Preparing Linen for Embroidery in Five Steps

Preparing Linen for Embroidery in 5 Steps

Embroidering is an art form that goes back centuries, and people are rediscovering this favored pastime. You want to get the best-finished product you possibly can, and a lot of this comes down to how you prepare your linen.

There are several steps you have to take before you begin to embroider. If you’re not sure how to do it, take a look at our easy step-by-step guide.

Step One: Measure Your Linen

Once you’ve decided on the design you want to use for your embroidery project, you’re ready to measure and cut your linen. If your chosen design has a total embroidered area of 10 inches wide by  31 inches long, you want your embroidery linen to be two inches larger than the design itself, so you have room to hem the edges.

In addition to the two inches you add to your project for hemming, add another two inches on top, plus an additional inch on all sides. So for your project measuring 31 inches long by 10 inches wide, your total linen should be 36 inches long by 15 inches wide.

This gives you two inches to hem plus an additional inch (you’ll see why later).

Step Two: Cut Your Linen on the Thread

Before you cut your linen with some great sewing scissors, make sure all sides of your project are in the thread. You want to make sure no additional threads or shards are sticking out, and the goal is to have one continuous thread running along the sides of your linen.

You’ll most likely end up with fringe, and you want to cut this off and measure your linen from the clean edges.

Once your linen edges are clean, measure your project’s length and width and mark it with a pencil. So if your project’s area is 31 inches long by 10 inches wide, you want to measure and mark 36 inches long by 15 inches wide.

Cut along your pencil marks, ensuring that your linen is as square as possible.

Step Three: Neaten the Edge

You can either do this step by using a sewing machine or by hand, and all you’re doing is essentially neatening the edge of your linen. You sew over the edge or along the edge of your linen to prevent fraying while you’re embroidering.

It is critical that you do this on all sides.

There are several ways to neaten the edge of your linen, and this is up to you. You can use the zig-zag sewing machine stitch, a Serger, or you can neaten it by hand using the whip stitch. Whichever method you choose, make sure your tension is uniform all of the way around. This will prevent puckering along the edge of your fabric.

Step Four: Rinse and Pre-Shrink Your Linen

You have to keep in mind that your linen will most likely need to be washed eventually, no matter what you intend to use it as. This is why it is so important to rinse and pre-shrink your linen before you start working on it.

You don’t have to do this step, and you’re free to skip it, but we like to err on the side of caution. Get a bowl that is large enough to hold your linen and fill the bowl with water – as hot as you can get from your tap.

Add your linen to the bowl of hot water and let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

While your linen is soaking in hot water, fill up a tea kettle or pot of water and set it to boil on the stove. While this is happening, your linen should have cooled down a bit. You want to turn your tap on with icy water, dump out the warm water, and refill the bowl with the cold tap water.

Next, swish your linen around and leave it to soak until your pot or kettle reaches their boiling points.

Once your water has reached its boiling point, dump the cold water out and add the boiling water to your linen in the bowl. Leave this set for 10 minutes, and set the kettle or pot to boil once again.

Dump out the hot water and submerge your linen into icy tap water again, and let it sit until you’re ready to pour the boiling water on it again.

After you’ve poured the boiling water onto your linen, leave it to soak until it reaches room temperature. Remove the linen from the bowl and lay it flat on a towel. Roll the linen up in the towel to squeeze the water out.

You should see shrinkage of around half of an inch on each side, and this is where the additional inch from step one comes in. To recap the process:

  • Hot Water
  • Cold Water
  • Boiling Water
  • Cold Water
  • Boiling Water Left to Cool to Room Temperature

Step Five: Iron

Your linen should still be damp when you being the ironing process. It is also important that your ironing board or cover is clean. You want to use a dry iron that is set to the linen or cotton setting.

When you iron your linen, iron it exactly vertically and exactly horizontally, and never iron it diagonally. Remember, you’re ironing your linen to remove the wrinkles, and you’re not ironing it to dry it. Don’t leave your iron in one place, and be careful not to scorch it.

When the wrinkles are gone, lay your linen out of the table and let it dry for several hours or overnight. Do a final once-over with your dry iron, and you should end up with a completely flat, beautiful piece of linen.

If you’ve followed these steps, you should have a beautiful finished product that is ready for you to embroider. Remember to take your time and be very careful along the way. This will help to ensure you have a neat, clean, finished piece of linen to embroider your project on.


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