How to Stitch Needlepoint
To learn how to do needlepoint, you should begin by learning Tent Stitch, the basic needlepoint stitch. It covers one intersection of thread, slanting from upper right to lower left (/).
All three kinds of Tent Stitch: Half Cross, Continental, and Basketweave look the same from the front but look different from the back. Although Basketweave is preferred because it distorts the canvas less, many fine needlepointers only use Continental Stitch. There are instances when only Continental Stitch can be used, such as when stitching a straight line. Half Cross is not stable on needlepoint canvas and should be avoided.
By learning how to do needlepoint with these basic stitches, you’ll be off and running. Not only will you be able to make lovely pieces with just Tent Stitch, this stitch forms the basis of many other needlepoint stitches.
Half Cross Stitch
We could call this section How to Do Needlepoint — NOT!, but we won’t.
Half Cross Stitch is really easy to recognize from the back. It consists of small straight stitches. You can easily see the threads of the canvas between these stitches, and that’s the problem.
When you make a Cross Stitch on fabric, you make two Half Cross Stitches, one slanting in each direction. There and two of these lines on the back and the stitch on the front is a square. It’s stable because it is stitched on fabric.
But in needlepoint, you aren’t embellishing a fabric, you are making one. Therefore the stitches need to be robust enough to create the stability the canvas lacks. Because Half Cross Stitches do no travel across intersections on the back of the canvas, there isn’t stability.
Avoid this stitch, it is not how to do needlepoint.
When using Continental Stitch, all the stitches are made in a straight line, either horizontal or vertical. The easiest way to remember where to begin the next stitch is that the thread needs to take the longest path on the back from the end of one stitch to the beginning of the next. Thus a line of Continental will look like this:
When you are making a line from left to right, begin at the top of each stitch.
When you are making a line from right to left, begin at the bottom of each stitch.
When you are making a line from top to bottom, begin at the left of each stitch.
When you are making a line from bottom to right, begin at the right of each stitch.
The end result on the back will be a series of oblique lines, that lines which slant, but not on the true diagonal.
When to Use Continental Stitch
Always use Continental Stitch when:
using multi-colored threads
making a row or column one or two threads wide
This is probably the oldest way to do needlepoint and can be found on most older pieces. It’s the stitch my grandmother taught me so many years ago.
In Basketweave, all the stitches are made in diagonal lines. The back will look like a woven basket, hence the name. A single row of Basketweave will look like this:
When you make Basketweave, you will make diagonal rows, so that this stitch looks like this:
The back of an area of Basketweave looks like this:
It is critical in making this stitch that you follow the grain of the canvas. This can be difficult to do. You determine the grain by looking at one intersection in a diagonal line, to see whether the thread on top is vertical or horizontal. The canvas looks something like this:
That direction determines the direction your row of stitching should go.
“Firemen go down poles (|) and up stairs (-).”
In other words, if a horizontal thread is one top, a stair, go up the row. If a vertical thread is on top, a pole, go down.
The hardest thing about Basketweave is figuring out where the second row should begin, once you’ve done that, it’s pretty easy to continue to stitch the area. You begin to do needlepoint by making one stitch, but should your next stitch be to the left of that stitch (going down) or below (going up)?
Look at the canvas, it will tell you. Is the thread to the left a stair? Then start below (firemen go up stairs). Is the thread to the left a pole? Then start to the left (firemen go down poles).
Tips for Basketweave
Don’t have two rows go in the same direction; this causes ridges that will show when the canvas is blocked.
Always stop stitching in the middle of a row. This makes it easier to remember the direction of the row when you begin again.
Interlock canvas (found in many needlepoint kits) does not have stairs and poles. There is no grain, so it’s very important to stop in the middle of a line; otherwise it it too easy to get lost.
Know How to Do Needlepoint
I bet you never thought it would be so fast to learn how to do needlepoint. You can easily learn it in a few minutes with just a scrap of canvas and some floss. Once you’ve learned how to do needlepoint, there is a whole world of lovely projects out there waiting for you.