What's The Difference Between Cross Stitch and Needlepoint

Needlepoint is "Half the work - twice the fun!"  Well, that's what we tell visitors to our store who cross stitch but have never tried needlepoint.

This is all in good fun, of course, as both cross stitch and needlepoint are relaxing, enjoyable pastimes that are good for our health, manual dexterity and mental acuity. So, do what you enjoy!

On a practical level, the basic needlepoint stitch is essentially 1/2 of the cross stitch.  You can also use a cross stitch on your needlepoint canvas - and do lots of other stitches as well. 

Cross Stitch and Needlepoint - What's The Difference?

1. The Canvas:

The most obvious difference between cross stitch and needlepoint is the canvas...

cross stitch canvas linen  needlepoint canvas
Zweigert Aida cotton is a closely 
woven  cotton fabric used for Cross Stitch. 
It is soft and easy to handle.
Zweigert Mono canvas is also made of cotton but it is stiff.  
The spacing varies from 10-18 per inch, 
but the holes are larger, 
allowing use of different threads.

2. Threads:

Most cross stitch is done using stranded cotton or silk.  The fabric is tightly woven, so the thread must be thin. 

Needlepoint, on the other hand, uses many different thread types:  wool, silk, metallic threads, ribbon, combinations of threads, and of course, cotton floss and stranded silk. 

3. How We Stitch:


cross stitch chart needlepoint versus cross stitch
With Cross Stitch you get a chart
that you follow onto your fabric.  
Each symbol is a different color thread.
With Needlepoint you get a painted canvas.
You don’t need to count. 
Any chart provided is to assist, 
not direct your stitches.
You simply stitch the color on the fabric.
House by the Lake - Steven Klein


4. The Stitches:  

When doing cross stitch, all stitches (well almost all), are done in an x (see the chart left below)

The basic needlepoint stitch (below right) is half the cross stitch.  The half cross  - or tent stitch - in needlepoint is done from right to left.  

cross stitches
needlepoint tent stitch
Start the cross stitch on the left, moving 
right by stitching over one canvas thread
(blue). Cross over the stitched threads 
going from right to left (grey).
The tent stitch, or continental stitch, is done from left 
to right, also over one thread.  Start with the blue
on the right, stitch the green and continue (blue).
  Your thread is carried over on the back.

If stitching a large space on your needlepoint canvas, consider doing the basketweave stitch- this is also a Tent stitch.  It will help keep the canvas from getting distorted. Start with a tent stitch to the left of a vertical thread (blue).  Continue to the left moving down on the vertical thread (green).  The next row will come up on the horizontal thread (pink).

needlepoint stitch

In addition to using a variety of threads, needlepoint uses a variety of stitches.  This allows you to make a certain area stand out from the others.  Some stitches are borrowed from embroidery, some created by needlepoint designers - like you and me - and one is borrowed from cross stitch – the x stitch. 

Have fun with whatever needlework you choose to do!

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cross stitch vs needlepoint