Stamped Cross Stitch vs Counted Cross Stitch: The Complete Guide

March 09, 2023

When it comes to cross stitch, there are just two types you will come across: stamped cross stitch and counted cross stitch. The two have similar outputs, but the process will differ in some ways. It can be difficult to know which option to choose, so use this useful guide to help decide which is best for you!


With stamped cross stitch, the fabric will have a pre-stamped design on it, and you'll be expected to stitch directly over the top of it - simply refer to the key to figure out which colour thread you should be using and where! Just like paint by numbers but with fabric and thread - you don't need any separate pattern to refer to. 

There’s a common misconception that stamped patterns are small, simplistic and lack detail. This may have been true years ago, but not recently - there are now many designers who release beautiful, large, and extremely detailed patterns. Back stitch is frequently included in stamped cross stitch patterns too. 

stamped cross stitch kit

Image above © Fred's Haberdashery

For this reason, many stamped cross stitch projects are not beginner-friendly. Don’t assume that just because the pattern is printed onto the fabric that it means simple or easy! 

Often, beginners start by using 14 count aida fabric (meaning there's 14 stitches in an inch) so that it's clear to read and stitch over. The fabric count is usually somewhat higher on stamped cross stitch. This isn't a negative, it's simply something to be aware of when selecting a kit. 

It's important to choose high quality kits from respected brands for any cross stitch project, but this is especially true when it comes to stamped cross stitch. To fully enjoy your stitching session the pattern needs to be clear and precise to avoid any frustration or guessing what you should be stitching and where! 

 stamped cross stitch kit

Image above © Oraloa

Generally, the design will be stamped using water soluble ink. To ensure your project looks the best it can be when finished, washing your stamped cross stitch project is a necessary step. Check out our YouTube tutorial here

Once you have completed a stamped project, your stitches will hide the pattern and symbols. This means that stamped cross stitch is for one time use only and when it's complete, you can't stitch another. 


When completing counted cross stitch projects, the pattern isn't pre-stamped onto the fabric. You'll have a blank piece of fabric (the Zweigart brand with Caterpillar Cross Stitch kits) and an accompanying, separate printed pattern.

To create the project you'll start in the centre (typically marked by two red lines that cross and/or black arrows), counting the squares and stitch according to the pattern. 

When it comes to pattern availability, there are heaps more counted cross stitch patterns available and you'll easily find patterns that cater to just about any interest. Stitching something that appeals to you will make working on your project even more fun! Check our the growing selection on the Love it Stitch it marketplace here.  

counted cross stitch kit

With counted cross stitch there's more opportunity for flexibility and personalisation. You'll have the option to stitch on any composition of fabric (cotton, linen, evenweave), any colour fabric (pale, dark, colourful or hand dyed) and in any count you desire. Since it's near impossible to stamp a design on to anything other than lighter coloured fabric, if you're hoping to stitch on darker fabrics, counted cross stitch is the way to go! 

It isn't always absolutely necessary to wash your counted cross stitch piece, saving you time and effort! Some stitchers just iron their project and unless instructed, others will do nothing. You will only need to wash your completed project if there has been an accident with food or drink or if grubby hands touched the fabric! Washing also makes the fabric stiffer when it dries which sometimes makes mounting and finishing easier. 

As you are continuously looking back and forth at the pattern and counting, it is likely to take longer to complete a counted cross stitch pattern than stamped. But this might not be a bad thing because you get more crafty time for your money! 

Once you purchase a counted cross stitch pattern, you can stitch it over and over again, as many times as you like and on different items such as a bag, tea towel, t-shirt or apron! 

black cat cross stitch

A blank piece of fabric may sound daunting, but rest assured, counted cross stitch patterns are 100% beginner-friendly, and once you have mastered counted cross stitch, you'll have the skills to tackle any cross stitch project your heart desires!

Also, when counting the stitches yourself and following a pattern, this takes your mind off other things and helps you to fully zone out because the mind can't focus on too many things at once! It's a positive thing that it keeps your mind busy and engaged. 

Just because you're new to cross stitch doesn't mean that you should only choose stamped cross stitch, and just because you're an advanced stitcher doesn't mean you should only choose counted cross stitch. When it comes to stamped vs counted, there's no right or wrong answer - it's simply down to personal preference!

We'd love to know what you're working on right now so please email us, give us a call on 01926 485045 or send us a message on social media (we're on all platforms).

Happy stitching!


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