Petitpoint is a term used for needlepoint which is done on a canvas with a higher mesh count (more threads = smaller holes). When I first started doing needlepoint, the size we consider standard (18 mesh mono canvas) was thought of as petitpoint.
Although much hand painted needlepoint canvas is on 18 mesh, other things like miniature needlepoint rugs and needlepoint pillows for dollhouses are often done on 18 mesh, so in some cases this definition still applies.
But for many people, the ultimate petit point fabric is silk gauze. Silk gauze is a type of interlock needlepoint canvas woven from silk. Because it is expensive, generally it is bought in small pieces, just big enough to stitch the design easily, and then mounted into a piece of mat board or fabric for stitching. With silk gauze you do not need to have a 2” margin of unstitched canvas around your design, the mat board is that margin.
Silk gauze comes in many mesh sizes, from 20 mesh to 60 mesh. On the plus side, the silk threads are much thinner than the cotton threads on mono canvas and they are almost transparent. Unless the canvas will be exposed in your design, you will not need to color it. On the negative side, extremely high mesh counts need to have magnification. There are many excellent types of magnifiers and magnifying lights out there.
Although silk gauze can be dyed easily (using silk dyes and paints), it is difficult to paint a design on silk gauze, therefore most petitpoint is charted needlepoint.
Any design, cross stitch pattern or needlepoint, which uses whole stitches can be used for petite point.
While any needlepoint stitch that isn’t pulled can be done on petit point fabric, most petitpoint uses Tent Stitch in charts.
As the mesh count increases, you will also need to use fewer plies of thread in your needle.
A low mesh count, such as 20 count silk gauze, might use four strands of silk or floss. A high mesh count, like 40, might use only a single strand of silk. Even higher mesh counts, like 60, might use sewing thread.
You will need to use small needles for stitching silk gauze, a #28 tapestry needle or the short ball point beading needles from John James.
These needles have small eye, so you will want to use a wire needle threader (like those for sewing needles) for threading.
Silk gauze is harder on threads than needlepoint canvas, so use short lengths and bring you needle straight up and straight down. This will minimize the wear on the threads.
Because the gauze is transparent, do not let your threads “travel” across the back of the canvas, they will show.
Use Waste Knots to begin and end threads outside the margins of the design or anchor the threads well inside already made stitching.
Take advantage of this transparency when finishing. Use a pretty dark or bright fabric, or something shiny as lining for the needlepoint.
Needlepoint Stitch Guides can be confusing at first. Understanding the parts of a guide and why they are there can help you find your way when stitching from one and help you know if the product you have bought will make it easier to stitch the canvas.
Picture: A guide with a picture of the stitched canvas is preferable to a guide without one. In some cases, such as custom guides, there is no model, so there is no picture.
Often a picture will help you understand where a thread is used or how an area is stitched. They should always be in color, although additional pictures in black and white can be helpful.
Material List: A complete list of threads and other materials should be included with every guide, preferably at least twice. One should be able to be seen through the packaging, so you can pull the threads without pulling out the guide. The second should be within the guide itself.
It should list everything needed and should include the manufacturer information. You may be unfamiliar with a thread and knowing who makes it will make it easier for you to find.
The amounts should also be included. While the convention in needlepoint is to have amounts for each thread, if there is no amount listed. assume one unit (card, spool, or skein) is needed.
If materials from your stash are needed, that should be indicated here as well.
Designer and Canvas Information: Needlepoint stitch guides should clearly identify the designer, the name of the canvas, if possible, and the number. This information, sometimes along with the picture, should be sufficient for you to identify which guide goes with which canvas, should they get separated.
If possible the writer of the guide and that contact information should be included.
If the guide was written by or for a shop, that should be included as well.
This information is important in case guide and canvas get separated, or if you have questions you would like to ask the writer or shopowner. If no writer is listed, assume the designer wrote the guide.
Section Breaks: It’s a pet peeve but I hate needlepoint stitch guides for sets of canvases where I can’t tell where one thing ends and another begins. If I don’t stitch the canvases in the same order, how do I know where to find the correct part of the guide?
A guide covering a set of canvases should have two extra elements in it. First, there should be a clear indication of where the guide for one canvas ends and the next begins. Second, if there are elements that are the same in every canvas, like borders or backgrounds those instructions should be grouped together at the front of the instructions and not repeated over and over.
Copying: Sometimes areas of a canvas need to be photocopied in order to act as a reference for stitching. It’s very frustrating to discover this after you have been stitching. It should be noted up front.
But usually you can catch this during you first read through of needlepoint stitch guides. If you do, highlight it and make your copy as quickly as possible.
Just remember the canvas design is copyright to the designer and your photocopy is only a work copy and should be destroyed once the design is stitched.
Diagrams: Most stitches in needlepoint stitch guides require a diagram. Some don’t, either because they are too common, such as Basketweave, or too hard to draw, for example French Knots. The best place for a diagram is in the text, where it is used. When this stitch is used again, it should refer back to that original diagram.
A second, and much worse, choice, is to refer to stitches in a generally accepted reference book, like The Needlepoint Book. If this is done a name and page number should always be supplied.
A bad solution is to group all stitches together in one place in the guide. This makes the guide harder to read and harder to use. It’s a pain to be flipping back and forth constantly.
Instructions: Depending on the guide, the instructions given can be all over the place. A one page guide might only list the area, the stitch and he thread. More complex needlepoint stitch guides might give you in-depth instruction on less common techniques. You might even feel as if the writer of the guide is there being your teacher.
The level of guide that is right depends on the canvas and on your level of stitching knowledge. A simple canvas might only need a one page guide. More complex techniques might require lots of explanation.
This is where it really makes sense to see the picture or look at the guide. If there is a technique that is unfamiliar to you, is it explained? Do you think you could stitch from the explanation, even if it seems confusing on first read through? This is where custom guides can really shine. The writer of these needlepoint stitch guides is writing for you, and should take into account your requests. Do you hate rayon? It shouldn’t be in the guide. Do you want to learn to use silk threads? The guide should use silk instead of cotton.
Finally, I see a guide as always being a way to increase needlepoint knowledge. So if a technique or a stitch will work well for other kinds of canvases, I’m going to let you know. No matter how successful I am as a designer of guides, I can’t write them for everything, so I want you to use what I have shown you when you encounter this situation again.
Resources: If your guide is not exclusive to a shop, having a list of manufacturers for the materials used is a nice touch. You can use to to find a shop in your area which carries the item or your shop can use it to get the item for you.
A Personal Note: When I started writing guides, I thought long and hard about what I wanted as a stitcher and what frustrated me. That influenced the structure of my guides. But that is always changing. If there is something you would like to see in guides, or a problem you are having with a guide, just ask me.
I’m also delighted to hear from shop and designers who are interested in commissioning needlepoint stitch guides.
Blank needlepoint canvas is the basis of all our stitching. Picking the correct type of canvas for your project can make your finished work sing. Picking the wrong canvas can make the end result misshapen, discolored, or worse.
There are three main types of blank needlepoint canvas: mono canvas, interlock canvas, and penelope canvas. The best versions of each of these canvases are made from cotton, although I have seen linen and polyester canvas.
While there are several manufacturers of canvas, the best ones come from Zweigart, a Swiss company. They are recognizable, if you can see the selvage because they have an orange line running through it. If you ever here someone talking about “orange line canvas,” this is what they mean.
Each type of canvas is explained below. After that I’ll talk about some specialty types of canvas you may want to use.
Mono canvas is the most widely used type of canvas in North America. It is used for the vast majority of painted canvases, and is the most popular type of blank needlepoint canvas.
It comes in a variety of sizes, from 5 or 7 mesh (rug canvas) to 18 mesh (the most popular size). The more popular sizes, especially 18 mesh, come in a variety of colors. Most mesh sizes 10 and above come in ecru, a dark beige, as well as white.
Mono blank needlepoint canvas is woven with a simple over one, under one method. This makes the intersections of two canvas threads “float,” so that different kinds of stitches can be used. It has the other important benefit that the stitched piece can be blocked back into shape because the ground fabric can move. Once blocked, it won’t return to its unblocked shape.
Becaue of this, the cotton fibers used to make mono canvas are longer and the thread for the mesh is thicker than interlock canvas.
Interlock canvas appears to be a lightweight mono canvas, but it isn’t. The horizontal (weft) threads are actually two threads which split at each intersection to lock it into place. One thread goes over the warp thread, while the other goes under.
Interlock canvas is also available in a variety of mesh sizes and colors. In North American it is found most often in kits.
Silk gauze and garment canvas are both types of Interlock canvas.
Interlock canvas uses shorter fibers than mono canvas and the threads are thinner, making the canvas lighter.
The problem with interlock canvas is the locked intersections. Once an interlock canvas gets out of shape, it is difficult to put it back and keep it that way. Even if it is blocked, the piece may still revert to its former shape.
Penelope, or duo, canvas, has two threads for both the warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads. It is woven like mono canvas with over one, under one, so that the intersection can move.
This is the beauty of Penelope canvas. because of its double thread construction, you can split open the intersections and make a canvas at double the mesh size. That way if you want to stitch details, like a face, you can without stitching the entire piece in the smaller mesh.
Of course, you can also stitch it in the larger size. Penelope canvas is more popular in Europe than in North America.
Waste Canvas: This canvas is made for stitching counted techniques, like needlepoint, onto regular fabrics. It comes in a variety of sizes and is recognizable by the blue threads woven every five threads.
Baste this canvas onto the fabric and stitch, using an embroidery hoop. Once you have finished soak the canvas in water, which will dissolve the starch holding it together. Cut the basting stitches and then pull out the threads using a tweezers.
Congress Cloth: This is the name for a mono needlepoint canvas of 23 or 24 mesh. It comes in a variety of colors and has very large canvas threads for its size. This makes it a great choice when the canvas will be exposed.
It is most popular for class projects and counted canvas, although it is sometimes used for painted needlepoint canvas.
If you use Congress Cloth, do not get it wet, it will permanently discolor the canvas.
Silk Gauze: This canvas is made from silk and is woven like an Interlock canvas. It comes in mesh sizes from 20 to 60 and often needs to be stitched using a magnifier.
Because this canvas is so expensive, you often find small pieces mounted in frames or pieces included in kits.
Garment Canvas: This canvas is lightweight and made from synthetic fibers so that it can be attached to clothing and washed.
With so many types of blank needlepoint canvas from which to choose, you can find the right canvas for any project.
How do you find quality needlepoint canvases, whether they are part of a needlepoint kit or by themselves? The description of the canvas may say it is hand painted canvas, silk screened, computer printed, or it may say nothing at all, leaving it up to you to figure it out.
The method of putting the design on canvas makes a huge difference in your ability to stitch it. And that impacts quality. I have done hand-painted canvas needlepoint that was so beautiful it almost stitched itself. And I’ve done needlepoint kits which had sides that weren’t straight lines, and everything in between. Buy a poorly made canvas and you’ll hate stitching. Buy good quality needlepoint canvases one and you’ll be hooked for life.
This article explains the terms, what they mean and what they mean for you as a stitcher.
How can I be sure that when I find a canvas it will be a pleasure to stitch? Knowing what you are buying is the key to finding the perfect canvas. The imprecision of a printed canvas can make it difficult for a beginner to know what to stitch. The expense of a hand-painted canvas could put off someone on a limited budget. The keys to picking the perfect canvas are understanding your skills and knowing what you see when you look at a canvas. I can help you understand the terms so you can get the perfect needlepoint canvas.
Painted or Hand painted canvas needlepoint — These terms mean that a person used a brush and paints (usually acrylic) to paint the design onto the canvas. In North America, these canvases are the most popular. They are also the most expensive type of canvas.
Stitch-painted canvas – You see this term more rarely, but it refers to a hand-painted canvas where each individual thread intersection is painted. Many people think this is necessary for great needlepoint. It is not. Because of the time involved in making this type of hand painted canvas needlepoint, stitch-painted canvases can be very expensive.
While stitch-painted canvas makes it easy for you to know exactly what colors go where, not all things need to be stitch painted. Letters and numbers should be precise, and straight lines should be straight. But in many other cases, the precision (and cost) of stitch painting may not be necessary.
Computer-printed or Giclee – This is an emerging area of needlepoint canvases with quality equal to that of painted canvas. The difference is how the design is put onto the canvas. Extremely high-quality printers are used. Many people find it hard to tell the difference between painted and computer-printed. They are often a more affordable option for quality needlepoint canvases.
Screened or Serigraph — These canvases use silkscreening to produce the design. The paint used is oil-based and will look and feel different from acrylic paints. The paint is pushed through a screen so that only the correct areas of the canvas are colored. Generally only very high quality needlepoint kits, such as Elizabeth Bradley or Ehrman, use this method. You can usually tell a screened canvas because the edges of the design are straight.
Printed – These canvases use rolls of canvas and printing presses to put the design on canvas. They also use oil-based paints. Because the designs are mass-produced, edges often do not line up and colors may not change on the intersections. Printing is used for most kits and less expensive canvases. While fun to stitch, these are usually not high quality needlepoint canvases, although they are more affordable.
Line-drawn — These canvases are not colored, but have the outline of the design drawn onto the canvas from a template. Generally line-drawn canvases come with detailed instructions for stitching the design. This is also often the method used for teaching projects. It keeps the cost low but allows the same versatility in stitching you get with a painted canvas.
You can create wonderful needlepoint, no matter how the design gets onto the canvas, so buy the quality needlepoint canvases you love and start to stitch!
It’s a question which perplexes those beginning needlepoint. It makes us all cautious if we cut out threads.
But sooner or later you will encounter the problem — you’ve cut a hole in the canvas.
How do you repair it?
There are two ways to fix the problem, depending on how large the hole is.
If the hole is only one thread which has been cut, you ought to be able just to stitch over it. But this ONLY works if it’s one thread. Although I have done Tent Stitch in this case, it really works best if the stitch is longer AND is not beginning of ending on either side of the hole. If that’s the case, just stitch as you normally would.
If it’s more than one hole find a piece of canvas the same mesh size, slightly bigger than the hole, about three to four threads all around. You could even take it from the unstitched margins of the canvas if you had to.
If you are unsure how to find the mesh size, there are two methods. One is to use a tool called, I think, mesh minder. It has 1 inch grids of common mesh sizes. Put that over the canvas and find the one which matches. The other way is to use a ruler. Measure 1 inch along a single thread and count the number of intersections.
Place the cut piece of canvas onto the back of the canvas behind the hole. Line up the threads so the holes are even and baste or hold in place. Stitch through both layers of the canvas immediately. It will look exactly like the uncut areas.
Any additional bulk at the margins of the hole from stitching through two layers of canvas is on the back, where it won’t be seen. The hole has a single layer of canvas in the same mesh size and will look like the rest of the canvas.
With this method and a bit of scrap canvas (finally a way to use those scraps), even those beginning needlepoint can repair a canvas hole.