Fabric Talk

Hello everyone

As the end of the year approaches I would like to discuss two subjects dear to every embroiderer’s heart and that is Fabric & thread.  This week we are going to talk about FABRIC – which fabric is best for which type of embroidery, where to get it and how to use it.  As there are so many types of fabric on the market it can be confusing so hopefully this article will simplify things a bit for you.


Firstly lets clarify “surface embroidery”.  This is fine embroidery like Needlepainting and Whitework where one strand of thread is mainly used.  (Not crewel where wool/thicker threads are used).

Because the embroidery is fine you need a fabric  where the warp (lengthwise yarns) and weft threads (crosswise yarns) are closely woven with a smooth feel to it.   Let me try and put this into layman terms for you:  the fabric should be closely woven,  and with a plain weave, something like a good quality bed sheet with a count of 200 or more.  It is equally important that the fabric should be of medium weight and have little or no stretch in it so that when it is mounted into a hoop or stretcher bars it will not distort the design.


Very briefly here is an explanation for thread count from Wikipedia: Thread count or threads per inch (TPI) is a measure of the coarseness or fineness of fabric. It is measured by counting the number of threads contained in one square inch of fabric or one square centimeter, including both the length (warp) and width (weft) threads.

FABRIC WITH CLOSE WEAVE:  so the higher the count the closer the weave.  Stitching on fabric with a close weave (Diag 1 & 2 below) allows for precise placement of the needle wherever you want it to go without going into the same hole twice.

FABRIC WITH LOOSE WEAVE :  Stitching on a fabric with a loose weave (Diag 3 below) means you will have to go into the same place with your needle twice or more , therefore you will end up with little holes or the stitching will bunch up on the fabric.


  • Close weave fabric with a plain weave.
  • Medium weight so it supports the weight of the stitching.
  • Little or no stretch in the fabric.

DIAG 1 Close weave 200 count cotton muslin


DIAG 2.  200 count muslin enlarged weave


DIAG 3.  loose weave muslin enlarged


It is best to use fabrics with pure fibres like cotton or linen, not mixed/synthetic fabrics like polycotton.  Silk could also be used as long as it meets all the criteria for surface embroidery fabric.  To clarify the types of fabric:

  • A good quality pure cotton/muslin with at least 200 count.
  • A good quality pure linen with at least 200 count.  The type of linen used by our Great Grandmothers for handkerchiefs, doilies etc.


COTTON:  If you are looking for a good quality 200 count cotton muslin then you could probably look in some of the quilting shops or online.  Some cotton muslin’s I can recommend are:

  • Rockland Supreme 200 count muslin
  • Southern Belle 200 count muslin
  • Kona premium 200 count muslin
  • Cotton satin from UK – this is a cost effective alternative to cotton muslin and can be used successfuly for Needlepainting but not whitework.
  • Other – if you are unable to source these fabrics in your Country of Origin you could buy a 200 count cotton percale sheet and cut it up.  This is not ideal but will work.

LINEN.  You are highly unlikely to find this in a store or online embroidery supplier, it is only available from specialist suppliers.  The closest would be a good quality Church linen or Irish Cambric linen available from Church embroidery sources,  which works fine but I still find the weave a little loose.   If you are fortunate enough to come across a high count linen while shopping in Paris or at a flea market, or if your Grandmother happened to leave you a stash,  then that is wonderful!   I have spent years sourcing the perfect linen which I now import from the manufacturer in Belgium and sell in my ETSY SHOP.   It is a smooth, tightly woven linen that is used for specialist bed linen.

SILK.  I tend not to use silk as find that the fibres tend to separate slightly when I am stitching, but many stitchers’ favor it.  If you are going to use silk ensure that it is a good quality pure silk such a Silk Dupion from a reputable supplier.


Both linen and cotton muslin for Needlepainting & Whitework are available in the ETSY SHOP HERE.

Cotton Satin fabric can be purchased from either:



It is not necessary to use a backing fabric if the fabric is of medium weight and can support the weight of the stitching alone.  Using a backing fabric can present problems if both fabrics are not lined up correctly together and also means you need to stretch both pieces separately when mounting your work for framing so I tend to stay clear of backing fabrics.  This is a personal preference but if you do want to use a backing fabric it is best to use a very lightweight cotton muslin.


I like both – actually I love to stitch on cotton because it is easy to stitch on and the stitches tend to be more defined, whereas linen the stitches tends to melt slightly into the fabric ,  but cotton does not hold the embroidery as well as linen does.  Linen is more resilient, bounces back into shape when you remove it from the hoop and will ultimately out last cotton over the years.  Linen is much more pricey than cotton, so you will need to decide which suits you (and your pocket) more.

Both Linen and Cotton can be used for Needlepainting and Whitework.  I tend to use linen for larger designs as it holds the stitching better.


There are a lot of embroidery linens available for sale online and in the shops, but please be aware that 99% of these are for counted thread work or for Crewel Embroidery.  The counted thread linens come in various counts from +/- 10 – 50count but are not suitable for surface embroidery.  There are also some lovely linens like linen twill and Belgian linen for Crewel Embroidery but these are coarser and again not suitable for fine surface embroidery.

linen fabrics for counted thread work - The Cross Stitch Guild.

linen fabrics for counted thread work – source The Cross Stitch Guild:  http://www.thecrossstitchguild.com


Yes there is and it is important as will make all the difference to the final outcome of your work.  There is nothing more depressing than to find that your embroidery is puckered or distorted when you remove it from the hoop.  Even if you are using the right fabric this can happen – the reason is probably that you have mounted/stretched your fabric against the grain.

Let me clarify:  The fabric has a grain as shown below – the grain runs at right angles and there is very little stretch, but if you pull it across the bias you will find it stretches a lot.  If you mount your fabric into the hoop on the bias it will over stretch and distort the fabric,  and the result will be that your stitching is puckered/distorted.   Another reason to use a fabric that has little or no stretch in it?   Here is a diagram to illustrate:

biasTo summarise:  Pull a thread on your piece of fabric to make sure it is lined up on the straight of the fabric.  When you mount it into the hoop or frame make sure that you stretch it more on the straight grain then on the bias.


It is virtually impossible for a commercial printer to ensure that each outline is screen printed in line with the grain of the fabric. As long as you mount the fabric into the hoop on the straight grain and not in line with the printed outline it will be fine.  To clarify:  pull a thread on one side of your fabric to find the straight grain.  Mount the fabric into the hoop and stretch it across the straight grain not the bias.



Don’t worry there is a solution!  You can still block your embroidery to get it back into shape.  You can find instructions on how to do this on my WEBSITE HERE.  However, this can only be done if you have used a thread like DMC stranded cotton which is colourfast, not recommended if you have used silk thread.


I do like to wash my embroidery as it freshens it and removes any dusty marks that may have accumulated during stitching, however I have had some disasters with washing my embroidery so tend to rather try and keep it clean when stitching.  You can purchase little white cotton bags for this purpose here in the ETSY store.  Sometimes even colourfast threads like dark reds can bleed when washed and of course you should never wash your embroidery if you have used silk threads.  If you are going to wash your embroidery you can find more details on my WEBSITE HERE.

I hope this article has clarified Fabric for surface embroidery for you.  All the information here and more can be found in my HANDBOOK.

Till next time, take care, keep smiling and happy stitching!










Spring News

Hello everyone

I hope this finds you well?  It is Spring here in Cape Town and the wild flowers are in full bloom, such a beautiful time of the year.  I know it is your Fall season overseas and you will be preparing for the upcoming winter and of course Halloween and Thanksgiving!  My apologies for not having posted sooner it has been a busy month and I was away teaching at the fabulous Igahli convention in Knysna South Africa which I hope to share with you very soon.


Table Mountain, Cape Town.

There are three new designs available in the ETSY shop.  The first is a needlepainting kit, in response to numerous requests for a reproduction of a Lilac Breasted Roller that I did some years ago. It never fails to amaze me the stunning array of colours that are found in birds, and this little chap is no exception.   LITTLE LILAC BREASTED ROLLER can be found here.  This is available as a pattern kit which includes, pre printed fabric, needles and instruction booklet but no threads.  The thread list is included.

Little Lilac Breasted Roller Portrait

Little Lilac Breasted Roller Portrait

close up

close up

The second is an addition to the Whitework with Colour range – FLOWERS FOR ITALY, which can be found here.  I named it after the beautiful Gloriana variagated silk called Flowers For Italy.  This is a gorgeous wreath of birds, flowers, acorns and berries stitched in shades of burgundy, greens, golds and white.  The Gloriana Silk is included with the kit.  This is available as a pattern pack which includes, pre-printed fabric, needles, instruction booklet and the Gloriana silk thread.  The other threads are not included but a list is available.

Flower for Italy

Flower for Italy

close up

close up

The third design is Spring In A teacup – it is a smaller design than Flowers in a teacup but would make a lovely companion if framed as a set.  This design is available as a digital download, which you can instantly download to your PC or Ipad once payment has processed.   SPRING IN A TEACUP can be found here.

spring-4Till next time, wherever you are in the world, take care and happy stitching.  Trish

Shop Closed

Hello everyone

Hope this finds you well?  Just to let you know that I will be away teaching at our South African Ighali embroidery convention next week and the Etsy shop will be closed from Sunday 21st August till Tuesday 30th August 2016.

My apologies for any inconvenience.

Till next time, keep smiling and happy stitching.


Digital Patterns

Hello everyone

Hope this finds you happy and well!  As per numerous requests the digital patterns for European Bee eater, Flowers in a teacup and Campagne landscape are now available in the Etsy shop.  You can click on the pictures below to access each one.

European bee eater digital download

European bee eater digital pattern

Flowers in a teacup digital pattern

Flowers in a teacup digital pattern

Campagne landscape digital pattern

Campagne landscape digital pattern

Till next time have a wonderful weekend and happy stitching!  Trish

World Embroidery Day

It is world embroidery day today 30th July 2016.  People from all over the globe are going out into parks, gardens or meeting at venues to share and celebrate their love of stitching.  Why not join them or have your own private celebration by putting some time aside to stitch today.  While you stitch think good thoughts about every person you know who has had a positive impact on your embroidery or just simply dwell for a moment on the pure joy and beauty of embroidery in your life.  These good thoughts will go out into the world and bless everyone!


world embroidery

Nancy Tozer kindly sent me an email with this link where you can read more about World Embroidery day and how it was started in Sweden.

Click on this link;  WORLD EMBROIDERY DAY.

Have a wonderful day and happy stitching!  Trish

New Kits

Hello everyone

It has been some time since we last spoke, hope you are enjoying your summer holidays overseas – we are freezing here in Cape Town!  While you have been basking in the sun I have been busy as a bee and this week  I am pleased to share with you a few new items in the shop.  In response to numerous requests for more bird projects we have the European Bee eater kit, there is also a new lesson kit in whitework and an update on the white cotton project bags.


European Bee Eater Bird.  It is always difficult choosing a bird project – I get so many emails from different parts of the world requesting a preference for a bird in their country of origin, but there are certain aspects that I look for when stitching a bird:  Firstly it needs to be beautiful and worth spending the time on, it needs to be a good form or composition and there has to be a certain something in the colours and shading that appeals.  I also tend to like birds that have a kind eye, some of them look so angry!  I am sure you will agree that the European bee eater ticks all the boxes?  The colours are awesome and it really was a joy to stitch.  You can find it in the Etsy shop here.

bee eater2

Close up

Close up

Little cup of flowers lesson.  The lesson in Whitework with colour allows you to learn the technique from the comfort of your home and to work at your own pace.  The little cup of flowers lesson in sumptuous shades of plum, gold and cream will teach you all the basics and includes everything you need to stitch the project.  The design is simple, but has enough detail to keep it interesting.  You can find the kit in the Etsy shop here.

Little cup of flowers

Little cup of flowers

There are now two lessons available one for Whitework with colour and another for needlepainting that will allow you to either learn the technique or brush up on your existing skills.  They both include fabric with printed outline, needles, instruction booklets and pre-sorted threads, so all you need is to provide a hoop.   You can find these kits in the section FULL KITS.

Needlepainting lesson

Needlepainting lesson


As you know over the last few months I have been re-vamping the kit instructions to achieve a simpler format which includes a cleaner interface with more pictures and less text.  As a result it is easier to follow without having to turn back the pages whilst stitching.  We have removed a few pages of stitch instructions and instead compiled these into one handy notebook – THE NEEDLEPAINTING & WHITEWORK HANDBOOK.   The kit instructions include a basic stitch glossary but you will require a copy of the handbook for detailed instruction.  Once you have a copy you can refer to it for any of my current or future projects.  The good news is that as a result of minimizing the instructions the printing costs have been reduced and so we have been able to lower the price of each kit slightly.   The initial copies of the handbook sold out within a few days but I have received new stock which you can find in the Etsy shop here.


The initial response to these little bags was amazing, I had no idea they would be so popular and we were sold out very quickly – you can read about them in a previous post here: COTTON PROJECT BAGS.

Some of you emailed me and suggested that the printed outline might be stitched and this got me thinking………….  I was concerned that it might be difficult to stitch as you would have to get your hands inside of the bag and it would get in the way but I found a way and it worked beautifully!  All you need to do is mount the picture area into a small hoop and fold back the excess fabric as shown below – then tack it into place whilst stitching.

bag5I then stitched the design in simple outline and filling stitches and this opened up a whole new idea for using these bags – they could be stitched as a gift for friends or family, or you could make it up into a little kit by adding a few skeins of thread – something different for birthdays or Christmas.  The bag itself has multiple uses:  project bag for embroidery, quilting or sewing, lingerie/shoe bag for travel or a storage bag for stationary/other to name a few.  The bag is now available in two different prints:  Gatsby and Cup Of Flowers.  With the bag you will receive a project card with a picture of the finished stitching and some suggested thread colours and stitches to use – the great thing about it is that you can use up threads that you have in your stash, use any stitches you like and have fun with it.  The bags can be found in the Etsy shop here.

If you have previously ordered the cotton bags and would like a PDF copy of the project card please email me through the contact form on the website.

project card

project card

Hope you like the new additions, have a wonderful week and till next time keep smiling and happy stitching.


Reasons for doing embroidery printout

Hello Everyone

Hope you are all on top of the world and enjoying your weekend?  Here is the printout for the TOP TEN REASONS FOR DOING EMBROIDERY as promised.  I have designed a layout for them so you can frame it or just keep it on file – read it, ponder it and enjoy!  You can access a PDF of this printout here.



Till next time wherever you are in the world keep smiling and happy stitching.



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