I have been cross stitching for many years but only ever used Aida fabric. So, what made me want to try stitching on linen? Well, I was creating a design that I thought would look especially nice on linen and I was using quite a few fractional stitches which are reportedly easier on linen.
Also, there are a lot of cross stitchers out there who say something along the lines of "once you stitch on linen you will never go back to Aida." Now that's a strong statement so I just had to give it a go for myself.
Since my pattern had some cream flowers I needed a fabric that they would show up well on, and I also wanted a rustic vibe, so I chose to use 32 count Belfast linen in 'raw' colour.
I picked 32 count because that is the equivalent size to stitching on 16 count Aida, which is my 'go to' count for Aida. For linen (or evenweave) the count of the fabric is double the equivalent Aida count because you stitch over 2 threads instead of 1. So, if you prefer 14 count Aida, then you should use 28 count linen. There are some very high count linens available...40 count anyone? I don't know how my eyes would feel about that!
So, here's my very first stitching on linen...
Cross stitching on linen vs. evenweave
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.
Evenweave is manufactured from a mix of fibres (commonly a cotton/rayon blend) to ensure that both thread thickness and spacing are consistent (the clue is in the name!), so this makes it a little easier to stitch on than linen.
Ok, here's the complicated part...most of the time when we cross stitchers say linen, what we really mean is linen evenweave! So, it's a 100% linen fabric but the threads are spaced evenly to give a consistent stitch count per inch. It will still have the varying thread thickness and slubs.
So, depending on where you buy your fabric you may see the Zweigart fabric I used described as either linen or linen evenweave.
It's often recommended to try evenweave before linen because of the uniform nature of the fabric but it doesn't have quite the same elegant feel and look as linen. However, I am never one for making life easy so I just jumped straight from Aida to linen - lol!
I stitched up a little heart to show how it looks on each type of fabric;
Linen: the pros
- I can confirm that fractional stitches are indeed much easier to do because there is a central hole to use, so no splitting the middle of a block as you would have to do on Aida
- the background feels less 'visible' than with Aida so your stitching really seems to 'pop' more off the fabric
- linen is usually softer than Aida so it's really nice to work with
- I think it gives a really elegant and delicate finish
Linen: the cons
- you need to get used to a different way of stitching as you will be stitching over 2 threads instead of 1 as you would on Aida
- the softness of the fabric can make it trickier to get the tension right. If you use a hoop or frame pull the fabric tight but not too tight as this can distort the weave. I stitch in hand and had no problems with the tension.
- it frays like crazy so make sure to prep the edges of your fabric to avoid this
- it can be more expensive than Aida. The 32 count linen I used (bought from UK store online) is almost twice as expensive than the equivalent 16 count Aida
- I found it a little slower to stitch on linen compared with Aida because of the careful counting needed, but not by much
- it can shrink a little or change colour slightly when washed so if you are worried about this I recommend test washing a small piece before starting to stitch
How to actually do cross stitch on linen
I've already mentioned that each cross stitch is worked over 2 threads, so in a little block of 9 holes, but I think a picture will show it best;
I have seen a few places recommend being careful where you place your first stitch in relation to the pattern of horizontal and vertical threads of the fabric. The recommendation is to start your stitch so it 'leans against the post' of a vertical stitch where it is running over the top of a horizontal thread. The reasoning is that this makes the stitches lie flatter and neater. This of course required a test...
Wow...this is actually a thing! The difference is pretty marginal but the stitches are definitely a little neater and more even when starting in the spot as suggested, so why wouldn't you? I also found that it was much easier to stitch when starting 'leaning against the post' as the needle went through the holes more easily so that's a bonus.
I realise this is a little difficult to visualise so I made a graphic that will help you see where to start the stitch;
And that's really it for the process of cross stitching on linen; everything else is the same as for stitching on Aida...easy!
What's the verdict?
I love how my cross stitching looks on linen and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I totally wish I'd tried it sooner! That said, I don't think I will be ditching Aida completely because some projects will suit that just fine and it is quicker for me to stitch on. I guess time will tell!
I would love to know how you feel about cross stitching on linen. Have you tried it? Do you like it? If you have any questions just leave me a comment below.
Until next time...happy stitching!