September 23, 2022

3 Things to Consider When Shopping For Hand Embroidery Fabric

By Tatum Schumann
3 Things to Consider When Shopping For Hand Embroidery Fabric

A question I receive a lot is what type of fabric I use for embroidery - and while I do have my favorite, instead of only sharing what I use, I’d like to go into detail on why. It’s important to know that everyone is different, and there is no right or wrong answer to finding the best fabric. Simply put, the best fabric is what looks and feels good to you! It also depends on the project you’re working on and the stitches you plan on using - so when you eventually move on to different needlecrafts, you will have favorite fabrics for different endeavors! But for the purpose of beginning hand embroidery, I think the three fabric components that should be kept in mind are textile, weave, and weight. 

"The best fabric is what looks and feels good to you!"

☼ Textile

The two main categories for textiles are natural and synthetic

  • Natural fabrics are created from animal or plant based fibers, such as cotton, silk, or wool.
  • Synthetic fabrics are produced entirely from chemicals and include polyester, rayon, and acrylic. These fabrics are cheaper and easier to mass produce, so they’re created with daily use and wear and tear in mind. As a result, they tend to stretch and don’t offer enough stability to keep stitches in place. 

Therefore, it’s critical to the precision of your design to choose a fabric that won’t allow much movement once your thread is in place. Natural fabrics are durable and create a stable base for stitches because they have fibers with little give so your designs won’t pucker. 

Some natural fibers to consider are cotton, linen, or a blend of the two! You can even try stitching on canvas or denim! 

☼ Weave

Weave is critical because how tight or how loose your fabric is will determine the ease at which your needle can pierce the material, as well as the degree at which your stitches will stay put. 

  • If the weave is too tight, you’ll have a hard time passing your needle through the fabric.
  • And if the weave is too loose, it will create holes in your project or change the look of your stitches. 

It’s best to look for a fabric with a plain weave, meaning the fibers run horizontally and vertically. This perpendicular pattern is what allows needles to pass through the fabric with ease, and the tight grid is ideal for an even and smooth surface that won’t warp your design or show gaps. A good rule of thumb is to look for a thread count between 28 and 32!

☼ Weight

Similar to weave, a fabric too heavy or too light might alter the look of your project and affect how easy it is to create your stitches.

  • Fabric that’s too lightweight can buckle or rip as you’re stitching.
  • But heavyweight fabrics can cause pain and frustration if you’re unable to pass the needle through effectively.
  • Depending on the final product you’re going for, you’ll need a stronger fabric to support more dense stitching, and sheer fabric will be better suited for more delicate needlework. 

You wouldn't want to lose your design if the fabric is too heavy, and a flimsier fabric may not offer enough support for a hefty pattern. A medium weight fabric is most commonly used, and is a great place to start for beginners. 

Keeping these three things in mind (textile, weave, and weight), you should be able to find a fabric that works best for your technique and style. I also recommend trying multiple different textiles, weights, and thread counts so you can find what suits your needs the most. Everyone is different, and the type of fabric you should use will ultimately be personal preference! 

Through my own trial and error, I’ve found my absolute favorite fabric to use for embroidery is 100% cotton, and Kona cotton fabrics by Robert Kaufman are by far the best! 

What I love most about it:

  • Kona cotton not only has the most beautiful colors, but the largest range of solids on the market.
  • It’s available in most local fabric or hobby shops, and I love how accessible it is as well! 
  • The tighter weave makes it super easy and comfortable to stitch on, and although lightweight, Kona cotton is durable. I like to use two layers of fabric when stitching, and they always stay taut without having to keep tightening the hoop. The quality is just there! 

I know with so many color options, it can get overwhelming to choose just a few, so I’ve put together some sample packs that you can find in my shop if you'd like to give Kona a try! I use this fabric for all of my patterns and kits, and I have a feeling you'll love them too! 

And if you're ready to keep learning the basics of hand embroidery, I have just the thing for you!! You can download my FREE Embroidery Basics Guide, and get it delivered right to your inbox! I'll walk you through the essential materials you need to get started, helpful tips and tricks, and more. 

Happy stitching!

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