Choosing embroidery fabric for counted thread techniques can be confusing if you are new to the craft.
Aida cloth, evenweave and linen are all common fabrics but what's the difference? It's easy to get lost in terminology when searching online shops. Let me help unravel the mystery.
The photo below, shows, from left to right, Aida 14 count, Linda evenweave and a natural coloured 36 count linen.
Hang on, 14 count, what is that all about?
Counted thread embroidery is worked on fabric with an equal number of both horizontal and vertical threads per inch. The "count" of a fabric is determined by this figure. Fabrics with 14 to 36 threads per inch are most commonly used today. The higher the count, the smaller the stitches will be. The smaller the stitches are, the smaller the design will end up.
This knowledge can prove useful if you have a pattern you wish to stitch, but discover it would turn out slightly too large if stitched on the recommended 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 fabric.
Don't want to do the calculations yourself? Use this free handy cross stitch calculator to do it for you!
The video below will explain the differences between different counts in an easy to understand way.
Aida is a fabric made of cotton threads woven in a block formation. Aida is perfect if you are new to stitching because the solid blocks of fabric threads have well-defined holes in each corner, making it easy to see where the needle goes.
However, you may not like the fact that the blocks will be visible in your finished embroidery projects. As you gain experience you might like to move on to using plain weave fabrics.
Before we move on I am obliged to mention that I have used affiliate links further down this page. Although they will not cost you extra if you order from them, the site will benefit by a commission from each sale.
Aida is available in 11, 14, 16, 18 and 22 thread counts. The most popular of these is 14 count and 2 strands of embroidery floss are generally used when working on this size.
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 fabric, 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 embroidery this material can be used for other counted thread techniques. If necessary it is possible to split the double thread to stitch an area of more detail.
If I can afford it I love to use pure linen - durable, single thread hand embroidery fabrics woven from flax.
Due to the nature of the fibre, fabrics made from linen can have bumps or "slubs" which make them more tricky to work on. Some linens are quite loosely woven, which can mean that any embroidery floss carried across the back of the work is visible from the front. Linen embroidery fabrics come in a number of different thread counts.
Some well known linens are:
Linen can also be used for surface embroidery, where the more threads there are in the ground fabric the better.
Lugana is an evenly woven cotton blend fabric composed of 52% cotton and 48% viscose. It comes in different thread counts and stitches are 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.
Lugana is available on Amazon in an assortment of colours.
Jobelan is made from 51% cotton and 49% modal. It comes in either a 28 or 32 thread count evenweave, with a slight sheen that is ideal for stitching table linens or cushions (pillows). Being a cotton blend, it hangs well and is easy to wash.
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 stitch a counted thread embroidery pattern 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 motif. You then work through both the waste canvas and the garment fabric. When the design is complete you wet the canvas and then pull out the threads 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...
Cover cloth for finished embroidery pillow cases
I have finished an embroidered pillow case. Isn’t there a cloth to iron on to cover the threads?
Number of Counts
I wish to know how to consider the count number of a Canvas? For example is a 14 Count canvas bigger (bigger holes) than an 18 Count? Thank you very …
Needlework and techniques
Can you do embroidery and cross stitch on the same type of fabric? If so, which fabric is best if you want to incorporate cross stitch with some embroidery …
Peasant Blouse With Hardanger
I'm hoping to make a flowing ruffled peasant blouse and replace the single edge cotton eyelet fabric with Hardanger work on a soft and flowing appropriate …
Choosing the right embroidery fabric
Why does a design say to stitch it on a #14 f(or 16 or 11, etc.) fabric? Can't I stitch on any fabric I like? Like, on a garment that I want to decorate …
Best fabric for a mix of cross stitch and embroidery
I have been cross stitching on Aida for a while now and I am keen to try out some other fabric types. I have some of my own designs (I create custom …
Particles on evenweave when unpicking stitches
Question: I recently bought evenweave fabric for the first time and tried cross-stitch on it. However, as I progressed on the stitches, I found that …
Fabric for beads
Question: I am wondering what fabric to use for beading. It would be embroidery with beads, its a pretty big project. I am looking for fabric that won't …
Question: Help please. I have a project and the pattern call for 32 ct linen using two strands of floss over two threads. I am going to stitch this project …
laundering embroidery fabric
Question: Am I supposed to wash the aida cloth before I start my cross stitch project? It is often so stiff I can hardly get the hoop around it! …
I have holes or tears in my fabric.
Question: I have been stitching for years, have always used 14 count or maybe 11 count. Lately I have had a tear or hole in my fabric after weeks …
Using a different count evenweave fabric? Not rated yet
hi, I have been following your fantastic Hardanger tutorials and I achieved really good results, thanks to your very clear instructions. It's definitely …
Stitching on even weave linen Not rated yet
I just purchased a pattern that is calling for stitch on 32 count, (I don't know what that means) Misty blue linen. I could not find this, so i purchased …
May 26, 22 06:54 AM
The first step in our hand embroidery for beginners course, learn how to embroider names and letters, using a variety of embroidery stitches
May 25, 22 12:51 PM
I am often asked if I use cross stitch software to design. I do now and this is my story of how I started designing needlework
May 23, 22 02:47 AM
This stem stitch tutorial covers the basic stitch, raised stem and portuguese knotted stem. Videos explain how to work the stitches.
May 20, 22 06:26 AM
Simple embroidery stitches for small flowers - ideas and videos showing how to stitch them