Linen is an even weave fabric which means that there are the same number of threads in the fabric horizontally and vertically.
Hand weaving, the flax industry in Belgium 1865
When choosing the correct linen for the type of embroidery you are doing it is important to look at the linen count. The linen count is measured as the number of stitches in an inch or 2.5cm.
If you are accustomed to working on 14 count Aida you will know that 14 worked stitches will measure one inch or 2.5 centimetres. To obtain the same size when working over two threads of linen, you will need a 28 count weave linen.
Aida is a block weave and unlike linen which has round threads, it is flat and fused. This means that you cannot remove threads from Aida for skills like Hardanger, Pulled thread or Drawn Thread while linen is perfect for these techniques. Use a blunt-pointed tapestry needle for these kinds of embroidery as the needle will slide between the fabric threads of the linen without piercing and splitting them. Choose a needle size which does not distort the fabric you are working on.
An unworked linen background adds character and a delicacy to your work. Have a look at this example here.
When working cross-stitch on linen it is essential to know where to start working. It is important to start at a vertical thread as indicated by the 'tick in diagram No. 1.By doing this you ensure that your stitches lie well and can always check that your counting is correct. Diagram No. 2 illustrates both the under and the over stitches.
Surface, creative embroidery is best worked on a fine count (32 count) even weave such as Belfast Linen using an embroidery needle with a sharp point.
Cashel linen which is 28 count is better suited to Drawn thread, Pulled thread, Cross-stitch, Black work and Hardanger embroidery using a tapestry needle with a blunt point. Sizes 24 and 26 are a good choice.
Linen is very enjoyable and versatile to work on. One of the joys is that you can combine various techniques such as Cross stitch, Drawn thread, Pulled thread and Hardanger in one piece as I have done here.
Embroidery takes time which is so very precious that it is worth investing in good quality materials like linen to work on.
IMAGES: I would like to acknowledge Maggie Blanck for the use of the images:
Flax plant with flower - Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck, 2005
Hand weaving, the flax industry in Belgium 1865 - Collection of Maggie Land Blanck, 2013