Chapter 3

29. Stitching on Other Material:
   29.1 Silk Gauze
   29.2 Waste Canvas
30. Equipment:
   30.1 Needles
   30.2 Hoops, Scroll Bars, etc.
   30.3 Magnifiers and Lamps
31. The Debates:
   31.1 Warp and Weft and Why
   31.2 The Right Side of the Linen
   31.3 The Right End of the Floss
32. The Amount of Floss needed

A. About the Needlework FAQs:

  •  Chapter 1  •  Chapter 2

Lets Cross Stitch
Words by Ursula Michael

Caption/Border Maker
Create text charts.

new cross stitch pattern
New Cross-Stitch Patterns

Needlework FAQ:
Counted Cross Stitch Tutorial

Originally created by: ©Kathleen Dyer
Reproduced by:
with permission. All Rights Reserved.

29. Stitching on Other Backgrounds

29.1 Silk Gauze

Stitching on silk gauze is actually a form of petit point, but a person experienced with either form of needlework should have no trouble stitching on silk gauze (except possibly for vision difficulties).

The fabric is a special silk mesh originally made for the medical profession for the treatment of burn victims. Although several mesh sizes are available, the one most commonly used for stitching is 40-count. This means 40 stitches to the inch, or 1600 stitches to the square inch. The gauze is extremely expensive, at over US$300 (yes, three hundred dollars) per yard. Luckily, a little goes a long way. The gauze sold for stitching may come mounted in a cardboard frame, and is sold in sizes such as 5"x7". Keep the gauze in the frame while stitching, and remove it after you are done.

The thread used for stitching may be cotton floss or silk. Use one strand of thread. It does not need to be very long--probably 10" or so.

The needle should be small and sharp, such as a small crewel needle.

The chart may be just about any counted cross stitch chart. Keep in mind that you will not be able to do any quarter stitches. Also, any additions such as beads will be too big. Note that we follow the counted cross stitch tradition rather than the needlepoint when it comes to filling in the background--we do not fill in the background unless the chart calls for it. The gauze is allowed to show.

The stitch is a continental stitch rather than a cross stitch. This looks like a half-stitch from in front, but the back is a long diagonal. For this diagram, come up at the odd numbers and down at the even:

Do not carry thread across the back in an area that will not be stitched. It will show through.

If you have trouble seeing the work area (and most people will), use a magnifying lamp and hold the gauze over a dark background.

29.2 Waste Canvas

This is a way to do counted stitch needlework on non-evenweave fabrics. Waste canvas is a special type of evenweave fabric which comes in a variety of mesh sizes. The fabric is unusual in that its threads are held in place with starch. The waste canvas is used by basting it onto a non-evenweave fabric, such as the front of a sweatshirt. This provides a grid for doing counted cross stitch or other counted thread stitches. Once the stitching is complete, the waste canvas is removed by dampening the canvas to remove the starch which binds its threads together. These threads are then removed one at a time, with tweezers.

30. Equipment

30.1 Needles

Here are some comments from Wombat <>...

Well, I showed up for a class/meeting with the #10 needle I thought I would need, only to discover I was supposed to have a #10 sharp and I had a #10 crewel. A #28 tapestry did suffice and I then went home and did research.

Eyes. The choices run from round to oval to long or short oval. Round eyes are the smallest and long oval the largest. Short ovals are a lot like a round, but much bulgier. The larger the eye, the less it rubs on the fiber you are using. Perle cotton needs an oval eye, as does crewel wool. Sewing thread does just fine in a round eye. Larger needles have larger eyes, but the basic shape does not change.

Diameters. This is what makes one needle a different size from another. The fatter the needle the smaller the size number. There are two different size ranges, one goes from 1-15 and the other from 13-28. In either range a big number means a small needle. As needles get smaller, they also get shorter. A lower number means a longer, fatter needle with a bigger eye.

Points. Tapestry needles are blunt, all the other needles have a sharp point. A glovers or leather needle has a triangular point with teeny cutting edges to cut a triangular hole in the leather as you use it. Some sailmaking needles have this, too. Even beading needles are usually sharp, but they are often so tiny that it's hard to tell.

Shape. Well, they are all long and skinny, but the eye creates a bulge or no bulge that will make a difference if you are doing bullion or french knots. For easier bullion knots, you want a smooth needle. A needle with a round eye has the least bulge. A needle with an oval eye has the biggest bulge. Rug needles and upholstery needles have curves in them, to do a 'scoop' stitch on fabric that you can't get to the back of.

Length. Some needles are supposed to be very long, like beading or milliners or doll making needles. Some are about as short as you would ever want to think about, like betweens that measure less than one inch. The length varies with the purpose, but the larger diameter needles are also longer than the same type of needle in a smaller size. So a size 18 tapestry is going to be longer and fatter than a size 24 tapestry.

So, lets put this all together and list what characteristics go with which type of needle.

Tapestry. Oval eye (smallest sizes have long oval), medium length, blunt. Sizes from 13-28. Common uses; cross stitch, needlepoint, counted thread work.

Embroidery/Crewel. Oval eye, medium length, sharp. Sizes from 1-13. Common uses; crewel work, ribbon embroidery, wool embroidery, smocking with specialty fibers.

Sharps. Round eye, medium length, sharp. Sizes from 1-13. Common uses; hand sewing, bullion knots or french knots in counted work, smocking.

Betweens. Round eye, short length, sharp. Sizes from 1-13, not often found larger than 7. Common uses; hand quilting, fine needlework such as shadow work embroidery or some French hand sewing.

Beading. Round eye, very long length, sharp. Sizes from 10-15 in the 13-28 size range. Common uses; beading, applying sequins.

Different manufacturers make needles a bit larger eyed, or fatter or longer or with different metals and finishes. This is just a general list of characteristics for some of the more usual types of needles.

(Thanks to Joan, the manager of G-Street Fabrics Notions department and to Barbara, manager of the Bernina department, for pointing me to the most useful articles.)

30.2 Hoops, Scroll Bars and Such

There is a traditional rule which says to stitch on aida using a hoop and stitch on linen "in the hand". In actual practice, people do whatever works best for them. Most who like their fabric taut do tend to avoid hoops in favor of scroll bars or Q-Snaps when working on linen, as hoops may damage the fabric. See section " 6. Hoop or Hand?" for the "in-a-hoop vs. in-the-hand" debate. The discussion in this section assumes that you have decided to use a hoop or the like.

Tip--Put your project in the hoop or bars backwards. This method is sometimes called having the project "in the well." It prevents the front of the design from touching anything when the bars are set down. It also provides more room on the back of the project for ending threads.


Most of the following items may be used with a stand. Some people like the stands, as they can then do "two handed" stitching. This is a method where one hand is always above the cloth and the other is always below. People who have trouble holding projects for long periods of time also may find stands useful--they help avoid or reduce effects from tendonitis, arthritis and cramping.

There are lap stands which either straddle the lap of the stitcher or are anchored on one side and have a part to sit on. The bigger stands are floor models and may take up a great deal of space. Some of them come with chart holders, lamp holders and even magazine racks.

One side benefit is that stands are usually in plain view with the current project highly visible, ready to be complimented and begging to be worked on. People with cats may find that felines appreciate stands too, to the dismay of the stitcher.


Standard hoops are made of wood or plastic. They are inexpensive and widely available. While most are circular, there are some oval shaped ones. A variation on the hoop consists of a plastic outer ring and a metal inner spring/ring.

Common complaints about hoops:

Make sure your hoops are clean. Plastic hoops can be washed in the dishwasher.

Remove the hoop when you are not working.

Scroll Bars

A set of scroll bars consists of two wooden scroll bars and two spacers. The fabric is attached to the scroll bars (which look like dowel rods). The spacers hold the scroll bars apart. They may be attached with wing nuts (cheaper) or with wooden knobs (more expensive).

There are several methods for attaching the fabric. A bar may have a strip of heavy-duty material stapled to it. The fabric for the project is then basted on, using a strong thread such as quilting or carpet thread. Another style has a slit in the bar into which the edge of the fabric is placed. A third style uses a groove in the bar and a tube or rod to hold the fabric in the groove.

Scroll rods and spacer bars are available in many sizes. Select a scroll rod size that is slightly wider than your fabric. Any fabric longer than the spacer bars is rolled up onto the scroll rods.

Much more of the project is "in-range" than with a hoop. Tension is not even in the horizontal and vertical directions, but this isn't too noticeable if the scroll tension is kept very tight.

It is possible to purchase a basic set of scroll bars quite cheaply, so you can experiment and see if you like them.

Suggestions--Mark the center of the scroll rod, to make it easier to center the fabric. When attaching the fabric to the scroll rod, work from the center and work out to the edges.


Q-Snaps are manufactured by the Q-Snap Corporation, located in the USA in Parsons, Tennessee. Q-Snaps consist of four pieces of white plastic pipe, about 1" in diameter, which are joined at the corners to form a square or rectangle. The fabric is held onto each side by a shell of plastic which snaps down over the pipe.

Q-Snaps are sold in packages of four sides, in lengths of 6 inches, 8 inches, 11 inches and 17 inches. They are then assembled by the user to form, for example, an 8x11 inch rectangle.

People who use them like their versatility. The fabric creases caused by hoops doesn't seem to occur. The tension is even in both the vertical and horizontal directions, unlike scroll bars.

Stretcher Bars

Stretcher bars are made of wood. They are sold in packages of two sides. I have seen them in lengths from 4"-40". The sides are assembled to form a square or rectangle.

With stretcher bars, the entire project area is visible at all times. Some people prefer to use stretcher bars only with stiffer fabrics, such as canvas, but other stitchers like them even for soft linens/evenweaves.

The edges of the fabric should be prepared in some way to make them stronger and to stop them from fraying. Basting, hemming or binding tape are recommended by different people. The fabric is then attached to the frame with quilting tacks or staples. Start at the center of each side and work out to the edges. The fabric should be taut, but not distorted. The tension is even in both the vertical and horizontal directions, unlike scroll bars.

30.3 Magnifiers and Lamps

Good lighting, of the proper strength and color, can make a world of difference in the ease with which you can sort thread colors or see those teeny holes in the fabric. While natural lighting is the best, most of us don't want to limit our stitching time to daylight hours.

Below are some extracts from postings about this topic.

From: Gillian Cannon <>...

Fluorescent lamps (tubes) come in different colors, just as do incandescent lamps. Designer Warm White in a fluorescent lamp will give you true "daylight" colors. If you do not get the correct color of incandescent lamp (and they are harder to get true colors from) you will have major color changes. This is information from my daughter, the interior designer, and her technical notes on lighting...

Also, as I originally mentioned, the heat is a large factor from incandescent lamps as well as the focused light which, in conjunction with a magnifier, can cause fires.

From: Gillian Cannon <>...

There has been some discussion on several conferences about light bulbs (technically called lamps) for use with cross stitch or other work that requires "true" colors.

After consulting with a lighting expert here are his suggestions: Fluorescents can give the closest to "natural light" of any artificial source.

For circular fluorescents (e.g., for use in Dazors), the Design 50 has 5000 Kelvins and is closest to natural daylight. The Designer Cool White is also close to natural light but is not available in circular form.

The second best artificial light is halogen, with the Daylight lamp, which is 6500 Kelvins.

The poorest form of commonly used artificial light is the incandescent lamp, but you can get "color corrected daylight" bulbs at a lighting specialty store.

Magnifiers can also be a big help. There are inexpensive types which clip onto glasses. Another kind hangs around the user's neck and is braced against the chest. A third type is attached to a head band.

An important safety note for any type of magnifier--keep the lens out of direct sunlight when not in use. The magnifier can concentrate the sunlight and start a fire. Placing a storage cover of fabric on the magnifier is sufficient to prevent this from happening.

There are lamps with magnifiers incorporated. One well known brand is Dazor.

Magnifying lamp pluses:

Magnifying lamp minuses:

31. The Debates

As you have seen in other parts of this FAQ, there are some topics in needlework about which even the professionals don't agree.

This section lists and discusses some of the more energetically debated issues.

31.1 Warp and Weft and Why and Why Not

Does it matter which way the fabric's warp and weft threads go when doing a counted cross stitch project?

In weaving, warp threads run up-and-down while weft threads run side-to-side. The selvage runs up-and-down, in the same direction as the warp threads.

If you want to determine the warp and weft on a piece of linen that has no selvage:

Some people recommend stitching on a project so that the warp threads go from top to bottom. If a finished project is to be suspended from the top, such as a bell pull, it could make a difference. The warp threads may distort less from the weight of the project.

Do the warp and weft directions generally affect counted cross stitch? There are strong opinions on both sides of the issue. If you notice a difference, then do what works best.

31.2 The Right Side of the Linen

Does linen have a front side and a back side? If it does, should you care?

The "linen has a front" camp:

The "linen does not have a front" and "linen has a front but it does not matter" camps:

31.3 The Right End of the Floss

You may have read posts which talked about "the right end" or "the direction" of the thread. Let's talk about what it means and why you should or shouldn't care. Yes, this is another of those issues where the professionals disagree.

Here are condensed comments from the different schools of thought.

School 1: Floss has a right end, and the end matters.

School 2: Floss has a right end, and the end doesn't matter.

School 3: Floss does not have a right end.

32. The Amount of Floss for Cross Stitch

The amount of floss needed for any project can vary among stitchers. The chart below should be used as a general guide only. You may get fewer stitches per skein if you are doing a very complex project or if you make loose stitches.

The equation used to derive this chart is described at the end.

Find the count (number of stitches per inch) in the left-hand column and go across. Find the number of strands of floss used at the top of the chart and go down. The number of stitches per skein of floss is where these two intersect.

    Strands of Floss
    1 2 3 4
8 2040 1020 680 510
10 2550 1275 850 637
11 2805 1402 935 701
14 3570 1785 1190 892
16 4080 2040 1360 1020
18 4590 2295 1530 1147
22 5610 2805 1870 1402
24 6120 3060 2040 1530
26 6630 3315 2210 1657
28 7140 3570 2380 1785

For you folks who like to know the details, here is how the chart was derived. As you will see, there was a fair amount of approximating going on.

A skein of floss is approximately 8-1/2 yards long. Assume most people stitch with an 18" length of floss. This gives 17 segments of 18" each per skein.

Most of the time, people stitch with more than one strand. There are 6 strands of floss per skein. So 6/strands_used is the number of pieces per segment.

Allow 3" per 18" length for securing the beginning and ending, and for general waste. This gives 15" of usable thread per 18" piece.

Now, how many inches of floss does each X take? Using the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the length of each half stitch on 14 count fabric, and allowing for the vertical lengths on the back, and allowing a little for slop, we get 6/count (where count is the number of stitches per inch). Remember, I said there was a fair amount of approximating going on.

So the final equation is:

stitches_per_skein = 17 * (15 / (6/count)) * (6/strands_used)

I used this equation in a perl script to produce the chart above.

A. About the Needlework FAQs

A.1 General Comments

The FAQs are a collection of information that should be of use to people who do many kinds of needlework. The hints and tips contained here have been collected from many people, over several years, who have been kind enough to share their wisdom with the rec.crafts.textiles.needlework Usenet newsgroup.

Although efforts were made to make sure that the information in this FAQ was correct, this document is provided as is, with no warranties or guarantees of any kind either expressed or implied. No endorsement or value judgement is expressed or implied.

The FAQs are successors to the original "Counted Cross Stitch FAQ", first posted to the old rec.crafts.textiles newsgroup on April 20, 1994. Thanks to the people who have given permission for their messages and postings to be quoted directly.