Fabric Basics for Cross Stitching

Cross Stitch Fabrics

When I started to stitch back in the 1980s there was very little choice of fabric available for stitchers. In the UK, it was either fine linen or 14-count aida fabric and that was about it! Now there is so much choice it can be quite confusing and leave the stitcher, particularly a newcomer, quite at a loss.

Fabric Basics

From Chart to Fabric

All counted designs are made up of squares or parts of squares. The picture, pattern or motif is transferred to the fabric by matching the weave of the fabric to the squares of the pattern or chart. The design is transferred onto the fabric by counting the squares on the chart and matching them to the threads of the fabric (hence the name 'counted' cross stitch), so each stitch appears in the right place.

There are two main groups of fabric for counted embroidery: aida (woven in blocks) and evenweave (woven with single threads forming the warp and weft). All fabrics for counted embroidery are woven so that they have the same number of threads or blocks to 2.5cm (1in) in both directions, so the stitches will appear as squares or parts of squares.

Fabric Basics

Fabric for counted embroidery is bought by its thread count, which tells us its fineness. So, 14-count fabric has 14 blocks or threads to each 2.5cm (1in). The more threads or blocks to 2.5cm (1in), the finer the fabric.


This excellent cotton fabric is woven in blocks, giving obvious holes for the needle to enter, so it is ideal for the beginner. Invented over 120 years ago at Zweigart & Sawitski in Germany this fabric is not only ideal for the novice but when a pattern is very geometric such as tartan of gingham it is perfect.

Aida is available in 8, 11, 14, 16, 18 and 20 blocks to 2.5cm (1in).

When stitching on aida, one block on the fabric corresponds to one square on the chart. Certain stitches (such as three-quarter stitch) are more difficult to form on Aida than on evenweave.

How to Cross Stitch on Aida

Evenweave linen

This lovely, if slightly more expensive, fabric made from flax has been used for counted cross stitch for centuries. Linen has natural irregularities, which add to the charm of your stitching, and help to emulate the style of an antique piece. It is available in a variety of thread counts and colours and available here.

Stitching on linen is no more complicated than stitching on aida, but requires a different technique. To even out the irregularities, cross stitch is worked over two threads in each direction.

How to Cross Stitch on Evenweave