Types of Needlepoint Stitches [9 Major Groups]

Types of Needlepoint Stitches

There are at least 9 major types of needlepoint stitches for canvas-work.  With a little attention to detail and some practice, you can easily master all of them.

So grab a piece of needlepoint canvas, threads of various strand and color,and lets get started.


Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Straight Stitches

Straight Stitches


Can cover the canvas either horizontally or vertically.  

Depending on the area you want to cover, a vertical or horizontal thread  can travel across two to six vertical or horizontal canvas threads.

When traveling vertically or horizontally, your yarn should be thick enough to cover the space between two vertical or two horizontal canvas threads.

Straight stitches do not distort the canves if the tension of your stitches remain even.

Used On:

Can be used on any count of needlepoint or plastic canvas. However, the count of the canvas will determine the wight or strand of the yarn you will need to use to cover the canvas fully.

For example, using a Mono 14 gauge needlepoint canvas, a single strand of tapestry or Persian yarn will be sufficient. Likewise, a 10 to 12 gauge Penelope or Mono canvas with two or more strand of yarn will cover the canvas.

Used For:

Backing, pattern development, especially geometric patterns or filling out the background of your needlepoint project.

Using straight stitches generally creates a light texture effect where the variation of yarn color plays a key role in pattern development.

Suitable For:

Begginers as straight stitches are easy to master They are particularly great for teaching children how to neelepoint.  Let them experiement with straight stitches, using any lefover yarn over either plastic canvas, or regular leftover needlepoint canvas.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Diagonal Stitches

Diagonal Stitches


Diagonal stitches are also straight except they cover the canvas threads diagonally, rather than straight across vertically or horizontally.

When working a diagonal stitch you are focusing on crossing junctions of canvas threads.  

Coming up at row 1, you can travel across 2 to 6 canvas threads, going up or down diagonally 2 to 6 canvas threads.  

When stitching diagonal needlepoint stitches, attention must be paid to the direction of the stitches being stitched as you travel up and down the canvas.  

Be careful with your tension when stitching, diagonal stitches can distort the canvas and best worked in a frame.

Used On:

Can be used on any count of needlepoint or plastic canvas.  The gauge of the canvas will determine the weight or strands of the yarn used.  The smaller the canvas hole, the thinner the yarn you need.

Used For:

Backing, background, patterns, and where light texture is desired.

Suitable For:

Begginers and children. Most diagonal stiches are easy to master and is most often used needlepoint kits.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Cross Stitches

Cross Stitches


When using a Mono canvas, you should finish each leg of the cross stitch as you go.

Whichever direction you travel either always have the left arm of the cross on top or on the bottom.  Uniformity of direction and placement is the key.

Some cross stitchers will go horizontally across the whole row, laying down the thread/yarn in a uniform direction, and travel back laying down the thread/yearn uniformly, in the opposite direction forming the cross stitches.

Use whichever method feels best, the only thing to make sure is that all the top stitches lie in the same direction.

Used On:

Traditionally, cross stitches are understood to be worked on even-weave linen or Aida cloth, using cotton or silk floss.  

When it comes to needlepoint, the same cross stitches can be worked on needlepoint canvas.  The gauge of the canvas will determine the weight or thickness of the yarn used.

Used For:

Filling and border stitches, designs for flowers, or open canvas-work.  Most cross stitches will create a light texture depending on the yarn used.

Suitable For:

Beginners to advanced stitchers.  Depending on the cross stitch pattern design chosen, some stitches, like the double layered cross stitch, require careful placement and attention to stitch direction.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Box Stitches

Box Stitches


You can easily create box stitches by using a series of diagonal stitches to form squares.  

Can be used in diagonal, vertical or horizontal rows.

Long and short stitches can be used to create each box.  Depending on the pattern desired, the corner of the designs can overlap to form the pattern.

Used On:

Can be worked on either Mono or Penelope 10 gauge canvas with tapestry wool.  Experiment with different canvas gauges and see how your yarn covers the needlepoint canvas.

Used For:

Borders, backgrounds geometric patterns.  Varying the colors of yarn used, you can create pleasing and interesting patterns.  The majority of box stitches are snag-proof.

Suitable For:

Beginners to intermediate stitchers depending on the complexity of the pattern.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Background Stitches

Background Stitches


Background stitches can be extremely versatile, allowing you to create special effects and textures on the canvas.

You can use any variety of the straight, diagonal, cross, box, eye or leaf stitches to fill your needlepoint canvas.

Background stitches can make your primary design either lift from the canvas or to recede, depending on the thickness of yarn used.

Used On:

Any gauge needlepoint canvas.  Vary the thickness of the yarn used to get the desired effect and to cover your canvas.

Used For:

Filling large areas of the canvas around your primary design.

Suitable For:

Depending on the pattern and complexity of background stitch used, it is suitable for both beginner and advanced stitchers.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Leaf Stitches

Leaf Stitches


Can be worked in any direction.

Work one stitch to the right and one stitch to the left, decreasing or increasing the size of the stitch to form a pattern.

Used On:

Any type of needlepoint canvas.  Vary the type of yarn or thread used to create special effects.

Used For:

Overall patterns, to accompany or making flowers, geometric feather patterns, shading, or as a single design element.

Suitable For:

Beginner to advanced stitchers.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Eye Stitches

Eye Stitches


Slow to work as you must put a number of stitches through the same canvas hole.  This creates a hole or an eye in the canvas.

The trick with eye stitches is that the stitches are always made from the outside in towards the center of the eye stitch design.  Doing this, will ensures that you never split or snag the yarn used.

Used On:

Mono canvas of 10 to 12 gauge.  Sometimes you will find that probing of the center hole with an awl, or the point of your embroidery scissors, will help with the passing of the yarn through the hole.

Used For:

Interesting borders, backgrounds, focus elements, or flower motifs.

Suitable For:

Beginner to advanced stitchers.  Some of the eye stitch designs are complicated and prone to snagging requiring some practice to master.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Tied Stitches

Tied Stitches


Generally slow to work and not prone to snags.

Each stitch must be completed as you go and attention must be paid to the direction of the stitches made prior to tying them down.

Used On:

Mono canvas of any type, but especially on 12 or 14 gauge. Match your yarn thickness to the gauge of your canvas for full coverage.

Used For:

Shading and interesting textured patterns.  Some of the stitches are suitable to use with beads or metallic thread.

Suitable For:

Beginner to advanced stitchers.  Depending on the stitch pattern used some practice will perfect your stitches.

Types of Needlepoint Stitches: Flower Stitches

Flower Stitches


Create a slightly textured effect.

Stitches most often used to create a flower effect are: straight, diagonal, tied, eye, boxed or crossed.  

Flower stitches can be laid in a horizontal, vertical or diagonal pattern.

Used On:

Any type of needlepoint canvas, linen or Aida cloth. Most frequently used canvas gauge for flower stitches are Mono 10 and 12 gauge canvas.

Used For:

Borders, background elements, focus patterns or in combination with leaf stitches to create a special effect.

Suitable For:

Beginner to advanced stitchers.  Experiment with the type of yarn or thread used to create special effects or greater design impact.

Recommendations: For Your Bookshelf

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The above types of needlepoint stitches are by all means not the only ones.  There are also line stitches or decorative stitches you can experiment with.

You might also like to explore the stitches demonstrated on ANG (American Needlepoint Guild) or courses through the EAC (Embroiderer's Association of Canada)

If you are looking for gift ideas, check out top needlepoint books in the recommendation section of this site.  The books listed have plenty of patterns and ideas for needlepoint projects to practice your newly learned needlepoint stitches.

Let me know if you would like to see more of these types of articles and share it with your friends to inspire them to try needlepoint.



About the Author Valerie Woods

Mad about research and passionate about all types of Needlework. Determined to bring you the best!

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