Strengthen Your Stitches With the Best Fabrics for Embroidery

There are so many different blends of fabrics on the market. Does it really matter which fabric type you embroider on? You bet it does! I’ll tell you why.

Thank You for the World so Sweet mats

Thank You for the World so Sweet photo via Val Laird Designs

What are the best fabrics for embroidery?

applique examples

Photos via Bella Bleu Michigan and Edies Designs.

Natural fabrics with a tight weave, like cotton, linen, silk and wool, are the best fabrics for machine and hand embroidery. Their construction ensures a sturdy surface that easily supports decorative stitching. Satin-stitched edging, typical in appliqué, needs a particularly strong foundation fabric.

fill stitches

Photos via Sanity’s Machine Embroidery Designs and Embroidery Super Deal

The ways in which natural fibers are woven are also helpful to embroiderers. Individual fibers run both horizontally and vertically, allowing needles to easily pass through them. With synthetic fabrics, embroidery needles often perforate threads that end up fraying over time.

sew useful

Photos via SEW Useful Designs

Here are five of the best fabrics for embroidery:

Quilting cotton

Probably the most obvious choice for embroidery is 100 percent quilting cotton. Why the designation “quilting?” Quilting cottons are heavier than heirloom cottons like Nelona or Swiss Batiste. Heirloom cottons are also 100 percent cotton, but are sheer which is problematic for both hand and machine embroidery as threads often show through.

busby quilts

Photos via Marjorie Busby of b-quilts

With the crossover of embroidery and quilting, many quilters now incorporate hand and machine embroidery into their projects, so cotton fabrics are abundantly available.

Princess Crown Split Applique Embroidery

Photo via Appliqué Geek

Heavyweight canvas cotton is known as utility cloth. That makes canvas the preferred fabric for embroidering on heavily used items like tote bags.

Machine Embroidered Lace Classics Linen Example

Photo via Machine Embroidered Lace Classics with Hope Yoder.


Linen is lighter, more textured, and 30 percent stronger than cotton. Created from the flax plant, linen is considered the strongest of natural fibers and wears extremely well. That’s probably why even the most used of antique linens are still highly sought after.


Silk Embroidered Pillow

Photo via Embroider Luxury Fabrics by Machine with Pam Damour

You may think of silk as a delicate, flimsy fabric but that is not always the case. Silk dupioni combines the luxurious shine of silk with a crisp, strong base. Fine silk threads run vertically in the fabric, along the selvage. Silk from conjoined cocoons run horizontally in the fabric producing a textured effect.

Laird Felt

Photos via Val Laird Designs


Whether it is pure wool, felted wool or even synthetic blends of wool felt, this fiber is particularly suited for embroidery. It is strong, does not fray in felt form, and provides some depth for embroidery without the nuisance of a deep nap that would swallow up stitches.

Holland Felt

Photos via Larissa Holland of MMMCrafts

One of the biggest advantages of stitching on wool felt is the it does not produce a raw edge that needs to be finished or hemmed, making it perfect for decorative crafts.

Learn how to embellish wool in Craftsy’s class Stitch It With Wool: Crewel Embroidery with Kristin Nicholas.


Photos via Jenny of Elefantz


I asked Jenny of Elefantz what type of fabric she used in her numerous (gorgeous) hand-stitched designs. She said it is known as hanky linen in Australia, a rather deceptive term as the blend of 55 percent cotton and 45 percent linen is heavier than what you would think. Its beautiful texture makes the perfect backdrop for hand-dyed threads.

What fabric do you think works best for embroidery?

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4 Responses to “Strengthen Your Stitches With the Best Fabrics for Embroidery”

  1. Robert C Ayala

    Nice read, I also like a wool/rayon mix, we purchase ours from the Felt Store.

  2. Aggie

    Hello -- Could someone please elaborate on the section here about how to hand-embroider on silk? (What type of needle, will regular embroidery floss be used, and is dupioni the easiest or is there any other silk even easier to use as a fabric?) This would be for an embroidered panel that will be sewn onto a fine wool prayer shawl. Thank you!

  3. Joyce Thigpen

    I think I would like to try some linen. Have not done much embroidery, except what my mom taught me as a young girl. All I have embroidered are pillow cases, lol. But that was good to start out on.

  4. Linda Otis

    good explanation liked the examples