Friday, July 31, 2009

Embroidery Vocabulary

Basic embroidery terms you should know:


The chart is a four-sectioned diagram that lays out the pattern to be embroidered. Each little square represents a square in the fabric. Each thread color has its own symbol. By following the symbols in the squares, you always know which color to embroider. Be careful, though: the size of the chart doesn't always correspond to the size of the embroidery. The latter depends on the number of stitches per centimeter (or per inch) of the fabric.


Indispensable for beginners, the sewing hoop holds the fabric in place and enables you to get an even, regular stitch. It's made up of 2 wodden circles that fit together, one inside the other. To begin, use a medium-sized hoop (18 cm/7 inches).

Strands of thread

A strand of thread is a "strip" of thread that's ready to be threaded into the needle. To make your work easier, prepare the colors you're going to need for your project. Group your threads according to pattern symbol and then cut them into sections of 45 to 50 cm (17 to 20 inches).

Aïda fabric

Designed to be cross-stitched, Aïda fabrics are ideal for beginners. The weft is regular and the holes are quite visible. The closeness of the weaving varies from 3 stitches per centimeter (8 stitches per inch) to 7 stitches per centimeter (18 stitches per inch). The finer the weaving, the tighter the stitches will be and the more meticulous the work will be.

Unifil fabric

Unifil fabric, also used for cross-stitch, is embroidered differently than Aïda fabric. It is woven at the rate of 8 to 12 threads per centimeter (20 to 30 threads per inch) and so each embroidery stitch is 2 or 3 threads wide and high. Unifil's weaving isn't always very regular (mostly because it's made of linen), and that makes regularity of stitching more difficult. On the other hand, the result is very intricate. To make traditional embroidery works, you can use any sort of fabric: cotton, linen, wool, silk, etc. It's more or less easy to adapt the design to the chosen fabric and fabric color. If you want to embroider things that are used regularly (like household linens), choose cotton or linen fabric that will hold up under frequent machine washes.

Waste canvas

Waste canvas is a very loosely woven fabric used to cross-stitch on very tightly woven fabrics (like a t-shirt). You baste the waste canvas onto the fabric and use it as a guide for stitching. When your work is finished, you gently tug the waste canvas strands, one at a time, to remove them. Your stitching remains with only the main fabric as its support.


Embroidery floss (or stranded cotton)

Embroidery floss (also known as "stranded cotton") is the most commonly used thread. It's made up of 6 lightly twisted strands that can be separated. It's glossy and easy to work with. There are 428 colors to choose from, and they don't fade. You won't usually use more than 2 or 3 strands of floss at a time when embroidering. The number of strands to use is always indicated on the embroidery chart.

Pearl (or perle) cotton

Unlike embroidery floss, pearl cotton can't be divided. Instead, it is available in many different thicknesses (n° 3, 5, 8, and 12, from thickest to thinnest). Pearl cotton is a very shiny, twisted thread that doesn't fade. It's used less often than embroidery floss.

Flower thread

Flower thread is also a cotton thread, but it differs from the first 2 threads in that it's matte, very fine, and used in double or triple strands.

DMC embroidery floss

DMC embroidery floss is a shimmery 100% cotton thread. Ideal for openwork embroidery, it's available in several thicknesses, but n° 25 is most often used.


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