Swapping to different fabric counts

Have you ever found a cross stitch kit or pattern and thought I’d love that but it just seems to small (or too big) for how I wanted the finished image to be?

Well the simple solution is to change the fabric you’re going to stitch on.

Counted cross stitch kits are put together to be simpler to get started. Everything is included and you’re ready to rock and roll. That means that the pattern was designed to be on a specific stitch count fabric. It does not mean you have to stick to it. Just keep in mind, if you do change out the fabric, the amount of floss you need will change.

That’s why cross stitch patterns give you better freedom for you to determine the size and sometimes even the floss colors you will use. We’ll talk about swapping out floss colors in another blog post. Here we’re going to stick to sizing.

Good patterns will give you not only the number of stitches for the height and width but will also give you a reference chart of what those dimensions translate to in fabric counts.

If not, you can do a web search for sites to help you determine the amount of fabric you would need for a specific fabric stitch count. If you have an Android phone or tablet, I have a great little app that will do that for you. Just click on the Google Play button to be taken to it. (iOS version coming in the near future.)

Get it on Google Play
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But just to give you an idea of how changing the fabric can change the dimensions, let’s pick a simple example.

You have a pattern that says it’s 200 stitches wide and 100 stitches high.

On an 11 count Aida fabric, that translates to 18.18 inches wide by 9.09 inches high. (Or 46.18 centimeters wide by 23.09 centimeters high for our metric friends.)

That might seem a bit too large for you. If you want to make the finished size smaller, then you need to look at a fabric with a higher stitch count.

It may sound counterintuitive but think of it this way, when the stitch count increase, the number of stitches per inch/centimeter increases so you’re putting more stitches into an inch/centimeter of fabric the higher you go in counts.

So on the same example of 200 stitches wide by 100 stitches high, if you choose an 18 count Aida fabric, it now comes out to 11.11 inches wide by 5.56 inches high (28.22 centimeters wide by 14.11 centimeters high.)

The same holds true if you want to make the finished size larger. In that case, you want to choose a lower stitch count fabric.

Going back to our example, let’s say you want it bigger. If you choose a 6 count Aida fabric, then you will have a finished size of 33.33 inches wide by 16.67 inches high (84.67 centimeters wide by 42.33 centimeters high.)

All clear? If so, we’re going to take a look at even higher count fabrics.

Why you ask? Because once you get to 20 count and higher fabrics, you can go one of two ways – stitching over one strand or stitching over two strands.

Stitching over one strand is just like your normal cross stitch. You’re stitching over a strand of fabric thread vertically and horizontally. This forms a “square” where they intersect. When you stitch over two, it means that you are using two strands of fabric thread horizontally and vertically to form your “square”.

This is significant because it changes the finished stitched dimensions in a big way – by a factor of two.

So now our example is going to get interesting. The same 200 stitches wide by 100 stitches high stitched on 32 count linen fabric goes from 6.25 inches wide by 3.13 inches high (15.88 centimeters wide by 7.94 centimeters high) when stitched over one to 12.50 inches wide by 6.25 inches high (31.75 centimeters wide by 15.88 centimeters high) when stitched over two. That’s a big difference in how big of a piece of fabric you need.

And trust me, that is not a mistake you want to discover after you start stitching.

Now that you understand how to figure out how big the stitched design will be, you also need to include a selvage. A selvage is the amount of extra fabric you will need around the stitched area. This is also important so that you will be able to finish off your work of art properly.

I always recommend a minimum of two inches per side (so four inches added to both the length and width of your fabric.) I prefer that you take three inches per side (so six inches added to both the height and length of the finished piece.)

I know that people are on a budget when it comes to crafting supplies but this is something you don’t want to skimp on. Nothing is as frustrating as putting in so much time, effort and love into a stitched piece only to be told that there is not enough fabric to frame it properly. Been there, done that. Thats why I err on the side of caution and add three inches per side.

So I hope I’ve added to your crafting knowledge base when it comes to stitch counts. Leave me your comments and questions and let me know.

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