Cross-Stitch Fabrics 101

Fabric can make all the difference in appearance, feel, and workability of a project, so it’s important to know the basics before getting started. Aida fabric has easy-to-count squares and is usually made of cotton. Linen and evenweave fabrics—often used by more experienced stitchers—can be ideal for vintage-looking and more detailed designs. Read on for more about these fabrics.

Fabric Types

Various categories of cross-stitch fabric exist—among them are aida, linen, evenweave, canvas, specialty fabrics (for example, afghan), and hand-dyed fabrics. Each has a specific feel and look, making them more useful for particular projects. Fabrics are typically sold in three different—and now fairly standard— industry sizes: fat quarters, fat halves, and full yards.
An almost unending rainbow of colors exists. Colors can range from basic white and off-white to eye-popping shades to hand-dyed hues. And do be aware that dyes take differently to each fabric, based on content (rayon, cotton, etc.). Linen fabrics absorb color better than fabric blends, including rayon and polyester.

Aida Cloth

Aida—reportedly invented around the late 1800s in Europe—is usually made of 100% cotton. The most popular “count” size is 14 count (14 squares vertically, 14 squares horizontally per inch), followed by 16, 18, and 20; you can also find aida in count sizes lower than 14. Lower count sizes are generally easier for beginner stitchers; the higher the count size, the more challenging. Aida squares are very easy to count, and when a stitcher makes an “X,” each stitch will be the same height and width.
Wondering how to pronounce “aida”? Even industry veterans and longtime stitchers can’t seem to agree on how to pronounce it. It could be pronounced like the 19th-century Giuseppe Verdi opera of the same name: “I-EE-da.” But many say “AY-da.” It doesn’t seem to matter much as long as stitchers know what they are getting.


“Evenweave” fabric has the same number of stitches per inch vertically and horizontally, just like aida. Typical evenweave fabric counts are 25, 28, and 32. Types of evenweave include Jobelan, Monaco Cloth, and Lugana, among many others.
Evenweave is usually stitched over two fabric threads—meaning if the fabric is 28 count, each stitch will go over two threads (which will really make it 14 count). This is an important fact to keep in mind, since it will affect the size of the overall design.


As a natural fabric—woven of natural flax fibers—and because of its sometimes uneven weave, linens can be harder to stitch on. Since the stitcher must control each stitch to make sure they are even (unlike with aida and evenweave), linen is usually used by more experienced stitchers and can add detail and depth to the piece.
Linen is used in a lot of samplers since it is ideal for giving a vintage look. Linen tends to have higher counts, such as 28, 32, or even 36 or 40 for very fine stitching. Most of the time, however, cross-stitches on linen are stitched over two threads (like evenweave).

Who Makes Fabric

Most cross-stitch fabrics today are made in Europe and sold by companies like Wichelt Imports, DMC, and Zweigart. However, a few companies, such as Charles Craft, do make fabric in the United States. These distributors often use brand names for various fabrics. For example, Jobelan is Wichelt’s brand name for its evenweave made of 51% cotton/49% rayon (available in several count sizes). Similarly, Belfast Linen is Zweigart’s name for its 32-count 100% linen; its 28-count version is called Cashel Linen.

Other Things to Consider

Aida, evenweave, and linen are far from the only fabrics available to cross-stitchers, so that’s why doing a bit of research before you start your project is imperative. Here are a few tips:

Research: Take a look at what is available, then carefully study the counts, colors, and fiber make-up of the fabric.

Type of project: Are you making a sampler to hang on the wall that will only be seen from a distance? Are you stitching a small ornament? Or will your work grace a pillow or afghan? Distributors can offer tips on which fabrics—based on count, feel, sheen, and look—will work best for various projects.

Experiment: There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with various types of fabrics to see which feels better and which works better. Just consider the cost of your materials. And don’t go crazy buying a lot that may go to waste if you change your mind.

Follow the instructions: If you find a pattern or project you love, follow the instructions and material recommendations to the letter (if you’re a beginner). Or purchase a prepackaged kit that includes everything you need.

Start small: Stitch a small piece—like an ornament—on aida to hone your stitching skills before you move up in count and fabric.