you get a hang of things it’s nice to have an extra set of hoops. Your machine comes with one 4×4 hoop. I use my 4×4 hoop the most, and it’s nice if I’m doing multiple things to be able to hoop the next item while my machine is sewing out the first one. I bought this multi-pack because I wanted the smaller hoop which I’ve found is useful for doing smaller things like baby clothing.
The supplies above for embroidery should cover everything you need to applique with the exception of:
- Head’nBond Lite - Heatnbond Thermoweb 17-Inch by 5-1/4-Yard Heat’n Bond Lite Iron-on Adhesive - Check out YouTube to learn to applique and learn why you need this!
- OPTIONAL - Applique Scissors – Gingher 6 Inch Knife Edge Applique Scissors – I haven’t bought these yet but plan to since I’ve gotten more into doing applique. It’s helpful to have a detail scissor to more precisely cut around the edges.
General Sewing Supplies
If you didn’t previously own a sewing machine you may not have some basic sewing supplies. All of these are optional, but would be helpful to have on hand.
- Good Fabric Scissors - Fiskars No.8 Premier Easy Action Bent Scissors - If you don’t have a good pair of fabric scissors, I’d recommend getting some. Keep them with your sewing supplies so they don’t get gummed up by
- Ball Pins – PandaHall Elite 1 Box About 260-270Pcs Round Ball Map Tacks Push Pins with Needle Points Multicolor - These come in handy when sewing and embroidering.
- Pin Cushion - Dritz Tomato Pin Cushion - A pin cushion is helpful to have sitting beside your machine or ironing board to hold your pins. This tomato one is a classic, but there are also lots of other fun pin cushion choices like this one on Amazon.
- Ball Point Needles – Ball Point Sewing Machine Needles Home-use By Organ Needles (10 Needles/pack), Select Size (Size 75 / 11 Ball Point) - You’ll want these for sewing on knit fabrics.
- Dritz Mark B Gone Marking Pen for Sewing, Blue - It can be useful to use a pen like this to mark the center of your fabric.
- Storage cart - I bought one of these carts at Michael’s to fit all my supplies because, let’s face it, this is a lot of stuff! The threads fit it in perfectly and I use the drawers for the various stabilizers, hoops, machine accessories and fabrics.
Lastly, you’ll need fabric to sew with or something to embroider/applique on to. My favorite things to sew on/applique right now are Gerber Cloth Diapers to be gifted as burp cloths. (As pictured at the top of this post.) At Walmart and other sewing supply places they have fabric bundles called “fat quarters” in lots of colors/patterns that I use to practice on/use with burp cloths. Whew. That was a lot! In reality it probably make sense to start with just a few of these supplies and build up as you take on new projects. Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments below!