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What is Needlepoint Wool?

H. Bliss
By H. Bliss
Updated Feb 01, 2024
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Needlepoint wool is fleece material, usually wool thread, used to make needlepoint designs. Fleece is the fuzzy material shorn from sheep that is used in a variety of threads and fabrics. Needlepoint is a form of needlework art in which the artist uses counted stitches, usually on canvas, in a pattern that looks something like a graph. Frequently used to create intricate designs on cloth surfaces like pillows, purses, and pin cushions, needlepoint is one form of embroidery, which is the art of creating designs by stitching on a piece of fabric.

Generally, needlepoint thread is used to create designs on needlepoint canvas using a mesh guide to help position the stitches. Because it is somewhat thicker than the thread most people are used to, wool thread used for needlepoint can also be called needlepoint yarn. A durable, versatile decorative thread, needlepoint wool can be dyed a variety of colors to create custom needlepoint designs. Thread thickness affects how detailed the final work turns out, and the best type of needlepoint thread varies for each needlepoint project. The larger the mesh used to define the needlepoint canvas, the thicker the needlepoint thread should be.

Though many types of wool yarn are used in needlework, the two most common types of wool used for needlepoint are crewel wool and Persian wool. Crewel wool is thinner than Persian wool, and its finer threads are frequently used to create subtle color changes within a detailed work of needlepoint. Persian needlepoint wool creates the more familiar needlepoint look in which individual stitches are easily visible, creating a segmented look like that of computer pixels. Needlepoint thread is distinct from wool thread used for other applications like sewing because it has a more rigid, less stretchy quality that lends itself better to embroidery designs.

In addition to adding decorative designs to cloth accessories, needlepoint wool can also be used to create designs for wall hangings that resemble small tapestries. Needlepoint wool thread can also be used in other forms of art like tapestry and rug weaving. Tapestry differs from embroidery and needlepoint because the designs on a tapestry are created by weaving the thread onto ground threads on a loom rather than stitching them onto an existing piece of cloth or canvas. Like embroidery, tapestry making is a form of needlework.

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Discussion Comments

By pastanaga — On Jan 11, 2012

@indigomoth - I know the kits are still very popular. You can get them in any craft store.

My aunt had a set which allowed you to cross stitch different Disney characters, for example and she made one for each of her nephews and nieces which was nice.

She just bought cheap frames so they could be hung straight on the wall.

I think that kind of cross stitch kit is really good for car journeys (at least, you you aren't the one driving!) as it keeps your eyes and hands occupied but leaves you free to have conversation with others in the car.

By indigomoth — On Jan 10, 2012

Needlepoint means something that is made with a particular kind of coarse material where the needle passes through the gaps in the base material, rather than pricking through it.

It's called needlework or embroidery if you are using a fine cloth that a needle needs to be pushed through.

So, needlepoint is generally for larger items, like tapestries. I don't think it is as popular now, since the cloth which is used for it is quite stiff even by itself, and when you add the wool (which is thicker than embroidery thread) it becomes even stiffer.

So you can only really use it for cushions and wall hangings, and maybe for bags.

Although I think people have started using it in a kind of ironic way. I've seen parodies of those needlepoint "Home Sweet Home" wall hangings that used to be so popular.

By KoiwiGal — On Jan 10, 2012

While traditionally needlepoint wool is made from sheep's wool, it can be made from other things now. Often it will be a wool blend, with silk, cotton or an artificial fiber like polyester.

But you can also get unusual yarn like alpaca wool or even angora rabbit wool.

The most unusual kind of wool I've heard of is a woman who spins knitting wool and knits clothing from dog hair, and I'm sure that yarn could be used for needle point if you wanted to be particularly creative.

I'm not sure any of these improve on simple sheep wool yarn, but they would certainly make a good conversation point.

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