Work counted cross-stitch on any fabric that allows you to make consistently sized, even stitches.
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Aida cloth is the most popular of all cross-stitch fabrics. The threads are woven in groups separated by tiny spaces. This creates a pattern of squares across the surface of the fabric and enables even a beginning stitcher to easily identify exactly where to place the cross-stitches. Measure Aida cloth by squares per inch; for example, 14-count Aida cloth has 14 squares per inch. Aida cloth comes in many varieties. Look for 100 percent cotton Aida cloth in the following thread counts: 6, 8, 11, 14, 16, and 18. You'll find 14-count Aida cloth in more than 60 colors. For beginners, white Aida cloth is available with a removable grid of prebasted threads.
Experienced stitchers consider linen to be the standard of excellence in fabric. The threads used to weave linen vary in thickness, giving linen fabrics a slightly irregular surface. When you purchase linen, remember to measure thread count by threads per inch. Most designs are worked over two threads, so 28-count linen will yield 14 stitches per inch. Linens are woven in counts from 14 to 40 threads per inch.
Due to the popularity of the craft, the market for specialty fabrics for counted cross-stitch continues to grow. These fabrics are referred to as even-weave because they're woven from threads with a consistent diameter, even though some fabrics have a homespun look. Count most even-weave fabrics as for linen, by threads per inch, and stitch over two threads of fabric.
Use Hardanger fabric for very fine counted cross-stitch. The traditional fabric for the Norwegian embroidery of the same name has an over-two, under-two weave that produces 22 small squares per inch.
Cross-stitch with needlepoint canvas on clothing and on other fabrics that aren't suitable for stitching alone. Specially designed waste canvas will unravel when dampened; it ranges in count from 6 to 20 stitches per inch.
You also can work cross-stitches directly on mono needlepoint canvas, available in several colors. Leave the background of your design unstitched for an interesting effect.
Work sweaters and other knits in duplicate stitches from cross-stitch charts. Knit stitches aren't square; they're wider than they are tall. A duplicate-stitched design will appear broader and shorter than the chart from which it was worked.
Gingham and other simple plaid fabrics also can be used for a cross-stitch background, but you'll find that gingham "squares" aren't perfectly square, so a stitched design will seem slightly taller and narrower than the chart.
Burlap fabric can easily be counted and stitched on as you would with any traditional counted-thread fabric.