Continental Stitch

June 7, 2016Stitches Standard

continental stitch for needlepoint

Continental Stitch, copyright Napa Needlepoint

Continental Stitch is a wonderful and much maligned stitch for needlepoint. It’s so easy to learn, gives you tremendous control over your threads, and is so relaxing.

If you are a beginner, it is the easiest stitch to learn.

Properly done, it creates a firm needlepoint canvas.


If you’ve been needlepointing for awhile, you may know, and call, something Continental which is not this stitch at all. And you find the stitch distorts too much, causes ridges, and generally makes a mess of things.

Turn your needlepoint over. Continental has lines of oblique stitches (diagonal stitches not on the true diagonal) in every row. If you don’t have this you haven’t done the stitch properly, no matter what the book or your teacher or anyone else says.

In order to make this stitch, you will always need to take the longestpath from one stitch to the next. That creates those oblique lines and the firm fabric.

I remember it this way:

    If stitching from right to left, stitch from the bottom of the stitch to the top.
    If stitching from left to right, stitch from the top of the stitch to the bottom.
    If stitching from top to bottom, stitch from the left side of the stitch to the right.
    If stitching, from bottom to top, stitch from the right side of the stitch to the left.

If you turn your canvas around every row, you will always be making stitches in one direction.

You will also end up, in every other row, beginning your stitches, by bringing your needle out in a hole which already has thread in it (often called a “dirty hole”). If you don’t have this happening, you are not stitching Continental, but a combination stitch which has Half-cross, a tremendously unstable stitch, in every other line.

I’ve tried many other methods to make this stitch, perhaps you have too, but this way is the only method to get Continental Stitch consistently and well.

Try it, you’ll love it!

Check out this lovely video to see how to make Continental Stitch properly.