A guide to cross stitch fabric
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Are you new to cross stitching and confused about different fabric options? Counts, evenweaves, Aida, linen - this article will give you a quick overview into different fabrics and which one to choose for your cross stitch project.
There are three common types of cross stitch fabric - Aida, Evenweave and Linen. Each type of fabric come in different colours and have a different look and feel.
Aida is probably the most common fabric, particularly for beginners. It is a cotton fabric and has very even weave, which makes it great for cross stitchers who are just starting out. When you stitch on Aida you stitch over one which means you stitch a diagonal stitch from one hole to the next so the cross makes four corners of a square. On other fabrics you might stitch over two (or more) which means you would leave some holes empty - in each square / cross you would use six holes (or more) instead of four. This means if you have a pattern which uses lots of half / quarter stitches it might be easier to use a fabric where you stitch over two so that if you need to do a quarter stitch there is a hole available, rather than having to push the needle through the weave of the fabric. This is true for detailed backstitching too.
Aida comes in different stitch counts. Lots of people get confused by counts but they're actually very straightforward. A fourteen count Aida means there are fourteen squares (crosses) per inch. Lot's of patterns are sized assuming a fourteen count Aida as this is a very popular size for most stitchers - small enough for detail but still relatively easy to stitch. If you would like to change the size of a pattern simply use a different count of Aida fabric. If you want a larger piece use a smaller count (fewer squares per inch) and if you want to reduce a pattern use a larger count (more squares per inch).
Some of the most common sizes if Aida are 11, 14, 16 and 18. There is also a 6 count version for Children called Herta - remember those pencil cases you made at school? Undoubtedly it would have been Herta that you used!
Aida comes in lots of different colours as well as novelty patterns and even with sparkly finishes. There's loads to choose from to make your perfect cross stitch project!
So, a perfect fabric for all cross stitchers especially beginners. The final thing to note about Aida is that it is a stiffer fabric, which can be handy if you're not stitching using a hoop, but some people prefer a softer feel.
Evenweave fabric has a softer feel than Aida but still has a very even weave (I guess the name gives it away!). The most common counts are 28 or 32. When using evenweave fabric you generally stitch over two which means you miss a hole every time you make a stitch. This means that if you prefer a softer fabric you can use a 28 count evenweave stitched over two instead of a 14 count Aida stitched over one. The finished piece will measure the same. The other big advantage of evenweave is if you are stitching a more complicated pattern which includes a lot of half / quarter stitches or backstitching then evenweave can be easier to use as there are more holes for you to use. Evenweave can also be used to stitch small designs by stitching over one and using one strand of thread. You can create really pretty tiny motifs using evenweave but you need good eyesight! The main disadvantage of evenweave is that it is easier to pull too hard and move one or more of the threads. This is why it's not usually recommended for beginners.
Finally, linen fabric can also be used for cross stitch. Linen has a higher thread count compared to Aida and is often used for projects requiring more detail. It also has more drape so lots of people prefer the feel of it when they're sewing. Linen is a natural fabric made from flax and so is less even than other cross stitch fabrics. This can make is slightly more challenging to stitch with, and many say beginners should start on an evenweave but I actually did some of my first cross stitch on linen (as I bought a job lot on sale) and I found it fine. One of the things I liked was the ability to easily do quarter stitches and back stitch easily and that it didn't feel so stiff.
Whatever fabric you choose the important thing to remember is the stitch count that you're after as this can make a real difference to your finished design. Enjoy browsing the different colours and choosing the perfect fabric for your cross stitch project!