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  • Kat Waskett

How big should my cross stitch fabric be?

Getting part way through a cross stitch project and realising you don't have enough space around the edge is well, a bit annoying.

So how do you know how big your fabric should be?

If you have a kit this will come with fabric, so unless you want to use a different piece of fabric than supplied you will be good to go. If you are stitching from a pattern then you will need to figure this out yourself.

The easiest way to do this is to use an online calculator and THIS is my favourite one but I also love to be able to understand and work something out for myself.

Also the calculators can tell you how big the design will be and some can tell you how much fabric you will need based on how much you want to add around the design...but how do you know how much extra you need to allow around the design?!

I'm going to walk through all the steps needed to work it all out yourself but if you just want an answer to that last part then skip to section 3;

1. What fabric are you using?

The type of fabric and, most importantly, the count of the fabric you are using will dictate what size your finished cross stitch piece will be.

If I have immediately confused you with mentioning fabric count then take a look at my post All about cross stitch fabric count and then come on back here!

The calculations we are going to do are based on the stated count of the fabric being the number of stitches you can make per inch (halved for evenweave or linen). If you ever measure your finished design you may find it's a teeny bit different to what the pattern states or what you calculated and this is due to slight variations in fabrics as I discuss in the article linked above. It is extremely rare that it would make enough of a difference to worry about but it's nice to understand why you don't always get the exact size stated.

You also need to think about whether you are using Aida or evenweave/linen and if it's the latter are you stitching over 1 thread or 2? This will come into the calculations in step 2.

Quick tip: Keep your fabrics labelled so you always know what the count is! You could store them in bags with labels on or pin a piece of paper to a corner of the fabric with the details of the colour and count.

2 How big will your design be?

Having decided what type of fabric you are using you can now work out how big your finished design will be.

Your pattern may include information on how big the design will be on different counts of fabric; you can find this on the front cover of all my patterns.

Front page of a cross stitch pattern showing completed design and pattern information

Your pattern may also include information on how many stitches the design covers in width and height e.g. 70 high x 100 wide. If this is the only information provided you can use this to work out the size that the finished design will be on the fabric you are using; it just needs some very simple maths.

The size in inches is worked out by dividing the number of stitches by the count of the fabric and converting to cm if you prefer metric (yes please!).

But let's look at some examples...

Worked example of how big a completed 70 x 100 stitch cross stitch will be on 14 count Aida

Remember in step 1 when I mentioned the number of threads you were stitching over? The example below shows how you would calculate the design size for stitching over 2 threads on evenweave / linen.

If you were stitching over 1 thread you would leave out the extra step of dividing the fabric count by 2.

Worked example of how big a completed 70 x 100 stitch cross stitch will be on 32 count linen or evenweave

3 How much extra fabric do I need around the design?

The main consideration here is how you intend to finish the project. If you don't know up front then no problem and just leave the largest amount recommended so you won't be caught short!

If you want to frame it in an embroidery hoop then you actually don't need a huge amount of extra fabric at the edges as you will likely cut quite a bit off anyway when putting it into the hoop. I allow about 4 cm at each side over and above the hoop size, but anywhere between 4-6 cm at each side will be fine. So for finishing in a 13 cm (5 inch) hoop, I would round down slightly and cut my fabric to 20 cm square (8 inches).

Piece of linen fabric cut to 20cm as shown by a ruler, with a wooden embroidery hoop on top and large scissors

If you want to use the finished design in a greeting card with an aperture then you need enough space around each edge to allow for it to fit under the aperture and be stuck down all around. So, you really want to work off the aperture size rather than the design size and I would generally add around 3 cm to each side. So, for a 10 cm circular aperture I would cut fabric to 16 cm square.

Alternatively, if you are patching the design straight onto a greeting card or gift tag then you really need very little, maybe around 2 cm on each side. Just make sure you leave enough that you can still hold the fabric!

If you want to display your design in a picture frame, whether this is done by yourself or a professional framer, then you want to make sure there is quite a lot of space around the design to allow for wrapping around a mount board and securing at the back. I generally add at least 10-15 cm on each side for this.

Final tips

Calculate it, check it, check it again and only then make the pays to be super careful! (Yes, I've been there with my too small piece of fabric and it's not fun)

If you are ever unsure of how much to leave or aren't sure what you want to do with the finished piece then leave a bit extra. You can always cut a little more off later but as far as I know you can't add it back on!

If you finish a project and find you don't have enough space around your design then don't panic! You can always change what you were going to do with the piece so instead of placing in a hoop you could fray the edges and patch it on to a piece of fabric covered cardboard to make a lovely hanging.

Or you can sew additional fabric to the edges to make it larger; this can be a fun thing to do anyway even if you have enough space around the edge!

One final tip for you is to make sure that having carefully calculated the fabric size you need that you don't lose some of that to frayed edges as you stitch, so do head over and check out my 5 ways to stop your cross stitch fabric fraying - hurrah!

Until next time, happy stitching!


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