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Guideline vs fishin’ line
October 5th, 2011

I just finished a tutorial on gridding, in which I mentioned Easy-Count Guideline. I had more to say about this but didn’t have room in the tutorial.

(If you’re coming late to the party, Easy-Count Guideline is a red plastic monofilament “thread” which comes on a spool in a little enclosed drum. The thread feeds out of a little hole in the drum.)

I read a post in the forums at some point in which someone stated that she uses Easy-Count Guideline but because it’s so expensive, she saves and reuses it. So how expensive is it? Well, it lists for $9 for 100 yards. $9 isn’t huge, but it is kind of a lot for a notion. Sewing thread is about $1.12 for 100 yards. DMC embroidery floss is about $4 for 100 yards. So what is so special about Easy-Count Guideline? I bought a spool to find out.

It says “Patent Pending”. I’m not sure what they’re patenting here. They didn’t invent monofilament line. True, the little box is pretty cool — if you’ve ever used nylon “invisible” thread, you know that as soon as you loosen the end, it starts unspooling itself like crazy, and that’s not an issue with this packaging. If you read their web site, you would think that they invented gridding. Almost none of the benefits they list are unique to Easy-Count Guideline. The only advantage it has over anything else you might use to grid is that it is really, really strong. You can’t pierce it with a needle, so you can leave it in until you’re finished stitching … completely finished. I feel fairly confident in saying that you won’t be able to pull this stuff hard enough to break it. I am not as confident that if you leave it under 500 stitches that you will be strong enough to pull it out. In the limited testing I’ve done, you have to pull hard to get it moving but it is slippery so once started it comes out fairly easily. But I don’t trust that I would be able to get it out from under a whole row of stitches, so I’m basically removing it as I go. I am also stitching on 22-count Hardanger cloth currently, and the Guideline takes up a lot of room. If I stitch over it, it raises the stitches a little, and in these cramped quarters it’s tricky getting past it.

I wondered why you wouldn’t just use some other, less expensive, plastic thread, maybe something that comes in multiple colors (I am hugely sold on color gridding). I went to JoAnn and was surprised to find that aside from the “invisible” nylon thread (which is unsuitable for gridding for obvious reasons) there is actually no non-spun sewing thread. I did get a spool of Sulky Sliver (also something I read about in the forums) but I couldn’t find it locally. It is a “thin, flat ribbon-like polyester film that is metalized with aluminum to make it brilliantly reflective”, according to Sulky. It comes in lots of colors and it’s probably not possible to pierce it with a tapestry needle, so you could stitch over it, and it’s about $1.88 per 100 yards. It’s pretty strong, but not as strong as Easy-Count Guideline. MRA was able to break a length of it, which he couldn’t do with the Guideline. Would it break being pulled out from under a lot of stitching? Let me know if you try it — I’m not going to. I do like it for the page boundaries with my color gridding — the metallic thread really stands out and since it’s more plastic than metallic, it’s easy to work with.

But back to Easy-Count Guideline — how is it any different from fishing line? I went to Academy to find out.

It turns out that a lot of fishing line is colorless, but it does come in red and green. I got red, 8-pound line, which was the lightest they had in stock. It was $1.50 per 100 yards. (Look for monofilament line, not “braided”.) It is a transparent red, while the Easy-Count Guideline is more opaque, but it’s hard to see a difference on fabric.

The top one is Guideline; the lower one is fishing line. It’s pretty hard to see any difference. The threads going vertically are sewing thread, and this is 22-count Hardanger cloth. The Guideline might be a teeny bit softer but they both tend to kink at the end of stitches. Fishing line comes in lighter weights and 6- or 4-pound might be better. The fishing line was taped to the spool and it does start unspooling the second the tape is off, whereas Guideline has that coolio box … but I put the fishing line inside a zip-loc bag and poked the end through the bag, and now it can just live in there and do its thing. (If I wanted to futz, I could probably make a sleeve for the fishing line like the Guideline has.) The Guideline also has extensive instructions — seriously. And not altogether helpful instructions, in my opinion. They assume your pattern will not have a 10 x 10 grid and want you grid from the center out and then mark the pattern to match your fabric. Obviously, you need to make the fabric grid match your pattern grid, and the center point is quite possibly not at the intersection of two bold lines. Probably the key point is to take long stitches since this material strains the fabric. They want you to have 6 stitch lengths on top and 4 underneath so you have a series of broken boxes to match the grid in the pattern, like this:

I could not find Easy-Count Guideline at JoAnn or Michael’s, but a shop specializing in needlework might have it, and it’s easily found online. Is the nice packaging worth $7.50? That’s what it boils down to, that and the fact that anyplace that sells sporting goods will have fishing line.

One last note from a reader, beading supply stores sell a product similar to Guideline in a variety of colors for a much lower price. It’s called nylon beading cord. It may not be available at general craft stores but you can easily find it online.

10 Responses to “Guideline vs fishin’ line”
  1. From Julie
    11 years, 8 months ago

    When I first found the mention of Easy-Count Guideline on this site, I immediately ordered a spool. I then used it for the 60% I had left to work on my current piece. Unlike their instructions, I made sure to match the guideline stitches with the pattern grid. After I worked fully across the fabric width, I tried to pull out a loop. Friction is an enemy; it was necessary to grab some of the guideline partway along and pull it in sections, working back to the looped end. I had stitched over much of the line and thus found it hard to grab a bit to get a pull started. I am now trying very hard to stitch under the lines, although it’s not always possible. It is pricey (and it takes a LOT for a larger project), and I doubt it’s worth the cost, especially when monofilament fishing line is available in colors. Hubby found multiple colors in lightweight line at a local sporting goods store. Your idea of keeping it in a zipper bag with a hole should solve the unspooling issue. For my next project, I had already decided to put in a guideline (in a different color) at the page breaks, independent of the pattern grid. While I do well working with two clipboards and two consecutive chart pages, at some point in each “integration zone” I will get frustrated trying to decide where the next stitch will go and which page is being represented at any given point. So while I have decided that the Easy-Count Guideline price is way too high, the color gridding process is a definite keeper; my count times have plummeted and I now have multiple landmarks to ensure that any given stitch is put into the correct spot. Shortened count times, fewer errors, less swearing and frustration; what’s not to like?

  2. From Craig
    11 years, 8 months ago

    When I first saw Easy-Count Guideline in a catalog, I ordered it and loved stitching with it, but thought it was priced too high, and so thick it was hard to knot. I looked for monofilament fishing line and ordered the red Cajun line as pictured above, but in 4-lb test, so it’s more flexible and easier to knot. I match my gridding to the pattern, and don’t bother counting how many stitches I have under or over the fabric, just so most are above. I don’t stitch over the gridding if I can help it, but don’t worry about it too much. With the knots, and loops between lines, I don’t have trouble gripping the line to pull it out of the finished project. I snip off the knots, through the loops on one side of the project, hook my finger through the loop on the remaining side, and pull. Easy. I don’t see how anyone manages to stitch without gridding!

  3. From Joan Reilly-Bertsch
    11 years, 7 months ago

    Hi all, I thought Easy-Count thread was too expensive, too. I wish I had thought of fishing line, but instead I bought Coats and Clark Upholstery Thread which is 100% nylon. Advantages : It retails for about $2.30 for 150 yards and is made in 21 different colors. So, you could buy a spool for the most contrast with each fabric or project to make the grid easier to see. With this all nylon thread, I never pierced it while using to grid. Disadvantages: I was using it to grid 22 count fabric and it was such a major struggle to pull out when I stitched over it, that I began taking it out as I went along. Also, the upholstery thread made my stitches a touch larger on the 22 ct. fabric when I stitched over it. I hope you find this info helpful! Happy Stitching!

  4. From Evelyn
    11 years, 7 months ago

    I may have to try the nylon, Joan! Thanks! But here you have two points of view or maybe it’s a personality trait. Do you want a thread for the grid that breaks easily or one that you can’t pierce but is hard to manipulate, remove and cut? I use what I call “rotten” thread, the old cotton on wooden spools. It’s not really rotten but will break before distorting a two-strand stitch. (I wouldn’t use it on one strand) This is a good thing. My mother left me a large supply that I used up in my View of Delft, but a request to my quilt group raised a lifetime supply from mystified friends. If the gridded thread breaks, and it does, the fibers are long enough to pull out with tweezers. You can get it out even if you’ve split the grid thread. This advantage is lost when you try to remove poly-cotton blends; they will abrade the floss. And the ground fabric! Check every “rotten” color along the border of your project before using it to grid by pulling it out, to be sure there is no crocking (color retention) in the project fabric. I am not claiming colorfastness for all old thread in existence. Use high contrast colors of thread. Unfortunately neon colors are usually polyester. As a quilter I don’t use poly-cotton blends for anything, even basting. Quilter’s cotton will not work; it’s exceptionally strong and/or waxed. Neither will current sewing machine cotton. You can cut them but in a pinch, they’re too strong to remove. I don’t do this to be cheap. I do it because it works well. I wouldn’t feel good about pulling that red fishing line or the Easy-Count out from under my stitches. I wouldn’t like the feel while working it, or getting tickled by the ends of the filament. The only problems I have with following the grid always seem to occur at page breaks with partial squares of less than ten stitches, so I add a line of gridding on both sides of the page breaks, at 2 and 8 or 4 and 6, in a contrasting color to all the colors I have used for the primary grid, consistent throughout the piece to help me pay attention!

    I don’t take my threads out as I go. I examine each grid square with a big magnifier before marking it off on the photocopy of the page, but there are always surprises, like the top cross, that I find at the end. As suggested, I do the stitches as they come and go over the grid rather than ending at a grid line or page line. I head into each stitch that lies on a grid line, though at corners that’s hard; then I plan so that I can go under whichever grid thread on the surface of the work. This enables me to get most of my stitches in without splitting the floss. I waste that tiny bit of floss that it takes to make the stitches a little longer on the back. Finally a couple of backstitches of the grid thread at the ends of your rows will hold the thread better than a knot. Separate them just a bit to make them easy to remove (two years later… just kidding).

  5. From Elaine
    11 years, 7 months ago

    I’ve been gridding everything. I use Coats & Clarks hand quilting thread. I thought the Easy Count thread was too expensive, and I did not know that fishing came in colors or came thin enough to use on needlework. I was also concerned about the unspooling because I live with four cats, and they would have a field day with that!

    The thread I use says it is Glace-finished cotton and polyester. I have no idea what that means, but it does not seem to split when I stitch over it, and I have been able to pull it out fairly easily, even under several rows of stitching. It can split, but I can pick out the fibers with tweezers. I usually match the grid of the chart, and stitching the center horizontal and vertical grid lines (which may not necessarily be the center of the chart exactly) in a different color. I use colors that stand out from my fabric, but are not a high contrast just in case the thread bleeds. I grid the entire chart. This has saved me SO much time and frustration as I tend to watch movies when I stitch and don’t pay all that close attention sometimes to my work!

  6. From wurdnurd
    11 years, 7 months ago

    Thank you SO MUCH for this info!! I’m the kind of nutcase noob who’s trying Klimt’s Fulfillment for her second ever cross-stitch project. I’m on my third full attempt, and almost done with the third page, but found that it took so long, the grid I carefully and painstakingly drew with water-soluble marker has almost completely faded, and I’m stuck with a small (almost two grids square) section that I’ll have to wing (luckily, it’s in the upper-right corner, so it shouldn’t be noticeable).
    I’m heading out tomorrow in search of lightweight fishing line tomorrow, so when I start on my next row of pages, I’ll have a sturdier grid to follow!!
    Thanks again for the great work <3

  7. From Caroline
    11 years, 7 months ago

    I am a huge fan of the Easy Count Guideline, and posted previously about it, along with photos of my gridded work-in-progress, Edward Hopper’s “Gas”, see

    i am puzzled by the intense focus in the comments on the cost. I’m not an extravagant person, but $9 for a reel that will last over many long-term projects hardly seems outrageous. This is NOT sewing thread or floss that will be densely covering a surface; you don’t need that much to grid even a large project like “Gas”.

    I like to follow one color all over the place when stitching, so gridding is a must. I grid the entire project (mindless work done while watching TV), and then start stitching, saving much time and counting-aggravation. I try to stitch under the guideline, but when I stitch over, it doesn’t seem to distort the stitch at all, just easier to see if stitched under.

    Removing the gridding also is easy. The issue of pulling out a long piece of the guideline is not a problem. Although I am leaving most of the guideline in as I work, I have tested after finishing large solid blocs of stitching (not yet visible on the WIP photos): Just snip the understitched guideline at about 6 inch intervals and it pulls out easily.

    The product instructions are not all that useful, nor are they needed. It’s just thread, and the intended use of stitching it into the fabric to reproduce the printed grid is pretty self-evident.

    Anyhow, for those who don’t like the product, of course don’t use it. But I hope those who have yet to try gridding will not be put off by doubts expressed in some of the comments. Here’s one stitcher who gives the product a solid recommendation.

  8. From Janet
    11 years, 7 months ago

    While I have not tried either fishing line or the Easy Count Guideline, I have used a variety of methods of gridding. With a marking pen I cannot get a fine enough line to grid anything but aida. And since I do not like aida, that rules out the pens. All regular sewing threads and floss I have tried have serious drawbacks. Needles can pierce them. They shed tiny bits into the fabric and floss, leaving color “stains” in the stitching. They are difficult to remove. So I have settled on Sulky Sliver for my gridding. I use only 2 colors, one for the 0, 50, 100, etc. gridlines and the other color for the remainder. Like Craig I don’t bother counting how many stitches are over or under the fabric. As much as possible I do not stitch over the gridlines. After all, I need to see them if they are going to be any help. The Sulky Sliver is very thin, so any stitches that do end up over it are not raised.

    The idea of removing the gridding thread as you go may work for someone who stitches row by row, but for stitchers like me who prefer to follow a color, it does not work. I need to leave that gridding in. With all but the Sulky removing gridding is a major pain. The thread breaks, it is pierced and refuses to pull out, etc. The Sulky, in contrast, is much easier to remove. most of the time I can pull the entire length out without breaking. Sometimes I need to ease out a few inches at a time. Only rarely does it break. I have done this when stitching over 2 on 28, 32, 36 and 40 count fabric and over 1 on 25, 28, 30 and 32 count. I do reuse the Sulky too.

    Since I do much of my stitching 1 over 1 (as long as the pattern does not need blends) I am hesitant to try the fishing line or Easy Count. Raised stitches from stitching over those would be much more obvious than when stitching over 2.

  9. From Meredith
    11 years, 7 months ago

    This was feedback from the gridding tutorial:

    Beware easy count guideline, it leaves holes in your finished work when you remove it. I have seen a couple of pieces finished by my friends that had big holes when the guideline is removed.
    Sulky flat machine thread is good for gridding.

  10. From Jo An Clark
    11 years, 7 months ago

    Thanks for all this info! Until today I never knew of “building a grid”. I work of the patter and count the entire area as I go. I must say that I will never do a colored pattern again without this wonderful suggestion.

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