Embroidery for beginners: the materials

Since I get asked quite a lot, I want to cover some of the basics many beginners in embroidery have questions about. If you have additional questions, feel free to ask!


1. The Fabric

There is not THE fabric for everything. So the answer for which fabric to choose is very much depending on your project. However there are some rules of thumb:

The smaller and finer your project is, the finer your fabric should be. There are exeptions though, for example there are small scale cross stitch designs with looser weave.

For cross stitch, bargello and other stitch forms which require a certain proportion of threads per inch in lenght and width, evenweave linen or aida are the choice of fabric.
However, you can cross stitch on every fabric, but if the squares are not perfectly identical your motifs will differ from the perfect grid you have on your pattern e.g. stretch in lenght or height, have differences inbetween the size of each cross due to unsymmetric weaving.

For outline stitching or fill stitch embroidery you can use anything. Here it largely depends on the relation between fabric and thread. The thicker your thread the larger the wholes in your farbic have to be. If you use a thick thread for a very fine fabric the thread will displace the fabric. This results in puckering and funny looking bumps in your fabric. So if you want to give crewel a try, use a medium weight, if you work with perle cotton or embroidery floss choose a lighter weight fabric.

For most of my embroidery patterns (except cross stitch) I use fine linen or cotton fabric with 3 strands of 6stranded embroidery thread. The finer your fabric the less strands you take. For most quilting fabrics for example I would choose 2-3 strands of thread.

For my cross stitch patterns I use an 20ct evenweave which results in 40 crosses on 4inch and use 6 strands of threads.


2. The Thread

6 stranded embroidery floss is the choice for a beginner. It comes in a large variety of colors and is very adaptable because you can split it. This way you can adjust the thickness of your thread and do not have to buy a large stash for each color.

Pearl cotton is undividable. It comes in many colors and different thicknesses. It’s great for larger pieces.

Metal thread comes as a wire and is ideal for highlights. You can’t stitch with it but stitch it on your fabric with another thread (e.g. couching).


3. The Needle

Cross stitch, Gobelin, Bargello and all the embroidery methods that put each stitch side by side and fill a huge area are easier to work with a blunt needle. With these techniques you go through the wholes repeatedly and with a pointed needle you are likely th split your previous stitch, especially when you stitch up from under the fabric.

For the usual surface embroidery stitches I use pointed needles with either a larger eye for 6 strands of embroidery floss and perle cotton or a smaller eye for 1-3 strands of embroidery floss and sewing thread.


4. The Hoop

I have written two articles about choosing the perfect embroidery hoop and choosing the right size of embroidery hoop.




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