Aug 23

Needlepoint Stitches

Needlepoint stitching is a wonderful way to showcase your creativity. You can make unique pieces of art that can be given as gifts to family and friends, used for decoration around the house, or just as a fun hobby!

If you are a beginner — absolutely no problem! This guide will help you get started with some basic needlepoint stitches. If you are a little bit more advanced, you too may find some helpful hints or different needlepoint stitches to try out.

Needlepoint is a therapeutic and enjoyable craft with a long history. Because of this, there are an almost infinite number of patterns and projects available to you.

Needlepoint Stitch Guide: Definitions

Before you begin, there are some basic needlepoint terms you need to know:

  • Canvas. A canvas is the background fabric used for any needlepoint stitch project. They come in a variety of materials.
  • Mesh size. This refers to the size of the canvas.
  • Skein. A skein refers to a unit of thread, usually sold in pre-packaged amounts.
  • Tent Stitches. These are the main, and most basic, type of stitch. It has a few variations, but one of the most common is included below.
  • Waste knot. A knot made when starting a new thread to secure it to the canvas.

Basic Needlepoint Stitches

A wide variety of basic needlepoint stitches are listed below. Some styles are more suited than others for certain projects, so be sure to bookmark this needlepoint stitch guide for all your future needs.

  • Basketweave Tent Stitch

A basketweave tent stitch is one of the most common needlepoint stitches. It is a very strong stitch and, importantly, does not stretch or distort the canvas from its original shape. Tent stitches have a woven appearance on the back of the canvas; this is how the stitch received its name!

Ideal for larger background areas with a lot of color, the basketweave tent stitch lies in a slanted, diagonal direction. Thanks to its durable nature, it is also suited for objects that may be used a lot day-to-day.

  • Half-cross Stitch

The half-cross stitch is fairly easy to grasp for beginners. Like its name suggests, the shape is half a cross. It is a simple diagonal and flows horizontally. This means it is very effective at creating detail within your pattern. Generally, you will thread from the back of the canvas forward.

It is a perfect needlepoint stitch for small areas.  In this way it is almost opposite to the basketweave tent stitch.

  • Continental Stitch

This needlepoint stitch can be a lifesaver when working with a varied pattern. Like the basketweave stitch, it is useful for covering large areas of canvas. However, the continental stitch is an excellent, strategic choice for small areas, especially with color.

One drawback of the continental stitch is it may contort the canvas more compared to other stitches, so it is always good to have several types of needlepoint stitches up your sleeve!

  • Brick Stitch

Of all the needlepoint stitches you will learn, the brick stitch is one of the most basic. The brick stitch is used to create horizontal or vertical straight stitches and are staggered, which gives them the appearance of a brick wall.

Brick stitches are generally good for backgrounds in your pattern. However, it is a highly versatile stitch! Once you feel more comfortable, you can attempt to add shading by using different colored thread, doing double brick stitches, or skipping rows.

  • Mosaic Stitch

The mosaic stitch is extremely useful, as it can be stitched in different directions, including in rows, in a square, diagonally, and more!

The mosaic stitch is shaped like a square. Its ability to form diagonals is perfect for creating areas of your pattern that are not uniform, such as curves.

Tips and Tricks

Everyone starts somewhere, so don’t worry about having to dip into this list every now and then. We hope these tips will enable you to enjoy your new hobby.

Here are some helpful bits of advice to get you started on your needlepoint journey:

  • Use a frame. A frame will help keep your canvas taunt and hold its shape, which will in turn help your stitches stay straight and smooth. It also means you won’t be handling the canvas as much, keeping it cleaner.
  • Attach your thread. Be sure your thread is securely attached to the canvas. It’s okay to use a knot if you need to!
  • Start small. It may be surprising, but we recommend starting by stitching the small areas first. The more detailed a section is, the easier it will be to start there and work your way out to the more open, simple areas.
  • Start light. Similarly, it is advisable, once you have finished with the detailed areas of your piece, to stitch the lighter colored areas. Doing so will mean cleaner whites and light colors because stray fibers from the darker threads will not create unintentional shadows.
  • Tape it down. Taping your canvas down will help keep everything in place and prevent snags or tears.
  • Cut it short. Keeping your thread short will prevent knots, ripping, or tangles. If your thread is longer than roughly 16 inches, you should consider snipping it!
  • Bring in the light. If you are unsure about how your stitch is looking, hold it up to the light and check from both sides.
  • Go au natural. If you are a beginner, you may find it easier to work with naturally sourced materials such as wool or cotton. They are smoother and tend to knotless, saving you a lot of frustration.
  • Not so tight! Be careful not to pull your thread too tight, though it may be tempting. If your stitches are pulled too tightly, they may bunch up. However, don’t let your stitches hang loose either or you’ll have big gaps in your project.

Let’s Get Stitching!

Hopefully we have answered some of your fundamental questions about basic needlepoint stitches and getting started. Like any project worth doing, it may seem difficult at first but, stitch by stitch, you can create something beautiful. Remember to relax and have a good time — needlepoint is all about enjoying the process.

Check out our mention in Martha Stewart’s article on needlepoint.

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