Friday, June 20, 2014

Cotton Organdy and How to Find Threads Per Inch

A new sample of cotton organdy arrived in the post today. I have been looking for a really transparent cotton fabric for fine pulled work and this one is really beautiful. The big question for me is whether or not I can see the threads well enough to count them and work the pulled thread stitches.

The first thing I do when I find a new fabric that may be suitable for counted thread work is determine how many threads per inch it has. I do this so that I can use this thread count when I am working out the size of the embroidered design. It also gives me a good indication of how well I can see to count the threads to do a piece of pulled thread embroidery.

I mark out a one inch square on the corner of the fabric with tacking stitches as you can see on the 28 count linen below. (If I'm in a hurry, I just use pins to mark out the square.) I find this little one inch square useful to go back to later if I can't remember just how many threads per inch the fabric has. Its quick to recount if the square is already tacked out on that piece of fabric sitting patiently in your cupboard.

Use a ruler and carefully mark off a one inch (or 2.5cm) square. Then start on the left hand side of the square and count the threads you cross as you move from left to right. I usually place a pin in the fabric after 20 threads. This makes it easier to check and also helps if you loose count as you get towards the end and your eyes start to jump and play tricks on you.

Then do the same to count the threads from the top of the square to the bottom. If you count carefully you will see that there are actually 29 threads in each direction on this fabric. (The fabric has 29 threads per inch (t.p.i)). Although this was sold as a 28 count fabric, I have found that its not unusual for a fabric to have a slightly different thread count and for the count to vary by one thread, either more or less.

Now to count the threads on the organdy. You can see that it is a much finer fabric. I marked out the one inch square and started counting across from the left hand side, placing a pin every 20 threads - the yellow and green pins. You will see that there are 4 groups of 20 threads going across and the last group has 14 threads, making 94 threads per inch across the fabric.

Now counting down there are 3 groups of 20 threads and the last one has 10 threads, making a total of 70. The fabric has 94 warp threads per inch and 70 weft threads per inch. The fabric is not evenly woven. You may notice that the little area formed by the pins with 20 threads on each side is rectangular in shape and not square. But when working on such a small scale I have found that this difference does not greatly affect the outcome of the embroidery, unless you are working a pattern in one direction down the fabric and then the identical pattern at right angles to it and you want them to look exactly the same. I have also noticed on some old finely worked embroideries that the fabric was not evenly woven either, though it appears so at first glance.

One other small matter to consider if I want to do pulled work is "Can I see the threads to count them and stitch accurately and consistently?" Mmmm... The organdy is very fine and I think its at the limit of what I can see to work on even with my magnifiers. Perhaps investigating a stronger pair of magnifiers is in order to tackle a fine fabric like this.


  1. This is a very helpful tutorial, Lyn. I'm not sure there is any magnification available that would make this possible for me. It is lovely fabric, and if will be interested to see hiw you go with it.

  2. Hi Jillian. Glad you found the tutorial useful. I checked out magnifiers again recently and found the next strength up is still a little strong for me, but I will keep looking into it for working on such a fine fabric.