• Kat Waskett

Cross stitching on coloured fabric

Would you like to try cross stitching on coloured or patterned fabric but don't know where to start?

Or maybe you've never even really considered stitching on coloured fabric.

Read on to find out when you might want to use it, how to choose a colour, and tips for stitching on dark fabric.

Hands up if you automatically grab some white fabric to start stitching a new design. *raises hand*

It's so easy to reach for what you know, which in my case is 16 count white Aida. There are lots of benefits to this; it's economical if you buy a very large piece and cut sections from it, you don't have to think about what to use and almost all designs will look good on white.

BUT, sometimes it's nice to do something just a little bit different, and stitching on coloured or patterned fabric can give your stitching a whole new vibe and is a great way to personalise your finished piece.

When might you want to use coloured fabric?

There are lots of times when you might want to use coloured or patterned fabric for your cross stitch piece but here are just some of the reasons I came up with;

  • when the design is white or very light coloured so that it shows up better such as this sheep design stitched on light blue to give a nice contrast to the white/grey wool

Cross stitch of sheep on pale blue fabric and made into a greeting card
cross stitch of small octopus on navy fabric with threads and scissors in background
  • to give a background effect such as grass or sky by using green or blue fabric, or there are some beautiful hand dyed or printed 'scene' fabrics available

  • to give a rustic vibe to complement the design such as this vintage style envelope of hearts stitched on Raw linen

cross stitch of small envelope with hearts flying out on rustic fabric and framed in a wooden embroidery hoop
  • to add a subtle detail such as fabrics that have sparkle threads woven into them

  • to complement your design, for example a galaxy background for a night sky design or the honeycomb pattern I used for this bee design (you can get this pattern FREE by joining my email list...just saying!)

cross stitch of floral wreath with 2 bees and 'bee happy' text on honeycomb print fabric and framed in a wooden embroidery hoop with plant and scissors around it

How to pick a coloured fabric

Start simple

Try out the more subtle variations initially such as cream or rustic fabric (I LOVE Rustico Oatmeal Aida), a fabric with sparkle threads in or a light pastel shade. Once you have caught the bug then move on to trying darker shades or the more exotic hand-dyed, patterned and scenic fabrics that are available.

You can also look for kits that are stitched on coloured fabric or patterns that recommend coloured fabric as a great way to get started with coloured fabric.

DISCLAIMER: I *still* haven't persuaded myself to try the fancier printed fabrics yet!

Test it

Put the thread colours from the design (if you already have them) against different fabrics and see what they look like. Ok, I realise this is tricky if you don't already have a stash of different colour fabrics and if you are ordering fabric online it can be hard to tell what the colour will really be like once you get it in your hands.

Options to get around this;

- visit an actual shop or craft show so you can see the real colour of the fabric (NOTE: at the time of writing, this is not possible because pandemic - boo)

- find somewhere that offers fabric swatches. I haven't found anywhere in the UK that does this yet.

- swap scraps with stitchy friends when you can so you have samples to hand

- there are several websites that offer suggestions on the DMC thread shade that most closely matches particular colours of Zweigart fabric (and occasionally other fabric brands) so if you have that thread shade you can check what the fabric colour will be like in real life. E.g. light blue Aida = DMC 800. I would be very cautious with these though as when I checked a few against threads/fabric I have in my stash as the colours weren't always a good match. Here are some examples so you can make up your own mind. NOTE: the colours of the fabrics are not 100% true to life (that's why we have this problem in the first place!) but the main thing to note is the relative colours of the fabric and threads.

examples of DMC thread colour matches for navy, blush pink, pewter and pearl grey Zweigart fabric

- as a last up your stash! If I am placing an order online I sometimes pop in a piece of fabric in a colour I don't already have just to add to my stash. My excuse is that it helps make use of the postage costs or maybe even gets me free shopping if I spend enough ;-)

You could also test stitch a motif or small part of the design on several coloured fabrics (again, IF you have them) to see what looks best. This might seem time consuming but may help if you are really stuck in deciding what colour to use.

Tips for stitching on dark fabric

Yes, dark fabric can be a little trickier to stitch on and some people avoid it altogether, but it with a few tips and a little more patience you absolutely CAN do it, and it will give a spectacular finish to your work.

So, here are my top tips for cross stitching on dark fabric;

Good lighting

If you do nothing else then do this because it is the thing that makes the most difference to me. I choose to only ever stitch on dark fabric in daylight, but you could also use daylight lamps.

Ways to make it easier to see the holes

This is the other tip that I find makes a big difference and that is to put something white on your lap, which makes it easier to see the holes in the fabric. Some people use light boxes or a white piece of fabric on their lap, but I usually just put the pattern on my lap and that's enough to make it easier to see the holes.

Even if you don't usually use a hoop or frame, it can be worth trying with dark fabric as the extra tension in the fabric can make the holes easier to see. NOTE: not even dark fabric can persuade me to use a hoop though so if you are with me then hello!

If you are really struggling or have vision problems then you could try using a magnifier to help you see the fabric and the holes more easily.

Make it simple

If it's your first time cross stitching on dark fabric, make it really easy on yourself by choosing a small project and Aida rather than linen. Using a lower count fabric might also help; the holes are not any bigger or easier to see but the bigger stitch size may make it easier.

Take it easy

If you have to stitch at a slower pace than usual then that's fine; there's no rush! Just take it slow and stitch for short periods of time so you can rest your eyes every now and then. Stitching on dark fabric can be harder on the eyes so if you start going cross eyed then take a break. I like to have another project (or 6!) on the go so I can stitch a little of the project on dark fabric and then switch to another project when my eyes need a break or if I'm getting frustrated with it. Even if you stitch in just 10 or 15 minute chunks you will eventually finish it!

I hope you now feel ready to go forth and try cross stitching on all those gorgeous coloured and patterned fabrics out there. But remember, there's no pressure so if you don't like it, don't do it!

Until next time...happy stitching,


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