The first time you put needle to fabric can be exciting. This article will give you some tips to help make your first needlepoint project fun as well as free from frustration.
Fabric Count and Size
The type of thread you choose is determined by the type of fabric you plan to stitch on. Fabric choice effects thread choice and vice versa. Generally, the thicker your floss is, the lower the fabric count will be. There are many types and colors of fabric available, as well. Counted cross-stitch usually is worked on a cloth called Aida cloth, but linen and other evenweave fabrics can be used. Aida cloth has a distinctive weave which creates small, even blocks of fabric which are stitched over. It comes in many colors and counts. Fabric count refers to the number of threads per inch. 14-count Aida fabric has 14 threads (the blocks) to the inch. If you were to substitute 28-count linen for 14-count Aida, your work will be the same size as the 14-count Aida. You would stitch the cross stitches over 2 threads, instead of just one. If you were to use 32-count linen instead of 14-count Aida, your work would be smaller than the intended size. In a future article, I will deal with stitching miniature projects (ex., 28 stitches to the inch on 28-count linen).
To determine how much fabric you will need, figure out the total size of the design by thread count on each side. Then, divide the total number of stitches (threads) by the count of your fabric. For example, say you wanted to work a design that was 140 stitches x 180 stitches on 18-count Aida. You want to use a 28-count linen. For the Aida version, you would need a fabric piece of 13″ x 15″. Why? Because 140/18 = 7.7 (or 8″); 180/18=10″. So, your design will be approximately 8 x 10 inches. It is a good idea to add about 5″ on each side to allow room for framing or finishing. So, 8+5=13; 10+5=15. Thus, 13 x 15 inches. Now, let’s say you had the 28-count linen. You follow the same procedure. 140/28=5; 180/28=6.4. 5+5=10; 6.4+5=11.4. So, your design would be approximately 5 x 6.5 inches, and your fabric should be about 10 x 12 inches. To create a straight edge when you cut evenweave fabric to size, carefully remove two or three threads going in the direction you are about to cut. This creates a little channel. Just cut through the channel, and you will always have a straight edge to your fabric. Using a good pair of tweezers helps to remove the threads quickly and easily.
The most popular types of fabric are Aida and linen. Linen is a type of fabric called “evenweave.” Evenweave fabrics have the same number of threads going in either directions. This enables certain types of embroidery to be done. Drawn thread work, pulled thread work, Ukrainian embroidery, Hardanger embroidery, and other types require this property of the fabric. There are a variety of different types of evenweave to choose from, and they all work nicely for embroidery.
Something else to consider when choosing the fabric is what type of fiber is used. Cotton fabrics are excellent for pulled and drawn thread work, as they will keep the shape they are pulled into. Many synthetic fibers will not keep the space from pulling; they are designed to snap back to the original location. Although synthetic fibers make fabric easier to care for, it is not recommended to use them for those types of work that involve manipulating the fabric threads. If your work doesn’t involve that type of technique, feel free to make use of them – after all, they are designed for longer life with easy care.
If you want to put a design on a fabric which doesn’t have an easy weave to follow, there is something you can use called waste canvas. This canvas is loosely woven together with blue strands every few threads to help with counting. To use this fabric, simply baste the waste canvas size you need onto the fabric you wish to work on. Stitch the design as normal, using the weave of the canvas to keep everything in line. When the stitching is complete, you can easily pull the waste canvas threads out from under the stitching. It is a great help, and you may want to keep some squares of this inexpensive stitching aid handy.