Let’s Talk About Fabric – Part 2

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 Cloth


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:


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5 Responses to Let’s Talk About Fabric – Part 2

  1. I didn’t know Hardanger was a type of thread–I’d only ever known it as a style of counted embroidery, which I’ve always done on linen.

  2. I have a preprinted fabric to do a cross stitching on but the fabric is so stiff I cant get the needle to go through it I cant wash or it will wash off the pattern any ideas to soften the fabric . thank you .

    • Hi Linda!

      Is this one of the poly-cotton blends that are often in pre-printed quilt blocks and pillowcases? If so, I feel your pain. I’ve had similar problems, especially with pillowcases where sometimes the stitching goes through the hem.

      I have a couple of suggestions, though neither of them relates to treating the fabric. Needles can have problems going through this because the poly-cotton fabric is “squeaky” and grabs the needle as it goes. This is likely due to either sizing (a glue added to make the fabric crisp, like starch) or an inexpensive quality of polyester used in it. As you said, you can’t wash the fabric to remove any sizing because you lose the design. I can suggest the following:
      1. Crumple the fabric over and over. Wad it up into a ball and then smooth it out again. This can loosen any sizing that is between the weave and allow the needle to go through.
      2. Make sure you’re using a sharp needle. Sometimes even embroidery/crewel needles can have burrs that keep them from going through the fabric. And on the you probably know this but it’s worth saying anyway- make sure your needle IS a sharp one, and not a blunt tapestry needle! The tight weave of these fabrics won’t allow blunt points.
      3. If you’ve done #1 and #2, and are still having difficulty, try going down one needle size – a slightly smaller needle can sometimes make the difference between not being able to stitch at all and stitching smoothly!

      Good luck. I hope you can get this project to work for you. I’d love to see it when you’re finished!

  3. I am working with Aida cloth and I had to rip out some stitches due to not correctly counting. The problem is that no other stitching will go in that area and you can see where the stitches were. Is there any way to fix that?

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