Buying embroidery fabric for cross stitch, blackwork or any other counted thread technique can be difficult if you are new to the craft. You will see terms like Aida (left), evenweave (center) and linen (right) online, but how do you tell the difference?
The confusion isn't made any easier by the fact that many embroiderers call all evenweave fabrics (other than Aida) linen.
Real linen is made from flax and is lovely to work on but can be expensive. Other evenweave fabrics sold for counted thread work are often made of cotton or a mixture of fibres. We will look at some of them in more detail below the video, or you can use the links in the table below to check them out straight away.
|Aida||11 - 22 count||Cross stitch, Blackwork|
|Hardanger||22 count||Cross stitch, Blackwork, Hardanger|
|Linen||25 - 36 count||Cross stitch, Blackwork, Hardanger, Pulled work, Bargello, Petit Point|
|Evenweaves||18 - 32 count||Cross stitch, Blackwork, Hardanger, Pulled Work, Bargello, Petit Point|
Cloth woven for counted thread embroidery has an even number of threads in each direction. The "count" refers to how many threads are used in each inch. You may see it written as 14ct or 14 HPI which means 14 threads to the inch. An easy way to think of it is that it tells you how many stitches you can squeeze into an inch of fabric, therefore a bigger number means that each stitch has to be smaller so as to fit more of them in.
This knowledge can prove useful if you have a pattern you wish to stitch, but it would turn out slightly too big for a frame you have at hand, if stitched on the recommended embroidery fabric. For example if your design is 140 stitches wide it will measure 10 inches on 14 count, or 8.75 inches if you swap to an 18 count cross stitch fabric.
It is important to use the correct sized needle when working on evenweave fabrics. I give some suggestions on my embroidery needles page.
Don't want to do the calculations yourself? Use this free handy cross stitch calculator to do it for you!
This makes it an ideal embroidery fabric for beginners to use.
One drawback of Aida, however, is that the blocks are obvious in the background of a design. It can also be difficult to pierce the centre of a block when working fractional stitches.
Aida is available in 11, 14, 16, 18 and 22 count. The most popular of these tends to be 14 count.
I find 18 is getting just a little too difficult to see for comfortable stitching now the years are catching up with me. Time for a little magnification!
Hardanger, or Oslo, is also a 100% cotton block weave. It has 22 threads to the inch which lay in pairs. The holes are less obvious than in Aida.
As well as being used for Hardanger this material can be used for cross stitch and blackwork. Cross stitch can be worked over 2 blocks, effectively creating an 11 count fabric.
If I can afford it I love to use pure linen, a durable, single thread fabric woven from flax.
Due to the nature of the fibre, fabrics made from linen can have bumps or "slubs" which make them more difficult to work on. Some linens are quite loosely woven, causing threads carried across the back of the work to be easily visible from the front. Some well known linens are:
Lugana is an evenly woven cross stitch fabric composed of 52% cotton and 48% viscose. It comes in different counts and cross stitch is normally worked over two threads. If you haven't tried this yet, check this page for instructions on how to stitch on evenweaves and linen.
If you like the look of linen with its uneven slubs you may also enjoy stitching on Annabelle. It is made from 100% cotton with thick and thin threads which give it the linen-like effect.
How about if you want to cross stitch on a garment that is not made of an evenweave material? Well there is a way around that! You can use what is known as "waste canvas".
This is a grid of threads that you baste onto the garment where you want to stitch a cross stitch or blackwork motif. You then work through the waste canvas and the garment fabric. When the design is complete you wet the canvas and it can then be pulled out thread by thread with tweezers, leaving the design sitting on the garment.
If you fancy learning more, and seeing photos of the process, be sure to check out my waste canvas page.
This is the place to ask your questions about what fabric to use? How to take care of it? How to stitch on it, etc.
Click below to see what other visitors to this page have asked...
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Check our range of hand embroidery kits and patterns featuring blackwork, cross stitch, hardanger and needlepoint. All patterns are downloadable