Needlepoint vs Cross Stitch: Differences and Uses (2024)

Kris Daub
Published by Kris Daub | Senior Editor
Last updated: November 30, 2023
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The term embroidery encompasses different ways of embellishing a garment with a needle and thread.

Of all the ways for a person to do needlework, needlepoint and cross stitch are two of the most popular methods. These techniques have been around for millennia!

While needlepoint and cross stitch are both forms of embroidery, what’s the difference? When I found out, I couldn’t stop thinking about what a perfect fit the one I found was for me.

Read on to learn everything about needlepoint vs cross-stitch…

What is needlepoint?

Needlepoint Embroidery
Needlepoint Embroidery

Needlepoint is sometimes referred to as canvas work, and is a type of embroidery that has been dated back to the Ancient Egyptians.

It’s traditionally done by sewing wool though canvas fabrics, but nowadays people use different threads, like ribbon or silk.

The final result can look like a tapestry, but has been created with a needle and cloth, instead of wool and a loom.

Today needlepoint and cross stitch are used to decorate items like belts, purses, key chains, and wall hangings with simple stitches such as the tent stitch.


There are a few subcategories of needlepoint, which are based on the number of holes per inch in the canvas.

If the canvas has fewer than 7 breaks per inch, it’s called a quick point. If a canvas has 8 – 16 holes per square inch, it’s called gross point.


As a general rule, the more breaks per square inch, the more detailed and time consuming it’ll be.


Needlepoint is pretty fluid, and unless you are following a specific pattern, you have full creative freedom and can sew many layers for texture on a created project.

There are different types of diagonal stitches such as the tent stitch and continental stitch that add to the overall look of the piece.


Due to the nature of needlework, there might be a fabric limitation.

What is cross-stitch?

Close up of a Owl Pattern Cross Stitch
Close up of a Owl Pattern Cross Stitch

Cross-stitch is a form of embroidery seen in the remains of clothes from Ancient China, and was a very popular form of embroidery during the Middle Ages.

It is a counted thread embroidery – one of the easiest forms of hand embroidery to learn. It’s based upon x shaped diagonal stitches done on an even, open weave fabric with small holes in it, such as aida or linen.

The fabric is held in an embroidery hoop to help keep it taut while sewing.


Cross stitchers will follow either a pattern that has been stamped onto a fabric or use a cross stitch chart as a guide. The chart gives information about where to stitch and which color to use.

The charts are usually in color. The cross stitches would be represented by colored squares – and if the chart is in black and white, stitches will be represented with a cross.


When starting a new cross stitch, you might want to start to sew the x stitch in the middle of patterns to make sure patterns you create are centered in the fabric of the hoop.


  • You can use multiple fabrics with small breaks for a cross stitch embroidery project, but most commonly used are linen and aida.
  • It’ll help the stitcher develop hand eye coordination and planning to work out exactly where the correct stitch should be.


  • As every stitch is crossed, the overall aesthetic can look slightly pixelated.
  • A lot of patience is required with this method, and there may be a steeper learning curve with needle placement.

What is the difference between cross stitch and needlepoint?

Although the method of needlepoint vs cross stitch can get mixed up sometimes, needlepoint uses a larger variety of stitches, as opposed to the couple used by cross stitch.

Different stitches need to be used with needlepoint depending on the coverage needed and how durable the final piece needs to be.


Cross Stitch Kit
Cross Stitch Kit

The fabric used for a cross stitch project would not typically be used for needlework as it is too fine.

Cross stitch is limited in stitch style, but can have a wider variety of threads to be used. The color of the background fabric will affect the choice of thread colors.

This is unlike needlepoint, where almost no background fabric might show through the pattern.

Let’s look at the difference between needlepoint and cross stitch in more detail…

First Embroidery

The first known piece of embroidery was found in 1860, but was dated back to 500AD inside an ancient tomb in Egypt. Interest in the art continued to grow worldwide and became a sign of wealth.

Both cross stitch and needlepoint have been featured on many items of clothing that have been discovered from history.


Needlepoint and cross stitch came into wide popularity when upholstered furniture became popular, and are still used for household items today, such as cushion covers.

The key benefit with needlepoint vs cross stitch is the durability of the decorated item.


Petit point is needlepoint done on a small canvas with 16 – 20 holes per inch. It’s carried out on a small scale, and was very popular during the 18th Century.

Cross stitch has been seen on historical artifacts dating back thousands of years, and was even said to have been used to pass on secret messages by prisoners in war camps!


Needlepoint and cross stitch are created on different backings or canvases.

Needlepoint Canvas

Needlepoint is done on an open weave mesh canvas, generally ranging from 10 mesh to 18 mesh.

The count size refers to how many holes there are per inch. For example, with a 10 mesh canvas, means there are only 10 spaces per inch, so they would be much easier and bigger to stitch.


While some people prefer to leave their canvas blank for freestyle needlepoint, canvases can be painted first with patterns and then woven over. The canvas comes in many textures and colors.

Plastic canvases are great for beginners looking to practice their stitching, and mono canvases are good for those who prefer to hand-paint their projects first.

Cross Stitch Canvas

Cross Stitch Canvas
Cross Stitch Canvas

Cross stitch isn’t typically used on fabric canvas due to the nature of the stitches. Cross stitch fabrics have small breaks in them, which are easily countable from any direction.

Lightweight fabric with small breaks that are easy to count can be used to cross stitch, such as aida.


The difference between cross stitch and needlepoint thread is immense, and the two types cannot be used interchangeably.

Wool yarn is the traditional thread choice for needlepoint, although silk yarn is used for modern pieces.

Paternayan thread is a popular choice for needlework and is three ply, meaning it can be separated for small projects.


Tapestry yarn cannot be separated, and might be better when working with gross point fabric with large holes and spacing.

For smaller petit point crafts, crewel, or other fine yarns are used – perfect for smaller details and color blending!


Two strands of cotton embroidery floss are typically used for cross stitch when working with 14 count and 16-count aida.

Other thread options include flower threads, linen threads, rayons, and assorted metallic and space-dyed threads. Give texture to a cross stitched piece with different numbers of cotton threads: 2, 3, and 4.

Using Strands

When using two or more strands for cross stitch, you’ll need to separate the strands and then realign them before threading your needle and beginning to stitch. Tip for cross stitch: pull the edge of the fabric that will be used.


Compare that thread to what you’ll use. Unless you want a striking effect, the thread for cross stitch should be of a similar weight.


The difference between needlepoint stitch and cross stitch needlepoint stitch are huge.

In needle point, there are over 150 needlepoint types of stitches.

The various kinds of needlepoint stitches

The most common is the long needlepoint stitches, which cover more than one square each of the canvas and different variations of the tent stitch.

The variety of stitches allows the stitcher to create items that are unusual, textured, and unique with their needlepoint stitch.


Cross stitched creations are limited in terms of the variety – and are only half cross stitches or full cross.

The stitch cross is (obviously) the most typical stitch in canvas cross stitch.

You can alter it only with the size of the stitches, the thickness of thread, color, and half stitch. The half cross can be seen to add detail to the stitches as well!


Is needlepoint more expensive?

Needlepoint Pattern
Needlepoint Pattern

With needlepoint crafts, the thread can have slightly larger price differences. It can be expensive and not as easy to find as the fabric used for cross stitching.

You will need to purchase tapestry needles as they have blunt ends for the needlepoint stitch, and something to secure your canvas while you sew.

I like to use a moveable bench clip, as needlepoint cloth isn’t stretched like hand embroidery; you can use a bar frame or clip for this.

Difficulty of Needlepoint and Cross Stitch

How difficult is needlepoint?

The embroidery technique of needlepoint is a relatively easy hobby to pick up.

While there is a huge number of different stitches to choose from, you could honestly create beautiful projects using the same tent stitch on your materials until you want to pursue mastery of the craft!

Here’s an informative video if you’re trying to get into needlepoint

How to Needlepoint: A Beginner’s Guide

When picking out your first canvas, I suggest selecting one that is around 13 mesh with basic patterns, as it’ll be much easier to see the stitch definition more clearly on the materials.

How difficult is cross-stitching? Does it take a long time?

There aren’t many types of cross-stitches with stitch cross, and most people will use either a counted cross-stitch or a painted cross stitch.

The counted cross-stitching art requires the stitcher to count the cotton threads on the fabric from all directions and match it up to the pattern.


This is the time consuming aspect of cross-stitch, and could be made longer if there are many half stitches.

The stamped cross stitch pattern is already printed onto the fabric for the stitcher to follow.

Overall, cross stitch is relatively easy to pick up as the stitches, such as the tent stitch, are very basic to create.

Do you use a hoop for cross stitch and needlepoint?

Because of the size and the canvas style for needlework, you can use a lap frame or attachment bar.

A hoop isn’t required, as the canvas doesn’t need to be held taut.

With cross stitch, it might be challenging not to use an embroidery hoop since the fabrics, although stiff, would not stay taut while stitching.

For this, you would need a cross stitch hoop to hold the fabric in place.


Both cross-stitch and needlepoint are creative and therapeutic. It engages the hand as well as the mind, and can help the body to relax with the basic movement and rhythm of cotton thread woven in and out.

I hope you now understand the differences between cross stitch vs needlepoint. If you’re interested in exploring differences between two other styles, embroidery vs cross stitch, I wrote an article on it a while back.

Whichever one of the crafts you choose, I know you’ll love it!