Cross-stitch beginners usually come across two types of kits: stamped and counted. The latter is more common, but the outcomes are essentially the same, with x-shaped stitches creating a pattern on the cloth. There is some debate on whether counted or stamped patterns are better, but like any other craft, it all boils down to personal preference.
Stamped cross-stitch kits have the patter printed onto the fabric itself, so that you only have to stitch in the colours indicated. In counted cross-stitch, the pattern is printed on a separate sheet of paper, leaving the fabric blank. This means that you have to count the squares yourself to see where each stitch goes. Most people also start stitching from the center of the pattern to make sure there’s equal room on both sides to frame the design. This, of course, calls for even more detailed counting.
Needless to say, stamped cross-stitch is easier and simpler, making it a more popular choice for beginners. You don’t have to count from the center of the pattern; you can get start stitching right away. The catch is that stamped kits don’t usually carry as much detail as counted cross-stitch. Squares have to be bigger for the stamps to be visible, which means you don’t get as much colour variation or fine gradients as you would with a counted pattern. Counted cross-stitch kits allow for higher-count fabric—that is, more stitches per square inch—so you can work in small details and use a wider range of colours. Finished products also come in a broader selection of sizes in counted cross-stitch patterns.
A finished counted cross-stitch project can have enough detail to resemble a painting; many people have them framed and put on walls. Stamped cross-stitch patterns are usually more of the ornamental kind, such as tablecloth borders, throw pillow cases, and placemats. Stamped cross-stitch also isn’t limited to Aida cloth, the square-weave fabric commonly used in embroidery. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule—you can find a good variety of patterns across both types.
Most people start of with stamped cross-stitch and then move up to counted patterns as they get more experience. Others opt to take a break from complex projects with simpler ones, or simply have no preference. If you’re starting out, you may want to start simple, but it’s always good to leave room for change and try out both types before making your choice.