I post a lot of my embroidery pictures on FB and am active in a bunch of online embroidery groups. I've only been doing this for 2yrs now and am self taught but I remember how daunting it was to use my expensive machine the first few times. I was scared something was going to go wrong and it always did. I ruined the first few shirts I tried and then moved on to simple straight fonts from embroidered onto scrap fabric I then turned into bibs. I don't remember when it started to click for me but eventually it did. Here are some of my favorites products and tips for anyone just getting started. I own a Brother PE780d but the machine won't matter for most of these tips!
READ YOUR MANUAL! It seems like a given but it's a step a lot of us skip. It's kind of boring but it tells you so much. Your machine can stop mid stitch, move forward and backward single stitched or whole steps and more. It will be the difference between a ruined project and a useable one!!
Stabilizer.... it really is the key to good embroidery. You'll find your rhythm but for the most part if the fabric is stretchy and going to be worn (think t-shirts, onesies, etc.) you're going to need a cutaway. Cutaway stabilizer doesn't attach to the shirt itself. You lay it under the shirt and hoop the shirt and the stabilizer together.
In The Hoop projects (masks, key fobs, coasters, tags) - Hoop only tearaway and begin
Shirts - I prefer a mid weight iron on stabilizer (pellon from JoAnns works fine) and then I hoop
the shirt and cutaway stabilizer for long lasting designs.
Towels/Burp Cloths - Hoop tear away stabilizer and the item. Use water soluble stabilizer if it's a
thick item (like towels) to keep the stitches form sinking down.
Practice hooping over and over again. If your design is off or stitches not aligned it is likely all in your hooping and stabilizer choice. Don't stretch the hooped item at all. I try ot only pull and move the stabilizer so I'm sure my shirt isn't being stretched.
Don't be intimidated by appliques. Dense stitching is the easiest to see mistakes on so it's the hardest for newbies and often the very thing they try first. Appliques are amazing and much easier. They usually start with a placement stitch which will run and show you where to put your fabric choice. Then lay down your fabric of choice and the next step is usually a tackdown. At this point remove your hoop from the machine but NOT your item from the hoop. While still in the hoop, trim as close as you can to the stitches. Place back on and continue. I iron on Heat n Bond Lite to the back of my applique fabrics and then iron the whole design once done. This simple helps adhere the whole fabric to the shirt and makes for a flatter design once you wash. It also keeps fabric form fraying if you happen to trim to close!
Learn what thread your machine likes. Don't buy a ton of thread at once or else you might find some your machine won't tolerate. If you're getting lots of thread breaks or bobbin thread showing through it is likely your thread. My machine hates brands which don't wind completely horizontal on the spool. After the first few layers Robinson-Anton and Gutterman start cross-crossing and this leads to multiple thread breakages for me. I've heard Coats and Clark is horrible thread but for me it stitches the best. I've tried every brand at JoAnns and the Viking store and C&C works for us! Just in case you're really a newbie bobbin thread us usually just white and you use the colored thread for the top. If you're doing an in the hoop project you can switch out the bobbin thread so they match from behind but usually it's not a concern.
Amazon carries some amazing and affordable supplies. Here are some of my favorites!!
Pre-wound Bobbins! Such a great deal and easy to use. They did ship to me in an untaped small box in bigger box and my first order spilled everywhere. Amazon replaced quickly. The product itself is great though.
Cut Away Stabilizer for a 5" by 7"hoop I thought this role would last forever but mine only has a quarter left and I got it for Christmas!! Love this stuff and cheaper than JoAnns or elsewhere. I will probably get a slightly wider role next time because this is just big enough and I'd like a little more leeway. It works fine though!
Tear Away Stabilizer This is slightly wider than the above stabilizer and very easy to use. Perfect for all the in the hoop projects!!
Once you've mastered simple designs on your machine you're going to want software. Without it you can't merge a design and a name you have to rehoop or guess on placement. I use Embird and love that it will also expand to be full digitizing software if I make additional purchases. Regular software is just for merging already made designs and digitizing means you start from scratch or import a picture and go from there. There are tons of free designs and designs available for cheap but the real fun comes when you can tweak those and add names and monograms!! Here are some great designers: Rockin' Embroidery, Nobbie Neez, Planet Applique, Bayou Belle Appliques
If you're just starting out and have questions feel free to post below and I'll help where I can or direct you to some resources!!