The difference between even-weave and plainweave fabrics

The difference between several fabrics that are used in embroidery relates to how each type is woven and how those fibers are spaced.

In general, a typical fabric is woven on a loom, where the horizontal threads (weft threads) are woven across the vertical threads (warp threads), in an over and under fashion. If fabric contains the same number of warp and weft threads per inch then it is called even-weave. Canvas is a type of even-weave fabric whose holes are larger that the threads that separate them. If fabric does not contain the same number of warp and weft threads is called plainweave

What is gauge: Gauge is the number of threads or the number of holes per inch. The higher number indicates the finer fabric. Gauge is a necessary characteristic to know when you want to choose a fabric for a charted cross-stitch or needlepoint. Moreover, by knowing the gauge you will be able to determine the measurements of the embroidered piece. For example, a fine-gauge fabric contains more holes per inch, so stitching a charted design results in a small finished item. If you want the final piece to be larger then you should opt for a lower-count fabric. Cross stitch fabric is generally available in gauges ranging from 18 to 36. Remember also, that cross-stitch work does not typically cover the underlying fabric, so the fabric serves as the design’s background. 

Plainweave fabrics are typically used for free-hand or surface such as crewel work, goldwork, stumpwork, cutwork and candlewicking. Moreover, plainweave fabrics have a tight weave and individual threads are not readily visible, so gauge is less of an issue. Embroideries that can be performed on plainweave do not require the crafter to perform stitches at a precise thread count. If plain weave fabrics are very tightly woven, you might want to choose a finer thread. There is a great variety of plain weave fabrics such as cotton, linen, Dupion silk, Tussah silk, denim, sailcloth etc. Whitework may be worked on either plainweave or counted thread fabric, but when worked in plainweave it is known as fine white. 

As it was mentioned before, even-weave fabrics have the same number and thickness of warp and weft threads. Even-weave fabrics are typically requires as foundations for counted-thread embroidery styles such as cross stitch, needlepoint and blackwork so that a stitch of the same "count" will be the same length whether it crosses warp or weft threads.  Some suitable types of even-weave fabrics for cross stitch and needlepoint are the following:
  • Single even-weave fabric. It is a type of canvas composed of single threads.
  • Hardanger. It is a type of canvas composed of pair of threads. Gauges are limited to 22 or 24 threads per inch. Since threads are in pair the gauge is also 11 or 12 hole per inch. 
  • Aida cloth. It is a type of even-weave fabric composed of groups of three or more threads.
  • Binca fabric is like Aida but features a coarser gauge, typically six squares per inch but sometimes eight squares per inch.

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