How To Machine Embroider on Cork

Cork is eco-friendly, renewable and very trendy. It’s also a great surface to embroider on. While it acts like leather, vinyl and other non-fibrous materials in many ways (don’t pin it!), its fabric backing allows it to take embroidery better than many similar fabrics. Here are some things to keep in mind when embroidering cork.

Cork 1024x642 How To Machine Embroider on Cork

What a Hoot 248x300 How To Machine Embroider on Cork

ITH What a Hoot Owl Necklace Design, stitched on cork

  • While cork isn’t damaged as severely as some materials by dense stitching, it will eventually perforate. Consider density when choosing a design, avoiding designs with extremely dense and layered stitching.
  • When marking on cork, consider what will both show up and remove effectively. Test markings on scraps before using a method on the final project. We’ve found that a powdered chalk roller is very effective, as it deposits well without a lot of pressure and wipes away quickly and easily.
  • Cork can’t be hooped, so use a self-adhesive stabilizer or adhere the fabric using a temporary spray adhesive. Tear-away and cut-away stabilizers are preferable, as soaking cork to remove water-soluble stabilizer can damage the material. Never baste or pin in the hoop, as holes are permanent.
  • Use a large, sharp needle with a large eye. Topstitching and denim needles are ideal for embroidering cork.
  • If available, lower the machine’s foot to sit just above the cork while embroidering. Like with leather, the cork may close in around the needle when it’s down, causing the needle to pull the material up on its upstroke. Keeping the foot low minimizes this effect.
  • Slow the machine speed if available; however, a speed slightly higher than the slowest available might work better, as it creates more momentum behind the needle. Try different speeds during test stitching to see what works best.
Creepy Crawly 300x200 How To Machine Embroider on Cork

ITH Creepy Crawly design, stitched on cork

When embroidering on any new material, be sure to test stitch to find the best combination of design, needle, stabilizer, thread and machine settings for your project.

Tip: Download the What a Hoot Owl design pictured above free from until October 31, 2018. Find the Creepy Crawly design at


Don’t miss out! Find more great projects and ideas in our newest issue, available on newsstands and at!

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7 Responses to How To Machine Embroider on Cork

  1. Sue Stewart says:

    Where can I purchase embroidery cork in Canada? Is it O.K. To use cork with a peel off, self adhesive backing, and is 1/16 thick enough for embroidery? I

    • Kate says:

      Hi Sue! I’m not really up on fabric suppliers in Canada, but a quick search indicates that you can find a selection here:

      You can also try searching “cork fabric canada” and I’m sure you’ll find some other options.

      I think that it should be fine to use cork with an adhesive backing — there’s no real difference between that and a self-adhesive stabilizer except for what surface the adhesive is on. And 1/16″ is certainly thick enough — the samples shown here were stitched on 1mm thick cork. Make sure to use a heavy needle with thicker cork for better results.

    • Carolyn says:

      Hi Sue, my cork will be in late next week, June 13th or so. I realize your comment here is from Oct of 2018, but if you’re still looking, let me know. You can reach me at
      Hope to hear from you.

  2. May says:

    Where can I purchase the design for the What A Hoot Owl necklace with was shown in the September /October 2018 issue

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