Counting

Why do we count down to Christmas? It seems the tradition may have begun with German Lutherans dating back to the beginning of the 19th century. They marked the first 24 days of December in various methods depending on their wealth. It might have been chalk marks on a door, the lighting of candles, or hanging a small picture up each day. This may be the source of the Advent calendar but not the wreath, because the Christian Advent celebration does not start on December 1st.

So, after counting down to Christmas the next big event is the count down to the New Year. The new year is seen by many as a chance to start over, or fresh, which is why many people make resolutions. It seems that we keep less than 50% of our New Year’s Resolutions longer than 6 months and usually spend a bunch of money doing it! There is an on-line count down clock in case you want to start now planning for the next countdown.

Counting matters a lot to most stitchers. Hardanger embroiderers are always counting threads and stitches. The Brazilian embroidery enthusiasts count the number of wraps for a bullion or the number of cast-ons for a flower petal. For cross-stitch fans, it is the count of the fabric that makes a difference, and they also count their stitches and threads.

Let’s take a quick look at fabric. Fabrics are made from two distinct sets of threads woven together. The warp thread runs the length of the fabric and the weft goes side to side from the selvage edges. The most common fabric stitchers use is an even-weave. Theoretically the warp and weft stitches are equally spaced and uniform in size. That can be a little deceiving because the type of fibers used in the weaving process can make the spacing vary a bit. For example, Aida and Hardanger fabrics are very uniform in size and your stitches will be equally spaced, but with linen fabrics, sometimes the individual threads vary in thickness which can distort the finished fabric just a bit. That’s part of the allure of using linen.

Fabric is classified by the thread content (linen, cotton, rayon, etc.) and thread count. The thread count is determined by the number of threads in a linear inch. So, an evenweave fabric with a thread count of 28 will have 28 warp and 28 weft threads in a linear inch. Have some unknow fabrics in your stash? There are many tools to help determine the count, like the Lumidome magnifier.

Sometimes you can tell the count of a fabric by its name. For example, Hardanger fabric is a 22-count fabric.Some other fabrics commonly associated to the count by name are:

Two common questions we get concerning fabric count are:

How do I figure the fabric size for a design with a stitch count of say 120 wide x 150 high?

First you need to determine the fabric count-14, 22, 28, 32, etc. Then the next important question is whether you are stitching over one or two threads. For 14- and 22-count fabric you are probably stitching over 1. On a 28- or 32-count fabric, you could be stitching over 2 threads.

Over 1 thread on 22-count: Take the stitch count and divide by the fabric count.

  • Width: 120 / 22 = 5.45"
  • Height: 150 / 22 = 6.8"

Over 1 thread on 32-count: Take the stitch count and divide by the fabric count.

  • Width: 120/32 = 3.75"
  • Height: 150/32 = 4.68"

Over 2 threads on 32 count: Take the stitch count and divide by the stitches per inch (half of the fabric count).

  • Width: 120 / (32/2) = 120 / 16 = 7.5"
  • Height: 150 / (32/2) = 150 / 16 = 9.375"

Remember this is just the design area, so be sure to add at least 3" inches to each side for stitching. You may need to add even more depending on your finishing technique.

If this sounds pretty complicated, then you might want to try the Yarn Tree fabric calculator.

The other question we often get is:

How do I calculate the size of the design when changing the fabric count?

If the designer provides the stitch count you can simply do the above calculations to find the fabric size. Sometimes you are only given the design size, such as 5.5" wide x 7.5" high on 32-count and you want to stitch it on 28-count. Here is how to figure it out, based on stitching over 1 fabric thread.

For the width multiply the width (5.5") by the old fabric count (32) to get the original stitch count, then divide by the new fabric count (28). 5.5 x 32 = 176 / 28 = 6.2"

Do the same for the height. 7.5 x 32 = 240 / 28 = 8.57".

A rule of thumb is that if the new fabric count has fewer threads per inch than the original fabric, then the finished design size gets bigger. (5.5" on 32-count versus 6.2" on 28-count) If the new fabric count has more threads per inch than the original fabric, then the finished design size is smaller.


We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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