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:
cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source:

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:
Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapestry needlepoint (source:

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:
Zweigart Easy Count Grid (source:

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:
Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread (source:

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 28 Comments

  1. Rachel Rowley

    Hi I’m just branching into my first ever haed. I have brought pre gridded fabric. This may sound silly but do I start on the grey line or after. I know there is still so much to learn xxx

    1. LordLibidan

      It doesn’t matter! All that matters is that you’re consistent.
      The pre-gridded fabric has lines on them breaking up the “cells” of aida into blocks of 10. The grey line is on one of these 10.

  2. Colleen Ramos

    After the grid is made, do I only stitch all the colors in one grid at a time then move to the next grid? I get that grids help keep track of your stitches but not sure where to start. I always thought you had start in the middle.

    1. LordLibidan

      It’s up to you! The grid is there to help with counting, but the way you stitch doesn’t have to change.
      On your pattern there should be “major” lines every 10 stitches, these are what you grid. So you can effectively start where ever you want now, as you’ll know with 100% accuracy where the corners of your work will be.
      I know a lot of people that still start in the center still, but when I grid I start in a corner and work my way up. Other people, I know work on each “block” at a time. I even know some people that jump around all over the place just because they can!

    2. Barina Haner

      You can stitch one grid at a time or stitch a thread color as far as it can go or stitch a page at a time. There are so many options!

  3. Holly

    I use regular pencil and/or ballpoint pen (if I want different colors) to mark up the back on larger pieces. They don’t bleed through the fabric and you can mark out the basic shapes of your pattern, like borders. Just remember that left side of the back is the right side of the front when marking out non-symmetrical elements.

    1. LordLibidan

      Oh, that would not end well for me! ๐Ÿ˜› I can never seem to flip things in my head.
      But an interesting point about gridding the back! I never thought about it, but there’s no reason why it needs to be gridded on the front…

      1. Holly

        It does take a lot of flipping the fabric over to check position. It also helps to think of moving toward and away from the edge or center instead of left or right

  4. Melaina

    I have never done gridding before. It’s been a while since I have cross stitched anything and I want to make a sampler for my daughter’s wedding gift. It is large & I think this would help me quite a bit. I’d like to try the Easy Count Guideline; is is purchased in a craft store or do I need to order it online? Also, what do you put it in with?

    1. LordLibidan

      Hey Melaina,
      You can order it online or in cross stitch stores (but many “craft” stores don’t carry it as it’s rather specialist).
      And you can put it in with a standard cross stitch needle.
      Happy stitching!

  5. Susan

    Hi there I am a long time cross stitcher but am just starting to use pre gridded fabric. I have a piece with quite a lot of white sections and my fabric is white with green grid threads. I just stitched a section and noticed that you can see the green grid lines behind the white. Obviously not good. Should I keep going and try to pick these out when Iโ€™m done? (I tried pulling on the end of one of the grid threads and itโ€™s not budging.). Should I just do the dark areas keeping the grid intact, then remove the grid threads before starting any light areas? Should I remove the grid lines completely now from the interior, where Iโ€™ll be stitching, and just leave them around the exterior? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. LordLibidan

      Hey Susan,
      It depends on what type of pre-gridded fabric you have.
      One type has lines printed in special ink. When you wash it after completion, they’ll disappear.
      Another type (much rarer, but sounds like the one you have) has single threads woven into the work. After you wash your work, the starch in the fabric softens, and then these threads can be pulled out.
      Assuming you have the second type, I would stitch the whole thing, then wash it and pull the threads out. Just a word of warning, it’s really easy to pull out threads other than the ones you want when it’s wet, so be careful!