Free counted cross stitch patterns are made up of squares or parts of squares. Fabric choice can make the difference between success or frustration. Counted cross stitch fabric is bought by its thread count, which tells us its fineness. So, 14-count fabric has 14 blocks or threads to each inch. The more threads or blocks, the finer the fabric. There are two main groups of fabric ideal for those free counted cross stitch patterns: Aida, which is woven in blocks, and evenweave, which is woven with single threads forming the warp (lengthwise threads) and the weft (crosswise threads). All fabrics for counted cross stitch are woven so that they have the same number of threads or blocks both directions, so the stitches will appear as squares or parts of squares.
Aida is woven in blocks of four threads, creating obvious holes for the needle. Also, one block on the fabric corresponds to one square on the pattern chart. Aida is available in 8, 11, 14, 16, and 18 blocks to the inch. Stitchers like it because needle placement is so obvious; however, patterns which call for 1/4 and 3/4 stitches are more difficult on Aida than on evenweaves. Evenweaves are just that...the warp and weft are evenly the same. Those 1/4 and 3/4 stitches are easier to stitch because on evenweave every cross stitch covers two horizontal and two vertical threads, while the 1/4 and 3/4 stitches simply go over one horizontal and one vertical thread. The evenweaves are a better ground fabric if your choices of free counted cross stitch patterns are pictures. Evenweaves result in a smoother blend of stitches for that picture effect.
Check out our "Free Counted Cross Stitch Patterns Resources" section at the bottom of our page. Be certain to use a sharp needle and begin by a vertical thread to help keep stitches supported. A horizontal thread will cause stitches to have a tendency to slide to the back of the work. Happy stitching!