Choosing the right embroidery fabric

Why does a design say to stitch it on a #14 f(or 16 or 11, etc.) fabric?

Can't I stitch on any fabric I like? Like, on a garment that I want to decorate with embroidery?

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Wonderful Website
by: Tonya

Very informative. Thank you so much for providing the tips to make beautiful work. I am new to embroidery and I am hoping I will get better at this beautiful art.

It depends on the type of embroidery
by: Carol

Thank you for your question.

There are two main types of embroidery; counted and freestyle.

For counted thread embroidery, you need to use an evenweave fabric. This will have the same number of threads in horizontal and vertical directions. You will see this called 11, 14, or 18 count,s etc.

The design is in the form of a gridded chart with symbols denoting the different colored embroidery floss to use. Each color has a number assigned to it, making it easy to replicate the original. The fabric is blank, with no pattern on it, as the chart also shows the placement of the stitches.

Charted designs are often worked in cross stitch or needlepoint stitches. Evenweave fabric is also used for blackwork and whitework embroidery. You will find many pages on the site for these techniques.

Freestyle embroidery is not as constrained, so you have a wider choice of fabrics. Those available can range from heavy twills, to delicate organdy. You would need to match your embroidery threads to those of your garment for easy laundering.

Instead of working from a chart, you would first transfer the design onto the fabric. This page on the site gives different methods for doing this. It is important to cover any pattern lines with stitchery, so they don't show in the finished piece.

Freestyle, or surface, embroidery uses a wide variety of stitches, placed wherever you wish. You can vary the size and direction, eliminating the uniformity of counted work. Stitch suggestions are often provided, but you can choose to do your own thing. Some people prefer this freedom, which allows for more creativity.

Whereas counted work tends to use one type of thread throughout, you have more choice here too. Shiny rayons can offset matt cottons, twisted fibers can alternate with smooth. Picking the "right" thread for each section of a design is part of the fun!

My advice would be to try both styles of embroidery, to find which one you prefer.

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