Fabric for Cross Stitch: Aida, Evenweave and Linen
There are a few different types of fabric that can be used for cross stitch so you might well be confused about the differences between them and which to use, especially if you are a beginner to cross stitch.
The 3 main types of fabric for cross stitch are Aida, evenweave and linen, and I'll explain exactly what each of these are and talk through the pros and cons of each so you can pick the perfect fabric for your next cross stitch project!
If you prefer to watch rather than read then you can find all the same information in a video >>>
This won't be of relevance in a written article but it's worth saying that you may hear people say 'Aida' different ways...there's no right or wrong!
Aida is a fabric, usually made from 100% cotton, that has bundles of threads woven into little blocks to form a regular grid of squares in which to stitch your crosses.
The holes are relatively large and easy to see and this block grid format makes it easier to see the squares for your crosses to go, so it does make it an ideal fabric to use when you first start cross stitching.
BUT that does not make it lesser than other fabrics and it does not make you a ‘beginner’ stitcher if you only use Aida. If you never want to stitch on anything else then that’s totally fine.
I love Aida because it is so much quicker and easier to stitch on than the other fabrics I’m going to show you, and sometimes I just want ease of stitching!
You can find all sorts of branded and unbranded Aida and you may find that they vary slightly in terms of fabric softness or the size of the holes relative to the thread blocks, which can affect the appearance.
When I buy fabric I like to use Zweigart brand as I find it not too soft or too stiff and I like how it looks with the size of the holes relative to the rest of the fabric.
Here are two pieces of Aida; one is Zweigart and the other is unbranded, and you can see the holes are bigger so it gives a different look to it...which you may or may not like!
Evenweave and linen
These other 2 fabrics are often grouped together and this is reasonable because they are far more similar to each other than either of them are to Aida, but they do still have differences.
Both evenweave and linen still have a grid of threads but the threads are much thinner and much closer together than with Aida.
The difference between evenweave and linen is that evenweave is manufactured from a mix of fibres to ensure that both thread thickness and spacing are consistent...the clue is in the name!
Whereas linen is a natural material made from flax fibre so the thread thickness can vary, the spacing of threads may be irregular and there are often little slubs (bobbly bits) in the fabric.
Ok, here's the complicated part...a lot of the time when we cross stitchers say linen, what we really mean is linen evenweave! It's made from 100% linen so the threads will vary in thickness and have slubs but the threads are spaced evenly to give a consistent stitch count per inch.
So, Zweigart evenweave such as 25 count Lugana, 28 count Brittney or 32 count Murano is made from a cotton/modal blend and 27 count Linda is made from 100% cotton. These fabrics will have both even thickness and spacing of threads.
Zweigart linen such as 28 count Cashel or 32 count Belfast is actually evenweave linen, so will have even thread spacing but the fibres still vary in thickness. It’s just often shorthanded to ‘linen’.
I actually measured the count of these fabrics from my stash and can confirm that the 'count' of the fabric was exactly as you would expect and the same in both directions.
Some fabrics may be true linen where both the thread thickness and spacing may vary.
I stitched up a little heart to show how it looks on each type of fabric;
Which fabric is easiest to cross stitch on?
As I've already mentioned, Aida is definitely the easiest fabric to stitch on but if you are wondering which is easier to move onto in terms of evenweave or linen then it’s often recommended to try evenweave before linen because of the more uniform nature of the fabric. And yes, the irregular thread thickness of linen can be a little harder to work with, but the main difference when moving to work with either of these fabrics from Aida is the way you work your cross stitches, so honestly it doesn’t really matter which you pick.
What are the differences between Aida and evenweave or linen?
1. How stitches are worked
I’ve already mentioned that the main difference is how you work the stitches, because when cross stitching on linen or evenweave you make each cross stitch over 2 threads of fabric instead of 1 block of Aida. Now, I’m not going to get into the technicalities of that right now but for me, that’s the single biggest shift your brain has to make, and I find that it makes counting your stitches much harder. Especially when you have to count a gap in stitches because it’s really easy to get it wrong by one hole and be half a stitch out. So, I find stitching is a bit slower on evenweave or linen.
I do have an article explaining how to cross stitch on linen/evenweave so take a look at that for more details.
2. Fabric feel
The fabric is very often softer, especially with evenweave; I find that linen can be closer to the stiffness of Aida. But then, Aida can vary hugely too!
Softer fabrics can be a little harder to handle and harder to get the stitch tension correct, whether you use a hoop or not.
Linen and evenweave fray like crazy! For very small projects on Aida I often don’t do anything special to stop the edge fraying but I am way more likely to do it for linen or evenweave because it drives me crazy!
If you are looking for ways to stop fabric edges fraying then take a look at my article on 5 ways to stop your cross stitch fabric fraying.
Evenweave and linen can be more expensive than Aida. At the time of writing this (in Summer 2023) 32 count linen is around 40% more expensive in one of my favourite online stores than the equivalent size piece of 16 count Aida. Of course, this may change over time so just something to check if you are trying to be frugal with your stash spending.
What are the benefits of using evenweave or linen?
1. The way it looks
I feel this is the main benefit as cross stitching does look really different on linen/evenweave compared to Aida. The background fabric feels less ‘visible’ than with Aida so your stitching can really take centre stage. The combination of the smaller holes and thread spacing gives it a totally different look and I think gives a really elegant and delicate finish.
2. Fabric feel
Yep, this one is both a potential downside but also a benefit! The softness of the fabric can be seen as a good thing because it makes it really pleasant to hold and work with.
3. Fractional stitches
These are a LOT easier to do on evenweave or linen because you have an actual hole right in the middle of the block to use for them, so no splitting the block like you would on Aida. That is a very big bonus if you are stitching a design with lots of fractional stitches.
There is a way to make fractional stitches easier on Aida though and I’ve made a quick video showing you how to do that so take a look at How to use a sharp needle to make fractional cross stitches easier.
I still use a mix of all 3 fabrics for my projects because I just find that different styles of project look better on different fabrics. I wouldn’t want to stop using Aida because it’s easier and quicker for me to stitch on, but sometimes I just feel evenweave or linen would suit the specific pattern better.
One thing I haven’t really covered in this article is fabric count because that’s a whole other thing and you can find more on this in All about cross stitch fabric count.
Now you know all there is to know about fabric types for cross stitch and you can pick your fabric with confidence!
Until next time... happy stitching!