Embroidery: Stitching Over Two Threads

When we cross stitch on Aida fabric, we make Xs over nicely-delineated squares. We can embroider the same patterns on linen and other evenweave fabrics that have individual woven fibers instead of squares. We often do this by “stitching over two”; that is, we stitch over two threads, both horizontally and vertically. Watch, I’ll show you.

  • Funk & Weber Designs, Aida cross stitch fabric and Ariosa embroidery fabric

    Aida and Evenweave Fabrics

    We cross stitch over the squares on the Aida (left) fabric, and cross stitch “over two” on the evenweave Ariosa (right) fabric.

  • Funk & Weber Designs, Jen's evenweave diagram

    Funk & Weber Evenweave Diagram

    This is how I draw evenweave fabric for stitch diagrams. Note how the fibers go over, under, over, under each other.

    Yep, I actually draw–digitally–the fabric for stitch diagrams.

    Yep, there is software that would do that for me.

    Nope, don’t use it. You know me, I’m all about DIY; although, if I’m talking about me, shouldn’t that be DIM? Hmm.

  • Funk & Weber Designs, cross stitch over two threads diagram

    Cross Stitch Over Two: First Leg

    The working fiber is red; the gray area of the ground fiber shows the two threads that are being stitched over. 1H is the first horizontal thread, and 1V is the first vertical thread. You can guess what 2H and 2V are, right?

    The needle comes up through the fabric at A and goes down, two threads to the right and two threads up, at B.

    Now, I was taught to always begin stitching by coming up through the fabric on the lower left side of a “vertical-thread-on-top.” Note the 1V thread. Where the needle comes to the surface, the 1V thread is on top of the horizontal (2H) ground fiber. The stitch begins on the lower left side of this vertical ground fiber and travels up and to the right.

    Naturally, I asked why I had to start my stitches there, and I was told the ground fibers are more likely to distort if we start by a horizontal-on-top thread. I couldn’t understand why that would be, so I tested and found no difference.

    Nonetheless, I am generally a rule-follower, and since it makes no difference that I can see, I start to the lower left of a vertical-on-top thread unless I’m feeling rebellious.

  • Funk & Weber Designs, cross stitch over two, second stitch

    Cross Stitch Over Two: More

    And now we just keep going. The needle drops down two threads on the back side, comes up at C, goes down at D, comes up at E, and so on until we reach the end of the row and turn around, completing the cross stitches on the return journey (E-B).

    I find that once I get started stitching over two threads, I develop a sense of how big the stitches are and where the needle needs to go. When I make a mistake, the stitch calls attention to itself: it looks funny.

So why do we stitch over two anyway? I can think of several reasons:

  • Many evenweaves come in higher counts: 28-ct, 32-ct, 40-ct, 72-ct (uh-huh). Stitching over one means itty-bitty stitches. Sometimes that’s fun. Sometimes it makes sense to stitch over two.

    Note: Stitching over two reduces the fabric stitch count by half! Stitching over two on 28-ct linen yields 14 stitches to the inch. Stitching over two on 40-ct linen yields 20 stitches to the inch. Need to review how to calculate design areas based on pattern stitch counts and fabric thread counts?

  • Stitching over one on evenweave requires a special technique to avoid disappearing stitches. I’m sorry; what’s that? Sure, we can talk about that next time.
  • When a pattern calls for a lot of fractional stitches, I prefer to work over two because there’s a hole in the center for the quarter stitches. No struggling to pierce a tightly-woven square, and no off-center quarter stitches.

Unless seeing the ground fabric is difficult for you, stitching over two isn’t particularly hard. Don’t be afraid to try it. Like everything else, you get used to it and better at it with practice.

Some people recommend learning to stitch on Aida, but both of my nephews learned to stitch over two right out of the gate. I think it’s more important for the person learning to love his/her fabric and project.

Questions, anyone?

9 Responses to “Embroidery: Stitching Over Two Threads”

  1. Judy

    I’ve just finished a project where I stitched over 2 on linen fabric. No, it isn’t hard. The trickiest part for me is following and or counting to another open space to begin the next design element of the pattern. If you miscalculate, you start off in the wrong place. I discovered that I had done that at the end of my project and had to take out one of the motifs and move it over.

    April 1, 2011 @ 4:39 am
  2. Jen

    Yep, I think it’s easier to mis-count on evenweaves. I tend to count “one-and-two-and . . .,” and it helps to know I should end up where a vertical ground fiber is on top.

    For long distances, I use pins to mark every 4, 6, or 10 stitches.

    Some stitchers recommend stitching the dark chart lines (every 10 stitches) on the fabric with long running stitches before beginning the embroidery. I’m sure that would help, but I’m sure I’ll never do it, too!

    April 4, 2011 @ 3:18 pm
  3. […] Embroidery Designs and Cross Stitch Patterns by Funk & Weber …Some stitchers recommend stitching the dark chart lines (every 10 stitches) on the fabric with long running stitches before beginning the embroidery. I'm sure that would help, but I'm sure I'll never do it, too April 4, 2011 @ 3:18 pm … […]

    May 16, 2011 @ 8:15 pm
  4. […] we cross stitch over two threads or on Aida fabric, we make sure the top leg of our crosses slant in the same direction, but how we […]

    July 1, 2011 @ 1:57 pm
  5. […] love fractional stitches when stitching over two threads on linen or evenweave because there is a natural open-hole center for the quarter-stitches to go through. I like […]

    November 2, 2011 @ 2:38 pm
  6. […] Articles How To Cross Stitch Over Two Threads How to Cross Stitch over One Thread on Linen and Evenweave Fabrics Cross Stitch Embroidery Fabrics […]

    February 2, 2012 @ 2:49 pm
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    February 12, 2012 @ 5:01 pm
  8. Jane

    I am working on a piece at the moment which shows two different patterns for the face and hands of an angel. One shows 1 over 1 stitches and the other is 2 over 2. I’ve never come across this before. Do you use one or the other or if using both – which do you stitch first. I’m confused and would appreciate your help.

    May 13, 2013 @ 4:26 am
  9. Jen

    Hi, Jane.

    This is a great subject to discuss. Thanks for bringing it up!

    Some patterns are designed using both over-2 and over-1 stitches. This allows for more details to be shown in selected areas, in this case, the face and hands of the angel. In fact, I’d say faces are where this technique is most often used.

    Since you are given both over-2 and over-1 options, the choice of which to use is yours. The publisher is leaving that up to you, understanding that some people will not know how to stitch over 1, will not want to learn, will not see well enough to stitch over 1, or will be using an Aida fabric on which it’s not so easy to stitch over 1. There are good reasons for both choices. Cheers to the publisher for offering both options!

    If you’ve never seen a pattern that incorporates both over-2 and over-1 stitches, it may sound odd, but it looks great. The change emphasizes those detail areas.

    If you’re game and able, I’d say give over 1 a shot. Beware those disappearing stitches, though. You can always take a practice run on the border of your piece or on another fabric.


    Let me know what you choose and how it goes–and, of course, if you have further questions.

    Happy stitching!

    May 13, 2013 @ 5:53 am

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