How to Do Needlepoint

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30-09-2016, 16:10
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Needlepoint is used to make designs that can be finished as key chains, belts, pillows, bookmarks, stockings, belt buckles, or almost anything. Sew a finished design onto a canvas bag or frame it and put it up on the wall. It is an enjoyable hobby that can be taken anywhere and needs the use of only a few basic types of stitches.


  1. Learn the different types of stitches and when to use them:
    • When reading all the stitch guide graphics in this wikiHow, 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.
    • Half Cross Stitch: This is good for small areas, but not for covering large ones, as it will distort the shape of your 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. You will see as vertical stitch on the "wrong" side of the canvas.
    • Tent or Continental stitch: This is the same as the previous stitch concerning use. Start at the top right. Work from right to left and then return. You will see a diagonal stitch on the "wrong" side of the canvas.
    • Basket Weave: This stitch allows good coverage of the canvas with the least distortion and should be used in large areas. Work this stitch diagonally, starting at the top right hand corner of the area. The "wrong" side of the canvas should resemble a basket weave.
    • Backstitch: This stitch is used for stitching a very small piece or outlining an area using thread.
    • Blanket stitch: This stitch is used to finish the edges of a project.
  2. Purchase the design and materials at a needlepoint shop. Choose a project that you feel you will have the skill and patience to complete. You could buy your own mesh canvas and draw your own design if you like. Buy a tapestry needle that fits comfortably through the mesh size you've chosen.
  3. Put all of your materials in a zip lock bag. Keep your excess yarn organized too!
  4. Bind the edges of your canvas with masking tape. This will keep the edges from unraveling. Use one inch wide or smaller tape. You can also hem the edges with a sewing machine.
  5. Trace the outline of the canvas on thick paper or cardboard. This outline will be used later to "block" the canvas once stitching is completed.
  6. Attach the canvas to a needlepoint frame, if you are using one.
  7. Decide where you want to stitch first. It is generally best to select the smallest amount of color or most detailed area first. Then stitch the larger areas that surround the more detailed bits.
  8. Obtain a string of the correct color. To keep your embroidery floss from tangling, keep the tags on and cut the skein where it loops over. The strands are the perfect length for stitching and the paper bands keep everything together. Pull a single string from the remaining loop.
  9. Thread your needle. Hold the thread in one hand and the needle in the other (eye up). Insert the tip of the thread into your mouth and flatten it with your teeth. Insert the tip of the thread into the eye of the needle. Pull the thread through until its tail is one or two inches long.
  10. Tie a small knot on the end of the string that is not attached to the needle. This is called a waste knot and will keep the thread from going through the canvas. You do not have to use one if you do not prefer to do so. Simply press the string against the "wrong" side of the canvas with a finger and secure it as you stitch along.
  11. Make your first stitch, starting in the upper right corner of the area of color. Pull the thread through to the "good" side from the "wrong" side. You should be underneath the intersection of two threads of the canvas.
  12. Cross the intersection, going right and up.
  13. Pull the thread through to the "wrong" side of the canvas.
  14. Repeat, stitching in diagonal or horizontal lines across the canvas, until you have finished the area of color.
  15. Continue stitching until it becomes difficult to pull the string through because it is too short. If the string becomes mussed, this is another good sign to stop. On the "wrong" side push the needle through three or four stitches and pull the string through. It isn't completely necessary, but it is generally a good idea to snip off the excess string.
  16. Finish stitching the project. Be patient and take breaks if you become bored with your project. Try changing the area you're stitching.
  17. Stitch the edges with the blanket stitch if you wish to do so. Belts and keychains are almost always finished in this way, but other projects such as pillows are finished differently around the edges.
  18. Block the canvas if it has become distorted. Remove the canvas from the frame (if you used some), dampen it (don't saturate it) with water, lay it (good side down) on the outline you drew before you started stitching (with a surface you can nail underneath) and stretch it out to its original shape. Pin it down with tacks or nails at one-inch (2.5 cm) intervals all the way around and allow to dry before removing. Repeat as needed.
  19. Take the project to a needlepoint shop to finish (e.g. framing or making it into a pillow). Crafty individuals may be able to finish simple projects themselves.
  20. Enjoy and admire your finished project.


  • Your thread will probably become twisted as you stitch. Every few stitches let the needle dangle so it can unwind.
  • When you have patches of the same color that are close to each other (within a half inch), you can carry the thread across to the adjacent area on the "wrong" side of the canvas. If the color areas are farther than about one half inch apart, you will need to snip the string off and start again.
  • Pay attention to the tension of your stitches. If you make them too tight it will cause the canvas to bend weirdly. If you make them to loose they will stick up and be bigger than the rest. Aim for uniformity, but don't stress about it too much.
  • You will get the best results if you start in the top right corner and use the Basket Weave stitch on large areas.
  • Masking tape can be difficult to pull off in hot or humid weather and may permanently mark the canvas if it stays on too long. You can avoid this by placing masking tape a good inch away from the design. Artist's tape (buy at art stores) is a non-staining alternative.
  • You can do needle point in any order you like; if you're bored of one color or area, secure the string and start somewhere else! It is best though to start with the lightest colors and go to the darkest.
  • The thickness of your thread can also distort the canvas. If the thread is too thick, the holes around a stitch will be distorted. If it is too thin, you will be able to see through the stitched canvas.
  • If your design calls for a single stitch of a color (such as an eye of an animal), do that stitch first, tie a knot on the "wrong" side of the canvas and then stitch around it and secure the stitch.
  • You should never have any knots in canvas or tapestry work. Make a knot in the end of your thread, go down through the canvas and up at the starting point leaving a knot on the front on your line of stitching. This is called a waste knot.Stitch towards the knot covering the thread on the back. When nearly to the knot cut it off and continue working.
  • Needlepoint stitches are usually slanted up and to the right. This isn't about types of stitches, just whether they point to the left or right. However, this doesn't really affect the needlepoint- it is just the more commonly used direction.


  • It is much better to hem or zigzag-stitch the edges of the canvas than to use masking tape. The tape will leave residue behind when you remove it (particularly if it takes you a while to finish) and may permanently stain the canvas or pull out threads when you remove it.
  • Sometimes a stitch will be evenly painted as two different colors. You will have to use your best judgment and look at the design. If there are other identical shapes in the pattern, use those as a reference. If you decide you don't like it after you have stitched it you can always pick it out and start over.
  • Work on projects in an area with good lighting. Do not try to work with bad lighting and strain your eyes.
  • Needlepoint needles are not sharp enough to draw blood, but avoid poking yourself, as it is painful.
  • Be careful not to wait too long to finish your project if it is going to be made into a belt or similar item. You could grow (or shrink) and then it would be the wrong size!

Things You'll Need

  • Needlepoint canvas (size 14)
  • Needles (size 20 or 22)
  • Embroidery floss or yarn
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Ziploc bag
  • Tote or canvas bag (optional)
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