Needlepoint vs Cross Stitch: What are the Main Differences?

Crafting has become a favorite way to pass the time these days.  It offers a creative outlet and a therapeutic activity in one nice and neat package.  A very popular craft is needle crafting, which includes embroidery, Needlepoint, Cross Stitch, crewel, and even crochet.  There are many other types of needle crafting to try, but today I would like to focus on just two.

In this article, I would like to compare and contrast Needlepoint and Cross Stitch.  My hope is that by comparing and contrasting two popular crafts, you will discover a new craft that will allow you to express all your creativity. If you’re ready to discover something new and fun, let’s get going.

Main Differences between Needlepoint and Cross Stitch

Here are the main ways these two forms of needle crafting differ:

  • Needlepoint can be used to make intricate and unique designs with a wide variety of stitch options; whereas, Cross Stitch only has a few very basic stitches that won’t make a project unique.
  • Needlepoint is a needlecraft that dates back to ancient Egypt; whereas, Cross Stitch is a modern needlecraft.
  • Needlepoint makes use of frames to hold firm fabric; whereas, Cross Stitch makes use of embroidery hoops to hold the canvas.
  • Needlepoint mostly uses tent stitches; whereas, Cross Stitch mostly uses ‘X’ shaped stitches.
  • Needlepoint requires a firm fabric with plenty of holes in it; whereas, Cross Stitch can be worked on nearly any type of material.
  • Needlepoint requires a lot of practice to master; whereas, Cross Stitch is simple and quite easy to learn.
  • Needlepoint typically requires threads that are thick; whereas, Cross Stitch typically requires thin threads.
  • Needlepoint typically uses threads that are made from wool; whereas, Cross Stitch typically uses threads that are made from cotton.

All about Needlepoint

Let’s take some time to learn more about Needlepoint.  We can discover its pros and cons and talk about what types of projects can be done with this art form.

Needlepoint is a type of hand embroidery.  It is considered a hand embroidery because the stitches in this art form are placed on the surface of the fabric, and no machine can work through this delicate process as human hands can.  In this aspect, it is an art form that is comparable to Cross Stitch and crewel.

Fabric Types

The fabric that is used for Needlepoint is firm to provide a sturdy base for the many stitches that will be used to create a completed project. Remember, Needlepoint is not an art form that can be worked onto any and every fabric.  This fabric is designed specifically for Needlepoint projects and is referred to as canvas. Needlepoint canvas is also available with colored patterns painted onto it so, the project is similar to a paint-by-number coloring page.

Stitch Types

While Needlepoint doesn’t have a lot of versatility when it comes to fabric, it does have versatility when it comes to the types of stitches it uses.  The most commonly used Needlepoint stitch is the tent stitch; however, dozens of stitches can be utilized in this art form. 

There are way too many stitches to look at them all, but let’s take a moment to look at five popular Needlepoint stitches so you can get an idea of what this art form offers.

  • Basketweave Tent Stitch: This stitch is great to use as a background filler since it is easy to master and will not distort the fabric.  It is made by working the tent stitch in diagonal rows up and down the canvas.  With this stitch, there is no need to turn the canvas.
  • Basic Cashmere Stitch: This is another diagonal stitch that is perfect to use as a background filler.
  • Continental Tent Stitch: This is probably the first stitch you will learn when you pick up Needlepoint.  It is very basic, but it gets the job done, and it looks great too.
  • Hungarian Point Stitch: This is a straight stitch that looks great as a background filler but works equally as well to form intricate patterns alongside other straight stitches.
  • Wicker Stitch: This stitch alternates between horizontal and vertical stitches to create the perfect stitch for use in wicker baskets.

Thread Types

As long as the thread is thick and sturdy, you can use nearly any type of thread in Needlepoint.  The most common threads for this art form are Persian wool yarn and tapestry wool yarn.  

All about Cross Stitch

Now that we have learned a little bit about Needlepoint let’s also take some time to learn more about Cross Stitch.  With a little knowledge of both, it will be easier to know which art form you prefer to begin learning.

Cross Stitch is also a type of hand embroidery.  Just like Needlepoint, it cannot be done by machines since it is a surface stitch.  Unlike Needlepoint, it is a very basic art form that requires only “X” shaped stitches to create any picture.  

Fabric Types

While it is possible to Cross Stitch on any type of fabric, even clothing, there are cloths specially made for use in this art form.  If you decide to find your own fabric for your Cross Stitch projects, please note that the best types of fabric to use are either linen or Aida cloth.

Stitch Types

The stitches in this needlecraft are typically made in the form of an “X.”  It is, however, possible to use partial stitches in areas of the picture to better define shapes and details. Let’s pause for a moment to look at the five different stitches that are integral to Cross Stitch.

  • Cross Stitch – This is the basic stitch that is necessary to know to begin Cross Stitching.  It is a stitch that is in the shape of an “X” or a cross, hence its name.  Every other stitch in this art form is based upon this very stitch.
  • Back Stitch – This is the best stitch to use if you want to add detail to your picture.  Backstitching is a great way to form letters and create facial features in animals or human characters.
  • Half Stitch – This type of stitch is what its name implies – one-half of a cross-stitch.  A half stitch is great for outlining objects, creating shapes, and adding detail to a project.
  • Quarter Stitch – If you can master this stitch, your projects will have more intricate and better-looking curves.  This stitch is a little difficult to master, but it is well worth the effort.
  • Three-Quarter Stitch – Comprised of a half stitch and a quarter stitch, the three-quarter stitch is a great addition to any project.  Using it will make faces and flowers more fluid and less block-shaped, which is a definite plus.  It is a stitch that takes some practice to master, but it is worth the effort, just like the quarter stitch.

Thread Types

Cross Stitch is made up of small stitches, so it is best to use a thin thread.  Cotton embroidery floss is the most practical option.

Comparing Needlepoint and Cross Stitch

To help you decide which of these art forms you prefer to begin learning, let’s take a closer look at how easy each one is to learn and what supplies are necessary for each.

Learning Curve

Needlepoint is an intricate needlecraft that will take many years of practice to master.  Within this art form, there are dozens of stitches to learn and a multitude of ways to use each one.  Beginners may feel overwhelmed with this form of needle crafting. Still, once a few stitches are mastered, and a few projects are completed, it can get addictive.

Cross Stitch is a simple needlecraft that is easy to learn.  There are only five stitches within this art form, and while a few of them might take some time to master, they are still very basic when compared to Needlepoint stitches.  Beginners may prefer this form of needle crafting. Still, after doing it for a period of time, they may decide to move on to other forms of needle crafting since it can become monotonous.


When it comes to Needlepoint, the main supplies you will need are:

  • Canvas
  • Frame stand
  • Magnifier (this is used to view small stitches better)
  • Masking tape (this is used on the edges of the canvas to keep it from fraying)
  • Needlepoint frame
  • Needlepoint pattern
  • Persian wool yarn or tapestry yarn
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needles
  • Waterproof markers (these are used to outline a pattern on the canvas)

When it comes to Cross Stitch, the main supplies you will need are:

  • Aida cloth or linen
  • Cotton embroidery floss
  • Cross Point pattern
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Magnifier (this is used to view small stitches better)
  • Scissors 
  • Tapestry needle

Advantages of Needlepoint

The advantage of this art form is that it produces intricate designs.  Because there are so many types of stitches within this needlecraft, texture, colors, and shapes all merge to create a more realistic and beautiful picture.

Advantages of Cross Stitch

This art form has a major advantage over other types of needlecraft because it is very basic and easy to learn.  Those who are just beginning to learn needle crafts should begin here and progress after learning the basics.  Cross Stitch has a minor advantage over other types of needlecraft. It can be worked on nearly any type of fabric and is not limited to specialized canvas.


Question: Where Can I Learn Needlepoint and Cross Stitch?

Answer: There are so many ways to learn new crafts and hobbies today, so don’t limit yourself to one way only.  You should first consider how you learn best and go with that route.  Here are some options that you might want to look into:
If you are someone who learns new things by reading, then hop over to your favorite local or online bookshop to find what you need.  
List of Books about Learning Needlepoint
List of Books about Learning Cross Stitch
In-Person Classes
If you learn best with a teacher and other classmates present, then look for in-person classes in your area.  Some places you can contact are:
Hobby & Craft Stores
Community Colleges
Community Centers
Online Classes
If you like the idea of taking a class but cannot risk your health, then look into an online class.  These will give you the support of a teacher and a class of other students while being able to social distance.  Here are some great online classes you might want to research further:
Stitcher’s Clubs
Join a club to find other like-minded crafters.  These communities are designed for crafters to learn, share ideas, ask questions, and get inspired.  Here are a few clubs you may want to consider:
Serendipity Needleworks
Stitch Quarterly Cross Stitch Club
This is a place where you can find free tutorials on nearly any craft or hobby.  These tutorials are nice because they are taught visually and audibly while still allowing you to interact with other viewers and possibly the YouTuber as well.  Here are two sites you should look into if you want to learn needlework in this manner:
Carly the Prepster – How to Needlepoint: A Beginner’s Guide
Phil’s Next Kick – Learning How: Cross Stitching 101

Question: Where Can I Find Patterns for Needlepoint and Cross Stitch?

Answer: Needlework patterns are easy to find online. Let’s look at several different places that offer free patterns.
Cross Stitch:

Question: Should Needlepoint Projects be Blocked upon Completion?

Answer: Yes, this process will ensure that your project is straight and the stitches are fluffed for presentation.  Here is what you need to block a project:
Blocking board
Spray bottle of water
Here are the steps for blocking a Needlepoint project:
Remove the canvas from the frame stand
Remove masking tape, if any, from the edges of the canvas
Spray the canvas with the spray bottle until it is damp but not soggy
Lay the canvas on top of the blocking board
Reshape the canvas, so its edges are straight
Pin the canvas in the four corners, so it holds its shape
Allow the canvas to thoroughly dry before removing it from the board

Wrapping Up

There’s nothing better than sitting down to work through your favorite craft after a long week.  These activities heal the soul.  With that in mind, there’s no good reason why you should waste your time wondering if you’re missing out on a great craft that you’ve never tried.  If you have been interested in needle crafting for a while but weren’t sure if it was something you would truly enjoy, the information in this article should settle that question.

The next question should be when are you going to start your needlework project?

Perhaps you’re still wondering what type of needle art is for you.  If you are interested in learning about other types of needlecrafts, check out our article on how Cross Stitch and Embroidery differ from one another.  In it, you’ll find answers to your needle crafting questions and so much more.

Research Citations

Ask Any Difference

The Spruce Crafts

Andy Fair Hurst Art

The Stranded Stitch

World of Needlepoint

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