Cross Stitch Gridding Techniques

Gridding isn’t often talked about in cross stitch, its often seen as an ‘if you want to’ kind of task, however, gridding is actually one of the best things you can do.
Simply put, counted cross stitch requires (you guessed it) counting. The time you take to count can not only be massive, but you can, and often do, miss count requiring mass unpicking. Gridding stops all of that. In fact, one of the products we’ll talk about says it can cut stitching time by one third!
 
So with that in mind, what exactly is the best way to grid your cross stitch? Well, it’s all a matter of choice. We’ve taken the most popular ways and detailed them out so you can give them a shot.

Easy Count Guideline

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)
cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)

You’ve probably seen gridded cross stitch on the internet, with red lines crossing. The likelihood is that its Easy Count Guideline, which works as a thread, but instead of being made from cotton is a thin wire. The advantage of this is that is doesn’t get caught up in your stitches and when you’re done you can simply pull it out. It is, by far, the most common gridding technique and I personally use it myself. However, its also the most expensive with costs of about $6 for 10m. It’s also technically a ‘secure object’ in the EU, so you must be 18+ to buy it.

Single Threads

Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapestry needlepoint (source: thehappycross-stitcher.com)
Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapestry needlepoint (source: thehappycross-stitcher.com)

I hear you all saying to yourselves “so why can’t I just use thread instead?” well, you could, I just wouldn’t suggest it. The issue with single threads is that you can stitch through them, meaning when you go to pull out your thread; you can’t. Not only that but as its part of the stitch now, you can’t cut it out easily. This means that your guideline, which is normally a bright color can’t be removed, ruining your stitch.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, in fact, for backstitching projects its a fantastic idea!

Fishing Line

“Fine, but are there cheaper options? I’ve heard people use fishing line?” True, you can use fishing line, and the fishing line is often cheaper than the official stitching alternative. I’ll even let you into a secret; Easy Count Guideline is actually just fishing wire. The difference, however, comes in thickness of the wire. There are a lot of fishing wires that would work OK, but the thinner, the better. Look for wire rated less than 8 pounds.

Easy Count Pre Grided Aida

Zweigart Easy Count Grid (source: sewandso.co.uk)
Zweigart Easy Count Grid (source: sewandso.co.uk)

Easy Count aida, is made by Zweigart and simply has lines built into the fabric. This line is when washed away once you’re finished. It is more expensive than standard aida, and doesn’t come in as many colors. To make things a little worse, the lines take up the space of a stitch, and not in between the lines like patterns are marked.

Magic Count Pre Grided Aida

Very similar to Easy Count, DMC make their own, called Magic Count, which has the advantage of being a little easier to see, but holds the DMC price tag to boot.

Erasable Pens

Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread (source: pulltheotherthread.blogspot.com)
Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread (source: pulltheotherthread.blogspot.com)

Finally, there are erasable pens. Whilst erasable pens were my first stab at gridding, you soon realize there are a few issues. The first is that they don’t wash out as easy as you’d like, meaning you sometimes need to give your cross stitch a hot bath once you’re finished which does impact the threads, especially metallics. Secondly, much like the pre-printed aida, you can’t stitch on the lines, meaning you have to take up a line of stitching, which could possibly throw your count off.
 
Once you’ve decided on your gridding technique check out this video from Peacock & Fig on how to grid:

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Amy C

    My experience: As you said, using sewing thread proved extremely difficult to remove because I pierced it despite my efforts. Removing the Sulky Sliver thread was frustrating as it tended to stretch and break during both insertion and removal.

    I searched sporting local sporting goods stores and could NOT find 8# line in red, only much thicker weights. I could not see any of the available colors (translucent black/gray) of 8# lines once I began stitching around it, and the available red was heavy and stiff enough to widen the holes in my fabric. I saw reports of residue from fishing line staining crass stitch fabric, so I was afraid to order online what I could not touch.

    I spent way too much time, $ and energy trying to find a “cheaper ” way! I finally purchased 100 yards Easy Count line 7/2020 $11.00, and have re-used pieces as I moved them from a finished piece to the next project, so it will be years before I need a new supply.

    I’m REALLY Happy to have something I can SEE and remove EASILY!

    If it runs out in 10 years, I’ll check once again for red 8# line – or re-purchase!

    Easy Count Guideline is now on Amazon for $9.58/100 yards. 8# Red Fishing line is $9.99/2000 yards – but would just be bulky to store be way more than I could ever use.

  2. James

    I’m fairly new to cross stitching and have only done two smaller pieces. However, I like a challenge so I went to a 34 floss pattern, and after talking with the Etsy seller about the pattern on fabrics, I went with 32 count Lugana. I’m aware of the differences from the 14 count Aida, and get the 2 threads over 2 method, so I’m ok with the stitching/technical part. This time around, since it’s a larger piece, I definitely want to go with gridding, so I bought the red wire.

    I might be overthinking this, and I can’t find much info at all after hours of looking, but am I still making 10 x 10 hole grids with 32 count Lugana like I’ve seen everywhere, to match my pattern? Or should I do 20 x 20 hole grids since I’m doing 2 over 2? That part is confusing me. I know the size of the piece changes a bit when doing 2 over 2 on higher fabric counts versus say 14 ct Aida, but I’m wondering if that changes how you measure and count the pattern.

    Reading a pattern and gridding seem related, but are often treated separately as topics. I’m probably overthinking it, but I’m already stuck before I’ve began. Any tips will help, thanks!

    1. LordLibidan

      Hi,
      So the pattern will always show 10×10 grids. Therefore the grinding you make with your wire you want to make sure it’s 10×10 STITCHES. If you’re doing 2 over 2 this essentially becomes 20×20 grids.
      The overall pattern will double in size too, so if your pattern suggests on 34 1 over 1 it will be 10 inches, if you do 2 over 2 it will be 20 inches.

  3. Melissa

    How far away from the bottom left of my fabric should I start my grid and the lengths are 44×49

    1. LordLibidan

      Don’t! Start in the middle.
      The grid lines match the slightly thicker lines on your pattern. The center of the pattern you want to be in the center of your work, so there should be a cross perfectly in the center of your aida.
      Hope that helps!

    2. Dawn

      Start in the center of your fabric