How to Cross Stitch on Dark Fabrics

Bearly Night counted cross stitch by Funk & Weber Designs

Bearly Night. Pandas in the moonlight.

We have a number of designs stitched on black fabrics and two stitched on dark blue fabrics:

Some people claim they cannot stitch on black fabric, others complain that it’s hard. Here are some things that I do to make cross stitching on dark fabrics easier.

1. Have Good Light

This is sometimes a challenge for me. While caretaking, I usually had nothing but propane lights. I rearranged furniture so I could sit directly under one. One year, I papered the wall around my light with butcher paper to help reflect the light. The wall beneath was dark brown and it absorbed what little light there was. (That’ll make you think twice before putting faith in my decorating tips, eh?)

Maybe your dark-fabric project is one you work on only during daylight hours, maybe during your lunch break. Maybe it’s a summer project for when you can actually work outside.

2. Light Above, Light Below

In addition to good light above your work, light below the work illuminates the holes where your needle goes. Now, you don’t want the lower light shining up in your eyes, but any indirect light is good. Daylight from a window does the trick. But that doesn’t work so well at night, which I would guess is when many of us stitch. I sometimes sit with a desk lamp at my feet.

3. Have a White Background Behind Your Work

A white or light-colored background behind the dark fabric also helps distinguish the holes between fabric threads. This could be a pair of light pants, a piece of paper, or an afghan on your lap.

The Neighborhood - planets counted cross stitch by Funk & Weber Designs

The Neighborhood cross stitch pattern.

4. Use a Magnifier

If the above tricks don’t allow you to stitch joyfully on dark fabrics, consider investing in a magnifier, if you can. Those things are amazing! Being able to see the fabric more closely helps you distinguish the different threads. I still don’t own one (surely I’m not the only one!), but I will one day.

5. Choose Different Fabric

If black fabric is impossible in your eyes (pun intended), consider changing fabrics. I saw a gorgeous Silent Night stitched on 10-ct blue Heatherfield (Wichelt). Still dark, but large, and thus easier to see. Maybe a larger count will do the trick for you.

Try substituting Aida fabric for linen.

Or perhaps a different color is what you need. I saw Silent Night stitched on white opalescent fabric with brown overdyed floss. Who’d have thunk? Wild, eh? The opalescent fabric gave a snowy feeling and the brown stitches made me think of old-fashioned sepia photos. I wish I had taken a photo of that.

6. Reverse Stitch

Our Nut, Linda, from SC, solved the dark fabric problem by “reverse stitching” Night Howl. That is, instead of using white fiber on black fabric, she used black fiber on white fabric. You can see Linda’s alteration here.

If you like a pattern, don’t let the fact that it’s on dark fabric scare you away. These tricks make it easier to stitch on dark fabric, and if need be, you can alter the fabric and/or materials to make the pattern work for you.

What Do You Suggest?

Do you have other tips for stitching on dark fabrics? Have you altered a pattern that was originally stitched on dark fabric? Tell us about it. Send your stories, tips, tricks, and brilliant ideas to mail {AT} funkandweber {DOT} com.

Let There Be Night Pattern Collection

Let There Be Night Cross Stitch Pattern Collection by Funk & Weber Designs

This e-book contains all eleven of the Let There Be Night Stitchlings.

Our most popular patterns are now available in digital form! Save the patterns on your hard drive or a thumb drive and print only the pages you need. Use scrap paper then fold the pages, write on them, let the kids play with them; you can always print another copy if you lose or destroy the first.

Even better, we’ve put all eleven patterns together in a single file. How convenient!

Better still, buying the whole collection is cheaper than buying the patterns individually. Instead of paying $66 for eleven pattern cards, you can get all the patterns for just $45. Yay!

This Let There Be Night e-book contains all eleven of the Let There Be Night Stitchling cross stitch patterns.

  • Silent Night
  • Arctic Night
  • The Night Before Christmas
  • Antarctic Night
  • Looner Night
  • African Night
  • Dead of Night
  • Night Howl
  • Lovely Night
  • Night Lights
  • “Bearly” Night

If you’ve ever wanted some or all of these patterns, now’s a great time to go get ’em.

7 Responses to “How to Cross Stitch on Dark Fabrics”

  1. Rebecca

    If you don’t want to spend the money to get an Uplight (a lighted screen with a cushion attached) I recommend something as simple as one of the small LED flashlights. You can tuck it upright in your lap; the light is bright enough to see the holes for stitching.

    October 31, 2012 @ 7:13 am
  2. Jen

    Exactly. Inexpensive, serviceable, and likely to be on hand–that’s my kind of solution!

    October 31, 2012 @ 8:31 am
  3. Helen

    I *always* stitch with a white pillowcase under the canvas. And when I’m done my frame is placed inside it until I’m ready to stitch again. No dust on my canvas, and good contrast too. Win!

    November 4, 2012 @ 10:37 am
  4. Jen

    Brilliant! I have some white pillowcases that rarely get a chance to be useful.

    November 4, 2012 @ 10:41 am
  5. Nola

    Would it help to put white chalk on black Aida cloth to see the holes better ???

    December 6, 2016 @ 7:02 pm
  6. Jen

    That seems like a great idea, Nola! Have you tried it?

    If someone out there has, let us know how it worked.

    December 7, 2016 @ 9:27 pm
  7. Nola mallicoat

    Yes I just tried putting chalk on my black Aida cloth and for me it works great!!! You was your material anyway so it doesn’t hurt. I used white chalk on black.

    December 10, 2016 @ 5:32 pm

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