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How to Cross Stitch 1: The Fabric

February 08, 2017

So, you've decided to learn how to cross stitch. Congratulations!

In my opinion, cross stitching is one of the most rewarding and relaxing hobbies there is. It has this amazing rhythm that makes it almost meditative, when you get the basics down, and you can watch your creation materialize in front of you.

This is the first of a series of blog posts designed to help you get started cross stitching. I've broken the craft down into bite-sized morsels because, even though it's probably easier than you think, I don't want you to get overwhelmed.

You can also skip the blog post and watch the video, if that's better for you:

Today, I'm going to talk about fabric. As anyone who knows me will attest, fabric is one of my favourite subjects, and cross stitching fabric is no different. Many people think that they can just pick a random aida (more on that later) off the shelf, but the type, colour, and thread count can make all the difference in your design.

Chapters in this entry:

The good news is that you can cross stitch on any evenweave fabric or material. The bad news is that you probably don't know what that means.


Evenweave is usually only applied to fabric. It denotes a fabric that has been woven with identical thread widths on both the weave and weft of the fabric. 

Via Wikipedia

 Now, that picture is not evenweave because its weft is larger than its warp. It's just a great picture of what warp and weft actually mean. 

Because cross stitching looks best when its done on consistent fabric, if you don't buy fabric specifically labelled for cross stitch, you want to make sure it's labelled evenweave.

I said above that you could also use evenweave materials, so what does that mean? Ever see this stuff?

Via About Cross Stitch

That's plastic canvas. It's moulded from plastic the same way that evenweave fabric is, with the same size of vertical and horizontal bars. That means you can cross stitch on that too! A lot of beginners start with plastic canvas and yarn because that's easier for them. If you'd like to as well, that's great. If not, I'm going to move onto types of cross stitch fabric. 


Aida is probably the most commonly used fabric for cross stitching. When you imagine your grandmother's framed cross stitch on the wall, you're probably thinking of aida fabric. Up close, it looks like this:


Apart from plastic canvas, aida cloth is probably the easiest fabric for beginning cross stitchers. It's strong, durable, and you can clearly see its holes. It comes in a variety of colours (though the easiest to find are white and beige), and it's absolutely washable.

If you're brand new to cross stitching, I would recommend using aida in a larger weave (see Thread Count below) for your first project. As you get further along, you'll want to get into the smaller weaves, maybe even linen, but to start working with a needle and fabric, aida is the way to go.


Possibly the oldest fabric on earth, linen has been woven with an evenweave since the time of Egyptians. Because of its fine threads, linen evenweave looks smooth to the naked eye. Only when you bring it close or use a magnifier can you see the holes between the threads.

Via Sew It All 

Evenweave linen has many more threads in it than aida which means you can do tiny stitches if you wish. That has its pros and cons. The positive side is that embroidery and cross stitch done on linen looks really refined. The negative side is that it's very hard on the eyes and can be exhausting for the beginning cross stitcher. For that reason, I'm going to give tips on how to cross stitch on linen, but I'm going to save it for the end. That way, we get all the beginner stuff out of the way, and you can decide if you'd like to use linen after you've gotten through a couple of charts.

Thread Count and Size

 When you go to the store and start looking at evenweave fabrics that are labelled for embroidery and cross stitch, you'll notice that many of them are labelled with thread counts. That can be kind of confusing. I know that when I really got into cross stitch as an adult, I had to figure out what they all meant.

The count on evenweave fabrics is how many threads are in an inch. For example, 12 count (or 12 ct as it's usually abbreviated) has 12 criss crosses in an inch. 14 ct has 14, 18 has 18, and so on.

 In aida, counts usually range from 11-18, though I've heard that it comes in 28 count as well. I've never seen it, but the internet swears it exists.

Linen evenweave usually starts around 22 count and just goes up from there.

So what does that have to do with the size of your cross stitch? Well, cross stitches are sized by number of stitches, and for aida, anyway, you make one stich per count. That means that 12 ct aida creates cross stitches that have 12 stitches per inch. So, when you're looking at the Sarcasm cross stitch, for example, it's 107 stitches by 107 stitches. If you divide 107 stitches by 12 stitches per inch (107/12), you get 8.9 inches, or 9 inches, really.

You'll notice that all of my patterns are sized according to 18 count aida, but you can easily resize them according to your preference.

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