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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Thompson

Glossary of Industrial Embroidery Terms

Updated: Apr 27, 2023


Embroidery equipment

Embroidery is a centuries-old art form that has evolved over time, incorporating countless techniques, materials, and stitches. In this comprehensive embroidery glossary guide, we will explore the essential terms and concepts to help both beginners and experts navigate the intricate world of embroidery.


If you would like more information on embroidery, check out our guide to starting an embroidery business, browse of single head or multi-head machines, or contact us for industrial embroidery machine advice.


Essential Embroidery Terms

Appliqué: A decorative technique that involves stitching a piece of fabric onto a larger fabric base, creating a design or pattern.


Backing: A stabilising material used to support the fabric during the embroidery process, preventing distortion and ensuring a clean, professional result.


Bobbin: A small, cylindrical spool that holds the bobbin thread, which forms the bottom side of embroidery stitches.


Digitising: The process of converting a design into a format that an embroidery machine can read and stitch.


Embroidery Hoop: A two-part frame that holds the fabric and backing in place during the embroidery process.


Fill Stitch: A type of embroidery stitch used to cover large areas of fabric with thread, creating a solid, textured surface.


Jump Stitch: A non-embroidered stitch that connects different sections of a design, typically trimmed after the embroidery process.


Monogramming: A decorative technique that involves embroidering initials or other personal identifiers onto fabric, often used for customisation.


Needle: A specialised embroidery needle designed to pierce the fabric and thread the embroidery thread through it.


Puff Embroidery: A technique that creates a raised, three-dimensional effect by embroidering over a layer of foam.


Registration: The precise alignment of different elements within an embroidered design.


Running Stitch: A basic embroidery stitch that creates a continuous line, often used for outlining or lettering.


Satin Stitch: A type of embroidery stitch characterised by its smooth, glossy appearance, often used for borders or filling in small areas.


Stabiliser: A material used to support and stabilise the fabric during the embroidery process, available in various types and weights for different applications.


Stitch Density: The number of stitches per inch in an embroidered design, affects the overall appearance and quality of the finished product.


Tension: The balance of thread tightness between the top and bobbin threads, is critical for consistent, high-quality embroidery.


Thread Break: An interruption in the continuous flow of thread during the embroidery process, requiring rethreading or other troubleshooting.


Underlay Stitches: Foundational stitches are laid down before the main design, providing support and stability to the top stitches.


Vector Art: A digital image format that uses geometric shapes and paths to create scalable, high-resolution designs, ideal for digitising.


3D Embroidery: A technique that creates a raised, three-dimensional effect by using foam or other materials underneath the stitches to add depth and dimension.


Other embroidery terms


Bean Stitch: A variation of the running stitch, consisting of three stitches that create a thicker, more pronounced line, often used for outlining.


Chain Stitch: A looped stitch that resembles a chain, used for outlining, lettering, or filling in areas of a design.


Column Stitch: A type of embroidery stitch consisting of parallel rows of satin stitches, used for creating narrow, raised areas in a design.


Cross Stitch: A popular embroidery stitch that forms an "X" shape, often used in counted-thread embroidery and needlepoint.


Density Compensation: The adjustment of stitch density in a design to account for potential fabric distortion or puckering.


Embroidery Frame: A larger alternative to an embroidery hoop, typically used for more extensive projects or when working with multiple embroidery hoops.


Feather Stitch: A decorative embroidery stitch consisting of interlocking loops, used for borders, edges, or filling in areas of a design.


French Knot: A small, knotted embroidery stitch used for creating textured dots or accents in a design.


Lock Stitch: A secure stitch used at the beginning and end of an embroidery design to prevent the thread from unravelling.


Metallic Thread: A type of embroidery thread made from metallic fibres, used for adding a shiny, reflective effect to a design.


Push-Pull Compensation: The adjustment of a digitised design to account for fabric distortion caused by the push and pull of the embroidery machine.


Rayon Thread: A type of embroidery thread made from synthetic fibres, known for its softness, shine, and versatility.


Sequin Embroidery: A decorative technique that involves attaching sequins to the fabric using an embroidery machine or by hand.


Split Stitch: A versatile embroidery stitch that creates a continuous line with a textured appearance, often used for outlining, lettering, or filling in areas of a design.


Tack-Down Stitch: A temporary stitch used to secure appliqué pieces to the fabric before the final satin stitch is applied.


Trapunto: A type of embroidery that creates a raised, quilted effect by inserting padding between the fabric and the backing.


Water-Soluble Stabiliser: A type of stabiliser that dissolves in water, used for fabrics that cannot be marked or pierced, or for creating freestanding lace embroidery.


Whip Stitch: A simple stitch used for joining two pieces of fabric, often used in appliqué or to finish the edges of a design.


Zigzag Stitch: A versatile embroidery stitch that creates a continuous, zigzagging line, often used for borders, edges, or filling in areas of a design.


Embroidery Software: A computer program used for digitising, editing, and managing embroidery designs, as well as machine communication and control.


Even more embroidery terms


Aida Cloth: A woven, even-weave fabric with a grid-like structure, commonly used for cross-stitch and other counted-thread embroidery techniques.


Assisi Embroidery: A form of counted-thread embroidery that involves outlining a design and filling in the background with cross-stitches, leaving the design itself unstitched.


Basting Stitch: A temporary, long, and loose stitch used to hold layers of fabric or stabiliser together during the embroidery process.


Blackwork Embroidery: A type of counted-thread embroidery that uses black thread on white fabric to create geometric patterns or designs.


Brazilian Embroidery: A dimensional embroidery style that utilises rayon threads and a variety of stitches to create textured, floral designs.


Buttonhole Stitch: A looped stitch that resembles the edge of a buttonhole, often used for edging, borders, or creating loops for attaching buttons.


Canvas Work: A form of embroidery worked on an open-weave fabric, using a variety of stitches to create patterns and textures.


Crewel Embroidery: A decorative embroidery style that uses wool thread and a variety of stitches to create textured, floral designs.


Detached Chain Stitch: A single, looped stitch that resembles a chain link, often used for creating flower petals or leaves.


Drawn Thread Work: A technique that involves removing threads from the fabric and using embroidery stitches to create a lacy, openwork effect.


Eyelet: A small, circular hole in the fabric, often surrounded by embroidery stitches to create a decorative effect or to reinforce the hole.


Faggoting: A type of openwork embroidery that involves connecting two pieces of fabric with decorative stitches, creating a lacy effect.


Goldwork Embroidery: A technique that uses gold or metallic threads to create intricate, decorative designs with a luxurious appearance.


Hardanger Embroidery: A form of counted-thread embroidery that combines drawn thread work and satin stitch to create geometric patterns on even-weave fabric.


Holbein Stitch: A reversible, linear stitch that creates a smooth, unbroken line, often used in blackwork embroidery.


Interlacing: A technique that involves weaving thread through existing stitches, creating a decorative effect or adding texture to a design.


Knot Stitch: A general term for embroidery stitches that involve creating knots, such as French knots or bullion knots.


Lace Embroidery: A decorative technique that uses embroidery stitches to create lace-like patterns and designs on fabric.


Long and Short Stitch: A shading technique that involves using varying lengths of stitches to blend colours and create a smooth, gradient effect.


Machine Embroidery: A process that uses a specialised embroidery machine to create designs on fabric, using digitised patterns and precise stitching.


Needle Lace: A type of lace created by using embroidery stitches and a needle to form a network of loops and patterns.


Outline Stitch: A linear stitch that follows the contours of a design, often used for outlining or creating borders.


Pulled Thread Work: A technique that involves pulling threads in the fabric tight, creating a lacy, openwork effect by distorting the weave.


Raised Work: A type of embroidery that uses padding or other techniques to create a three-dimensional, textured effect.


Redwork Embroidery: A style of embroidery that uses red thread on white fabric to create simple, outline designs.


Running Stitch: A basic, linear stitch that creates a dashed line, often used for basting or as the foundation for other stitches.


Scallop Stitch: A decorative, looped stitch that creates a scalloped edge, often used for borders or edging on fabric items.


Short Stitch: A small, straight stitch used for filling in areas of a design or for creating texture.


Blanket Stitch: A decorative stitch typically used for edging blankets or other fabric items, consisting of evenly spaced, interlocking loops.


Bullion Knot: A textured, cylindrical embroidery stitch made by wrapping the thread around the needle multiple times before pulling it through the fabric.


Couching: An embroidery technique where one thread is laid on the fabric's surface, and another thread is used to stitch over it, securing it in place.


Cutwork: A type of embroidery that involves cutting away sections of fabric and reinforcing the edges with embroidery stitches, creating a decorative, openwork pattern.


Embroidery Floss: A soft, stranded thread commonly used for hand embroidery, made of cotton, silk, or other fibres.


Fishbone Stitch: A type of filling stitch that creates a textured, herringbone-like pattern, often used for leaves or other nature-inspired designs.


Fringe Embroidery: A technique that involves creating loops of thread on the fabric's surface, which are then cut to form a fringe-like texture.


Gimp Thread: A thicker, cord-like thread used for couching or outlining in embroidery designs.


Lazy Daisy Stitch: A simple, looped stitch that forms the shape of a flower petal, often used for floral embroidery designs.


Needlepoint: A form of counted-thread embroidery, typically worked on canvas or another stiff, open-weave fabric.


Openwork: A general term for embroidery techniques that involve creating patterns by removing fabric or leaving open spaces in the design.


Patchwork: A sewing technique that involves piecing together small fabric pieces to create a larger, patterned design, often combined with embroidery.


Ribbon Embroidery: A decorative technique that uses narrow ribbon instead of thread, creating a three-dimensional, textured effect.


Shadow Work: A type of embroidery that uses sheer fabric and strategically placed stitches to create a subtle, shadow-like design.


Smocking: A decorative technique that involves gathering fabric with stitches, creating a patterned, elasticated effect.


Stem Stitch: A versatile embroidery stitch that creates a smooth, rope-like line, often used for outlining, lettering, or filling in areas of a design.


Tambour Embroidery: A type of embroidery that uses a special hook to pull a continuous thread through the fabric, creating a chain stitch effect.


Thread Painting: An advanced embroidery technique that involves blending different thread colours to create a realistic, painterly effect.


Waste Canvas: A temporary, gridded fabric used to provide a guide for counted-thread embroidery on non-even weave fabrics, removed after stitching.


Yarn Couching: A technique that involves stitching a thicker yarn or cord onto the fabric's surface, creating a raised, textured effect.





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