Bet you never thought about needlepoint canvas much…

But it can affect your needlepoint project more than you might think. Let’s take a peek at the 3 main types of needlepoint canvas we use most: interlock mono canvas, mono canvas, and Penelope canvas.

Each kind has special features that make it uniquely appropriate for a variety of projects. I prefer cotton canvas manufactured by Zweigart. It’s a superior quality product made by very knowledgeable folks over in Germany. In fact, if you’ve ever purchased a needlepoint canvas that has a thin orange thread running through the selvedge, you can count on it being Zweigart canvas.

Basics of Textile Construction

Before we dive into the different kinds of canvas, you need understand a little about textile construction. All textiles are created with warp and weft threads. The warp threads run lengthwise in the material and the weft threads are the widthwise threads that are “woven” over and under the warp threads to create a plain weave textile.

Needlepoint canvas is an open even weave material. It’s important to note that needlepoint canvas comes in a variety of mesh sizes and that the mesh size is directly related to the number of stitches per linear inch.

For example, there are 10 stitches in a linear inch of a size 10 mesh canvas. And you’d use a size 18 tapestry needle to stitch a 10 mesh canvas. (Want to learn more about which needle size to use on the different mesh sizes? Click here for a handy chart and some helpful hints.)

Now, let’s take a closer look at the kinds of canvas we use in needlepoint…

Interlock canvas is typically used for screen-printed designs and is frequently found in kits.

Interlock Mono Canvas

Interlock mono canvas, usually referred to as interlock, has a very stable construction and can be trimmed closely without fear of it unraveling. It’s made by twisting two thin threads around each other to create the lengthwise “warp” of the canvas and interlocking them in a grid pattern with a single crosswise “weft” thread. (You can see the twisted threads in the picture above.)

Interlock canvas is typically used for screen-printed designs and is frequently found in kits. Elizabeth Bradley kits are screen-printed on interlock canvas.

Most hand painted canvas is painted on mono canvas.

Mono Canvas

Mono canvas, available in a variety of colors, has a plain weave construction, which means that a single weft thread is woven over and under a single warp thread to create the grid pattern. (Note the plain weave pattern in the picture above.)

Almost all of the painted canvases available to today’s stitcher are hand painted on mono canvas. Mono canvas is also used in counted thread/canvas work embroidery.

The most common sizes of mono canvas are 10, 12, 13, 14, and 18. My personal favorite is 18-mesh because of the detail that can be achieved when stitching on a smaller size canvas.

Penelope canvas, also called duo canvas, has a similar structure to mono canvas.

Penelope Canvas

Penelope canvas, also called duo canvas, has a similar structure to mono canvas. It features pairs of single threads, grouped closely together to form both the warp and weft of the canvas material. (Look at the picture above to see how the pairs of threads are woven together.)

The most common size of Penelope canvas is 10/20. When stitching the larger holes, your stitch count per inch is 10 and when splitting the threads and stitching the smaller holes, your stitch count per inch is 20.

When the threads are “split apart” and the smaller holes are stitched, you are able to create very fine detail. The beauty of Penelope canvas is that you can combine both gros point (large-hole stitching) and petit point (small-hole stitching) on the same piece to create a lovely finished project.

Almost all (if not all) of the pre-worked needlepoint designs available today are stitched on Penelope canvas.

What’s your favorite kind of needlepoint canvas to stitch on?

Have you stitched on all three kinds – or just one? What did you make from your stitched piece(s)? A pillow? A rug? A wall hanging? I’d love to hear from you, so please tell me in the comments box below.

And if you have any questions, you can include them there, too. I look forward to reading what you have to say.  : )

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  1. Carrie

    October 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    I belong to EGA and love to do canvas work. I’ve stitched several pieces such as a 3 dimensional frog , bird and alligator. Also several framed pieces. I enjoyed your info above. I have never done penelope canvas. Very interesting. Thanks Carrie

    • Ellen Johnson

      October 19, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Carrie! Thanks for taking the time to share with me. I’ve never stitched a 3-D piece, but I have one in my stash – an elephant. Her name is Ellie and I just couldn’t resist. 😉
      We don’t have a local EGA chapter in my hometown, but I’ve been a member at large for years. I look forward to getting to know you better and appreciate your kind words about the canvas info.


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