This guide will go over how to prepare fabric for embroidery so that the actual process of embroidering is easier and your finished piece looks as nice as possible!
The way you prepare the fabric will differ slightly depending on the type of fabric you choose. However, most of the considerations and tips provided in this post can be applied to pretty much any of the fabrics used to embroider with.
If you’re not super familiar with the different types of embroidery fabrics, check out my post about choosing the best fabrics for hand embroidery!
How To Cut Fabric For An Embroidery Hoop
You’ll want to consider the following before cutting out your fabric.
- Will you be keeping the fabric in the hoop?
- Will you be framing the embroidery when you’re done?
- Will it be used as a patch or part of a garment or quilt?
Keep in mind what you’re planning on doing with the embroidery after you’re done so that you can determine how much extra fabric to leave. It’s better to air on the side of caution and leave more fabric than you need.
If you are leaving the fabric in the hoop, I like to trim the fabric around the hoop leaving at least 1.5-2 inches of excess. This way, you have enough if you need to adjust the fabric in your hoop. The fabric should also stay out of your way when you are embroidering.
- For fabrics that fray quite a bit, consider cutting with pinking sheers or make a basting stitch around the edges to limit fraying.
- Pay close attention to the grain lines of the fabric and the selvage end (self-finished edge) of the fabric. Try to cut horizontal and vertical so that you cut with the natural weave of the fabric. This makes it easier to cut straight lines and it will also make it easier to place your fabric in the hoop with the grain lines running vertical / horizontal. (This is especially important for cutting fabric used for clothing construction! The fabric will lay better and look much neater when you pay attention to these details)
- Using a heavy pair of fabric shears is ideal for cutting the fabric if you don’t have pinking sheers.
Stabilizers help to preserve the fabric and keep it in place while you are stitching. They make working with fragile fabrics and/or fabrics that contain elastic much easier to work with.
Read more about choosing embroidery stabilizers.
If you’d prefer not to use a stabilizer but you’re fabric is thin, you can layer an extra piece of cotton or muslin fabric and that will usually do the trick!
If you are working with natural, medium weight fabrics (cotton, linen, denim, etc.) you may not need to use a stabilizer at all. You’ll become more familiar with which fabrics need stabilizer and which don’t with experience. It’s really your preference what you choose to use!
For embroidery that will be framed or left in a hoop, I personally don’t prewash the fabric. This is because prewashing is normally unnecessary in this situation. Washing can cause pilling and/or shrinking of the fabric, and you probably won’t ever have to wash an embroidery that’s on display.
On the other hand, you may want to consider prewashing fabric if you’re going to be stitching on an article of clothing. This will help to prevent any shrinking from occurring that could alter the appearance of your embroidery. It can also prevent any saturated dyes in the clothes from bleeding onto your embroidery during washing.
If you’d like to learn even more about this topic, you can take a look at this post all about taking care of embroidery on clothes
Placing the Fabric In The Hoop
An embroidery hoop is certainly not required, but I highly recommend using it for hand embroidery. You can read about choosing the best embroidery hoop if you’re curious to learn about the different types and why they are important.
- Place the fabric in the hoop before you trace your design onto the fabric. This will make tracing easier and it will also prevent the design from becoming distorted.
- When you place the fabric in the hoop, you’ll want to make sure the fabric is evenly distributed throughout the hoop.
- The fabric’s weave should not be warped and the grain of the fabric should run vertically and horizontally and not on a diagonal.
- Make sure the outer ring is screwed tight once you’re happy with the placement of the fabric.
Once you’ve prepared your fabric for embroidery, you’re ready to start the best part: embroidering!
I hope these tips and considerations help to streamline your process and improve the result of your finished work.
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.