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The History of Needlepoint
World of Needlepoint The History of Needlepoint

Frequently Asked Questions
about Needlepoint

What is Needlepoint?
Needlepoint is a form of embroidery in which people can create truly unique art using needles and threads or fiber, by following a painted design, embellished to reflect individual tastes.

How does it differ from other needle crafts?
Needlepoint is generally done on an even, open-weave fabric, usually a treated canvas made according to a specific thread count. The stitcher can use a variety of thread or fiber types and any number of different stitches to achieve various effects.


What common types of canvas are used in needlepoint?
Mono Canvas: Mono is a type of needlepoint canvas with single vertical and horizontal threads. This allows the stitches to move, making mono canvas the perfect choice for projects that will be subjected to uneven pressure in use, such as pillows and chair cushions. Projects using mono canvas are frequently placed in a stretcher frame, as the canvas has a tendency to distort while being stitched. This is the preferred canvas of most hand-painted designers.
Interlock Canvas: This type of needlepoint canvas has a single horizontal thread wrapped by two vertical threads to create an "interlocked" mesh at the intersections. Projects using this type of canvas tend to result in less distortion due to the locking of the mesh. Unlike mono canvas, stitches tend to stay put because the intersections are "interlocked." Interlocked canvas is frequently the choice for use in needlepoint kits.
Penelope Canvas: Instead of the single thread that makes up mono canvas, Penelope canvas has a double thread mesh (two vertical and horizontal threads woven together). A single stitch can used over the two threads decreasing the number of stitches necessary to fill in the canvas, but also allowing for greater detail in selected areas by stitching one thread at a time.

interlock penelope

How are the images created on the canvas?
Images are usually hand-painted by a needlepoint designer using special paint. They may also be machine-printed or stamped onto the canvas, but the majority of designs are hand-painted.

What does "count" mean?
Canvases come in different thread counts. This refers to the number of vertical threads per inch. The higher the thread count, the smaller the stitches.

What is a "tent" stitch?
A tent stitch is a small, diagonal embroidery stitch that crosses over the intersection of one horizontal and one vertical thread of needlepoint canvas forming a slanted stitch at a 45 degree angle. Its name is derived from the origins of its use by tent makers. It is one of the most basic and versatile stitches used in Needlepoint and other canvas work embroidery.

Tent stitch variants
There are three types of tent stitch, all producing the same appearance on the front of the canvas but each worked in a slightly different way and having particular characteristics, uses, benefits and drawbacks. These variants of tent stitch are known as basketweave, continental and half cross tent stitches:

  • Basketweave tent stitch
    The basketweave form of tent stitch is worked in diagonal rows up and down the canvas. The yarn on the back of the canvas has a typical basketweave appearance, with alternating horizontal and vertical stitches. Basketweave is the best stitch to use for covering large areas of canvas as it does not distort the canvas as the other two forms of tent stitch do.
  • Continental tent stitch
    Continental stitch is worked horizontally or vertically across the canvas. On the back of the work, the stitches appear diagonally across two threads. This method uses more yarn than half cross stitch tent stitch but is more hardwearing.
  • Half cross tent stitch
    Half cross stitch is worked horizontally or vertically across the canvas. On the back of the work, the stitch appears vertical or horizontal, not diagonal, and crosses only one thread. This method uses less yarn than other stitches but is not very durable as coverage on the back of the canvas is a little thin.

What is Petit Point?
Petit point is needlepoint using tent stitches, done on canvas with a high thread count in order to achieve very fine detail.

What is a "Stitch Guide?"
A stitch guide is a reference describing the various stitches to be used for specific areas of a given canvas.  The guide may also detail the types of threads and embellishments to use.

Does a stitch guide come with every canvas?
Not every canvas includes a written stitch guide. In some instances, a detailed guide has been published by a respected professional teacher. Costs vary depending on complexity, however, skilled advice and assistance is always available at your local needlepoint shop.

How do I choose the right threads to go with my canvas?
If no stitch guide is available, the professionals at your local shop are there to help you select the appropriate materials.


How do I choose the right needles to use?
In order to stitch needlepoint, you will need a tapestry needle. This type of needle has a blunt point and a large eye so that it is fairly easy to thread. Needles are inexpensive, so consider buying a small package containing assorted sizes, as you may need them if your projects have been painted on varying sizes of mesh. The general guide we've provided below will help you determine the correct size to use for your project:

Size 16 needles / 8 mesh canvas
Size 18 needles / 10 mesh canvas
Size 20 needles / 12, 13 or 14 mesh canvas
Size 22 needles / 16 or 18 mesh canvas

The higher the size number, the smaller the needle. As a general rule, if the needle slips through the hole fairly easily and does not distort the mesh, it is probably the right size.

How do I get my piece finished?
Many stores and businesses provide professional fabrication services staffed with talented artisans specifically skilled in the art of needlepoint finishing. Unless you are working on a project designed to be self-finishing, it is generally advisable to avail yourself of this service as it truly adds the "finishing touch" to your work of art. Many designers have created canvases that can easily be completed by slipping the finished piece into a pre-fabricated "holder" or "sleeve".  Example include: purses, luggage tags, boxes and business card holders.

purse   pillow
Annie and Company
New York, NY

How do I find a local needlepoint shop?
There's a "World of Needlepoint"out there. If you are unable to find a listing in your local phone directory, visit our retailer search. Many stores have online shopping available for those living in remote areas.


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