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Needlework is another term for the handicraft of decorative sewing and textile arts. Anything that uses a needle for construction can be called needlework. The definition is often expanded to include craft using a long and thin tool, such as crochet hook and tatting shuttles.

Needlework Includes
what is needleworkQuilting
what is needleworkPatchwork
what is needleworkAppliqué
what is needleworkEmbroidery
what is needleworkCanvas Work
what is needleworkCross-Stitch
what is needleworkCrochet
what is needleworkKnitting
what is needleworkTatting
what is needleworkSmocking

Embroidery is an ancient  form of decorative needlework in which designs and pictures are created by stitching strands of some material on to a layer of another material. Most embroidery uses thread or wool stitched onto a woven fabric. Stitches could also be worked in wire or leather strands, and embroidery can be worked onto many materials. Non-woven traditional materials include leather and felt, but modern textile artists embroider on many non-traditional materials such as plastic sheeting.

Hand embroidery is embroidery done with a needle and thread and worked by hand without the help of a sewing machine or similar electric tool. Machine embroidery has become a vast subject on its own. It is both used for creative work on individual pieces and for mass-produced clothing products.

Embroidery has traditionally been used to decorate clothing and household furnishings including table linens, tray cloths, towels and bedding, but you can literally embroider anything as long as it is made out of an evenly woven fabric and can be held firmly in the hand or in a special embroidery hoop or tapestry frame. The art of hand embroidery is a painstaking and laborious process, but today garments are often decorated with machine embroidery instead.

Embroidery has also been used as a form of art and for decoration, through the creation of embroidered or cross-stitch samplers, tapestries, wall-hangings and other works of textile art. Some types of patchwork also incorporate embroidery as a form of extra decoration.

Canvas Work is a type of embroidery in which yarn is stitched through a canvas or other foundation fabric. Canvas work is a form of counted-thread embroidery. Common types of canvas work include needlepoint, petit point, and bargello.


Several types of embroidery canvas are available: single thread and double thread embroidery canvas are open even-weave meshes, with large spaces or holes to allow heavy threads to pass through without fraying. Aida cloth or Hardanger fabric can also be used for canvas work, and plastic canvas is used in craft projects. Canvas is measured by the number of squares per inch or centimeter. In canvas work the stitches may completely cover the canvas. Newer methods will use the canvas as part of the pattern.

Yarns vary from knitting yarns and tapestry wools to pure silk, synthetic, or metallic threads. Fine ribbons, plastic thread, raffia and string can also be used in canvas work.


Early canvas work or needlepoint used tent, continental or basket weave stitches, with each stitch covering one canvas intersection.

Bargello, first developed in Europe, uses colors and stitches across multiple canvas intersections to create motion and patterns. Modern methods have incorporated crewel and other embroidery stitches to add depth and differences not only by shading but by texture.

Cross-Stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches are used to form a picture. Other stitches are also commonly used in cross-stitch, among them, 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 stitches and backstitches. Cross-stitch is usually executed on easily countable even-weave fabric, or more rarely on non-countable fabric, on which a countable fabric is applied that is removed later, by drawing out every thread of it under the embroidery. This fabric is called waste canvas. The stitcher counts the threads in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance.

This form of cross-stitch is also called "counted cross-stitch" in order to distinguish it from other forms of cross-stitch. Sometimes cross-stitch is also done on designs printed on the canvas, showing every single cross (stamped cross-stitch).


Cross-stitch embroiderers frequently use an even-weave fabric of linen or cotton and work from charts on graph paper. Cross-stitching can also be worked on purpose made cotton Aida cloth which is available in 11, 14, 16, 18, and 22 count sizes and many different colors. The sizes of Aida and Evenweave types denote the approximate number of threads woven per inch. Special vinyl weaves and perforated paper products are also available as well as waste canvas which is used to transfer the embroidery to other fabrics e.g. to decorate clothing. The size of a piece of embroidery can be changed by using a fabric with another count size.

Today cotton embroidery floss is the most usual thread. It is a thread made of mercerized cotton, made of six strands that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Other materials used are pearl cotton, Danish flower thread, silk and Rayon. Danish flower thread is especially popular for nature motifs which originally came from Denmark. Sometimes different wool threads, metallic threads or other specialty threads are used, sometimes for the whole work, sometimes for accents and embellishments.

Thread size is usually chosen so that the stitches cover the fabric completely, creating a tapestry-like effect. But especially in monochrome work the thread can also be chosen a bit thinner, so that the individual crosses can be recognized as such and let the fabric show through a bit. The latter possibility can look nice in monochrome patterns and in combination with Blackwork.

History and Social

Cross-stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery and can be found all over the world. Many folk museums show examples of clothing decorated with cross-stitch, especially from continental Europe and Asia. Today cross-stitch is the most popular form of embroidery as a hobby in the western world. It lends itself well to recreational use because it's easy to learn and very versatile. There are patterns available for almost every

Traditionally cross-stitch was used to embellish things like dish-wear, household linen, doilies and similar, half useful, half ornamental items. This use is still popular, especially in Europe. But often cross-stitch is used to make pieces that are meant to be framed and hung as pictures. On items for daily use, usually only small areas are embroidered. The pictures can either have an unembroidered background or be completely covered with stitches.

There are cross-stitching "guilds" in various cities of the USA and other countries that propagate knowledge about cross-stitch and give stitchers the opportunity to meet people with the same interest. Often they also offer lessons. Sometimes these guilds do collaborative works that would be too big for one stitcher.

Cross-stitch is often combined with other popular forms of embroidery, such as Hardanger embroidery or blackwork embroidery.

A fairly recent development is the use of other stitches in cross-stitch work, in this context called "special stitches", in order to create new visual effects and satisfy the wishes of keen stitchers who may find pure cross-stitch boring after a while. These may be stitches from surface embroidery, canvaswork or even drawn thread work and other more unusual branches of embroidery. Also beadwork and other embellishments like paillettes, charms, small buttons and specialty threads of various kinds are becoming more popular. This development, new as it may seem is in fact a reinvention. In earliest times, cross-stitch was often used as one of many different stitches.

Cross-stitch design has become possible for many hobby embroiderers with the advent of cross-stitch design computer software. Thus it can be a form of creative expression rather than just copying the patterns of someone else.

Tapestry Needle Size Used For
Needle Size 18 6 count aida fabric
Needle Size 20 8 count aida fabric
Needle Size 22 11 count aida fabric AND 22-25-27 count evenweave
Needle Size 24 14 count aida fabric AND 28 count evenweave
Needle Size 26 16 count aida fabric AND 32 count evenweave AND 22 count hardanger
Needle Size 28 18 count aida fabric AND 36-55 count evenweave

Machine Embroidery is the practice of using a sewing machine to create stitch patterns, and so to embroider motifs or personal designs on to cloth such as on sweatshirts with stitched motifs. This is done by lifting the top tension foot of the machine, although sewing machines can come equipped with specific embroidery feet. It is also possible to purchase specific embroidery machines which can follow computerized design patterns, and re-create them on the backing cloth.

In order to get a quality finish on machine embroidery project the fabric must be held in tension in the same way that hand embroidery is. The simplest method is to use a hoop to hold the fabric in tension and some machines even come with hoops provided. In order to allow the free movement of the fabric over the dog teeth (the teeth that move the fabric back as you are carrying out normal straight stitching), the dog teeth must be disengaged. This allows the embroiderer to make tiny circular movements and stops the machine forcing you to make linear stitches.

Machine embroidery can be used in a myriad of ways and altering the tension of the thread as it runs through the machine can have a variety of effects, as can altering the weight of one or other of the threads. It is often better to uses a heavier thread in the bobbin, as the needle tends to designate how thick the top thread can be. There are no rules in machine embroidery and thus anything can be put through the machine providing it won't break the machine!!

Machine embroidery can be used in a variety of ways. Individual artwork can be created, and the machine stitches manipulated to form a variety of styles, or it can simply be used to take the place of traditional handcrafted monogram.

To become a skilled machine embroiderer takes practice and time.

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