Working on Black or Dark Fabrics

Cross stitch pieces worked on black or very dark fabrics look absolutely stunning when they are completed as the colours, especially the paler ones, seem to really stand out against the dark background. However, stitching on dark fabrics is totally different from working on a light background and you may find it takes some considerable time to finish whatever article you are stitching. If this is your first attempt at working with a dark material, it is suggested a relatively simple pattern is sewn initially, until you are more experienced at stitching on dark backgrounds. Hopefully, the following tips will be useful when you choose to cross stitch using black or dark fabrics.

It is very helpful to photocopy the chart you will be working from and keep some coloured marker pens handy. Then whenever you take a break from stitching just mark where you are up to on the photocopy. You can devise your own system, one colour for completed sections and another to indicate where you need to commence stitching. Keep the key to the photocopy chart simple so at a glance it is possible to know exactly where you are with your work.

Stitching on dark fabrics can be very tiresome on your eyes so just stitch for small periods of time making sure you have several tea or coffee breaks - or even a glass of wine if you prefer. Allow plenty of time - weeks or months according to the size of the piece you are working on - to complete your work on black or dark fabric. It is not advisable to try to hurry the job along as tired eyes and weary brains may make mistakes which could take some considerable time to rectify. It will probably be helpful if you have an easier piece of cross stitch on a light coloured fabric to work on in between sessions of stitching on the darker one as even compulsive stitchers need to take the occasional break.

Lots of stitchers recommend placing a white cloth, a pillow case or tea towel for example, beneath the dark fabric to allow the holes in the fabric to stand out - just be careful not to stitch these two pieces of material together!

Another suggestion is to use a hoop, stitching a small area of the work at a time, with a lamp attached to the arm of the chair in which you are sitting - naturally, the lamp will need to be firmly clamped in position to avoid accidents.

The best time to stitch on any shade of dark material is obviously during the daytime using natural light, however, lots of stitchers are employed on a full time basis which means the only daylight available to them, particularly during the long winter months, is at the weekend. It is possible to buy "daylight" bulbs or lamps which enhance the light in the working area recreating a natural light. I certainly can't manage without mine!

When using a frame to cross stitch, it is also possible to obtain and fit a swinging arm with a light attachment to your frame and if a daylight bulb is placed in the light fitting, the flexibility of the arm movements allows the maximum lighting effect wherever it is required.

Daylight bulbs can be obtained in the form of light boxes as well. The work is placed on top of the light box and the holes in the dark fabric are emphasised by the light underneath. It is also possible to purchase these sort of light boxes with a magnifying glass which would really be a huge help when stitching on dark fabric.

Although extremely helpful, some of these daylight lamps or light boxes can be quite expensive so don't forget to browse around your local craft outlet or even the famous pound shops as with a little ingenuity it is possible to create a device which will suit your own particular needs. Battery operated light boxes can also be found if you prefer to use something portable. Craft Fairs are also a good source to look around for up to date products and useful information for stitchers regarding working on black or dark fabrics.

Using the above tips should help you to enjoy your dark fabric cross stitching. Remember the main ingredient for a good stitcher is not just a keen eye and steady hand but patience and being aware that there are limits to what can be achieved in one stitching session on black or dark fabric.