There are several different types of fabric you can use when you are cross stitching. How your stitch will look will depend on the fabric and the count that you use. But which one is best and what are the differences?
Well, that’s where this post comes in handy. Learn about the different types of fabric and which one is right for your cross stitch project.
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There are two main groups of fabric for cross stitch and embroidery, Aida and Evenweave. Aida is woven in blocks that look like little squares and evenweave is woven with single threads forming the warp and weft.
All cross stitch fabrics are woven so that they have the same number of threads or blocks to 2.5cm (1in) in both directions. These form the basis of the fabric count.
Fabric count has a huge impact on your finished project and the size it will turn out to be.
If you are just starting out in your cross-stitching journey, it is best to start with a smaller count fabric as the stitches will be bigger and easier to make. That doesn’t sound right, does it?
Fabric count is simply the amount of thread (or squares) per inch, so a 9 count fabric has 9 threads per inch whereas an 18 count will have 18 threads per inch, making your design half the size as you have to make twice the amount of stitches in the same space. This also means that the holes for your needle are smaller as well so a smaller needle is required.
Colours + Dyes
Aida, evenweave and linen all come in a variety of colours and dyes as well as counts. From natural hand-dyed fabrics to naturally dyed fabrics, you can pretty much find anything you want to.
Be aware that the darker the fabric, the harder it can be to see the individual stitches making it a little more difficult to stitch. Stitching your very first stitch on black fabric would be rather ambitious!
The most common colours are white, antique white and ivory. I would strongly suggest starting with a shade of white for your first stitch then move on to darker colours as you gain confidence.
Aida is a cotton fabric and is the most commonly used fabric for beginners. It is a type of open, evenweave fabric, meaning there are an equal amount of threads on both the weave and warp (horizontal and vertical running threads). As it is an open weave, this makes the holes that you place your stitches in easy to see.
Many beginners start with 14 count Aida and move to 16, 18 or higher as they get more comfortable.
My personal favourite is 16 count Aida fabric, it is slightly tighter than 14 count but not as hard on the eyes as higher counts. I also like the look of the stitches on 16 count fabric.
Tips for using Aida
- Aida will naturally fray as you use it, make sure to sort the edges out by either using masking tape, fray check or surging (or plain ole zig-zag on your sewing machine if you don’t have an overlocker).
- Cut your fabric to size so you don’t have too much bulk. Most patterns will come with the size of the design or the size of Aida you need. The size of fabric you will need will be the size of the design plus 3 inches all around for framing.
- If your Aida is very stiff (sometimes it can be due to the starch used), don’t despair, it should naturally soften with use. You can soften your Aida by either using the fabric without a hoop first as you tend to handle the fabric more without a hoop then move to a hoop once it is pliable enough. If you are impatient and want it softened sooner, do a gentle hand wash with mild (or no) soap and lukewarm water. However, if you do handwash there may be very slight shrinkage. Alternatively, watch this FlossTube on how to soften your fabric.
- Use the correct strands of floss for your count. Two to three strands for 14 count as this makes the stitches appear “fuller”, two for 16 and 18 count and one for higher counts. If you are unsure of the number of strands to use, have a practice by making a square at least 3×3 stitches to gauge how “full” you want your stitches to look.
- When stitching on Aida, one block on the fabric corresponds to one square on the chart. Certain stitches (such as three-quarter stitch) are more difficult to form on Aida than on evenweave.
Shop Aida fabric
Linen is made out of, well, linen. It has a natural-looking texture which tends to give your project more depth than other fabrics. There will also be slight imperfections in the fabrics which makes it look more natural and traditional. Linen tends to be softer than Aida fabric.
Just when you thought you had the hang of fabric count, linen will throw you a curveball. Typical linen counts range from 22 to 40 or more, with the most common being 28-count and 32-count.
Just like Aida, linen count is the number of threads per inch. However, because it is usually a much higher count, linen is commonly stitched over two threads. This means that 28-count linen if stitched over two is the equivalent to 14-count Aida and 32-count linen when stitched over two is the equivalent to 16-count Aida.
How to start stitching on linen
Linen is a woven fabric with an over/under pattern of warp and weft threads. As with Aida, it is a good idea to start in the middle of your fabric. However, unlike Aida, you need to be aware of the weave and how it can affect your stitches.
Once you have found the centre of your piece of linen, have a look at the weave, start your stitch next to a vertical thread that is passing over the horizontal thread just above your starting point.
This will give your stitch a “leaning post” to buffer up against and make it look much neater.
Quick-fire tips for using Linen
- Linen is most commonly stitched over two threads which means that each stitch will pass over two warp and two weft threads. This will even out any irregularities and as the fabric count is usually much higher, it will make your stitches a manageable size!
- If you are stitching on linen for the first time, using a hoop or frame will make it easier to see the weave. The linen should be pulled taut in the hoop, but make sure not to stretch it so tightly that the weave is distorted (as I did the first time I tried stitching on linen….).
- When substituting linen for Aida, double the count of the Aida to determine the count of linen to use.
There was a time when evenweave referred to fabric that had the same number of warp and weft stitches per inch. This is ideal for cross stitching as an even weave means even holes for stitching. You don’t want to be cross stitching across rectangles!
Luckily nowadays, almost all cross stitch fabric has an even weave so the term evenweave has come to refer to the even fibres that make up the fabric. This means that all the fibres have the same width which eliminates the inconsistencies and slubs that you can find in linen.
Evenweave has a higher thread count than Aida and is commonly found in 25, 28, and 32 counts. Like linen, evenweave is generally stitched over two, although also like linen it can be stitched over one.
Evenweave is a great fabric to use when learning to stitch over two as there are fewer inconsistencies than linen. This fabric is also good for advanced patterns such as those with fractional stitches and adding finer details with “petit points” (stitching stitches that take up a quarter of your regular stitch). These stitches are fab for faces and hands.
Tips for stitching with Evenweave
- Like linen, double the fabric count if using 1 stitch over 2 threads to get the equivalent Aida count.
- Don’t go into your first evenweave project with two strands of floss over one thread of a very small count (like yours truly), you’ll become proficient in swears and master the art of frogging (unpicking). And your project doesn’t come out as neatly.
- Again, as with linen, watch were you start your stitching. It is best to start your stitch beside an “over” thread (lean it against that post). This helps to keep the stitch from slipping underneath.
- Work slowly and don’t become discouraged, it can sometimes take a while to get the hang of a new skill so keep on at it and soon you’ll be stitching away like a pro!
Ultimately, the type of fabric you choose is completely up to you.
If you are a beginner then 14-count Aida is a fantastic choice. As you get more confident, you can experiment with other counts and types.
A fabulous place to pick up fabrics for practising is second-hand stores. My workmate picked me up a huuuge square of linen for 50 cents to play with. I mean, you can’t argue with that can ya?
What’s your favourite type and count of fabric? Leave a note in the comments and let us know!