Needlepoint: Wikis


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Needlepoint cushion

Needlepoint is a form of canvas work embroidery, in which yarn is stitched through an open weave canvas in which vertical and horizontal threads are formed to make precise holes between the thread and then hand painted or printed with a design. Stitchers use different coloured yarn or thread to cover each area with the corresponding colour on the canvas. The types of stitching and threads used on the canvas make it more durable than surface embroidery using fine count aida. Needlepoint worked on very fine (high-count) canvas (16 or more mesh holes per line inch) is called petit-point. Needlepoint is often referred to as "tapestry" but differs from true tapestry, which is woven on a vertical loom rather than stitched on canvas mesh. Finished works may be made into pillows or upholstery, may be displayed on the wall, framed or unframed, or made into holiday ornaments, purses, stuffed stand-up figures, or rugs.



The roots of needlepoint go back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians who used small slanted stitches to sew up their canvas tents. Howard Carter, of Tutankhamen fame, found some needlepoint in the Cave of a Pharaoh who had lived 1500 years before Christ. Modern needlepoint descends from the canvas work in tent stitch that was a popular domestic craft in the 16th century and from 17th-century Bargello through the shaded Berlin wool work in brightly-colored wool yarn. Upholstered furniture became the fashion in the 17th century, and this prompted the development of a more durable material to serve as a foundation for the embroidered works of art.

In Early American culture, young girls commonly created needlepoint or cross stitch samplers which usually contained a blessing on their homes along with the alphabet and numbers. This rite of passage demonstrated not only the girl's proficiency in stitching, but her literacy as well.

Contemporary techniques



The threads used for stitching may be wool, silk, cotton or combinations, such as wool-silk blend. Variety fibers may also be used, such as metallic cord, metallic braid, ribbon, or raffia. Stitches may be plain, covering just one thread intersection with a single orientation, or fancy, such as in bargello or other counted-thread stitches. Plain stitches, known as tent stitches, may be worked as basketweave, continental or half cross. Basketweave uses the most wool, but does not distort the rectangular mesh and makes for the best-wearing piece.

Several types of embroidery canvas are available: single thread and double thread embroidery canvas are open even-weave meshes, with large spaces or holes to allow heavy threads to pass through without fraying. Canvas is sized by mesh sizes, or thread count per inch. Sizes vary from 5 threads per inch to 24 threads per inch; popular mesh sizes are 10, 12, 14, 18, and 24 (Congress Cloth). The different types of needlepoint canvas available on the market are mono, penelope, interlock, rug and plastic

  • Mono canvas comes in the widest variety of colors (especially on 18 mesh) and is plain woven, with one weft thread going over and under one warp thread. This canvas has the most possibilities for manipulation and open canvas. It is generally used for hand-painted canvases.
  • Penelope canvas has two threads closely grouped together in both warp and weft. Because these threads can be split apart, penelope sizes are often expressed with two numbers, such as 10/20.
  • Interlock Mono Canvas is the more expensive because it is more stable than the others and is made by twisting two thin threads around each other for the lengthwise thread and "locking" them into a single crosswise thread. Interlock canvas is generally used for printed canvases. Silk gauze is a form of interlock canvas, which is sold in small frames for petit-point work. Silk gauze most often comes in 32, 40 or 48 count, although some 18 count is available and 64, 128 and other counts are used for miniature work.
  • Rug canvas is a mesh of strong cotton threads, twisting two threads around each other lengthwise forms the mesh and locking them around a crosswise thread made the same way; this cannot be separated. Canvases come in different gauges, and rug canvas is 3.3 mesh and 5 mesh, which is better for more detailed work.
  • Plastic Canvas is a stiff canvas that is generally used for smaller projects and is sold as “pre-cut pieces" rather than by the yard. Plastic canvas is an excellent choice for beginners who want to practice different stitches.

Frames and hoops

Needlepoint canvas is stretched on a scroll frame to keep the work taut during stitching. Petit point is sometimes worked in a small embroidery hoop rather than a scroll frame.


Commercial designs for needlepoint may be found in different forms: Hand-Painted Canvas, Printed Canvas, Charted Canvas, and Free-form.

In Hand-Painted Canvas, the design is painted on the canvas by the designer, or painted to their specifications by an employee or contractor. Canvases may be stitch-painted, meaning each thread intersection is painstakingly painted so that the stitcher has no doubts about what color is meant to be used at that intersection. Alternately, they may be hand-painted, meaning that the canvas is painted by hand but the stitcher will have to use their judgment about what colors to use if a thread intersection is not clearly painted. Hand-painted canvases allow the stitcher to give free range to their creativity with threads and unique stitches by not having to pay attention to a separate chart. In North America this is the most popular form of needlepoint canvas.

Printed Canvas is when the design is printed by silk screening or computer onto the needlepoint canvas. Printing the canvas in this means allows for faster creation of the canvas and thus has a lower price than Hand-Painted Canvas. However, care must be taken that the canvas is straight before being printed to ensure that the edges of the design are straight. Designs are typically less involved due to the limited color palette of this printing method. The results (and the price) of printed canvas vary extensively. Often printed canvases come as part of kits, which also dramatically vary in quality, based on the printing process and the materials used. This form of canvas is widely available outside North America.

Charted Canvas designs are available in book or leaflet form. They are available at book stores and independent needlework stores. Charted Canvas designs are typically printed in two ways: either in grid form with each thread intersection being represented with a symbol that shows what color is meant to be stitched on that intersection, or as a line drawing where the stitcher is to trace the design onto his canvas and then fill in those areas with the colors listed. Books typically include a grouping of designs from a single designer such as Kaffe Fassett or Candace Bahouth, or may be centered around a theme such as Christmas or Victorian Needlepoint. Leaflets usually include one to two designs and are usually printed by the individual designer.

Free-Form Needlepoint designs are created by the stitcher. They may be based around a favorite photograph, stitch, thread color, etc. The stitcher just starts stitching! Many interesting pieces are created this way. It allows for the addition of found objects, appliqué, computer-printed photographs, goldwork, or specialty stitches.

While traditionally needlepoint has been done to create a solid fabric, more modern needlepoint incorporates open canvas, techniques which allow some of the unstitched, or lightly stitched, canvas to show through. Some of these techniques include "shadow" or "lite" stitching, blackwork on canvas, and pattern darning.

Needlepoint continues to evolve as stitchers use new techniques and threads, and add appliqué or found materials. The line between needlepoint and other forms of counted-thread embroidery is becoming blurred as new stitchers adapt techniques and materials from other forms of embroidery to needlepoint.

Famous needlepointers

Mary, Queen of Scots, Marie Antoinette, Queen Elizabeth I, Princess Grace, American football player Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier, and actresses Mary Martin and Loretta Swit have all been all avid stitchers.

Martin released a book titled Mary Martin's Needlepoint in 1969 that cataloged her works and provided needlework tips.

Grier released a book titled Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men in 1973 that shows Grier stitching and samples of his work.

Loretta Switt published A Needlepoint Scrapbook in 1986. This book is said to include a design for Ms. Pac Man.

The American Needlepoint Guild has established a Princess Grade Award (Needlepoint) for needlepoint completed entirely in tent stitch[1]. This award is not formally associated with the Princess Grace Foundation which also presents a "Princess Grace Award."

Needlepoint stitches

  • Arraiolos stitch
  • Brick Stitch
  • Encroaching Upright Gobelin stitch
  • Hungarian Ground stitch
  • Hungarian point stitch
  • Mosaic stitch
  • Old Florentine stitch
  • Parisian stitch
  • Tent stitches - Basketweave, Continental and Half cross variants
  • Upright cross stitch
  • Whipped flower stitch


External links



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