Using Surface Embroidery on Needlepoint

Surface Embroidery for Needlepointers, a new workshop with Ellen Moore Johnson.

I learned to do surface embroidery before I learned to do needlepoint. Maybe that’s the reason I enjoy embellishing my canvases with French knots so much! (Teehee… 😉 )

Many of the stitches we use to embellish our needlepoint canvases are actually free-style surface embroidery stitches; lazy daisies, French knots, bullion knots, stem stitch, and outline stitch, just to name a few.

Using surface embroidery stitches is a terrific place to start…

if you’re new to adding decorative touches to your projects.

Why’s that? Well, instead of having to find counted canvas stitches to fit into the spaces on your piece, you can add elegant flourishes on top of – or mixed in with – tent stitch.

Here are five free-style surface embroidery stitches you can use to add texture and dimension to your canvases…

Lavender Fields by Cathy Horvath-Buchanan for Maggie & Co. Needlepoint; stitch guide by Ellen Moore Johnson

Of course, you already know that I L-O-V-E making French knots, so I’ll start with them. 😉

French knots are small, raised knotted dots that you may use individually or in clusters to add texture to your project. (The purple rows of lavender in the picture above are worked in French knots.)

Some ideas for using French knots on your canvases include:

  • flower centers
  • berries
  • a sheep’s fleece

Another terrific surface embroidery stitch you can use to add texture to your projects is the chain stitch.

The chain stitch is a line of interconnecting loops; each loop holds the next one in place. (Think lazy daisy stitches worked in a continuous line.)

Some ideas for using the chain stitch on your canvases include:

  • flower stems
  • tree branches
  • swirls of steam or smoke

You may not be familiar with the feather stitch, but it’s a lovely accent stitch, too.

The feather stitch is a variation of the blanket stitch that alternates from one side to the other. It’s a terrific option for adding extra ornamentation to borders.

But you may also use it for:

  • leaf veins
  • fern fronds
  • seaweed

Bullion knots – another of my favorite surface embroidery stitches – are awesome for adding oodles of texture!

They’re a little tricker to make than French knots because there are more wraps of the thread around the needle, but the effect is oh-so-worth the effort.

Bullion knots are terrific for:

  • butterfly antennae
  • Santa’s mustache
  • curls

And finally, we have woven wheels!

Woven wheels, AKA spider web stitch or woven rose stitch, are super easy to execute. They create perfect little circles, too, which makes them highly desirable for needlepointers. (There are very few options for creating truly round shapes on needlepoint canvas.)

Here are some of my favorite ways to use woven wheels:

  • bubbles
  • flower centers
  • polka dots

And that, my friend, is just a tiny sampling of the many surface embroidery stitches you can use to embellish your needlepoint canvases.

But the fun doesn’t end with this blog post…

On Saturday, March 11th, I’m teaching a brand new workshop and I’d love to have you join me!

It’s called Surface Embroidery for Needlepointers and we’ll get together on Zoom (from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Central time) for a fun-filled afternoon of learning the ins and outs of embellishing your canvases with free-style surface embroidery stitches.

In this four-hour class, you’ll discover the secrets of using stitches like the stem/outline stitch, wrapped backstitch, and chain stitch, as well as more complex stitches like bullion knots, Turkey work, and burden stitch to add texture, depth, and dimension to your needlepoint projects. (We’ll cover 12 stitches in all.)

There are no special materials required – just a doodle canvas and some leftover thread, plus your regular stitching supplies.

Whether you’re a seasoned needlepointer or a beginner looking to expand your skills, this class will open your eyes to the creative possibilities for using surface embroidery stitches to make your canvases come to life.

(And, of course, there’s always “lagniappe” when you stitch with Serendipity Needleworks. 😉)

So click here to hop over and check out the details.

Alrighty, that’s all for now.

I hope you have a terrific rest of your day. As always, thank you for popping in to say hello and, until next time…

Happy Stitching  🙂
Stitch with a smile!




2 thoughts on “Using Surface Embroidery on Needlepoint”

  1. How does Twinkle differ from Treasure Braid? I love Treasure Braid…but there have been rumors of it being discontinued so exploring options! Thanks so much!

    • Hi Francine!
      Twinkle is a semi-metallic thread and Treasure Braid is full-on metallic. (FYI: In talking with the people at Rainbow Gallery, there aren’t any current plans to discontinue Treasure Braid. 🙂 )
      Have a terrific rest of your day and happy stitching!!


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!