201: Fabrics

In 101: Fabrics we talked a little about the weaving process and some materials used in manufacturing fabric. You learned a little bit about some of the companies who manufacturer our fabrics. The fabrics covered in that issue were Aida, Anne Cloth and many types of Canvas. Today we will look at fabrics for Hardanger embroidery, Swedish Weaving, and other evenweave fabrics such as Linen and Lugana.

Back to the Fabrics

Hardanger Embroidery can be worked on various counts of evenweave fabric. The fabric called "Hardanger fabric" is usually a 22 count. There are several brands of 22-count fabric that would be an excellent choice for Hardanger embroidery.

Zweigart has a Hardanger fabric imported from Europe made of 100% cotton. Most of the colors come off the bolt, 43" wide. We carry white and ivory in both 43" and 67" widths. The fabric is available in a variety of colors. This fabric is really stiff and does not drape at all. There is a matte finish to the fabric.

Zweigart also manufacturers Oslo fabric which is a mercerized cotton available in a 67" width. This fabric is very soft, with a nice sheen. It drapes well.

Ubelhor of Austria mercerized cotton fabrics (22 count) manufactures a 100% mercerized cotton fabric in the wider width of 67". This fabric has a smooth feel and shine to. It will drape a little bit.

Fine Ariosa (22 count) is an evenweave fabric, but the individual threads are not uniform, so it gives this fabric an interesting texture and it is not as smooth as say the Oslo fabric. The fabric is 63% cotton, 37% rayon with a 55" width and it will drape.

Ubelhor of Austria manufactures two 20-count fabrics that are good for beginning Hardanger embroidery or someone who has trouble seeing the smaller counts. Jasmin (20 count) is 100% cotton and comes in 72" wide. Jasmin -Floba is made of 40% cotton, 40% modal, and 20% linen and also comes in 72" wide.

Two other Ubelhor of Austria fabrics have a smaller stitch count, but would work for the experienced Hardanger Embroiderer. Etamin (Edelweiss) is 26-count, 100% cotton, 55" or 72" wide Etamin Fine is 32-count, 70" wide. The antique white is 50% cotton, 50% modal. The white is 100% cotton.

Siebleinen Fine is a 30-count, 55" wide, 100% linen.

Fabric for Swedish Weaving/Huck Embroidery

The fabrics used for this stitching technique were covered in greater detail in Stash & Skills issue #10, September 29, Huck Embroidery. Here is a summary of that information.

Huck fabric is usually 14 count (7 floats) per inch, 100% cotton and 55" wide. This fabric has a smooth and rough side. This fabric does not have to be prewashed.

Huck toweling is approximately 14" wide. The stitch and float counts can vary, so check your fabric if your pattern needs to be a specific size. A majority of the fabric is 16-count (7-8 floats per inch), 100% cotton. The selvages have been pre-finished. It is milled in such a way that one side is more textured with one float thread running vertically.

Monk’s cloth is an evenweave fabric, 100% cotton, 60" wide, 7-count (4 floats per inch) Monks’ cloth has floats going in both directions, so you can work your design either way. Monk’s cloth has to be pre-shrunk before you start to stitch.

Popcorn fabric, is also known as popkorn or Stockholm and is a 7-count (3 floats per inch) fabric with floats going both vertically and horizontally. The fabric is 70" wide and 100% cotton. You do not need to prewash this fabric.

Waffle cloth is 100% cotton, 45" wide and has 5 rows per inch. This cloth is woven so it has little "boxes" on the top of the fabric. You stitch through the longer threads on the edge of the boxes. Waffle cloth must be prewashed.

Aida cloth can be used in place of a huck fabric by running the needle under the loose top threads, but not through the back of the fabric.

Other Even Weaves

Linen is a traditional choice for cross stitchers. Linen is made from flax. It comes in a variety of counts. People sometimes associate the linen counts as being double an Aida count; however, that doesn’t always mean the designer has created the pattern that way. Be sure to check your pattern to see if the designer has stitched over 1 or 2 stitches. A majority of the patterns go over 2 stitches so a 28-count linen would be the same design size as 14-count Aida. (32-count linen would be same as 16-count Aida) One advantage to using the smaller count linen is that you have an extra hole in the "2 thread square". So if your pattern calls for a lot of quarter stitches, you actually have a place to work those stitches.

Here are the common names and stitch counts for linen:

Lugana (Rayon blend) fabric

Lugana is a nice fabric especially for beginners. The fabric is very uniform and the holes are clearly visible, making it easy to count and stitch. The fabric content is 52% cotton, 48% rayon.

Prefinished Needlework Items

Items that are already prefinished, hemmed, edged, and ready to go can save precious time when needing to make a quick gift, present, or project. These items take the finishing work out of the equation, allowing you to focus on stitching! We carry several items that you might like to take advantage of for future projects.

Inquiring minds

Q. Are dyed fabrics colorfast?
A. You need to check with the company that produces the dyed product. For example, here is what Picture This Plus says about their fabrics. "Yes, we use chemicals to bind the dye to the fibers and to stop the dyeing reaction. Then we wash the fabrics with a special detergent that removes loose dye. That being said if you are someone who always washes your project when you are finished stitching remember the threads are not colorfast and there could be loose dye in the fabric. It is recommended to rinse your piece in cold water and to not let it soak."

Q. Is there a right side to evenweave fabric?
A. Evenweave fabrics are the same on both sides so you can stitch on either side, or either direction. For example, if your recommended piece of fabric (not design) is 20" x 32" you can purchase a piece of even weave fabric that is 20" long and 55" wide, and cut the piece to 32". You’ll have a piece 20" x 23" wide left over for a future project. NOTE: This does not apply to fabrics such as huck toweling.

Q. Do you have any suggestions about working with hand-dyed fabric?
A. Here is some great advice from Lakeside Linens, found on their website. Although we follow the same dyeing procedure every time and are quite obsessive about accurate measurements, timing and temperature please note that there are a number of variables beyond our control that can result in variations in color and mottling between dye lots. These variables include water conditions and different dye lots from both the fabric manufacturer and dye distributor. Due to these variables we regret that we cannot guarantee the consistency of dye lots nor the degree of distress or mottling. We suggest that if you plan to stitch any "companion" pieces that you purchase all the needed fabric at the same time. Washing Guidelines: We recommended hand-washing your linens in a basin of warm water containing a small amount of Orvus® detergent. Rinse thoroughly, line dry and press with a hot iron. Note: Be sure your threads are washable if you intend to wash your projects."

Some Specialty Fabric Companies

Last week we looked at the major manufacturers of standard fabric. There are several companies that take the standard fabrics and hand-dye them to create the wonderful backgrounds for our stitching. Let me introduce you to a few of them:

Picture This Plus: This company is located in Junction City, Kansas. Marilyn tells us how they came into being. "Having been friends for several years, Shari and I found ourselves at a stage in our lives that seemed to say ‘try something different’. So we opened a small cross stitch/framing shop 7 years ago called ‘Picture This’ (the name seemed to work well with both businesses). What fun! But it wasn’t long after that we started seeing more ‘new’ innovations in the cross stitch industry – dyed fibers and fabrics, wonderful buttons and beads. We decided that we definitely loved the way the different fabrics made the designs look, but we couldn’t seem to find the ‘look’ that really appealed to us. Luckily, we are right next to Kansas State University (Go Wildcats!). One day we went over to the Textile Department at K-State and found 4 professors who were kind enough to sit down with us. After describing the sought-after ‘look’, their first response was ‘We try to avoid that look in our dyeing!’ After a bit more explanation on our part, they pointed us in the direction of instructions and resources. And Picture This Plus came into being!! 6 years and 81 colors later we found what we think is the perfect occupation."

Here is Lakeside Linens’ story. "We are Pat and Violet, two friends who share a passion for cross-stitching and chocolate. We began developing a process for hand-dying linen in an effort to make our two passions compatible. We were having a hard time washing chocolate out of other linens without damaging them, and we weren’t about to give up either of our favorite hobbies. Lakeside Linens was born when we began developing linens that were washable, color-fast and light-fast. It was a natural step to begin creating designs inspired by our fabrics. Our fabrics are hand-dyed with dyes made specifically for the textile industry."

Crossed-Wing Collection specializes in realistic and finely-detailed cross stitch patterns of birds. Meet Paula and Dan Minkebige. "We live in the country, on twenty-one acres—part woods, part field—in central Wisconsin. In the early 80’s, Paula, who enjoyed cross stitch and had done several projects with birds, was looking for designs of American birds. Up until then, the only realistic designs available were of European birds. If there were a sketch of this moment, it would include a light bulb—an idea! All of Paula’s art classes and all of our bird observation led to what is now Crossed Wing Collection. Our timing was pure luck, but we had found our niche! Our goal is to create a unique fabric on which to stitch that special project, by hand painting with fabric dye rather than immersion in a dye bath. Each piece of fabric is washed in a special detergent to remove sizing, soaked in an activator to help the fabric better take the dye, then laid out flat and painted, blending several colors to achieve a subtle mottling. It then cures for 24 to 48 hours, after which it is washed several times in hot water and detergent to remove excess dye, making it color-fast. After drying and pressing it is ready for your needle and thread–and your imagination." They offer free charts of some of their bird designs.


Here are a couple more tools to help keep your fabrics organized.

Stitch Count Rulers

  • Clear View Thread/Stitch Counters 1 & 2 with vinyl case – View your needlework through the rulers which are now available with a protective vinyl case. These unique rulers calculate design dimensions and convert between threads/stitches to inches. They identify 11-, 14-, 16-, 18-, 22-, 28-, 32- and 36-count fabric

Color cards for fabrics Manufacturers add and discontinue colors as do we. Get a sample card with 1" actual samples for these fabrics:


Tuesday, November 11 is traditionally celebrated as Veteran’s Day. Here is a bit of trivia for you. The November 2009 issue of National Geographic gave a quick history of the Purple Heart. "Conceived by George Washington as the Badge of Military Merit to laud exemplary service by the Continental Army’s enlisted men, the first Purple Heart went to three Revolutionary War sergeants…George Washington said the Badge of Military Merit should be ‘the figure of a heart made of purple cloth or silk.’" There is a photo of one of the three originals shown on approximately page 35 of the November issue. The original cloth Purple Heart is kept at New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site, in New Windsor, NY. This is also the location of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. Learn more about this important site at http://www.palisadesparksconservancy.org/historic/16/. Scroll down towards the bottom of the home page to read the article on the Hall and how Purple Heart recipients may submit their stories and pictures for inclusion in the project.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was published by Nordic Needle in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com.”

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