While I don't do enough embroidery to consider myself an embroiderer, I have done my share. Over time I've picked up a couple of tricks that I figure might be worth sharing.
Embroidery Hoop Tension
Many people will tell you that when you mount your fabric in an embroidery hoop it should be stretched very tightly across the hoop. This has never made sense to me. If you pull your fabric taut as you mount it, then as you stitch you won't be able to tell if your tension is correct or even. When you release your work from the hoop and the fabric is allowed to relax, the relative tensions of the fabric and your stitches might cause the fabric to pucker or your stitches to sag.
I've always had good results with a different technique, which assumes that the purpose of the hoop is to keep your fabric square and flat, but not taut. When mounted in the hoop your fabric should have just enough play so that it looks flat, but if you touch the center of the fabric it should give just slightly. With the fabric mounted like this, you will be able to tell if you are using the right tension as you stitch. Your stitches should lay flat across the surface of the fabric, but not pull at it.
When embroidery worked in this fashion is released from the hoop, all you need todo is give it a slight pressing to remove any hoop marks. No excessive blocking or straightenting is necessary.
Mock Cord Edging for Embroidered Motifs
Many projects require you to embroider small motifs, cut them out, apply them to a larger piece of fabric, and edge the motifs with cord. But the problem with using cord is that you then have to figure out what to do with the ends. I prefer to use a simple technique that gives the appearance of a corded edge, without the hassle.
After you've finished embroidering your motif, outline it with a line of closely spaced stem-stich formed from a thick thread or yarn. When you cut out your motif, leave a narrow seam allowance around the embroidery. Then fold the seam allowance under the motif so that the stem-stitched outline rotates and becomes the edge of the motif. Using a thread or strand of floss that matches the outline, stitch your motif to the larger piece of work, slipping the attaching stitches in between the twists of the stem-stiches.
Once completed, this edging looks surprisingly like cording couched around the motif, yet there are no cord ends to finish off or hide.