I'm often asked what kind of fabric I prefer to embroider. Truth is, I'll stitch on anything that looks good to me and won't put up a fight. I'm not a textiles expert: I can't go into detail about various weaves and their respective weft and warp. And, I don't sew. I just like to embroider. (Kinda like saying I don't want to bake a cake: I just want to frost it.) What I stitch on is largely by personal fancy and experimentation. That it be enjoyable to stitch is my main goal. The last thing I want to do is feel snag and wrangle with every needle pull.
Here is a very quick 'n dirty guide to my favorite (and not-so-favorite) surfaces to stitch!
Muslin - It's crude and very fine, but sometimes that's what I go for. Also, least expensive option.
Satin - I love the look of satin and embroidery. It's a little more challenging because you have to be very careful when hooping or else you will mar the delicate surface.
Curtain Lining - This is my personal, secret go-to fabric that I have used for years. Look for it in the home decor and upholstery section, sold on an oversized roll.
Linen - My absolute favorite. It's soft and feels incredible -but it's also vewy expensive.
Denim - Unless it's very soft and already broken in, you won't find me embroidering on dark denims. Bleh. Too tough!
Twill - This fabric looks like a chevron pattern upon close inspection. It looks smooth and lovely, but makes me grumpy whenever I try it.
Canvas (think: tote bags) - "Canvas" can be all different things, but I'm referring here to your basic, unbleached, tough tote bag. The same fabric also doubles for barista aprons. It's just too hard on my delicate digits.
So, can you stitch on a canvas like the kind you could buy pre-stretched at an art store? That would probably be a no (without special preparations): canvases like that are usually covered in gesso that you can't just stitch through. That doesn't mean you can't stretch your own fabric on a frame, though!
Using a thinner needle or finer thread can make any of these unloved-by-me fabrics easier to work on. But for the way I embroider and the look I like to achieve, these just aren't my first fabric choices. If you are totally determined to work on something that's tough to stitch, you'll probably want a thimble or a "needle grabber" (a rubber disc that you pinch around your needle to hold it more securely so it doesn't slip through your fingers as you tug away).
The textiles that I produce and sell are locally made whenever possible, with 100% cotton (unless stated otherwise), evenweave that is durable and easy-to-stitch. I chose (after lots of research, test stitching and changes) what I thought would be the best fabrics for the job!
Oh, and I also keep a flossed needle in my wallet any time I come across fabric in the wild and want to test it out before buying.
Oh, and and, don't forget to experiment:
Maker Faire - 2007