Machine embroidery on cork fabric

By on October 31st, 2021
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Machine embroidery on cork fabric is a fun and creative way to make a range of projects. Cork fabric can be used for anything from placemats, coasters, jewelry, or aprons – the possibilities are endless! In this blog post we’ll cover how to machine embroider on cork as well as some examples of beautiful projects you can make with your new skills.

What is cork fabric?

Cork fabric is a unique and versatile material. It’s made from natural cork, which comes from the bark of the Cork Oak tree (Quercus Suber). The trees live for up to 200 years and grow in hot climates such as Portugal or Spain. The bark can be harvested every nine years without causing harm to the tree. Therefore, it’s a sustainable resource.

cork bark from cork tree

How is cork fabric made from cork bark?

After the cork is dried for several months, the layers of the cork are boiled and compressed into sheets of the cork fabric. And, the more the material is compressed, the denser it becomes.

Why work with cork fabric?

Cork fabric is versatile and durable. In addition to being an environmentally friendly material, cork fabric is easy to work with. It’s machine washable, doesn’t fray and has a soft surface that won’t damage your needles or presser foot. You can use both machine embroidery thread and/or regular sewing thread with it.

Cork fabric is also very reasonably priced. You can buy it in a range of sizes, so if you are using it to make a very small project, you don’t have to purchase a huge sheet. Some sellers will let you buy pieces as small as 5″ x 7″.

What can you make with cork fabric?

  • Kitchen accessories like pot holders and oven mitts are perfect items to make with cork fabric. The density and strength of the cork will protect your hands from getting burned.
  • Decorative pillows are another great use for cork fabric. Sound a little weird? The texture is surprisingly smooth and the material has a cool earthy look.
  • Coasters are one of the most common uses of cork fabric. Its density and smooth surface protect your furniture while supporting a tippy wine glass.  There are tons of different in-the-hoop coaster patterns that are perfect for making with cork.

    cork coaster with machine embroidery
    Embroidered cork coaster. Photo provided by Anna Jackson and used with her permission.

  • Notebook and book covers are another attractive way to use cork.
  • Small in-the-hoop items like keychains, bookmarks, earbud holders, chapstick and hand sanitizer holders are all perfect in-the-hoop projects to make with cork fabric.
  • Zippered wristlets (often made in-the-hoop) look fantastic made in cork.
in-the-hoop cork clutch
In-the-hoop cork wristlet. Photo provided by Kelly Edgerton and used with her permission.
  • Cork wallets are lovely and can fun to personalize for the recipient.
  • Jewelry can also be a great item to make with cork. Any in-the-hoop jewelry pattern that calls for vinyl or leather could also be made with cork fabric.
  • Aprons are another perfect cork fabric item to make. They’re stylish and sturdy!
  • Cork fabric placemats are super easy to make as they are simply a rectangle! Add a stylish monogram and you have an attractive, outdoorsy table.
  • A cork fabric pincushion is a great way to keep your pins close by while sewing.

Can you do embroidery on cork fabric?

Well, of course. And, it’s actually one of the easiest materials to machine embroider.

First of all, it doesn’t stretch a lot, so you don’t tend to get puckering. It also has a nice smooth surface, so you don’t have to worry about fibers from the fabric poking through your stitching. And, finally, it isn’t too tough. Unlike when stitching on some thicker leathers, your needles shouldn’t have any trouble piercing through the cork.

Why do embroidery on cork fabric?

Embroidery on cork can be a way to personalized any of the aforementioned projects. For example, you could make a wristlet and add a beautiful monogram on the front.  Cork is also an ideal material for many in-the-hoop projects. But, most importantly, embroidery on cork looks amazing. It tends to have a luxe, earthy feel.

How do you machine embroider on cork fabric?

Well, I would embroider on the cork fabric the same way I would machine embroider on any many other materials. The key here is to float the cork, and not hoop it. Squishing the cork into an embroidery hoop would be quite difficult and could cause hoop burn.

Choosing your stabilizer

The type of stabilizer you choose when embroidering on cork is dependent on the location of the embroidery and the end use of the project.

If you are making an in-the-hoop project such as a pair of earrings, you would want to float your cork on some water soluble stabilizer. That way, the back of the earrings (which might be visible) would look as polished as the front. You would not have any stabilizer residue stuck to the back of the earring.

If you are making a project where the backside will not be visible, then you can get away with using tearaway stabilizer.My preference when it comes to tearaway stabilizer is to almost always use sticky back stabilizer.

Floating your cork

To float your cork on a piece of hooped sticky back stabilizer, you must first hoop a sheet of the stick back tearaway (shiny side up). Then you need to score the stabilizer with a pin along the inside edge of the hoop, creating a small tear in the top layer of stabilizer paper. Finally, peel the paper away to expose the sticky surface of the stabilizer.  Stick your cork fabric down here.

Hooped sticky back stabilizer with sticky exposed
Hooped sticky back stabilizer with sticky surface exposed

If you are using water soluble stabilizer, you would still hoop your stabilizer. However, if you wanted to stick the cork fabric to the stabilizer, you may want to use some temporary adhesive spray.

hooped water soluble stabilizer
Hooped water soluble stabilizer
cork fabric floated on hooped stabilizer
Cork fabric floated on water soluble stabilizer

Choosing your needle

You really don’t need any special type of needle to embroider on cork. I would just stick with the standard 75/11 embroidery machine needles.

Where to buy cork fabric

You can buy cork fabric at almost any fabric store. Both Hobby Lobby and Joann’s usually carry it. But you may only be able to find it in a traditional cork color on the shelf at these stores.

You may be surprised to know that cork fabrics come in several colors and even printed with beautiful patterns. (I’m completely taken by the lovely selection of cork fabric on Amazon!) And you don’t need to purchase cork fabric in the typical yardages you would for regular fabric.

Ready to try embroidery on cork?

Cork fabric is a versatile material that can be used for many different projects. We have outlined just some of the ways to use cork fabric in this blog post, but you may find even more creative uses as well! If you’re looking to make your next project with cork fabric, I hope this article has been helpful and given you ideas on how to get started. Be sure to let me know what kind of amazing things you come up with!

xo

Julie

Cork Fabric

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