What is Monks Cloth: All About This Versatile Fabric

what is monks cloth

You might be hearing about this fabric for the first time, but monks cloth is anything but new. It’s a strong, loosely woven fabric made of pure cotton that has been around since the Middle Ages.

Initially used mainly to make religious habits for monks, it has become a versatile fabric with wide-ranging uses that extend from needle crafting to rug hooking. 

Read on to learn more about monks cloth and why it should be a part of your fabric collection.

Table of Contents

What is Monks Cloth?

Monks cloth is a hard-wearing basket weave fabric with versatile uses that include decorative household projects (more on that later) and making virtually rip-proof robes or tunics. Here are some of the core features of this cloth and what makes it one of the most reliable foundation fabrics for punch needlework.

  • Coarse and Durable: The texture is usually coarse, although you’ll find that premium quality monks cloth is often soft-to-touch. Whether smooth or rough, monks cloth is highly durable thanks to the thread running through it.

  • Loose and Even Weave: Monks cloth is woven in an even 4 x 4 weave by passing four weft rows over and under four warp threads. It has the classic checkered appearance of a basketweave. This fabric is loose enough for the needle to glide through easily and tight enough to hold the yarn in place.

  • 100% Cotton: Most varieties of this fabric are made of pure, heavy cotton. You might also find it in linen. Either way, it is a tough fabric equipped to withstand the pressure of punch-needle work.

  • Drapes Well: The reason this fabric has been such a popular choice to craft long flowy robes of monks is that it drapes amazingly well. It’s neither too stiff nor not too flowy and has a nice fall to it.

Where to Buy Monks Cloth?

Monks cloth is more accessible over the internet than in brick-and-mortar stores. If you can't find it in local tufting supplies and craft stores around you, try online fabric stores. We at Earth Ethical also sell monks cloth here.

You could order your stock of monks cloth as separate cuts or by the yard, depending on your preference. Pre-cut pieces usually come with surged edges to avoid fraying. A continuous piece, on the other hand, would require finishing.

Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for This Fabric

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the fabric, here are some tips that’ll come in handy while shopping for this fabric.

  • Organic Cotton: What can we say? We love everything organic! Organic cotton is one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics out there. When given an option to choose monk’s cloth of poly blended cotton and 100% organic variety, opt for the latter.

  • Holes Per Inch: When buying monk’s cloth, you need to pay attention to the threads or holes spaced per inch. Generally, the higher the count, the more stitches you can get into an inch. A good count for monk’s cloth is anywhere between 12-13 holes per square inch. The count you pick depends on the needle and the type of project.

  • Pre-Washed: As natural fibers tend to shrink upon first wash, we recommend pre-washed monks cloth to avoid any surprises, size-wise. 

  • Finished Edges: The loose weave of this fabric makes it prone to fraying. To stop it from unraveling, make sure you buy the one that is sewn around the edges.  

  • Good Stretch: As a popular pick for punch needlework and craft projects, monk’s cloth should be easy to stretch on a hoop or a frame.

Is Aida Cloth the Same as Monks Cloth

Between Aida and cloth, the similarity ends with an even weave. Aida is available in a mesh-type blend of cotton with polyester.

It’s an open weave with more holes per square inch in comparison to monk’s cloth. It’s stiffer, firmer, and more suited for cross-stitching.

Monks cloth, on the other hand, has a looser weave, is easier to punch, and works as a better foundation fabric than Aida.

The Multi-Purpose Monk’s Cloth - 5 Amazing Uses

The world’s just begun discovering the versatility and fabulousness of monk’s cloth. Here are a few key ones that’ll make you fall in love with it, just as we did.

  1. Base for Needle Crafting

    Monks cloth is soft, durable, pliable, and easy to sew when stretched tightly over a frame. Plus, the grid weave provides good control compared to other foundation fabrics. It’s also one of the most resilient and forgiving tufting fabrics that can be frogged and restored to its original shape. 

    If you aren’t happy with your work, just pull out the stitches and redo it as often as you want - it's perfect for beginner needle crafters. Whether you use punch needles or tufting guns, this fabric will never disappoint!

  2. Making Afghans

    Monks cloth is perfect for making afghans as it is hard-wearing, long-lasting, and an excellent base for embroidery. For the uninitiated, an afghan is a knitted or crocheted throw. You can jazz up the monks cloth afghan with an eye-catching pattern through a technique called “Swedish Weaving.”

  3. Swedish Weaving

    Monk’s cloth is a big hit with fans of Swedish weaving. Also known as huck weaving and huck embroidery, this form of art uses the horizontal and vertical floats from the loosely-woven fabric, blending it with surface embroidery. You can create a vast array of fascinating patterns fit to adorn afghans, tablemats, and table covers. Remember to hem the fabric, wash, and pre-shrink it before getting started.

  4. Rug Hooking

    Rug hooking involves pulling loops of yarn through a woven backing fabric using a hook. Monks cloth’s robustness and even weave allow hooks to pass through effortlessly.

  5. Upholstery and Drapery

    What makes a good upholstery fabric? For starters, it should be strong, durable, fade, and abrasion-resistant. Monks cloth fits the bill. Premium-quality monks cloth is soft yet heavy-duty, resilient, and more durable than burlap or linen. Besides slipcovers for sofas, this fabric is also a favorite to make curtains and drapes.

How to Stop Monk’s Cloth from Fraying - Care Tips

While this fabric has plenty of "pros," it does require a little care to prevent it from fraying around the edges. One of the ways to stop the loose weave from unraveling is by overlocking or surging the edge. It is also prone to shrinking during initial washes like any natural fabric. We recommend going for pre-washed and pre-shrunk monks cloth or buying extra to make sure you have enough for your DIY project.

We also have some tips to share to keep the fabric in top-notch condition.

  • Hand wash without bleach - Natural fibers don’t do so well with harsh chemicals and bleaches. It’s a good idea to wash monks cloth by hand with a mild detergent. You may use the washer but run a gentle cycle with cold water. Avoid dry cleaning.

  • Dry flat - Avoid tumble drying and instead lay it out flat to dry to preserve the weave and texture.

  • Iron on a low setting - It is okay to iron this fabric but on the lowest possible setting, please.

Alternative Fabrics

Other than punch needle favorite, monks cloth, here are some other fabrics you may want to get to know. 

  1. Aida

    Aida is a firmer fabric with a mesh-like appearance and is made from pure cotton or cotton blends. For best results, Aida cloth should have more holes per square inch for the stitches to hold. It’s mainly used for cross-stitching and embroidery work. In fact, it is better for cross-stitching than monks cloth because of its stiffer texture.

  2. Linen

    Both Primitive and Traditional variety of linen is great for punch needle crafting, especially if it has a loose weave. It’s not as forgiving as monks cloth and would not hold up well during stitches-pulling and re-punching. It’s a better pick for experts than novice needle crafters.

  3. Rug Warp

    Rug warp is stiff, heavy-duty with a uniform weave, and used mainly for rug hooking. Needling is a little tricky with the fabric compared to others on this list. It is also more expensive

  4. Hessian Burlap

    Hessian burlap is a strong, rough woven cloth made of natural fibers such as the skin of a jute plant or sisal. It’s more affordable than linen, rug warp, and monks cloth and available in a wide variety of colors. It is a little messy to work with because of the rough fibers getting in the way. All in all, a multi-purpose and eco-friendly fabric with uses that extend from making rugs, bags, and shipping sacks to decorative projects.

Final Thoughts

We hope reading our in-depth guide has given you a fair idea about monks cloth and all that this fabric has to offer. But for you to love it as much as we do, you should order a yard and start using it. We promise once you do, it will become your go-to foundation and base fabric for all decorative and DIY yarn-based projects.

Back to blog