Cross Stitch Fabric Types

Moving on from my history of cross stitch, I’ve started looking into the various parts of cross stitch and breaking down some of the walls people see when starting out. One of these has got to be the fabrics used for cross stitch.

Simply put, there are four types of fabric used:

  • Aida (the most widely used)
  • Hardanger
  • Linen
  • Evenweave

There are then also specialist fabrics:

  • Waste Canvas
  • Plastic Canvas

A note on counts:
Before we get into what makes up a fabric, we should mention counts. In short, this is the number of full cross stitches you can get in a line, for an inch. The most common type is a 14 count, which is an Aida. Some fabrics come only in set sizes.


14 count aida cross stitch fabricAida was invented in 1890 specifically for cross stitch and counted cross stitch. As a result, it’s the most widely used fabric for cross stitch, and is very likely to be the type your using.
Its made up of regular holes on a semi-rigid starch heavy cotton. It allows you to cross stitch in perfect squares by using the holes given without the fabric warping and becoming uneven.
They come in different size counts, anywhere from 10 to 32, however, most commonly found in 14 count and between 12 and 18 counts. Plenty of colors are available and we’re starting to see more and more patterns being sold too. These can include whimsical patterns or just easy count guidelines which mean you don’t have to grid your fabric.
You can also print on aida fabric to make totally custom designs!


Hardanger cross stitch fabric exampleHardanger is very similar to aida, however is 100% cotton and comes without starch, meaning its very easy to stretch and warp. Aida is essentially an easier to use hardanger.
It only comes in 22 count, however it’s equally popular to cross stitch “2 over 2” essentially giving you 11 count as well. Just be aware that if you stitch “1 over 1” you have to use the Danish style of stitching.
Prior to 1986 this was the most common fabric for cross stitch, and most historic examples of cross stitch are on Hardanger. Since the invention of aida Hardanger has dropped massively in popularity and is very rare currently.


linen cross stitch fabricLinen is a very traditional fabric used for embroidery, and is made up of flax (a plant).
It can come in a large variance of types, with smaller or larger holes, however, it’s normally found as a 22 to 36 count. Much like hardanger it’s unstarched, meaning you can easily pull it apart, or warp it. It’s suggested you use a good cross stitch frame to keep even pressure, but you will have to stitch in either the Danish way or stitch “2 over 2”, as threads can slip under the fibers of flax in the fabric.
Also be aware that linen may not have equal spacing, meaning your stitches may not be perfectly square.


aida and evenweave togetherEvenweave however is a combination of multiple fabric types. Officially aida is a type of linen, but with added starch and even spacing. Evenweave however is linen with even spacing, but no starch. The image here shows that whilst Evenweave is normally much higher count, it can vary from 18 to 32.
It gives more freedom than linen, always comes in equal spacing, and comes in just as many counts and colors.

Waste Canvas

14-Count-Waste-Canvas cross stitch fabricThe first of our specialist fabrics, waste canvas is made to either dissolve in contact with water, or to be able to pull it apart when wet.
The first type is a very think plastic feeling material made from starch, which can be hard to stitch on at first, but simply gives a guide for where to stitch. Its very mobile so you can stitch on objects with lots of curves and shapes. Always sold in 14 count.
The second type is effectively a type of aida, but with larger holes and special starch that washes out. You wash the work, and then pull each thread of fabric out one by one. It usually only comes in 14 count, but can be found at higher counts occassionally.
Despite its very specific purpose, you can still cross stitch objects without waste canvas.

Plastic Canvas

different types of plastic canvas cross stitch fabricGoing the other way for a specialist thread, plastic canvas is made to be stiff, so you can make 3D objects. It comes in a variety of types, as seen in the image, and some plastics are stiffer than others, meaning you can use them for different purposes. They come in 14 count normally, however I have seen 16, 18 and 22.
An example of what can be acheived with plastic canvas is my transforming cross stitch robot.

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  1. Caitlyn Salkind

    Flax is not untreated cotton; it’s an entirely different plant. Other than that, excellent article!