Are Needlepoint And Embroidery The Same Thing?

Needlepoint canvas embellished with decorative stitches

Do you ever hear people calling different forms of needlework by the wrong name? Knitting and crochet get mixed up all the time. And as a former shop owner, I used to hear needlepoint  and embroidery get called all sorts of things – including knitting and sewing.

So, are needlepoint and embroidery the same?

The short answer is “kinda sorta”. See, technically, needlepoint is a form of embroidery. The dictionary defines embroidery as “the art of working raised and ornamental designs in threads of silk, cotton, gold, silver, or other material, upon any woven fabric, leather, paper, etc., with a needle.” That means virtually every kind of hand work done with a threaded needle is technically embroidery.

But when most people think of embroidery, they envision flowery pillowcases on their grandmother’s bed – or linen napkins with monograms. That kind of embroidery is free style surface embroidery.

It employs stitches like French knots, lazy daisies, satin stitch, bullion knots, and more.

Here’s a picture for you…

Free style surface embroidery includes stitches such as French knots, satin stitch, bullion knots, lazy daisies, and more.

Some of my favorite uses for free style surface embroidery are…

to embellish linens and clothing, especially children’s clothing. When Rebekah was little, I did a lot of embroidery, smocking, and French hand sewing.

Heck – my very first French hand sewing project was a christening gown. It’s hanging on the wall in my bedroom. There’s not a machine stitch on the entire gown or slip. I consider it one of my masterpieces – and a family heirloom.

Rebekah is expecting her own baby in June, so I need to find that slip… it’s packed away in a “safe” place. Cross you fingers for me that I’m able to find it soon because I’ll want to add the new baby’s monogram and christening date to commemorate the happy event.

But back to our question… are needlepoint and embroidery the same?

When you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find that needlepoint is “embroidery done on canvas usually in simple even stitches across counted threads.”

The tent stitch is the traditional needlepoint stitch, so when most people think of needlepoint, this is what they think of…

The traditional needlepoint stitch is called the tent stitch.

As you can see, there’s definitely a difference between needlepoint and free style surface embroidery.

I love to do both! 😉

I adore stitching entire projects in tent stitch…

when I want my needlework to be relaxing and meditative. In fact, there’s nothing I find more calming than stitching a canvas in basketweave. And I know that my pieces will always be “fashionable” because traditional needlepoint never goes out of style.

When I was making the transition from teaching classes in my embroidery studio to opening Serendipity Needleworks as a brick and mortar shop, one of my students told me that she would no longer be coming to see me because “needlepoint is nothing but stuffing holes with yarn”.

Boy, was she ever W R O N G!

See, you can use free style surface embroidery stitches on your hand painted needlepoint designs to transform them into three-dimensional pieces of fiber art. And to make it even more fun, there are literally hundreds of counted canvas embroidery stitches, too. (That’s actually what I teach in my online classes and through my needlepoint membership, The Stitcher’s Club.)

The thing I enjoy most about modern needlepoint is how creative I can get with my projects. I looooove using decorative stitches and fancy threads to bring my canvases to life!

Here’s a Christmas ornament by Kathy Schenkel Designs that includes both tent stitches and decorative stitches. See how the fancy stitches add extra texture and visual interest to the design.

Use decorative stitches to add texture and visual interest to your needlepoint canvases.

Here’s what the canvas looked like before I stitched it…

"Tuscaloosa" hand painted needlepoint canvas by Kathy Schenkel Designs

And here’s a landscape piece by Cathy Horvath-Buchanan for Maggie and Co. that I taught as an online workshop. It’s called “Lavender Fields”.

Lavender Fields by Cathy Horvath Buchanan is the design I taught in an online needlepoint workshop.

This is its “before” picture…

Lavender Fields by Cathy Horvath Buchanan for Maggie & Co.

So, as you can see, needlepoint and embroidery aren’t the same thing – but they’re definitely “kissin’ cousins”. 😉

Alrighty – that’s all for now, my friend.

Thank you ever so much for taking the time to pop in and read my blog. If you found this post helpful, I hope you’ll tell your stitching friends about it.

I hope you have a terrific rest of your week and, until next time… happy stitching!!

Stitch with a smile!

2 thoughts on “Are Needlepoint And Embroidery The Same Thing?”

    • Hi Carol
      Thank you so much for your note – and for taking the time to read my blog post. I’m pretty sure that you could order the Tuscaloosa canvas from a local needlepoint shop and I know that Lavender Fields is still available. Hope this helps..
      Have a terrific Thursday!!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Serendipity Needleworks

Hi, I’m Ellen. A needlepoint teacher and author dedicated to helping motivated but overwhelmed stitchers at every stage find exactly what they need to stitch with confidence. Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the needlepoint world or you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, I’ve fine-tuned a learning experience just for you.

Recent Posts

Get Your Free Guide: Ellen's Tips & Tricks

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Don`t copy text!