It seems this time of year everyone is counting down to something….Advent, Shopping Days Until Christmas, the 8 days of Hanukkah, the party and countdown until the ball drops in Times Square announcing the New Year…so that gave me today’s topic

It’s the Count That Matters!

Let’s answer a few "burning" questions before we get started.

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. I could not find a really good reason why we are so obsessed with this count down. My personal philosophy is that it is a chance for "do-overs". I can start the year with a fresh set of goals and expectations. However, it was rather depressing when researching this question. 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! What I did find is an on-line count down clock in case you want to start now planning for the 2012 countdown.

Next, I wondered if 2011 was the start of a decade or not. I found out it is NOT the start of THE decade. The decade started in 2010, the year divisible by 10. However, A decade, which consists of a 10 year period, can start with any year.

What I know for sure is that counting matters a lot to most stitchers. For those Hardanger embroiderers you 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.

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. However, 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. However, 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. One New Year’s Resolution I am making this year is to immediately label my purchased fabrics with the count and type of fabric. I have a stash of "unknown" fabrics. In order to figure them out, I am going to have to take time to examine each piece with something like the Carson Lighted Linen Test (6820A) or a ruler and the Lumidome magnifier (6846). However, I know most of my fabrics are 22, 28 or 32-count. So last week I purchased the Clear View Stitch Counter set (6507) which should make identification really easy!

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. However, 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 to 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. However, 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 I 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 have a tool on our Save the Stitches! website that lets you put in the stitch count, original size, and new count and it calculates the new size (great for figuring out how much more or less of a different count of fabric will be needed).

I don’t know about you, but that has gotten my head to spinning! I think this is a good stopping spot for this newsletter! Next week, we will return to our regular schedule with Roz’ newsletter. Ryan’s mid-week specials emails will start back up this week. Don’t miss out on these special sales! Sign up for the emails here!

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

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“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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