Here are the terms from the Fabrics & Threads bingo, put into a slightly more logical order than when they were drawn from the hat
- The fabric that most people begin with when they take up cross stitch, this is a cotton blockweave, i.e. the threads are not woven singly but in groups. This makes the holes more defined and easier to see. It tends to be stiffer than evenweaves, and doesn't fray quite so easily -- oddly enough this makes it more suitable for "cut and fray" cards, where the fabric is stuck directly to the card, as the fraying doesn't go further than where you want it.
Aida comes in many colours, and in several counts -- the most widely used is the 14ct
, but it is also available in 8, 11, 16 and 18ct. There is also a 22ct aida, which is a slightly different weave as the blocks are made up of two instead of four threads; it is in effect a stiff Hardanger.
For those who like to try different things, there is aida with a lurex thread running through it, or with pearl flecks; rustico aida, which is 51% cotton, 34% rayon & 15% linen and comes mostly in "natural" colours; Yorkshire aida, woven with 96% cotton & 4% polyester to give it a "heather-country" look; and linen aida, which is, as the name implies, aida woven from linen. All these you can find at Sew and So
It also comes as Aida band
, in various counts (though 16ct is the most common) and widths, with or without a decorative edge; this usually has even more defined holes and tends to be floppier in texture.Binca
- A 6ct block-weave cotton fabric, often used to teach young children cross stitch (for example in these starter kits
); also popular with people whose eyesight is failing but who want to keep stitching. Because the stitches are so large, it is usually worked with soft cotton, which is a thick indivisible thread. If stranded cotton is used, the full six strands are necessary for good coverage. Most web shops stock only neutral colours like white and cream, but Tandem Cottage
have a range of attractive colours.Hardanger
- both a technique
and a fabric, and as the title of the bingo suggests it's the latter we're talking about here (but I've included a link to the technique as well just in case you're interested
Always 22ct (unless anyone knows differently?), and woven in blocks rather than single threads, but where aida blocks are four threads, hardanger blocks are made up of two. It can be stitched over one, or over two if you like a chunky feel to your work -- in that case it's equal to 11ct, and a good introduction to evenweave for people who are used to aida fabric.
Have a look at the many colours available here
Incidentally, Hardanger embroidery is often worked on fabrics other than Hardanger
- is basically a luxury version of hardanger fabric
. Unlike hardanger it is made from mercerised cotton, which gives it a soft, drapey finish with a slight sheen. Very nice to work on! You can find it among other places at Tandem Cottage
, Sew and So
and Willow Fabrics
(you'll have to scroll down for that last one).Lugana
- Zweigart's 25ct evenweave made up of 52% cotton/48% Rayon. It has a soft sheen and good hole definition, which makes it easy to work on. It comes in metallic as well, i.e. a neutral coloured fabric with gold or silver thread woven in, great for Christmas projects.
The other counts of this fabric are sometimes known by separate names: Bellana for 20ct, Brittney for 28ct and Murano for 32ct (although some sources claim Murano is actually 30ct). Zweigart's website now calls all these "Lugana" followed by the count.
See the many colours at Tandem Cottage
, Sew and So
or Willow Fabrics
; or for hand-dyed Lugana look at the Sugar Maple
- one of my absolute favourites to stitch on, like Lugana it is a cotton mix; the difference is that it is mixed not with Rayon but with 49% modal. Modal, unlikely as it sounds, is made from reconstituted cellulose from beech trees. Well, of course
. The fabric has a soft sheen, is relatively heavy and drapes well, making it ideal for things like tablecloths and napkins. It also has well-defined holes, making it easy to stitch on.
Jobelan comes in several counts, such as 16, 19, 25, 28 and 32ct; the most common one is the 28ct, which comes in a staggering variety of colours -- over 50 of them (and it still doesn't have the lilac I want -- isn't it typical
?). Like Lugana, Jobelan is often used by companies who hand-dye fabrics.
See the many standard colours at Tandem Cottage
and Sew and So
, and the hand-dyed colours at PolstitchesAnnabelle
- a 28ct 100% cotton evenweave with a slub like linen, i.e. the threads are of uneven thickness. Several online needlework shops recommend it for tableware and praise it for having a linen look while being easy-to-care-for like cotton. I like the fabric (I got a lovely bit of ice blue Annabelle in a fabric swap), but did wonder about their arguments -- my first thought was that cotton fabric with a slub meant the difficulty of linen without its durability
, and I'm still not quite sure what the aim of its "inventor" was. If you've worked with it and think it's the bee's knees, let us know what makes it different from all the other evenweaves.
It is available in several soft, muted shades; the widest range can be seen at Sew and So Quaker cloth
- also known as Bantry, this is a 28ct evenweave with a fairly open weave. It consists of 55% linen and 45% cotton, and has the look & feel and some of the durability of linen but with few slubs or uneven threads, making it easier to work on. Now there's a useful combination
Like Annabelle, it comes in various soft colours; have a look at the range at Tandem Cottage
- a 27 or 28ct 60% Rayon (or viscose) / 40% cotton mix with a slub like linen; what will they think of next
. Available in quite lively colours from Tandem Cottage
- technically one of the evenweaves, linens are usually classed separately. Apart from being generally less smooth than the other evenweaves, the main difference between linen and the cotton or cotton-mix fabrics is the "slub", which is "a slight irregularity in yarn produced either accidentally or purposely by knotting or twisting or by including uneven lengths of fiber in spinning".
In practice, this means that linen consists of thinner and thicker threads, so that the holes aren't all equally well-defined, and the crosses you make on it are not always of uniform size -- they may not even be perfectly square
. This unevenness makes linen slightly more difficult to work on than other evenweaves; however, if you are stitching a "traditional" design, such as a sampler, linen is the obvious choice -- not only because it would have been the fabric used in the original, centuries-old samplers, but also because it ages very well.
The two main brands of linen are Zweigart
(known as Wichelt in the USA); of the two, Zweigart is smoother and has a closer weave, while Permin is stiffer and more open. The choice is really one of personal preference.
Linen comes in as many counts as other evenweaves -- more in fact, as it is made in much finer counts than the cotton and cotton-mix ones. Zweigart names its linens according to their count, as follows:
20ct Cork, 25ct Dublin, 28ct Cashel, 32ct Belfast, 36ct Edinburgh, 40ct Newcastle, 55ct Kingston.
It comes in many colours, among them "vintage"
, which are given a colour wash to create a mottled effect (and I've just managed to buy 3 fat quarters of it on eBay for about a third of the regular price
!), and it is also used in hand-dyeing, for example by Polstitches
and Sugar Maple
- not a type of fabric like Lugana or Jobelan, but a way of weaving/finishing it. Afghans are evenweave fabrics of relatively low counts (usually 14 or 18, so 7 or 9 count when stitched over two) with a grid pattern woven into it. Sometimes the grid consists of identical squares, in other cases a large rectangle is surrounded by smaller squares; this is the case, for example, in an Alphabet afghan
, which has 26 squares surrounding a central panel.
The grid may be woven in the same colour as the fabric, or in a contrasting colour or colours; baby afghans, which are used as cot blankets or wraps, often have the grid woven in pale blue or pink or other pastel shades. A particularly colourful example is Rainbow Anne Cloth
(scroll down).Silk gauze
- a pure silk fabric used for miniature embroidery. Because of the way in which it is woven it does not distort (the grid of the threads is always perfectly square) or fray, and because of the thinness of the silk threads the holes are relatively large, which means that much finer counts are possible than with ordinary stitching fabrics. Silk gauze typically starts at 32ct, and is widely available up to 60ct. The finest is 112ct
, but unfortunately I have never yet seen it "in the wild".
Because there are so many stitches to the inch, the design is almost always worked using only one strand of cotton or silk, and in petit point (i.e. half cross stitch over one thread). Unlike with ordinary stitching fabrics, there is no need to use tent stitch as the threads interlock and so the floss cannot "disappear" between the weave. Because the weave is so open, you have to be very careful not to trail threads behind unstitched areas, as they will be almost as visible as the actual stitching.
It is used for mounting in decorative items such as jewellery, thimbles and teaspoons, and is also used in making rugs, pictures or upholstery for dolls' houses.
It is often sold stretched
in a card frame for ease of working, and also comes in kits
, often with silk threads. The following picture (copyright Elizabeth R Anderson) shows the open texture of the fabric:Stitching paper
- A firm favourite with the Victorians, stitching paper (also known as perforated paper or punched paper) is card punched with a regular grid of holes in 14ct. Unlike fabric it doesn't fray, and so can be cut into shapes, which makes it great for bookmarks and ornaments. Because the holes are larger than in fabric, generally 3 strands are necessary to get good coverage.
You can read more about it here
, or see an example here
(you may have to scroll down a bit).
Stitching paper is available in a range of colours, as you can see here
(plain colours and metallic) and here
- according to Wikipedia, vinylweave is an alternative name for plastic canvas. It isn't. Plastic canvas is a rigid material, whereas vinylweave (sometimes spelt as two words) is pliable and imitates the look of aida (in 14ct) or evenweave (in 18ct).
Because it is made of plastic, it doesn't fray and therefore can be cut into any shape you like; and because it is pliable, it can be inserted into rounded items such as napkin rings
. It is mainly used for making things like fridge magnets, Christmas tree ornaments etc. These are also often made using stitching paper, but vinylweave has the advantage of not tearing. A slight disadvantage is that vinylweave doesn't come in quite the wide range of colours that stitching paper has; even so there is a fair amount of choice -- Tandem Cottage
do the 18ct in white, yellow, pink, light blue and black, and Crafter's Market
do 14ct in white, black, red, green and navy.
Like stitching paper, both vinylweave and plastic canvas are suitable only for designs without fractional stitches, as you cannot pierce the material to create the central hole needed for these stitches. If you are determined to use fractionals you could, of course, stitch over two, as long as you don't mind ending up with a rather chunky 9 or 7ct.Plastic canvas
- stiff plastic with a regular grid of relatively large holes. It comes in 5, 7, 10 and 14ct, and is available both in sheets and in shapes such as circles and squares. It can be cut to any shape, and as it is stiff (unlike vinylweave, which tries to imitate fabric) it can be used for making 3D projects (such as this jewellery box
It is often used to start children off with cross stitch, as it comes in low counts, doesn't fray and doesn't need a hoop, and can easily be made into things like bookmarks or fridge magnets. T's Plastic Canvas site (yes, really) has a special children's section
Because of its very open and "un-fabric-like" texture, it isn't suitable for designs which have unstiched areas. If you want to use such a design, you will have to fill in the background.Waste canvas
- Used to stitch on to non-count fabrics, like T-shirts, tote bags or sun hats, this is woven in double threads with well-defined holes between them; a coloured thread is often woven every 10 stitches to help with counting.
You tack a piece onto the item that you want to stitch on, stitch your design as usual (although you will have to use a sharp needle rather than your usual blunt tapestry needle), dampen the waste canvas so that the binding agent dissolves, and pull out the canvas threads one by one, until you are left with just the design. It's important to make sure you don't pierce the canvas with your needle, as that will make it difficult (if not impossible) to remove the threads when you've finished!
It is available in several different counts, e.g. 8.5, 10, 12, 14 and 18ct.
A tutorial about stitching on waste canvas can be found here
; the material here
and hereStranded cotton
- Unless you were started off with soft cotton on Binca as a child, this is probably the thread you did your first cross stitch with -- and which is used for the majority of your projects. Stranded cotton, known as floss in the US, is mercerised to give it a soft sheen, and is made up of 6 strands; depending on the count of your fabric and the coverage you want, you stitch with 1 or more strands at a time.
Although there are many brands of stranded cotton, some of which are considerably cheaper than others, it is usually a good idea to stick with the main brands, as these are guaranteed colourfast and durable. Most cross stitch magazines will give the shade numbers
for their charts for DMC
- a stranded thread, 4 or 6 depending on the brand, which was developed to imitate silk. It has a very high lustre and is rather springy in texture, making it a bit more difficult to work with than ordinary stranded cotton. DMC has discontinued its Rayon range, substituting it with their new Satin range, which is not nearly as shiny. Other well-known brands are Anchor's Marlitt
range and Madeira's Decora
An attractive alternative is one of the rayon/silk mixes like Rajmahal Art Silk
or Oasis -- not so expensive as silk and a bit more well-behaved than Rayon.Embroidery silk
- the most luxurious of threads, often used in miniature embroidery and for wedding samplers. It has a stronger sheen than stranded cotton and is less springy than Rayon. The number of strands per thread depends on the brand and type: Au Ver à Soie's Soie d'Alger
is 7-strand, whereas their Soie de Paris
Silk comes in many shades and is often used for hand-dyeing and over-dyeing; examples are 6-stranded Dinky Dyes
and 12-stranded Caron Waterlilies
Of the main stranded cotton brands, only Madeira has a Silk range, which is 4-stranded and comes in 104 colours. Much less expensive than the other silks, it is an affordable introduction to this type of thread.Flower thread
- Also known as Danish flower thread or Blomstergarn, this is an indivisible cotton thread about the thickness of two strands of cotton. As it hasn't been mercerized, it gives a lovely matt finish. DMC had its own range of flower threads some time ago, but this has been discontinued, and Danish flower thread is rather hard to find in Europe. Sew and So sell overdyed Danish flower thread
, and the Caron Wildflower range is a similar thread, but for the real thing you have to go to Australian
sites; besides ordering threads, on the Scandinavian Stitches site you can read about its history
and see a very clear shade card with all available colours
- a DMC range of 24 muted shades of six-stranded linen thread, with shade numbers equivalent to their stranded cotton; it is used like ordinary stranded cotton, but gives the project an antique, traditional feel, and is therefore recommended for samplers and the like. The thread feels quite coarse/rough compared to the usual cross stitch threads, but has a soft, almost "watercolour" look. Confusingly, Tandem Cottage marks them as "discontinued -- while stocks last" while Sew and So
describes them as "a new innovation", mentioning only the first twelve shades but showing and selling all 24...Perlé
- Also known as Pearl Cotton
, this is a single-stranded, lightly twisted thread. It is traditionally used for hardanger embroidery, but is also suitable for cross stitch, giving a slightly raised effect to the work. As it is highly mercerised it has a stronger sheen than ordinary stranded cotton.
It is available in four sizes, from heavier to finer no.3, 5, 8 and 12 -- stitching over two, use no.8 on 28ct fabric, and no. 5 on 18ct, taking care not to lose the twist which gives the thread its typical appearance.Metallics
- Threads which were developed to imitate precious metals such as gold and silver; these are still the basis of most ranges of metallics -- in fact some, like Anchor Lurex
, are still only available in gold and silver. Other ranges, such as Madeira's Glissengloss Rainbow
have branched out and are now producing sparkly thread in many colours; these are often also known as metallics.
Metallics come in many types and thicknesses, from Kreinik
's #32 Heavy Braid and Ribbons which are mostly used for couching or free embroidery, to the very finest blending filaments
, a length of which can be added to ordinary stranded cotton for a subtle shimmering effect.Braid
- a type of metallic thread. Two well-known brands are Kreinik and Rainbow Galleries. Tandem Cottage's site says: "Used alone they give a more defined metallic look than blending filament. Braids are available in a wide range of thicknesses (the bigger the number, the thicker the braid) - the thickness should be chosen to roughly match the thickness of surrounding grounding thread. There's a mind-boggling range of colours, including hi-lustre and even glow-in-the-dark!"Rainbow Galleries' Petite Treasure Braid
and Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid
give good coverage on 16ct and 18ct fabrics; Kreinik's Fine #8 is suitable for 11ct and 14ct. It also comes in Tapestry, Medium and Heavy, although these thicker ones aren't really suitable for cross stitch.Blending filament
- a single-ply, very fine metallic thread that can be used on its own but is often used with one or more strands of ordinary floss. Typically you would thread your needle with one or two strands of stranded cotton and one or two strands of the blending filament. This gives a metallic sparkle to your work but still has a solid "background" of ordinary colour. When used on its own it is very effective for backstitch/blackwork, or when using more than one strand it can replace metallic braid or thicker metallic threads for cross stitch.
Two well-known brands are Kreinik
and Madeira Glissengloss
. Other threads which can be used as blending filaments are Madeira no.40
and DMC no.278
(scroll down). Japan thread
- sometimes known as Jap, this is a type of gimp thread (a narrow ornamental trim) mostly used in Gold Embroidery. It consists of foil paper or thin metal foil wrapped tightly around a core thread. The thicker varieties are mainly used for couching, but the thinner ones can be used quite effectively in cross stitch and blackwork, although the wrapped outer layer means it has to be used with care when taken through the fabric.
It is a cheaper (and synthetic, therefore non-tarnishing) version of passing thread, which consists of thin wire or strips of real metal (gold, silver, copper etc.) wound round a core of cotton or silk in a matching colour. You can read about the various types of gold and Japan threads here
The most widely available brand is Kreinik
, which lists several thicknesses as well as Japan versions of some of their braids.Soft Cotton
- available from DMC
, this is a matt, indivisible 5-ply cotton thread, intended mainly for tapestry, e.g. for upholstery. Its manufacturing process includes combing and singeing to remove fluff, producing a soft thread that is easy to work with. For this reason it is a popular choice when introducing young children to cross stitch, as it goes well with Binca fabric and is easier to use than stranded cotton because it doesn't have to be separated before use.Crochet cotton
- is mainly used for, surprise surprise, crochet
, but the thinner versions can be treated as an undivisible cross stitch floss (the finer the count you're working on, the higher the number of the cotton will have to be); they give a matt finish to your work unlike normal stranded cotton. Read all about it here
; however don't believe them when they say sizes 40 and up are hardly ever used -- I've used no.80 with a no.13 needle (which I think is 0.8mm) for tiny doilies, and though fiddly it isn't as daunting as they suggest
You can find crochet cotton at Tandem Cottage
(scroll down), Sew and So
, and many other places.Crewel wool
- as the name suggests this fine wool is used mainly for crewel work
, a type of free embroidery. However, it can also be used for cross stitch on 14ct fabric (or 28ct over two), and possibly, though I have not tried this, on 16ct as well.
The finish is quite different from stranded cotton in that it is both matt and quite roughly textured. Although it comes in bright as well as more subdued shades, the effect is always less bright than stranded cotton. It works particularly well in Berlin Wool work
patterns; the rosebud mentioned above was taken from a Berlin Wool work pattern and stitched in crewel wool.
A well-known and widely available brand of crewel wool is Appleton's
- Also known as Tapisserie wool
, this is a thick yarn mostly used for, surprise
, tapestry on canvas. Because of its thickness it is not often used for cross stitch, but it works quite well on low count fabrics such as Binca and 8ct aida, giving a more textured finish than soft cotton or stranded cotton. Can be used to good effect in cushions.Ribbon
- not actually used for cross stitch (at least not that I've ever seen), but sometimes used in combination with cross stitch to add texture and depth to a design; it is particularly good for making flower shapes. The use of ribbons in needlework is sometimes divided into two types, true ribbon embroidery and surface embroidery which uses ribbons. The difference is that ribbon embroidery takes the ribbon through the fabric, whereas in surface embroidery sewing cotton or stranded cotton is taken through the fabric to attach the ribbon, with the ribbon itself staying on the front of the fabric all the time.
Although several types of ribbon can be used, the majority of ribbon work is done with silk ribbon; a well-known brand is YLI
. Another option is sheer organza ribbon
, which is semi-transparent and gives a delicate look to the work. The ordinary ribbon you get from the haberdasher's can be used quite effectively in surface embroidery, but are a pain to get through the fabric (the voice of experience speaking there...).
Depending on the fabric and the size of the design, the width of the ribbons varies from 2mm to 15mm. Ribbon work can be combined with buttons
or used to liven up a cross stitch design with scattered flowers or butterflies.