What is embroidery, and can embroidery be done on any fabric? What are the best fabrics for embroidery for beginners?
The method of embellishing clothing garments and other fabrics with a thread and needle is called embroidery. There are many different types of embroidery, and there are many different fabrics for embroidery too.
Historically, embroidered garments have been seen as a symbol of wealth, and embroidering was common practice for married and unmarried women throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays, embroidery can be used to embellish napkins and cushions, or used to jazz up that old, stained pair of jeans you have lying around.
Can Embroidery Be Done On Any Fabric?
Technically speaking, yes! Embroidery can be done on many materials, from high-quality linen to your favourite pair of denim jeans. Even pillowcases, blankets and lampshades can be embroidered. However, there are some fabrics for embroidery which are much easier to work with than others, and some that give a particularly special effect.
Which Fabrics For Embroidery Should I Use?
The term ‘evenweave’ refers to fabrics tightly woven in a regular square grid, where there are the same number of threads per mm in each direction. This type of fabric is ideal for embroidery, especially embroidery for beginners, because you can embroider accurate shapes using the regular array of holes and threads.
The thread thickness is consistent throughout an evenweave fabric, giving it a soft and luxurious feel to the touch. The thread counts generally range from a fine, 32-count linen to a more rustic 18-count, making it ideal for many different types of projects. It is also produced in a very wide variety of colours.
Evenweave fabrics for embroidery can be a variety of different materials; cotton, linen, rayon, polyester, hemp, bamboo, silk, and acrylic can all be woven into an evenweave fabric. Tightly woven evenweave fabrics are most commonly used for hand embroidery and surface embroidery, whereas more loosely woven evenweave fabrics are best for pulled thread embroidery, drawn thread embroidery and counted thread embroidery.
The term ‘plain weave’ is a broader term referring to fabrics woven with each thread over one, under one in both directions. Plain weave fabrics in general are not as good as evenweave fabrics for embroidery, due to the fact that the threads are not arranged in a regular pattern, and fabric woven in this way tends to wrinkle more easily.
Threads of all sorts of different thicknesses, textures, twists, and colours can be woven in a plain weave, making it a very useful and versatile type of fabric.
Embroidery is a brilliant way to inject some life into your old clothes. Instead of throwing out that pair of jeans in favour of a brand-new pair, why not do the sustainable thing and embroider over holes and stains! Use colourful patterns, beading and even sequins to brighten up an old jacket, top, hat or other garment.
If your clothing is past the point of no return, you can always cut it up and embroider the pieces of fabric to make great décor for your home, or as gifts for your family and friends!
Ideal Fabrics for Embroidery
Most fabrics for embroidery come in a wide range of colours and thread counts.
Aida cloth (also known as Java cloth) is often a favourite fabric for embroidery for beginners. Aida is usually 100% cotton and is woven such a way that means the threads have small spaces between them so you can see exactly where your needle is going. This also means that threads are easy to count, which is another reason why it’s a great fabric for those who are learning.
Canvas is similar to aida cloth in the fact that it has an open mesh construction with regular spacing of threads and holes, making it easy to count the threads. Canvas is one of the more suitable fabrics for embroidery if it will be displayed in your home, or gifted to friends and family.
There are many different types of canvas including mono canvas, interlock mono canvas, mono deluxe canvas, double thread canvas, petit point, linen canvas, rug canvas and plastic canvas. Using canvas is a great tool for embroidery for beginners.
Cotton is a great fabric to embroider with because it tends to be tightly-woven and suit a variety of different stitches. Like aida and canvas, it is also makes for great embroidery for beginners. If cotton fabric is too heavy for a project you’re working on, you can also use cotton muslin. Cotton muslin is a plain weave fabric that often comes in very high thread counts, so it’s great for very fine, delicate embroidery.
‘Art linen’ is the term often used for linen that is used for linen fabrics for embroidery. In general, linen has a beautiful texture that will your embroidery look very elegant. Tightly woven linen is generally easier to work with because it doesn’t tend to stretch. The disadvantage of using linen is that it’s more expensive than other fabrics for embroidery.
Denim is technically a cotton, but the fact that it is heavy and has a unique texture makes it quite different to work with. Denim is fairly beginner-friendly, although you may want to experiment on a spare piece of cotton first before making a move on your favourite denim jacket!
6. Cotton-Synthetic Blends
The most commonly used cotton-synthetic blends used for embroidery are trigger cloth, fiddler’s cloth and Jobelan. These fabrics are blends of cotton and polyester in different proportions, and each have their own benefits depending on the embroidery project you are working on. They are generally inexpensive fabrics for embroidery and don’t wrinkle easily.
Silk is a beautiful fabric that gives a certain elegance to your embroidery that is hard to replicate with other fabrics for embroidery. That being said, it is not generally beginner-friendly, and you’ll need the sharpest, thinnest needle you can find, ideally with a very small eye! This is so that you reduce the change of leaving holes in the fabric, once the needle has gone through them.
Read more: 5 Ways Embroidery Needles Differ from Sewing Needles
If you’re using silk you may need to use a backing material to give it more rigidity, especially if it is to be on display.
Wool is another fabric that, although not recommended as embroidery for beginners, produces a beautiful result. It doesn’t stretch and it doesn’t have a weave either, and the ‘wooliness’ can make it challenging to work with. Despite this, it looks great because it doesn’t fray, and has a unique texture which gives some character to your embroidery project.
Burlap is commonly made from jute or hemp, and is very loosely woven. It’s difficult to embroider but gives a unique and beautiful effect, especially when combined with other fabrics for embroidery and different techniques.
Satin is an expensive but beautiful fabric for embroidery, and really lends itself to finer detail. It isn’t beginner-friendly as it’s slippery to work with, and the threads tend to snag easily.