Needlepoint is a fun, classic craft that produces beautiful works of art from fabric and thread. For inexperienced crafters, however, there can be some confusion about what this craft is and how exactly it differs from other needlecrafts.
The American Needlepoint Guild has an inclusive definition: "any counted or free stitchery worked by hand with a threaded needle on a readily countable ground."
This definition would include cross stitch, but not embroidery. To make things more confusing, embroidery is often used as a general term for stitching, but it call also define a specific sort of decorative thread art.
Embroidery vs. Needlepoint
Let's get the easy one out of the way first. Embroidery doesn't have much at all to do with needlepoint. They both involve fabric, thread and a needle but that's where the similarities end.
Embroidery is done on plain fabric and is a sort of freehand style. Stitches like the blanket stitch, outline stitch, running stitch and chain stitch are combined with decorative knots to make designs such as flowers and to outline shapes in the fabric.
One popular way that embroidery is used is in Crazy Quilting.
Cross Stitch vs. Needlepoint
The differences between cross stitch and needlepoint are a little harder to spot. Both crafts use a fabric (also known as a canvas) with little squares and holes. In cross stitch, the stitches are formed by making x's across the squares to make a pattern.
Needlepoint patterns uses different stitches, which we'll talk about in a minute. The other major difference is that a needlepoint design fills up the entire fabric, while cross stitch can be large or small but almost always has blank canvas around the stitched image.
Several different stitches can be used, but the most popular is known as basketweave (also called tent, continental or half-cross). These are like the first stitch in a cross stitch x. Different names are given to the stitch depending on which direction the stitch is made.
Other stitches include the slanted gobelin, which is a long diagonal stitch across two squares, and Byzantine and Jacquard, which are stairstep stitches.
Straight stitches include bargello, gobelin and Parisien. Stitches can also be made in boxes and crosses. For a look at how the different stitches look in a finished pattern, visit Needlework.com.