What Is A Stitch Guide?

Ellen's stitch guide for "Jingle", a canvas by Pepperberry Designs, was featured in Needlepoint Now magazine.

If you’re a veteran stitcher, you probably know that a stitch guide is a set of instructions for how to stitch a particular needlepoint canvas in such a way that your finished project turns out exactly like the original piece.

But if you’re new to needlepoint, you may not have a clue about what stitch guides are. So, my friend, I’m here to help!

Let’s start by answering the question of why you’d even want one…

If you have no desire to use decorative stitches or novelty threads on your canvas, you won’t need a stitch guide. Stitching a canvas entirely in tent stitch doesn’t require special instructions – just dive in and have fun!! 😉

But, if you do want to transform your two-dimensional painted canvas into a three-dimensional piece of fiber art through the application of decorative stitches and fancy threads, then you need a plan.

A stitch guide is a set of instructions that helps you recreate a project previously stitched by someone else.

And that plan is a stitch guide.

A stitch guide can be very simple, including only brief hand written notes and hand drawn stitch diagrams. Or it can be quite complex – a professionally produced multi-page full-color document complete with computer generated diagrams.

Sometimes they’re free – and sometimes they cost more than your canvas! (Eek!)

So, what should a stitch guide include?

In my opinion, a well written guide will include these components:

  • a list of threads and embellishments
  • the sequence in which to stitch each area of the canvas
  • precise instructions for how to stitch each area/design component on the canvas
  • easy to follow stitch diagrams
  • clear photographs

And anything else that will aid the stitcher in successfully completing their project.

Where do you get a stitch guide?

The most common place to find them is through your local needlework shop. (The picture below is of my shop before I closed it in 2017.)

Some designers partner with teachers to create professional stitch guides for their canvases. Shop owners then buy them to re-sell to their customers.

There are also needlepoint shops that offer stitch guide writing services. (It’s important to note that those services may be free or there may be a fee.) You may find that some shops have their own line of stitch guides for a variety of canvases, too.

Other sources include stitch guides created by professional teachers. Teachers often write guides for specific projects and travel to shops around the US to teach those projects.

And, finally, there are stitchers who create stitch guides for their projects. They then make those guides available to other stitchers, usually for a fee.

Serendipity Needleworks, a full service needlepoint shop, was open from 2003 - 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

You can also create your own…

stitch guides for the canvases from your stash. 😉

It’s something that everyone can learn to do – and I do mean EVERYONE! (Yes, that includes you, even if you think you’re not creative enough or experienced enough.)

Over the course of the 30 + years that I’ve been stitching and teaching needlepoint, I’ve had plenty of “aha” moments. And now, all of those “ahas” are part of the Stitch Guide Formula™ – my signature system for choosing the best stitches and threads for your needlepoint canvases so that you can create a fabulous finished project. (I share more about how to implement my formula inside The Stitcher’s Club™.)

Why would you want to learn to create your own stitch guides?

Unfortunately, most needlepoint canvases do not have accompanying stitch guides available. That means you don’t have a plan to follow so that you can transform your beautiful canvas into that fabulous finished piece you picture in your head. In short, you’re at the mercy of other people to help you.

When you have the skills to evaluate your canvas, proficiently scrutinize stitch and thread options, and put it all together into a cohesive plan that you can use to stitch your project, you’re GOLDEN!

You can take any needlepoint canvas and fly with it! 🙂

And that means you can express your own unique creativity in a way that makes your heart sing… who wouldn’t love to be able to do that?!

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

Thank you ever so much for popping in. I hope you have a terrific rest of your day

Until next time, happy stitching…


Stitch with a smile!

2 thoughts on “What Is A Stitch Guide?”

  1. I just got an amazing canvas that I think is going to be a challenge for me. I may want to see if I can submit it for one of the club canvas classes.


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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.

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