Basic Needlepoint Stitches

Learn how to do the basic needlepoint stitches. We show you all you really need to know.
And all you really need to know is one stitch. All basic needlepoint stitches look like this on the "good" side of the canvas.

There are three ways of doing what is essentially this one basic needlepoint stitch, and they only look different on the "wrong" side of the canvas. We tell you how to do all three because you might interchange them a bit when you are working a project.

Basic Needlepoint Stitches - How To

First, some general advice on basic needlepoint stitches:

  • We recommend that you start by stitching the smallest areas of color first. By this we mean the areas on your design that are the most detailed. Most people stitch the canvas color by color (changing to a different color when they get bored!), starting with the smallest areas first.
  • When you get to larger areas of color, you will get the best results if you use basketweave stitch (instructions for the basic needlepoint stitches are below). Start this stitch in the top right hand corner of the colored area.
  • When you have patches of the same color that are close to each other e.g. within a half inch, you can carry the thread across to the adjacent area. Needlepoint purists might frown upon this, but we do it all the time and our designs look just fine. It really depends upon how fussy you want to be, and how neat you want the back of the canvas to look. If the color areas are farther than about one half inch apart, you will need to snip the yarn off (having secured it behind some stitches as discussed below) and start again.
  • If the edges of your canvas are not taped, we recommend you tape your needlepoint canvas to prevent it from fraying and the threads from catching.

Regardless of the needlepoint stitch you are using, start off by securing the thread onto the canvas. Now, a needlepoint purist would tell you never to tie a knot. Thankfully, we are not needlepoint purists and that is why you love us. Knot away we say. Here's how:

  • Cut off a length of thread, around 18 inches is good.
  • Thread your needle (wetting the end of the yarn always helps the threads stick together so you can achieve this task).
  • Make a knot at the end of the yarn.
  • Starting on the "good" side of the canvas, a few holes along from where you will place your first stitch, take the needle down to the "wrong" side. The knot will be visible on the "good" side of the canvas as in the photo above. When you start stitching you will work toward this knot and your stitches will have covered the thread behind and held it in place so it doesn't pull out. When you reach the knot you can snip it off.

Basic Needlepoint Stitches - Securing The Thread End

When you need to change color, or move to a different area of the canvas, or you have used up the yarn and need to re-thread the needle, you will need to snip off the thread you have been using. However, you can't just leave it dangling or the stitches will loosen. When you have stitched the last stitch, with the needle on the "wrong" side of the canvas, slide it through the back of 3-4 nearby stitches. This will take the thread behind these stitches and it will be secure. Cut the thread close to where the needle emerges so the canvas looks neat.

Click here for more instructions and tips for starting and ending a needlepoint thread.

Basic Needlepoint Stitches - Instructions

When reading all the stitch guide graphics that follow, you bring the needle up to the good side of the canvas on the odd numbers, and push the needle down to the wrong side of the canvas on all the even numbers.

Left Handed Stitchers. Although the instructions below are not only for right handed stitchers, left handed stitchers can get additional instructions here that might make life easier - and we are all about making this easy, remember!


Basic Needlepoint Stitches - Half Cross Stitch

Half Cross is not the world's greatest stitch. It doesn't cover the canvas particularly well, but it is easy to learn and good for areas where you are only doing a few stitches of one color. That is why we include it in this tutorial of basic needlepoint stitches.

The defining factor of this stitch is that it has a vertical stitch on the "wrong" side of the canvas. Start at the top left of your canvas or block of color. Work from left to right in a row across the canvas and then return. To return, No. 9 would be directly below number 8 and No. 10 would be directly below No. 7; No. 11 would then come up in the hole already occupied by No. 7; and so on.

Basic Needlepoint Stitches - Tent or Continental Stitch

Continental stitch covers the canvas well but also tends to distort it. Once again though it's great for working smaller areas and we use it a lot. On the "wrong" side of the canvas you will see a diagonal stitch.
To return back down the row underneath, No. 9 would come up in the hole already occupied by No. 5 and No. 10 would go down in the hole beneath No. 7; then No 11 would come up in the hole occupied by No. 3 and No. 12 would go down in the hole below No. 5; and so on.

For more detailed instruction on how, when and why to use needlepoint continental stitch click the link.

Basic Needlepoint Stitches - Basketweave Stitch

Needlepoint basketweave stitch is the 'Holy Grail' of basic needlepoint stitches. It allows good coverage of the canvas with the least distortion. You should use needlepoint basketweave stitch whenever there is a larg(ish) area to be stitched.

It is named for the basketweave pattern it forms on the "wrong" side of the canvas. Work this stitch diagonally, starting at the top right hand corner of the area.

                                                                     Click the link for more information about needlepoint basketweave stitch.
basic needlepoint tools and accessories 

Contact us with questions about basic needlepoint stitches.

If you are ready for some more sophisticated needlepoint stitch techniques, click the link.

Want to know how to stitch water in needlepoint? Click here for our needlepoint water stitch tutorial.

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