5 of The Best Fabrics For Embroidery
Finding the best fabric for hand embroidery projects is one of the most important decisions that you will need to make before you get started stitching. The type of fabric you choose can make or break a specific project you are working on. It can hinder you or take your embroidery to the next level.
I personally have stitched on some fabrics that were less than ideal for embroidery. My hope is that this post will inform you about some different fabrics that lend themselves well to needlework (and some that aren’t as nice) so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!
Here’s how to pick the best fabric to embroider on and a list of some fabrics you may want to avoid.
This post is one of several about hand embroidery supplies.
Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and are of good quality.
Best Embroidery Fabric
Different types of embroidery sometimes require different types of fabrics. However, all of the best embroidery fabrics contain natural fibers which tend to be way easier to work with than synthetic fabrics.
Note: You don’t necessarily have to choose one of the fabrics listed below, but they are fabrics that are, in my opinion, easiest to stitch on. Later on in this post, I’ll also go over some tips and considerations for a selection of fabric they may not be included in this list.
Linen is one of my favorite fabrics for embroidery and it is one of the most popular choices for surface embroidery. Because of this, it’s number one on the list.
It is a common fabric to find at most craft stores. You can also find high quality linens at DMC.com and on Etsy. I’ve found linen blends at Joann fabrics that come in a bunch of fun colors, but just be careful that the blends you find don’t contain a bunch of elastic in them.
If you do end up looking at your local fabric store, be aware that some linen can also have an uneven weave, which can be more challenging to stitch on.
100% cotton fabric is another great fabric for hand embroidery. It is more lightweight and has a tighter weave. I really enjoy stitching on Kona cotton because there are a wide range of colors to choose from. An even cheaper alternative is cotton Muslin Fabric
Denim is my favorite material to embroider on, especially when it comes to upcycling clothes. Its a nice medium weight and durable fabric but it’s not too hard to pull a needle and thread through. I have a post all about how to embroider on clothing if you’re interested in learning more.
Aida fabric, or Aida cloth, is a stiff fabric with an even weave, meaning that the vertical and horizontal threads are an equal amount throughout the fabric. There are holes in the fabric that are useful for counted cross stitch. You can technically embroider on this fabric, but I wouldn’t suggest using this fabric because of the large holes in the fabric. (From my experience, it can be hard to make smooth stitches when you’re doing surface embroidery. Read more about using Aida fabric for embroidery if you’re curious.) This fabric comes in different thread counts, which is the number of threads per square inch. The lower the thread count, the larger the weave/ more spaced out the holes in the fabric are.
This is another woven fabric that also has an equal number of vertical and horizontal threads. Evenweave can be used for both cross stitch and embroidery. The flexibility and stiffness of this fabric is normally in between that of linen and Aida fabric. The holes in the fabric are also much smaller than Aida fabric. This fabric also comes in thread counts; the larger the number, the more fine the threads are that make up the fabric.
Want to learn more about the differences between linen, Aida, and evenweave and how they’re used in cross stitch? This article goes more in depth about these three needlework fabrics.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Material To Embroider
You’ll want a material that doesn’t contain elastic or any stretchiness, especially if you’re planning to keep the embroidery in an embroidery hoop.
Stretchy fabrics can be a pain when you are embroidering because they can cause your stitch tension to be inconsistent, making the fabric wrinkle or buckle, which can make your stitches appear uneven.
Additionally, once you’re done and you finish your embroidery piece, you don’t want the fabric to lose elasticity and sag over time. Fabric naturally does this a little bit, but fabric with elasticity can weaken even more.
The next important aspect of finding the best embroidery fabric is the weave of the fabric. Is it tight, loose, or uneven? All of these characteristics will play a part in how your finished piece turns out.
I like to go for a fabric with a relatively tight and even weave.
Too loose of a weave will create holes in your work when embroidering on it, and too tight of a weave can make it difficult to pull the thread through the fabric.
You may see the term ‘plain weave’ when looking for fabrics, which means the threads run in a perpendicular pattern to one another, which is what you want!
Some fabrics specifically packaged for needlepoint will provide the stitch count on the package to make things easier!
Fabrics that are super lightweight aren’t ideal in my opinion for embroidery because it buckles and wrinkles when you embroider on it. I like to use a medium weight fabric that withstands the tension of my stitches but is also not too difficult to pull the needle through. Heavy weight fabrics are a pain…believe me, I’ve tried them before and all I’ve ended up with was blisters on my fingers and a state of frustration!
Extra Tips to Consider
If you’ve never bought a particular kind of fabric before, I would recommend going in person to a craft store or fabric store and looking at it and feeling it first before purchasing. It’s hard to see all the qualities of a fabric online, so it’ll save you the headache of having to return it later!
One mistake I made when I first started hand embroidery was using aida fabric. You can use this, but it’s made for cross stitch so it’s really stiff and doesn’t have the ideal weave for hand embroidery!
If you’re planning on embroidering on a piece of clothing, or embroidering on a piece of fabric that will be washed, make sure you prewash it first just in case it shrinks a little bit! You don’t want to ruin your design!
Learn even more about preparing fabric for embroidery.
Worst Fabrics To Embroider On
Technically, you can embroider on anything that you can pull and needle and thread through! Most materials on this list are ones that you can indeed embroider with. However, some materials don’t fare as well as others under the tension of embroidery stitches and some are just plain challenging to work with.
We’ve already gone over a few examples of these materials above in the “choosing a fabric” section, but I wanted to sum everything up in one list.
Here are a couple of types of fabrics you may want to avoid:
Due to the stretchiness and tight weave of t-shirt material and other various knit fabrics, it can be really hard to embroider on. However, if you do choose to stitch on T-shirt material, make sure you use an embroidery stabilizer with it. (You can read more about choosing a stabilizer here.)
Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester blends, rayon, etc. are thinner and not as forgiving to embroider with. Many of these fabrics have a super tight weave, which means the holes you make when you embroider may become permanent. If you make a mistake and take out stitches, the holes you made may remain the fabric.
Uneven or Looser Weave
The threads of some fabrics may be loosely woven together or unevenly woven together. This makes it really hard to keep your stitches even and nice looking, so you’ll generally want to choose a more tightly woven, even weave fabric.
The chances of puckering or damaging more thin, delicate fabrics is higher. If you’re relatively inexperienced with embroidery, it’s best to stay away from these super lightweight fabrics. However, if you decide you’re up for the challenge, you can most definitely use a stabilizer with the fabric or embroider on it with extra care.
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.