Equipment,  Fabric

Beautiful Hand Embroidery Fabric – Everything you need to know

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Why is it so difficult to choose which fabric to use!

Oh my goodness! There is so much choice when it comes to fabric all of these questions start going through your head – what type do I choose, what weight, what color, how much do I need, will it stitch ok and so on and so on…

I am really fussy when it comes to the fabric I choose. It is so important to the finished result as well as the stitching experience itself.

At stitchdoodles, I choose to stock fabric that has been tried and tested by myself so I can be confident it ticks all my boxes – quality, weight, color, texture plus, be an affordable option because lets face it – you want to be stitching lots and lots of projects (sometimes all at once!) and the cost can soon escalate!

When you first start out in hand embroidery, there are a few confusing terms you might stumble across when searching for the right fabric so let’s simplify them now…


When purchasing fabric you will hopefully see the ‘gsm’ number given. This stands for ‘grams per square metre’ which basically means the weight. The higher the gsm the thicker the fabric.

If you are new to hand embroidery and wanting to transfer the pattern to the fabric yourself by tracing then go for a lower number so it is easier to see through. You can then use a stabiliser fabric behind it to give it more strength when stitching.

Warp & Weft

This is simply the direction of the threads when the woven fabric was created. Warp threads are longitudinal (vertical) and the weft go across horizontally. It is the process of alternating these 2 that creates the fabric.


This is a fabric where the warp and weft threads are the same size. This is seen in Aida, Linen and Needlepoint canvas. When you see evenweave fabric it gives you the ‘count’ of the fabric. This is the amount of threads per inch.

So, if you had a 27 count fabric and took a 1 inch square from that, you would be able to count 27 vertical threads going down and 27 horizontal threads going across. The higher the number the more tightly woven the fabric is.

This only matters if you are using the fabric for counted thread embroidery – basically not following a traced design, but using the number of counted threads to stitch from.

The reason I include Evenweave in this post is because you can still use a beautiful evenweave linen for free style hand embroidey. Just trace the design on and away you go – it is a bit more expensive but there are a couple I love so definately worth it for a special project.

Ground Fabric

This is the fabric you are stitching the design onto – the piece that has the design traced or printed onto it.

Stabiliser Fabric

You will hear this mentioned a lot in hand embroidery. This is just a plain thin piece of fabric used behind your main ‘ground’ fabric to give it more stability. You can read more about it here.

This can come in many forms such as an old sheet cut up, a piece of muslin, specialist types which are adhesive or water soluble, and my favourite which is a nice soft piece of calico.

It just needs to be soft, thin and a neutral colour that doesn’t impact the ground fabric. I tend to use it for fabrics up to about 200gsm.

My Favourites

Here’s a bit more info on the fabrics I have found to be my favourites…


Linen brings a touch of charm and character to your stitching. The natural slubs and texture that runs through the fabric can add an extra dimension to your embroidery.

Quality linen is beautiful and there are so many varieties it can be mind boggling trying to figure out which to use. 100% linen can differ so much in quality and softness depending on it’s origin and how it was produced.

Not all linen is evenweave.

With this linen, you can see the wonderful lines of the warp and weft threads – they vary in size so this is not evenweave which adds to its charm and overall beautiful stitching background. As with all linen there are natural slubs that occur occasionally adding to the charm.

This fabrics beauty and affordability makes it a wonderful fabric for a hand embroidery linen lover!

Valencia Linen: 100% Evenweave linen that is medium weight (240gsm). This is a very elegant fabric and comes in a wonderful Natural shade that you might associate with antique samplers. It still has some slubs occurring naturally across its surface but is a lot smoother looking than the washed linen above.

Red Edge Linen: 100% Evenweave linen that is medium weight (218gsm). This is another beautiful linen that is slightly softer than the valencia and the weave is more noticeable. The gorgeous Ivory tone makes it ideal for any design. Again, it still has some slubs occurring naturally across its surface adding to the charm.

Both the Valencia and Red Edge Linen have been prepared for dyeing and/or printing.

Linen Blend

So you love linen but you like it to have a smoother appearance – that’s where a linen blend fabric comes in.

Linen can be blended with a whole host of different fibres and it is amazing the difference this makes to the resulting fabric. Cotton is a popular blend with linen but be careful as they are not all the same quality – some of the cheaper varieties of this can be quite – well – cheap looking – not to mention very scruffy and just a bit of handling and they look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards!

A nice quality blend is Robert Kaufman Essex Linen …

This fabric is 55% Linen / 45%Cotton. It is medium weight (180 gsm) and the drape and feel is lovely and soft. For those of you who like to trace your designs – the fact that you can still see through it nicely when its put against a light source is a big plus for hand embroidery.

There can still be slubs in this fabric and ‘imperfections’ in the overall piece that you might find irritating if you want a perfectly smooth background so bear this in mind when choosing.


Just like Linen, Cotton comes in such variable quality – don’t assume the same weight of cotton fabric is the same quality – they do differ and cheap is cheap for a reason. Having tried a whole host of different ones I stock a lovely one in the shop…

100% Beautiful cotton – the quality of this fabric is superb. I love stitching on cotton and this fabric is soft and has a lovely drape which makes stitching a dream as well as giving such a fabulous result to your finished stitching.
This is classed as medium weight (155gsm)- just about the right weight for quality as well as practicality for tracing and stitching. With a stabiliser behind, it really looks sumptuous.

Stitchdoodles stocks a variety of mouth watering colours to suit all your wonderful designs…


Choosing the right size…

Hand Embroidery designs come in all sizes and very often you don’t need a lot to complete the design you want to stitch. Buying too much fabric is so easy to do as it is not easy to find small quantities.

You can buy pre-cut sizes of any of the fabrics I have in stock in either a 12 inch and 16-inch size. This covers most of the design sizes I create but if you want a smaller or larger piece you are more than welcome to contact me and discuss what you would like.

Treat yourself to some gorgeous fabric and get stitching.

Hopefully this information has helped you understand the main points when it comes to choosing fabric. Once you find the ones you like, choosing your fabric is quicker and simpler which leaves a lot more time for the best bit – stitching!

Happy Stitching!

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