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Needlepoint Glossary

There are many terms in needlepoint that you should be familiar with. These terms are discussed here, and many feature diagrams or photos.

Bargello, also known as Byzantine Work, is a form of needlepoint, primarily worked in upright long stitch or satin stitch, following a charted design. It is traditionally worked on mono canvas over multiple squares of canvas, forming a repeating, geometric pattern.

A finished needlepoint canvas is often warped or stretched after completion. Blocking helps return a warped canvas back to its original shape and size.

Colored Canvas and Novelty Canvas
Colored and Novelty needlepoint canvas is a fun way to add interest to a project, and save some stitching time.

Congress Cloth
Congress cloth is a fine-meshed, even weave canvas used primarily for Petit Point or miniature needlepoint.

Conversion Chart
These are charts printed by various manufacturers that list tapestry wool colors and their equivalents from other manufacturers. This is handy if you need to make a substitution in a project. If a project calls for “Brand X” but your local needlecraft supply only carries tapestry wool from “Brand Z”, use the .

Couching - Couching onto Needlepoint
Couching is the term used to describe securing a length of thread on the surface of the canvas by tacking it in place with small stitches.

Crewel Yarn
A fine, wool yarn that cannot be separated into plies. It is most often used in Petite Point on fine-mesh canvas, or Crewel surface embroidery.

This is the final step in the needlepoint process, where the finished canvas is transformed into the intended object. For example, a corded edge and a backing would be sewing to a pillow front, and the item stuffed for use.

Flexible Plastic Canvas
Flexible Plastic Canvas is a pliable alternative to standard plastic canvas

Floss - Stranded Floss
Stranded Floss in cotton, rayon, silk, linen and hemp is perfect for needlepoint and can be combined to make new colors.

Interlock Canvas
A popular type of needlepoint canvas that has a single horizontal thread, and two finer vertical threads that wrap and twist around the horizontal thread to create a locked mesh at the intersections (hence the name “interlock”). Projects worked on interlock canvas tend to have less distortion after stitching due to the locking of the mesh. Also, stitches stay where you put them, unlike mono c…

Laying Tools
Laying tools are used to help you control the thread as you stitch.

Masking Tape
Standard 1-inch wide masking tape is used to cover or bind the raw edges of the needlepoint canvas and serves 2 important purposes - it prevents fraying at the edges of the canvas and it stops your yarn from snagging the edges of the canvas when working the design.

Memory Thread
Memory Thread is a soft, flexible thread that keeps its shape when bent or curved. It is couched to the surface of the design to add extra dimension to a project.

The term “mesh” refers to canvas sizes, or holes per inch. As an example, 14-mesh canvas has 14 holes – or openings in the canvas – per inch. Mesh size is often abbreviated using the pound (#) symbol, such as #14 for 14-mesh canvas.

Mono Canvas
A type of needlepoint canvas that has single vertical and horizontal threads, which are woven but not interlocked. This means that the stitches can move, making mono canvas the perfect choice for objects that will be subjected to uneven pressure and use, such as chair cushions and bench covers as this canvas has “give”. Projects in mono canvas should be worked in a stretcher frame, as this c…

Needle Threader
These are small tools with a thing, flexible wire on one end used to help you thread your tapestry needle. It works by threading the end of the yarn into the wire, and then passing the wire through the eye of the needle. These are handy to have as it makes threading the needle a breeze (and has the added benefit of keeping yarn fluff off your tongue, which is common to the lick-and-stick method o…

Penelope Canvas
A needlepoint canvas that has a double mesh, with two vertical and horizontal threads woven together to form the canvas, instead of one. A single stitch is worked over both threads of the canvas, and can be worked over a single thread where greater detail is needed in a desired area.

Persian Yarn
Persian yarn is also referred to as Persian Wool and is the most popular type of yarn used in needlepoint. It consists of 3 plies of yarn twisted together, which can be easily separated or combined to reduce or increase the weight (thickness) of the thread. One ply of Persian yarn is equal in thickness and weight to crewel yarn.

Plastic Canvas
Plastic canvas is a firm mesh used for needlepoint

Most yarns used in needlepoint consist of more than one strand or “ply.” These strands can be separated into individual plies and used as a thinner yarn, or combined with other plies to make a thicker or multi-colored yarn.

Rug Canvas
Rug Canvas is a jumbo-mesh canvas used primarily for floor rugs or large-scale needlepoint projects.

Sizing is a product used to make needlepoint canvas stiff, giving strength to the canvas and allowing the stitches to pass easily through the holes in the mesh.

Stretcher Frame
Also referred to as scroll frames, a stretcher frame is used to keep the needlepoint canvas taut, freeing both of your hands to stitch, and reduces canvas warping and stretching. The tighter the canvas is stretched in the frame, the easier the needle passes through the holes in the canvas. Embroidery hoops can be substituted for smaller projects.

Tapestry Needles
Tapestry needles have blunt, rounded tips with larger eyes than crewel or embroidery needles, which are necessary to accommodate the thicker yarns used in needlepoint. The blunt tips pass easily through needlepoint canvas without catching on the mesh itself. These needles come in various sizes and selecting the needle size depends entirely on yarn size. The rule is: finer the yarn, the smaller th…

Tapestry Wool
Tapestry wool consists of four plies of yarn twisted together, which cannot be separated. Because the plies cannot be separated, this type of yarn is normally worked on larger mesh canvas (#10 up to #14). Tapestry wool is softer than Persian yarn, so it is best to work with lengths of yarn no longer than 18-20 inches to prevent fraying and wearing down of the yard while stitching,

Waste Canvas
Waste Canvas is a temporary canvas commonly used in Cross Stitch, but can calso be used in Needlepoint.

While canvas is the base of a needlepoint project, yarn is the “paint” with which the pattern is created. The most common yarns used for needlepoint are tapestry yarn, Persian yarn, and crewel yarn. Other types of yarns and threads can be used as well including 6-strand embroidery floss, pearl cotton, monofilaments, rug yarn and knitting yarns – even ribbon.

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