Five Simple Tips For Choosing Needlepoint Stitches

Today we have a guest post from Needlepoint for Fun’s wonderful newsletter. It’s tips for choosing needlepoint stitches.

For anyone thinking of moving on from stitching their designs entirely in Tent Stitch (Continental 7 Basketweave), here are a few basic tips to keep in mind about stitch selection.

  1. If your design has elements that sit one in front of the other – this might be trees, people in a crowd, a collection of objects – stitch the furthest away objects first. The last stitches placed will therefore sit on top, and will bring that object further forward in the picture where it belongs.
  2. When selecting your stitch, consider the size of the design area. If you want to use a stitch that needs some space to establish the pattern (e.g. Swirl or Nobuku), then you will need a larger stitching area to apply it to. Small spaces on your canvas might be best done in a Tent or Cross Stitch.
  3. It can get tricky when diagonal stitches line up against straight stitches. This is not to say you need to avoid this, but be mindful of the design elements you are portraying with your stitching, and how your planned stitches will look when they line up together. When you do bring a diagonal stitch up against a straight stitch, stitch the straight stitch last (the straight stitches on the edge will share holes with the diagonal stitches).
  4. Make things that move look like they are moving. If there are elements in your design that might move in real life – water, trees, hair – try to select stitches that have ‘movement’ in them. For example, Encroaching Oblique, Oblique Slav, and Water Stitch give an impression of something being moved along in a wave-like motion. A stitch that is aligned in one direction only tends to give an impression of flow or movement, whereas cross stitches tend to block movement. The variety of knots you can make (French Knot, Colonial Knot, Bullion Knot), can give movement and texture to hair or fur.
  5. Don’t forget surface embroidery. This is a technique that is often overlooked in needlepoint. Surface embroidery can be used for stitching curved lines and areas of fine detail on your canvas (lettering, faces etc.). Surface embroidery might include using a back stitch in a finer thread, or applying French knots to your design at the end, or couching. It is a wonderful way of applying detail, texture and interest to your design.
  6. There are so many needlepoint stitches you can use for a design and several places you can go to for help. The American Needlepoint Guild publishes a Stitch of the Month and this is a great place to get some inspiration (as well as being a very worthwhile non-profit organization to join). Most of the stitches mentioned here have a “how to” on the American Needlepoint Guild‘s website.


  1. Diane tozzi says

    This article by Janet Perry is very helpful about using decorative needlepoint stitches. Very little information is available regarding when to use these decorative stitches, how to determine which to use in particular areas etc. I have books on how to construct these stitches. If there is ever a book devoted to how, when, where to use these stitches and the effect they will create, I want it.


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