Written by Linda Alexander
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Needlepoint is a form of needle art that is worked with thread on a mesh of canvas or plastic. Designs in needlepoint range from abstract designs and repeated patterns to pictures. Needlepoint dates back thousands of years and is still around today.

History of Needlepoint

Ancient Egyptians used small slanted stitches to sew up their tents. The Bible also mentions using needlepoint on religious articles. During the Middle Ages, a kind of embroidery was done on woven linen similar to canvas mesh. Tapestries were also popular in Europe at the time, and were woven on vertical threads on a loom.

The steel needle was invented sometime during the 1500s, and people began to do needlework on canvas backgrounds. The steel needles allowed people to do more intricate designs than they had with the fishbone needles they used before. While early forms of needlepoint were strictly practical, today it serves as a hobby as well as a practical use.

With an increase in leisure time in the modern era, and the invention of a way to print colored charts for needlepoint designs, needlepoint has become a popular hobby. Needlepoint is a favorite pastime of both men and women today. You can use it to express yourself on pillows, purses, and clothing, as well as wall hangings. There are also hand-painted canvases and new specialty fibers, allowing you to create your own work of art with thread.

Differences Between Needlepoint, Cross-stitch, and Embroidery

Cross-stitch and embroidery are two other forms of needle arts. Embroidery designs are stitched into a fabric with a close weave, such as linen or cotton. The designs are drawn on the fabric and the person doing the stitching follows the pattern with a needle and embroidery thread.

With cross-stitch, which is a form of embroidery, the design uses stitches that form Xs. With needlepoint the stitches cover the whole fabric, while with embroidery and cross-stitch, the designs only cover a portion of it.

Needlepoint fabric is stiffer than fabrics used for embroidery or cross-stitch. You should use threads that cover your canvas enough to produce a long-wearing fabric, since the threads become the fabric in needlepoint. The gauge of the canvas is measured by the number of squares per inch. For example, a good general purpose canvas is 18 mesh, or 18 squares per inch.

Types of Canvas

There are also three basic types of canvas, depending on the number of vertical and horizontal threads. Mono canvas has one vertical thread and one horizontal thread per mesh, while Penelope canvas had two each. Interlock, or interwoven, canvas, has two vertical threads and one horizontal thread per mesh. The horizontal thread is "locked" by the vertical threads--one vertical thread goes over the horizontal thread, while the other goes under it.

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