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What are the Different Kinds of Needlepoint Stitches?

By Stacy C.
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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There are many different kinds of needlepoint stitches. The type of stitch used usually depends on the effect the crafter wishes to accomplish on her piece. Stitches can range from very simple to work that requires advanced skills. Commonly used stitches include the tent stitch, continental stitch, the satin stitch, the basketweave stitch, the cross stitch, the half-cross stitch, the chain stitch, and the diagonal stitch.

The tent stitch, also known as a needlepoint stitch, is one of the easiest and most commonly-used needlepoint stitches. It is a very small stitch that goes diagonally across one weft thread and one warp thread of the canvas or fabric being worked on. This will form a straight line that lies across the intersection of the warp and the weft at a 45° angle. Entire works of needlepoint can be completed using only this stitch, relying on different colored yarns to make the intended pattern instead of multiple textures created by using different stitches. There are variations within the tent stitch, including the continental tent stitch, the basketweave tent stitch, and the half-cross tent stitch. Each is very simple and basic, but produces a different effect on the canvas.

A half-cross stitch doesn't cover canvas very well when used on large fields, but it is a good beginner's stitch and does the job when just a few stitches are needed. The continental stitch provides good coverage, but distorts the canvas. The stitch that does the best job of covering canvas and keeping it in its original state is the basketweave stitch. This is generally the best one to use when covering large areas of a single color.

Advanced needlepoint stitches include bargello and other counted-thread stitches. Bargello stitches consist of simple straight stitches, but the way these vary in length and are laid out next to one another make this needlepoint technique complicated and best left to experienced needlepointers. The color in the pattern can also change frequently, making the process even more difficult.

The thread used for needlepoint stitches can be of nearly any sturdy material — wool, silk, and cotton are common, as are threads that blend these three materials together. Most needlepoint is done on canvas because the weft and warp are easy to see and stitch around. Canvas mesh can range from very fine to very large. One of the largest mesh is called plastic canvas, and is good for learning and practicing stitches.

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Discussion Comments
By manykitties2 — On Jul 15, 2011

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was doing needlepoint stitching with my grandmother. I remember she was pretty talented and spent a lot of time making beautiful gifts for our family members for Christmas.

My grandmother had me stick with a simple cross stitch, but she made sure I was doing more and more elaborate patterns as time went on. On of the best ones I remember creating was a wilderness scene with some lovely pine trees near an old house. My grandmother still has the needlepoint art I did hanging in her living room. I hope that I can teach my own grandchildren needlepoint someday.

By Sara007 — On Jul 15, 2011

For those with kids buying a simple cross stitch kit can be a great way to teach your children some simple needlepoint. The cross stitch kits are available in a variety of patterns, which means you can even find their favorite cartoon characters to get them interested in the product.

From my experience learning some simple needlepoint stitches can be a great way to improve a child's hand eye coordination as well as get them motivated to do more crafting.

I always encourage my kids to be as creative as possible. Once your kids get good a cross stitching don't be surprised if they start making their own patterns.

By starrynight — On Jul 15, 2011

@JessicaLynn - Yes, there are many needlepoint stitches beyond the traditional and well known cross stitch. I've actually seen people use needlepoint stitches to add designs to knitted garments too. As a knitter I've always been a bit curious about the technique, but not enough to actually give it a try.

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 14, 2011

I used to really enjoy needlepoint when I was younger. I didn't do enough of it to realize there were any other stitches besides the cross stitch though!

However, I was at a friends house the other day I noticed she had framed one of her needlepoint designs. When I examined it closely it dawned on me there must be something beyond the cross stitch to make the design look the way it did!

By tlcJPC — On Jul 14, 2011

I love to do needlepoint, but I think that anyone should realize they can only put so much cross stitching out in their home. Also, let’s try to avoid the crazy oranges, browns and golds that are so common with some of the seventy’s pieces that we can still find today.

One of the prettiest and most fashionable kinds of cross stitching that I like to do is actually done with ribbon rather than thread. You don’t have to use cross stitching fabric to use the technique, and I find that this is actually quite nice.

However, you really should learn to cross stitch well before attempting this sort of thing. It takes a good eye and a familiarity with many different kinds of stitches.

By JessiC — On Jul 13, 2011

I remember in the fifth grade that one of the things we learned to do was a cross stitch craft. It was near Christmas time, and we stitched a stocking. It was actually quite fun.

After we cross stitched the picture, we centered it on top of some batting that was on top of a canning jar lid. Then we took the jars and filled them with candy to give to someone special.

I filled mine with my daddy’s favorite candy and gave it to him on Christmas Eve. At the time, I couldn’t really tell if he liked it or not. He was a fairly macho-manly-man kind of guy.

However, I am not thirty one and just a few months ago I was visiting and went into my parents’ bedroom for something. My jar, empty of candy, was front and center on his chest of drawers where his clothes are kept.

I guess he liked it after all.

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