Counted Thread Embroidery Fabrics 102

Part two of our counted thread embroidery fabric series seeks to answer the question of how to calculate design sizes for fabrics with different thread counts. For instance, if the pattern model is stitched on 18-count Aida, but we want to stitch it on 16- 14- or 11-count Aida, how big will our finished piece be? We need to know this so we can purchase the proper cut of fabric.

The thread count of a fabric is the number of threads–or squares, in the case of Aida–per inch.

Funk & Weber, fabric counts

Two Aida fabrics with different stitch counts.

In this image, the needles mark a one-inch section of fabric. Count the squares between the needles on the white fabric, then count the squares on the green fabric. The white fabric is 18-count; the green fabric is 14-count.

A design stitched on 18-count (18-ct) Aida squeezes more stitches into an inch, so the overall design will be smaller than when stitched on fabric that has only 14 squares in an inch. Higher counts yield smaller finished designs.

Most patterns will have a stitch count listed. The stitch count (as opposed to thread count–ay, yi, yi!) is the number of stitches in a design, usually expressed as a-number-wide x a-number-high, or 214W x 128H.

For the record, many patterns will also list approximate design areas (inches wide x inches high) for different fabric thread counts. In that case, we may not need to do any calculating.

Knowing the stitch count of the design and the thread count of the fabric allows us to calculate the finished design area or size. The number of stitches in a design divided by the number of threads per inch tells us how many inches that number of stitches will cover. That is:

Design stitch count / Fabric thread count = Design size

We do this calculation twice: once for the width, once for the length. Let’s plug in the numbers from our example, a design 214W x 128H stitched on 14-ct Aida:

214 (stitch count) / 14 (thread count) = 15.29 or roughly 15 1/4 inches

128 (stitch count) / 14 (thread count) = 9.14 or roughly 9 1/4 inches

So our finished design will be approximately 15 1/4 inches wide by 9 1/4 inches high.

We’re advised to allow at least three inches of fabric all around for finishing, so 3 inches added to both the left and right sides means adding 6 to our width. Adding 3 inches to the top and bottom means adding 6 to our height.

15 1/4 + 6 = 21 1/4

9 1/4 + 6 = 15 1/4

So, we need a piece of fabric 21 x 15 or 22 x 16. I’d recommend going with the larger size, especially if you’re going to ask someone else to frame the piece, but in practice, I’d go with the smaller. What can I say? Squeezing in and squeaking by seem to be my way, especially if I’m doing the finishing myself.

4 Responses to “Counted Thread Embroidery Fabrics 102”

  1. Harriet, Norway

    “one thousand thanks” from me! I have stitched a lot of miniatures because of the lack of calculations and the lack of the fabric I wanted.
    But no more: I just order Treasure Boxes from JFW 😉 (soon, very soon a new one is wished for…I must do some calculations and adjustments on my pattern first…) Best regards!

    March 1, 2011 @ 3:48 am
  2. Jen

    I hope you’ll keep stitching miniatures, but that you’ll know you’re doing it before you start. Your miniatures are great!

    March 2, 2011 @ 7:04 am
  3. Diana Brink

    I have a printout from your company of cross stitch fabrics – printed in June 2014. This was very helpfull – can we order these fabrics from you? Do you have a branch in Texas? Thanks for your time.
    Diana Brink

    November 4, 2015 @ 2:43 am
  4. Jen

    Hi, Diana.

    Thanks for your comment on the blog post “Counted Thread Embroidery Fabrics 102.” My goal in sharing posts about counted thread fabrics was to introduce stitchers to the different kinds and the words associated with them. There’s a lot of confusion about the differences between evenweaves, plain weaves, linen, and Aida.

    I am a designer and teacher, and I have a small online shop where I sell my patterns and classes, but I am not a full-service needlework shop, and I don’t carry any fabrics for resale.

    If you’re looking for a fabric retailer, here’s a good place to start. These independent needlework shops will have the variety of fabrics that I show in the post, and they’ll have knowledgeable people to talk about them, too. You can search for shops in Texas.

    I hope this helps.

    November 4, 2015 @ 5:37 am

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