Embroidery and needlepoint are both arts created by using a needle and thread. With both needlepoint and embroidery, you can decorate a canvas or a piece of fabric with different patterns created from stitches. For these reasons, many people mistake them for being the same thing.
So, what’s the difference between needlepoint and embroidery? Needlepoint is a subcategory of embroidery that utilizes the grid of a mesh canvas within its pattern to create an entire tapestry, while embroidery in general is the art of stitching patterns into fabric.
Let’s take a look at the differences between embroidery and needlepoint to see what makes them unique.
What Is Embroidery?
Embroidery is one of the most ancient crafts we still practice today. It was once a highly specialized creative pursuit reserved for those with a deep sense of style. Today, you can easily take up embroidery with just a piece of fabric or canvas, a needle, and a thread.
You may also choose to use an embroidery ring like the one in the picture we’ve provided, which pulls the fabric taut and makes it easier to keep your art uniform.
Embroidery is the art of decorating a piece of fabric (but you can also use other materials like a canvas) using different stitches. If you want to get creative, you can also use decorative beads and sequins for embroidery as well.
There are literally hundreds of stitches and techniques that you can use in embroidery, but the simplest ones are the chain stitch, the cross-stitch, and the running stitch.
Although the required tools are simple and highly accessible, the art of embroidery does take a lot of time to master. That is because there are many types of embroidery and many stitches that you can use to create your artwork and pattern.
The three most popular types of embroidery that you often see are surface embroidery, counted work, and canvas work.
Surface embroidery is what you think of most often when you think of embroidery. It is the art of creating different shapes and patterns on a piece of fabric or canvas without having to consider the fabric’s weave. You are free to create whatever pattern that you’d like, whether it’s a flower, an animal, a landscape, or simply your initials.
Counted work is when you embroider while taking into account the weave of the fabric. The most popular type of counted work that you have probably heard about is cross-stitching, where you create tiny little x’s that match the squares in the weave. Counted work usually uses fabric with a highly defined weave so you can easily identify where the stitches should go.
And finally, canvas work is where you cover the entirety of the fabric surface with stitches. Canvaswork usually employs uniform stitches to create rich artworks by using different color threads. As you have probably guessed, needlepoint is a type of canvas work.
Each of these types of embroidery has a multitude of applications that you can explore as you develop your embroidery skills. Most people who are new to embroidery usually start with surface embroidery or cross-stitching, but needlepoint is also an excellent way to introduce you to this craft.
Let’s learn more about needlepoint.
What Is Needlepoint?
You don’t often think of needlepoint as embroidery, but it is a type of canvas work embroidery that has been around for centuries.
Royalties and aristocrats used to have needlepoint tapestries, rugs, and cushion covers as decor pieces for their homes.
Needlepoint employs uniform stitches to create colorful patterns that cover the entire canvas. Because of this, needlepoint works usually need to be carefully planned out, taking into account the pattern, the weave of the canvas, and the thickness of the thread used.
The level of detail that you can see in a piece of needlepoint depends very much on the weave and the thread. The tighter the weave, the smaller the thread you should use, and the more detail you will have in your needlepoint work. You will find canvases that can have as many as 20 holes per square inch, which allow you to create a lot of little details.
On the other hand, if you use a bigger weave with fewer holes per square inch for a quicker job, your work won’t have the same level of detail. Canvases with bigger weaves can have fewer than seven holes per square inch.
Nowadays, you can find needlepoint kits that use plastic mesh canvas and yarn, which have fewer holes per square inch and can usually be completed in a few hours. If you are a beginner, this is a great way to be introduced to the craft since it will help you learn the stitches while making beautiful artwork at the same time.
Differences Between Needlepoint and Embroidery
While there are some similarities between needlepoint and embroidery, there are some clear differences between the two crafts. Let’s go over some of those key differences below.
If you want to create different shapes and colors with needlepoint and embroidery, you will need to plan very carefully.
Planning a pattern with embroidery is a little simpler, especially if you just want to create simple drawings and texts. You can sketch your design directly on the canvas using a fabric marker or pencil and use your stitches to embroider on top of the sketched-out lines.
With cross-stitching, you can also use a software program to plan out where your stitches will go on the canvas and then use this pattern as a guide to creating your pattern. Alternatively, you can also purchase cross-stitching patterns online.
With needlepoint, the planning takes a bit more consideration since you will need a stitch to cover every single hole on the canvas.
If you have simple shapes and patterns, you can also use a pencil to sketch directly on the canvas, but the more popular option is to use software to create the pattern so that you know where every single stitch needs to go in order to create your artwork.
Alternatively, needlepoint kits come with a canvas that already has the pattern printed directly on it, so you don’t have to spend any time planning out your pattern.
With embroidery, you can use pretty much any stitch you can think of to create different types of patterns and textures. The possibilities with embroidery are endless, and many people love embroidery because it allows them to be as creative as they would like.
For beginners hoping to learn embroidery, there are some simple stitches that you can learn to create simple shapes and lines, including the chain stitch, running stitch, and cross-stitch. You can learn more stitches to create more interesting textures as you advance your skills.
On the other hand, needlepoint mainly uses very simple stitches like the tent stitch. That is because the point is to cover every single hole in the canvas with a stitch and let the different colors of the thread create the pattern.
Therefore, needlepoint is a great way to introduce you to embroidery but won’t allow you to learn new, interesting stitches.
Embroidery isn’t fussy when it comes to selecting fabric, especially when you are free embroidering on the surface of the fabric. You can embroider on almost every fabric that you can think of, but embroidery can be a bit fussy on stretchy fabric because the embroidery won’t stretch along with the fabric.
With counted embroidery, you will need to use a woven fabric that allows you to clearly see the pattern in the weave.
You can also use almost every type of thread for embroidery. There’s also embroidery floss, which is a bit thicker than regular sewing thread, which you can use to create defined stitches with your embroidery.
Embroidery floss can be made of materials like cotton, silk, or rayon. You can use a small embroidery needle to create your stitches.
Since needlepoint is a type of canvas work, you will need to use a mesh canvas. The number of holes per square inch in the canvas will decide the level of detail in your needlepoint work.
If you have a tighter mesh canvas, you can use embroidery floss with a small needle in needlepoint, but it will take a long time to cover the entire canvas. If you use a canvas with fewer holes per square inch (bigger stitches), you will need to use yarn with a tapestry needle to accomplish the work.
4. Skill level required
One excellent thing about embroidery is that there are now machines that can help you create intricate surface embroidery work with much less time. Most of the embroidered details that you see the mainstream fashion is actually machine embroidery. You can’t use a machine for needlepoint work.
Both embroidery and needlepoint are quite friendly to beginners, especially if you start out with simple stitches to create shapes and lines. However, with embroidery, you will have more room to learn more stitches and techniques and improve your skills since it is such a versatile craft with many applications.
With needlepoint, your options are quite limited when it comes to stitches. However, the fun of needlepoint is being able to create beautiful artworks, so planning out the pattern is actually the most crucial part of needlepoint. If you want to create embroidered “paintings,” then needlepoint is the right craft for you.