Needlepoint is an ancient needlecraft that has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. It is used to create pillows, bags, eyeglass cases, purses, wall hangings, rugs, upholstery for furniture, even clothing! What sets it apart from other kinds of needlecrafts is the “ground” that it is stitched on.
Needlepoint is done on evenweave canvas, not fabric as cross stitch and embroidery, and has specialty stitches galore. As a novice in needlepoint, I’m finding that learning all the new stitches is the most fun part! But at first, I also found the different canvas choices a little confusing. So here is what I have learned.
There are two basic types of canvas: Woven, in which the canvas is created by weaving the cotton threads over-and-under in a simple style, and Interlock, in which the threads are locked together by different methods at each intersection where thread crosses thread. These can be done with single threads, as in Mono, or doubles, as in Interlock. Let’s look at these ones that are readily available.
Evenweave, or just woven canvas is made from single threads, with spaces in between for your needle. Since the intersections of threads are not locked into place, the fabric, has some “give” to it, making it a great choice for making things that will get some wear or encounter uneven pressures, such as a pillow or upholstery. It also makes it a suitable candidate for projects with lots of different stitches. It will keep its shape well if you don’t have large areas of half-cross tent stitches. (Try basketweave instead.) Examples of woven canvas are Super Mono in any mesh, Cordova (22 mesh, or 22 stitches per inch) and Penelope.
In Penelope, the threads come in pairs, making it possible to stitch over the pair of threads for large areas, or stitching over only one thread for finer detail in the same project. For this reason, you will find the mesh of Penelope canvas listed with two numbers, such as 10/20, meaning if you stitch over two threads, you will get 10 stitches per inch, and if over 1 thread, you will get 20. It is a very strong, durable canvas, and an excellent choice for items that take a lot of wear, such as purses and bags, or just for the option of large and small stitches, for stitching fine detail.
Interlock can be made from single threads or double threads, but in either case, the threads are locked into place at each intersection, making a very stable canvas that resists being pulled out of shape. This is what makes it a good choice for projects that use a lot of tent stitches or any other stitch done on the diagonal, which can distort the canvas as you stitch.
There are various ways that manufacturers use to lock the threads together, such as splitting, twisting, etc. but the result is a strong, stable canvas that takes well to all kinds of stitching. Canvas just called “Interlock” is often made from double threads in the woof (parallel to the selvage) that are twisted to wrap around the two-together threads of the warp (right angles to the selvage).
Mono canvas is locked together in a similar way, but, as their name implies, the warp thread is a single instead of two-together.
Of course there is a LOT more to needlepoint canvas than this! But hopefully this will help you get started, and will guide you into what canvas you should considering for your next project.