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The three most important embroidery accessories are fabric, thread, and needles. You should choose your fabric according to the style of embroidery and use of the finished product. The weight and thickness of your thread should match the fabric, with stranded cotton being the best all purpose choice. The needles should be no thicker than the thread to avoid unsightly holes. Small, sharp scissors, hoops, and tracing materials can be helpful embroidery accessories but are not essential.
Almost any fabric surface can be embroidered, but some are better than others depending on the style of embroidery. Counted stitch patterns are best done on fabric with even rows of threads. Materials such as Aida cloth, evenweave linen, and canvas are used for counted thread embroidery like cross stitch or hardanger. Evenweave fabric is named according to the number of threads per square inch (2.5 cm); a higher count means a finer material and smaller stitches.
For freehand embroidery, cotton, linen, and silk are the most popular options. Cotton is a durable fabric and easy to find in a range of colors and patterns. Linen and silk are usually a bit finer than cotton and often drape a bit better. All three fabrics come in a variety of weights, from light muslin and chiffon to heavier twills and brocades. You should choose the weight of the fabric according to the function of the finished piece. A pillow case used daily should be of a heavier, sturdier fabric like poplin while a decorative doily can be made from fine lawn.
The weight of the fabric helps to determine the kind of thread needed. Stranded cotton is the most widely used thread because you can easily vary the thickness by reducing or increasing the number of strands. Stranded cotton is readily available in numerous colors at craft stores. Silk thread is incredibly strong and will not wear out as easily as cotton, but many silk threads will not hold their dyed color if they are washed. Ribbon, available in multiple widths, is another possibility and best used for creating effects like loops and flower petals.
Needles, the last essential embroidery accessory, come in various types and sizes: like evenweave fabric, the higher the number, the finer the needle. Sharps are good all purpose needles and often come in a variety pack. Crewel and milliner’s needles are best for using multiple strands of thread. Tapestry and chenille are finer needles, tapestry featuring a blunt tip and chenille with a sharp tip. To choose the best size, compare the shaft of the needle to the thickness of the thread being used; if they are the same size, the thread will fill the hole left by the needle. Gold plated needles leave the fewest marks and are the best choice for those with allergies to the usual nickel plating on needles.
There are a few other embroidery accessories that are not essential but can be helpful. It is not necessary to have special scissors for embroidery, but a small, sharp pair is useful for cutting threads without fraying. Embroidery hoops hold your material flat and taut, but not everyone likes using them. If you want to try a hoop, make sure it is large enough to hold your whole design so you don’t have to keep moving your fabric. Other materials like tracing papers and fabric marking pens help plan designs.
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