What Is Petitpoint?
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.
Needles for Silk Gauze
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.
Tips for Stitching Petitpoint on Silk Gauze
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.