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Materials and Equipment & Sewing Supplies

Materials and Equipment & Sewing Supplies

When buying canvas you should consider the colour you wish to work on. Stitching on white canvas with small holes can be very tiring to the eyes, but white is still the best colour to choose if you are working with very pale yarns, as a dark canvas could show through.

The type of stitch you are using is another factor to take into consideration when choosing the colour of youi canvas. Random straight stitch, for example, often leaves some canvas showing, so it is usually better to use a fawn-coloured canvas (known as ‘antique’).

Needlepoint canvas is made from cotton, linen or synthetic fibres. It comes in many different shapes and sizes but there are three main types:

Single-thread plain canvas is constructed from evenly spaced single threads woven over and under each other. Sometimes the term ‘mono’ is used rather than ‘single thread’, and ‘regular’ or ‘interwoven instead of plain. Because the threads are not bound together, this type of canvas has good give, making it suitable for cushions but not for chair seats or similar items which would soon stretch too much. One of the drawbacks to this canvas is that the threads or meshes are not interlocked, which means that if. for instance, tent stitch is used you must be sure that it always is tent stitch and goes over two threads at the back so that it cannot unravel; half cross stitch, which only goes over one thread at the back, cannot be used

Interlock canvas is also constructed from single threads but they actually pass through each other at the points where they intersect. This type of canvas does not have the give that evenweave does and so is fairly suitable for cushions and well-upholstered seats. It is particularly useful because it does not unravel, making it ideal for small items that need to be trimmed close to the stitched area.

Double-thread canvas, also known as Penelope canvas, has a double-mesh construction – ie, pairs of vertical threads. This makes it strong and hardwearing, and therefore ideal for chair seats and other items where some strain will be put on the canvas. It also means that it can be used for finely detailed work because the pairs of threads can be separated, and for work combining finely detailed stitches (known as petitpoint) with a large stitch (grospoint). The grospoint areas are worked over pairs of threads, and the petitpoint areas over single threads which have been separated. In 19th century needlepoints, figures or flowers were often worked in petitpoint, while the background was in grospoint. Note: In this book, when the instructions refer to a ‘thread’ of double-thread canvas, it means a pair of threads. Also, the canvas suggested for each project is the type actually used in the photograph, but a different type could be substituted if preferred.

The closer together the threads of canvas are. the smaller the needlepoint stitches will be The number of threads per 2.5cm (1in) is known as the gauge of the canvas. Thus, the higher the gauge, the smaller the stitch A 14 gauge canvas, for example, which is very popular for general work, has 14 threads to 2.5cm (1in) Although canvasses can be bought in many different gauges, they are grouped into two ranges: petitpoint canvasses, which have 16 or more threads to 2.5cm (1in). and grospoint canvasses, which have fewer than that

To get the most pleasure from your needlepoint projects, it is important to choose a gauge of canvas that you enjoy working with. All but one of the projects in this book are worked on fairly large-holed canvas so that the work progresses relatively quickly and you can learn new stitches more easily.


Needlepoint can be worked in any type of thread, as long as it can be threaded easily and passes through the canvas without difficulty. The most commonly used thread is wool, which is sold as tapestry wool, crewel wool or Persian yarn.

Tapestry wool can be used just as it comes, to cover average (10-14) gauge canvas. It cannot be split into separate plys. Tapestry wool comes in 25g (1oz) hanks and small skeins.

Crewel wool is used as single strands to cover fine gauges or double strands for slightly larger ones. It comes in 25g (1oz) hanks and in small skeins.

Persian yarn is extremely versatile, as it can be used as it comes (three threads twisted together to form a single strand) or can be split and used as single or double strands, depending on the gauge of canvas. It is also interesting to mix three shades together for subtle effects. It generally comes in small skeins and 100g (4oz) hanks.

The chart shown below gives a rough idea of how many threads are needed for different gauges of canvas. It is only an approximate guide because the yarn that will cover the canvas will depend upon the stitch you are using.

The projects in this book use only wool, but nice effects can also be achieved with embroidery silks, metallic threads and ribbons.

Materials and Equipments

Tools and equipment

Tapestry needles should be used rather than ordinary large needles, as tapestry needles have a blunt point avoid splitting canvas threads. Needles come in sizes 13 (the largest) to 24 (the finest); size 18 is the most commonly used. The size you should use depends on the canvas – the needle needs to pass easily through the holes in the canvas without distorting them. The appropriate size for the most popuar canvasses is shown in the chart below Whether or not you use a frame is a matter of personal preference. Hand-held and floor-standing frames are both available. The advantages of a frame are that the work does not distort as much while you are working on it, and some complicated stitches are easier to work while the canvas is taut. The disadvan­tages are loss of speed and the fact that you cannot carry your work around with you as easily. Hoops are only suitable for fine-gauge, soft canvasses.

Large scissors for cutting canvas are useful, and you’ll also need some small, sharp scissors for the work itself. Make sure that you work in good light. If you are able to work only at times when artificial light is needed, an anglepoise lamp with a daylight simula­tion bulb in it makes working a lot more pleasant. Lamps with built-in magnification are also available. At any rate, ordinary overhead lighting is not suffic­ient for needlepoint.

CANVAS YARN (no. of strands and type) NEEDLE SIZE
Single (mono) 22 or 24 1 crewel 1 Persian 24
Single (mono) 18 1 crewel 1 Persian 22 or 24
Single (mono) 16    2 crewel 22
1 or 2 Persian
Single (mono) 14 or 12 3 crewel
2 Persian 20
1 tapestry yarn
Double (Penelope) 10 3 or 4 crewel
2 or 3 Persian 1 tapestry yarn1 tapestry yarn with 1 crewel 20 or 18
Single (mono) ordouble (Penelope) 8, 7, or6 1 tapestry yarn with1 crewel 3 or 4 Persian 18 or 16

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