How To Do Needlepoint

Passed down through the generations, needlepoint is the craft of working diagonal stitches with a needle to cover a canvas, creating a pattern. This needlecraft, used to adorn everything from clothes to towels, can often be found framed and hung on the walls of homes. In order to begin the craft of needlepoint, you will need several supplies.

  1. First you'll need a pattern, which is either already printed on the canvas or found elsewhere.
  2. You'll also need the stiff fabric canvas made of beige or white cotton, linen or plastic. There are three types of fabric used.
    • Monofilament has one vertical thread and one horizontal thread per mesh (holes in the fabric).
    • Penelope has two vertical threads and two horizontal threads per mesh.
    • Interwoven, or interlock, has two vertical threads and only one horizontal thread per mesh.

    Fabric is measured by mesh size, which measures the gauge of the canvas per inch and is typically 5 to 26 mesh. A 5-mesh canvas has 5 holes per inch.  The threads that create these meshes also create intersections. An intersection is where the vertical and horizontal threads come together to make one corner of a mesh.

  3. You'll need needles -- tapestry needles with an elongated eye, a blunt point, a tapered body and a range in size from 13-26. These needles should pass through the mesh canvas with no problems. Sizes 18-20 are most common.
  4. Thread used is usually six-strand cotton, although specialty and gold threads can also be used.
  5. Find a frame to keep the canvas taut and even during the craft.

For beginners a needlepoint kit would be best. These kits have all the materials needed except the frame.    

To begin your needlepoint project, prepare the canvas by following these steps:

  1. Mark the center of each side of the frame.
  2. Cut the canvas a little larger than the opening of the frame.
  3. Cover edges of the canvas with masking tape to keep it from becoming distorted or unraveling.
  4. Mark the center of the canvas.
  5. Transfer the pattern to the canvas if it is not already on the canvas.

Now that the supplies are gathered and the canvas is prepared, you can actually begin your needlepoint by following the directions supplied with the pattern or in the kit. These directions will tell you what stitches will be used and where on the canvas to use them. When beginning with the first thread, do not knot it. Bring the yarn up from underneath the canvas, leaving a tail to be covered with the first few stitches or weave it under existing stitches. You'll find the following stitches are used:

  1. Diagonal or slanted.
    • These stitches cross at least one intersection (where vertical and horizontal threads of the canvas unite) on a 45-degree slant.
    • Half-cross stitch is from left to right with the needle being inserted at the bottom of the first intersection. Cross the intersection and begin the next stitch in the mesh immediately below the mesh the needle went down in.
    • Continental stitch is from right to left diagonally across the intersection of the mesh, meaning that the needle is brought up from under the canvas, in the first mesh, and then placed down in the diagonal mesh. This diagonal mesh is located up one mesh and over one mesh from the mesh the needle just passed through. All stitches are either worked horizontal (meaning they all go across the canvas) or vertical (meaning they all go up or down the canvas).
    • Basketweave stitch moves diagonally across the canvas. It will create a triangular pattern starting with an upper-right point and growing larger in a lower-left direction across the canvas. The first stitch is placed over a top right-hand intersection. The next stitch goes over an intersection in the same direction as the first, but this time over the intersection immediately under the first stitch. The third stitch crosses the intersection to the left of the first stitch, again crossing in the same direction over it (as they all cross).

      Confused yet? Here's where this warhorse pattern becomes clearer: the fourth stitch is across the intersection to the left of the third stitch. The fifth stitch moves over the intersection directly under the third intersection (therefore, to the left of the second), and the sixth stitch is over the intersection directly beneath the second stitch. Then, we move down another diagonal row and work back across our canvas toward the upper-left (the same direction across the canvas as we moved when making the second and third stitches).

  2. Slanted stitches.
    • Slanted goblin is stitched over two or more intersections of the canvas.
    • Byzantine is stitched by crossing two or more intersections of the canvas, usually in a pattern similar to "down three over three, down three over three."
    • Jacquard is stitched much the same as the Byzantine, except that each diagonal row is separated from the next row with a row of Continental stitching.
  3. Straight.
    • These stitches are worked vertically or sideways, and cover 2-6 meshes without crossing intersections.
    • Bargello, also known as the Florentine or Flame stitch, is stitched over four or more canvas threads, stepped up and down. This stepped up and down pattern, or zig-zag pattern, is accomplished by the bringing the needle up from back, in the beginning mesh, then move the needle to the third mesh from start and dropping it through that third mesh. Now move to the right (relative to the initial direction) one mesh and go down two meshes. Bring the needle up in this mesh and move it down in the third mesh from where the needle came up. Continue with this pattern as the directions state.
    • Goblin is stitched over two or more canvas threads either vertically or sideways.
    • With a Parisien, every other stitch is half-length. For example, first stitch covers four meshes and the next stitch covers two meshes.
  4. Box.
    • Box stitches make square or rectangle patterns.
    • Scotch stitch, also known as Flat or Diagonal stitch, is worked in a square of three or four canvas threads.
    • Mosaic stitch is a repeating set of three stitches -- short diagonal, long diagonal and then another short diagonal.
  5. Cross.
    • Cross stitches are stitches that cross another stitch creating an X-shape. This is achieved by stitching at an intersection and then stitching crossed over the first stitch at the same intersection.
    • Rice stitches, also known as William & Mary and Crossed Corners stitches, create an "X" and then add another stitch at each corner.
    • Smyrna stitches are double "X" stitches. 


Share this article!

Follow us!

Find more helpful articles: