How to cross stitch on linen fabric

How to cross stitch on linen fabric

Linen is a gorgeous fabric for cross stitch. It has a beautiful drape and as a natural fiber is available in lovely colors, both raw and dyed. Linen has a higher thread count than Aida, so it gives a more refined look to your finished piece.

Stitching on linen might seem daunting if you are new to cross stitch, but it is no more difficult than stitching on Aida. There are a few key differences, but they are easy to learn. Read this post and you will be up and stitching on linen in no time.

1. What count linen to use

Like Aida, linen comes in various counts. The count determines how big, or small, your finished stitches will be. Typical linen counts range from 22 at the low end (bigger stitches) to 40 or more at the high end (teeny tiny stitches), with the most common being 28-count and 32-count.

Unlike Aida, linen is most commonly stitched over two threads (more on this below), which means 28-count linen has 14 stitches per inch and is equivalent to 14-count Aida. Similarly, stitching over two on 32-count linen will give you 16 stitches per inch, or the equivalent of 16-count Aida.

When substituting linen for Aida, double the count of the Aida to determine the count of linen to use.

the difference between aida and linen cross stitch fabric

2. Handling linen

Linen has a beautiful drape. It is much softer than Aida and feels wonderful in your hands when stitching. If you are stitching on linen for the first time, using a hoop or frame will make it easier to see the weave. The linen should be pulled taut in the hoop, but make sure not to stretch it so tightly that the weave is distorted.

An alternative to hoops, Q-Snap needlework frames work particularly well for linen.

cross stitch linen in qsnap frame embroidery hoop

3. Starting stitches on linen

Linen is a woven fabric with an over/under pattern of warp and weft threads. When starting a cross stitch piece on linen, it's a good idea to start in the middle of your fabric just like you would on Aida, but with linen you need to be aware of the weave.

After you have found the middle of the fabric, look closely at the weave. You want to start your stitch next to a vertical thread that is passing over the horizontal thread just above your starting point.

How to start cross stitch on linen fabric

A way to remember this is to say your stitch should be "leaning against the post." Doing so will make for neater stitches that lie better on the fabric.

4. Stitching over two threads

Once you found your starting point, it's time to start stitching. Linen is most commonly stitched over two threads, meaning each stitch will pass over two warp and two weft threads. You can get the idea from the stitch diagram below, or see this post on how to cross stitch over two threads for more detailed instructions.

How to cross stitch over two threads on linen

5. Caring for linen

Your finished cross stitch piece can be hand washed gently in cold water and light detergent. See these washing instructions for more on preparing cross stitch for finishing.

linen fabric for cross stitch and embroidery

Looking for linen for your next project? Shop the collection here.

linen fabric for cross stitch and embroidery

how to cross stitch on linen fabric

13 comments

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T. Ballenger

T. Ballenger

Thank you for your clear instructions/suggestions on working with linen. Very helpful!!
I have an question regarding linen. Would it be possible to use linen fabric as opposed to cross stitch linen to make a table runner? It’s a thought that has tickled my brain for an answer. Personally, I’ve never tried it.
Thank you for your time.

Mary

Mary

I am in agreement with all the others who have thanked you for this information . I too stayed away from linen as I never had good instructions, until now. I will be getting the linen material I have and look at it totally different. Thanks again!

Linden Wong

Linden Wong

Hi there,
I wonder if I may ask for some guidance.
I have always been working with linen, usually 28 or 32 count. I am about to start stitching a beautiful & fairly large sampler, suggested to be in monotone colour.
1) I am tempted to use hand dyed floss to give it added interest. What do you think of this idea ?
2) This is my first time stitching on a 40 count linen. How many threads should I use please.
Its going to be a challenge for the eyes ( as I don’t use a magnifier !!! )
Many thanks

Mary Ann

Mary Ann

Looking for some cross stitch guidance. I’m working on a triptych Amish farm setting. I completed one of the three scenes many years ago and framed it and then recently decided to complete the whole project. I’m stitching on what I believe is 25 count blue linen and neither the directions or my memory is helping me remember how many threads to use. The directions for backstitching call from 1-3 threads depending on the item in the scene, but nothing about the quantity for the regular cross stitching. Hope someone can help me before I lose my energy to complete this project!!

Serena Thomas

Serena Thomas

Thank you for these lovely clear instruction, ‘lean on the post’! I started my first linen cross stitch project and was devastated at how small the stitches would be. Thank goodness for you, my project will start over and be just how I’d planned. Xxx

Judy

Judy

I’ve been cross-stitching since 1964 but have never used linen. Recently I bought a kit which included 32-count Belgian linen. Instead of substituting Aida as I usually do I decided to learn something new and use the linen. I enjoy stitching on the linen so much! It’s not difficult at all and now I look forward to stitching some real masterpieces! Thanks for the encouragement!

Susan (Stitched Modern)

Susan (Stitched Modern)

@Karen – What a lovely idea! I would look into fabric markers to see if they would work. Not sure if the texture of the linen would make writing difficult. I would definitely test it out first. As for embroidery stitches, you really could do anything! Cross stitch might be challenging depending on the weave, but try doing a google search for hand embroidery stitches and I’m sure you will find something. Good luck!

Karen Kendall

Karen Kendall

My daughter wants to use a linen table runner from Pottery Barn as the guest book for her wedding, have the guest sign it, then asked if I could embroider it. What instrument would we use to write on linen (I feel any type of sharpie would bleed.), then what stitch would you?

Stitched Modern

Stitched Modern

Anne M – I’m in the same boat. I use regular old drugstore readers, and that helps. Magnifying glasses designed for stitching like Karen suggests are also good. I love stitching without a hoop, but I always use one with linen. Keeping the fabric taut makes it easier to see the holes.

Finally, good lighting is key. Think bright, bright, bright!

karen

karen

Anne M. I LOVE stitching on linen. I am over 60, I have to use a big magnifying glass that sits on my chest in order to see the threads on 32ct linen.

Anne M

Anne M

Any help for someone who has middle-aged eyes? Would love to work on Linen but the threads are just too small!!

Ashley

Ashley

I haven’t started on mine yet, but thanks for posting! It made way more sense after reading.

Darlene

Darlene

These instructions and diagrams were just what I needed to get started on my linen project. Great!!! Thank you and God bless.

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