By United Capital Innovation



Counting your stitch: Fabric Basics

If you are new to Cross Stitching or counted thread embroidery, it might be helpful to first get to know the basics of the fabrics that you might work with. Cross Stitch fabric is usually measured in units of length (Meters or Yards or parts thereof, depending on which part of the world you live in). However, the “type” or “quality” of the fabric is determined by what’s called its Count.

The Count Matters

Fabrics used in counted thread embroidery are woven with even numbers of fiber or threads in each direction of the cloth. The fabric’s count represents the number of threads (fiber) that’s woven in 1 inch (or 2.5 center meters) of the fabric. Checking a fabrics count is a simple matter:

  • Lay the fabric on a hard surface
  • Place a ruler across the top of the fabric
  • Count how many thread blocks appear in one inch (2.5 CMs) of the fabric

14-count fabric should have 14 threads (or blocks) to an inch. A 28-count fabric should therefore have 28 blocks to an inch. It’s that simple! But why does count matter all that much? Well, it does so because knowing the count will help you determine how many stitches you can apply into 1 inch of the fabric you’ve chosen. The larger the count, the smaller the stitch must be in order to fit more stitches to the inch.

Matters of the fabric

The two major classes of counted embroidery are Aida, which is woven in block patterns, and Evenweave, produced using single threads that make up the warp and weft of the fabric. However, other popular fabrics used in cross stitch is also available, including Hardanger & Lugana.


This fabric is also popularly called Block Weave, and is characterised with groups of cotton threads that bunched closely to form blocks, with well defined holes visible at the end of each block. Because of this unique feature, Aida is a great fabric for those just beginning to learn the art of embroidery. Aida can be found in various counts, ranging from 11, 14, 16, 18 and 22 count, with the 14 count Aida being rather popular.


Evenweave Linens
These are slightly more expensive, and provide users a single count (thread) fabric that’s produced from flax. While they are more durable, due to the manufacturing process, Linens can sometimes have “slubs” or small bumps in them, which makes them slightly more difficult fabrics to work with. Depending on the manufacturer, Linens are available at various counts, including 25, 28, 32 and 36 count.


This fabric is also popularly called Oslo, and is a 100% cotton weaved block fabric. It is a 22 count fabric, and supports pairs of 22 threads to one inch (2.5 CMs) of fabric. In addition to Hardanger, this fabric can also be used for  cross stitch. It can be worked over two blocks, effectively providing the craftsperson a 11 count working fabric.


Cashel (28 count)
100% Linen, Cashel is suitable for all counted embroidery techniques including Hardanger. The rich color range offers the stitcher a wide variety of colors which are sure to compliment any design..


This is yet another fabric from the evenweave family, but is produced using a blend of 52% cotton and 48% of a manufactured fiber called viscose. This evenly woven fabric is available in various counts, including 25 and 28 count, and cross stitches are normally produced by working over 2 threads.


Belfast (32 count)
Belfast linen is a 100% linen fabric for cross stitch, needlework and needlecraft projects.
It is made in a wide range of colours from the highest quality materials using precision weaving.

Counts at a glance

Counted embroidery depends on the thread count of the fabric that is used. Count determines the fineness of the fabric. The greater the number of blocks to an inch of fabric, the finer the fabric will be.

Count and Fabric Usage Chart


Type Of Fabric

Ideally used for…


Cross Stitch

Hardanger Pulled Work


11 – 22 count

Aida Yes

22 count

Hardanger Yes Yes

25 – 36 count

Linen Yes Yes Yes


18 – 32 count

Evenweaves Yes Yes Yes



The choice of fabric and the count that you choose to use will have a major impact on the design that you are creating. So choose your fabric and your count wisely!

Thread of Discussions

In keeping our thread of discussions on counted embroidery fabric going, another important aspect to consider when selecting the fabric is the thread you intend to use. Floss (or stranded cotton) is a very popular choice, but others, like Perlé cotton, Wool yarns, Silk thread and other metallic blending threads are equally popular.

If you are using 14-count or 16-count Aida, your best choice is to work with 2 strands of Stranded cotton. The chart below will help you select the number of strands to use when working with Aida and Evenweave fabrics:

Thread Strands and Fabric Count

Number of strands

Fabric count



between 2 or 3




either 1 or 2




either 1 or 2






When working with fabrics of finer quality, for example Silk gauze of 40 counts, your best option would be to use a single strand and work in petit point for best results.

Because of its hardy, shiny cotton features, and it’s availability in various thicknesses, it’s best to use this thread when working on Hardanger.

Metallic blending threads are great to produce shine and sparkle in your work, regardless of the fabric of choice. Use them in combination with a variety of other threads to produce stunning effects.  If you are working with sheer, open or loosely woven fabric, like some linen, then use clear or transparent blending threads for best effect.

When your embroidery project calls for shine and sheen, or when you desire finer effects of your work to stand out, then Silk threads are your best choice. Silk is also a very strong fibre and therefore can be used on even the most fine fabrics.

colorful silk thread and silkworm cocoons

If you are producing canvas work, also commonly known as tapestry, then twisted woolen yarn is the best choice. This type of work is usually done using harder fabric, such as canvas.

Rule of Thumb

There is a general Rule of thumb that one can go by to select the thread based on the fabric count:

  • Thread size 5 and 8 combinations are best for fabric counts of 24 or less
  • Thread size 8 and 12 combinations work well for fabric counts between 27 and 32

Obviously, this is just a generic rule and should be fine-tuned based on other factors, including the project you are working on, and the type of pattern you intend to use.