Counted Cross Stitch on
linen and evenweave fabrics

If you followed my learn how to cross stitch tutorial and have been using Aida fabric up to this point - maybe it's time to consider counted cross stitch on linen or evenweave?

These fabrics offer a whole different experience for stitchers. If you're ready to take the next step with counted cross stitch, here's how!

Although Aida cloth is easy to stitch on, you might not like the blocky look of the unstitched areas. Evenweave or linen fabrics give the counted cross stitch piece an overall smoother appearance due to the way they have been woven. You can see the difference in the photographs below.

Valentine's Day rabbit with heart stitched on evenweave fabric


A cute little owl holding a daisy umbrella stitched on Aida


Some beginners shy away from these fabrics, thinking that they are difficult to stitch on. But this is not the case at all! It is just a case of training your eye to stitch over two, instead of a solidly woven block with holes in each corner.

When it comes to working cross stitch patterns containing fractional stitches, linen and evenweave are a lot easier to work with than Aida. No more trying to force a blunt needle through the exact centre of a solidly woven block!

What supplies will you need?

When working on higher fabric counts, I find a magnifier lamp to be an invaluable tool for my older eyes. If you don't have one yet, try to ensure you stitch in good natural light, to avoid picking up the wrong floss colors by mistake. 

Make it easier on yourself when using black evenweave - lay a white pillowcase on your lap to make the holes easier to see!

If you do not already own one - invest in an embroidery hoop to hold your counted cross stitch piece taut while working. I wrote a page on embroidery hoops which will give you further information. 

As far as needles go, you may find that you need them to be finer so they slip through the gaps easily, without distorting them. The blunt points of tapestry needles will prevent you from piercing the threads. Size 26 or even 28 needles are ideal.

The stitch count conundrum

Photo showing the difference between the appearance of Aida and linen fabric

Often I find people get confused as to whether cross stitching on evenweave will alter the finished size of a design. As you will (normally) be working over two fabric threads, just half the number per inch to give the equivalent Aida dimensions.

For example if you have a chart where the instructions state the size when using 14 count Aida, and you stitch it on 28 count linen, your project will end up the same size. 

It only gets tricky when halving the thread count does not match what is shown in your cross stitch kits. But I have a magic cross stitch calculator that will help you here. 

As your stitching will end up the same size, you can continue to split the six strands of floss and stitch with just two. 

Working over two threads

Evenweave fabric is woven in an over/under method. If you look at the vertical threads some go over the horizontal ones and some lay below. It is best to start stitching beside an "over" one. This helps to keep the stitch from slipping underneath. The saying goes "a picture's worth a thousand words" so check my diagram below if this is not clear.

Diagram showing how to stitch over two fabric threads on evenweave

Imagine if you can, a tic-tac-toe board. You have two lines going horizontally and two vertically, giving you 9 places to put your cross or nought. With me so far?

Well just exchange the lines for fabric threads and you can see that you have 9 places where you could put your needle. We normally only use the four corner holes leaving one empty on each side and one in the centre.

So, you've brought your needle up in the correct hole. We are going to take a diagonal stitch "over 2", this involves missing out the first hole and using the second.

We will have an empty hole in the centre of our stitch. Then bring the needle back up two holes down, to form the bottom right-hand corner of our cross stitch.

Complete the stitch by skipping the central hole again and going down in the top left corner. Look at the diagram again if you need to.

Working one stitch at a time like this when doing cross stitch on linen is known as the English method. You can use both the continental and English methods on the same piece of work. 

Cross stitch worked on an evenweave fabric over two threads

To help me find my place on a chart I use a highlighter to mark off the stitches as I work them.

There is an advantage to always starting your counted cross stitch next to a vertical "over" thread.

It is much easier to spot when you have gone wrong!

Stitching fine details

Stitching on evenweave opens up another possibility, that of stitching areas "over 1".

This technique is great for adding fine detail to a design. In place of 1 "normal" stitch you will use 4 smaller crosses. Some cross stitch kits use this technique to add intricate features to faces, or to add fingers to tiny hands.

In summary

I hope this tutorial on working counted cross stitch on evenweave has been useful to you. At least if you try it, you can then decide whether you prefer these types of fabrics or Aida cloth to work on.