So… Immediately after that last post, we found my camera – tucked away with the cat’s subcutaneous fluid bag… Explain that, if you will! <sigh, Sometimes I think I need a new brain>
Fabric for Counted Thread Work
There is such a variety of fabric options available today that it’s really astounding, and can actually be overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started! Unfortunately, we are all losing easy access to local needlework shops, so it is sometimes difficult to decide what fabric to stitch a project on.
In general, there are evenweave fabrics and non-evenweave fabrics. Both types come in a variety of fiber contents, from linen to cotton to acrylic and polyester. And, like colors in floss, companies have been known to change the fiber content of their lines. Once, what is now Zweigart’s Lugana was called Brittany, and Lugana was more like Wichelt’s Jobelyn – or like Zweigart’s current Jazzlyn.
In this post, I’m focusing on fabrics specifically designed for counted work. Please be aware that if I mention a fiber content it is accurate as of this moment, and maybe not when you actually read this and go to purchase the fabric! Old fabric may be different. All recommended fabrics for cross stitch are technically “evenweave” that is, they have the same number of threads running vertically as they do horizontally. This is so that when you stitch a cross, it comes out square and the pattern looks like the chart.
NOTE: You do NOT have to stitch cross stitch patterns on an even fabric. I’ve done quite a few for clothing that turned out lovely on regular sewing linen. Just be aware that the pattern will end up skewed either vertically or horizontally. Some of the historic “peasant” cross stitches from around the world are skewed this way. In the next post I’ll show you what they look like.
Yes, this fabric was named for the opera Aïda, and is pronounced “eye-ee-dah” because of it. The term refers to the weave, which forms nice, neat squares. It was designed specifically for cross stitch at the end of the 19th century, and as long as you don’t need to do fractional stitches that split the squares, stitching on it is easy. It doesn’t really work for drawn thread work, or pulled thread work as the squares are quite stiff and difficult to pull out. If you want to do a complicated, fractional stitch design on aïda, I recommend using a sharp embroidery needle to stitch with so it’s easier to pierce the blocks when necessary. You’ll probably have better luck stitching designs with fractional stitches on linen or evenweave.
Aïda comes in several fiber contents, but you’ll have to go out of your way to find something other than 100% cotton. It generally has a stiff feel to it, and comes in counts from the large 7 blocks per inch down to a tiny 18 blocks per inch.
Linen for counted embroidery is, like aïda, made by several different weaving/distribution houses. Zweigart and Wichelt are probably the best known and easiest to obtain. Counted linen fabric is made from 100% linen (made from fiber from the flax plant). Technically, these fabrics are evenweaves; thread counts in both directions are equal. However, those threads making up the fabric are sometimes uneven in size. This isn’t an issue if you are working your stitches over two or three threads, but if you want to stitch a large project over one you may find that the pattern appears uneven in places, or even a bit lopsided. I’ve found that 28 count (and lower such as 25 or 19 count) are more likely to be “slubby” than the higher counts – 32, 36, and even 40 and 50 threads per inch. Of those I’ve stitched on, I like 28 count cashel by Zweigart for a slightly rustic, slubby look, and 30 count Wexel or 32 count Belfast for a smoother finish. Many people love Wichelt’s linen as well – the threads in it seem to me to be a bit thinner in general and the spaces between more pronounced.
What stitchers call “evenweave” is more even than linen. In fact, if a cross stitcher says “evenweave,” you can be 99% certain he means “made out of a fiber that isn’t linen.” The reason for this is those aforementioned slubs in linen!
Popular evenweave fabrics include Zweigart’s lugana and Wichelt’s Jobelan, both of which are available in many thread counts and colors, and some of which even have opalescent shiny threads woven in for a glittery effect.
Hardanger fabric is a special case. Technically an evenweave, it is woven with two threads in each direction. As far as I know it only comes in 100% cotton in 22 count, and has a smooth, crisp look to it that is flatter than other evenweaves and appears a bit less bulky than aïda. It’s great for tiny cross stitch (22 stitches per inch) or larger cross stitch with more strands (stitched over 2 intersections to make 11 stitches per inch).
Choosing a Fabric
If you don’t have a preferred fabric count yet, I suggest stitching a series of small projects on various sizes and fabric types – 14 count aïda, 18 count aïda, 28 count linen and even weave of some sort, 32 and 36 count linen and evenweave – even try stitching something on evenweave or linen over one and see how you like miniature work! (Hint: it’s pretty, but if you need to frog (rip out) any of it, it’s difficult!)
As always, experiment and have fun. I’d love to hear about some of your adventures with fabric types in the comments!
Other posts in this Series: