What is tapestry / needlepoint?


    Tapestry/needlepoint has been around for centuries and has decorated the walls and homes of royal and wealthy families around the world. Tapestry/needlepoint is a form of counted thread embroidery in which thread is stitched through a stiff open weave canvas with a tapestry needle. Most tapestry/needlepoint designs completely cover the canvas and can be worked in a variety of stitches and patterns.

    The degree of detail in tapestry/needlepoint depends on the count of the underlying mesh canvas. Many designs are painted directly onto the canvas, but there are also designs that are charted, similar to cross stitch with each square in the chart representing one single stitch. Tapestry/needlepoint is worked on a canvas ground in either mono, interlock or a 2-thread canvas called Penelope/Duo.

    You will need some basic tools to get started on your tapestry/needlepoint project.

    - DMC Thread for tapestry/needlepoint
    - DMC Tapestry Needle
    - DMC Needle Threader
    - DMC Embroidery Scissors
    - Tapestry/needlepoint Canvas
    - Scroll Frame or Stretcher Bars
    - 2.5cm (1”) Masking Tape

    Additional supplies to make your stitching experience even more enjoyable:

    - Good Lighting
    - DMC Armchair Organiser


    You can use a variety of threads for your tapestry/needlepoint projects ranging from cotton, wool, rayon and silk. DMC offers beautiful tapestry/needlepoint threads from lustrous Pearl Cottons to soft Tapestry Wools. All DMC threads are made from the best quality materials and 100% colourfast and fade resistant.

    DMC Tapestry Wool is a soft smooth non-divisible 100% wool yarn.  This type of yarn is normally worked on larger mesh canvas sizes 10 to 14. Tapestry Wools gentle twist and thickness provide excellent canvas coverage with a smooth, even texture. It is best to work with lengths of yarn no longer than 45 - 50 cm- (18-20 inches) to prevent fraying and wearing down of the yarn while stitching. DMC Tapestry Wool is available in a beautiful colourfast palette of 390 colours. Tapestry Wool also provides three of the most popular background colours available in a larger 40m (43 yard) hank for your convenience.

    DMC Soft Cotton is a non divisible thread with a soft, matt finish. It’s perfect for children to use as they will find it easy to cross stitch or sew with. The thread will also give good results on tapestry/needlepoint and long stitch projects.  DMC Soft Cotton is available in 285 colours.

    DMC Pearl Cotton is a finely twisted non-divisible thread that has a supple silky feel and gives your tapestry/needlepoint a shiny raised texture and lustrous finish. DMC Pearl Cotton is available in sizes 3, 5, 8 and 12 to accommodate a wide range of mesh canvas

    DMC Mouline Stranded Cotton has a silken sheen and gives an exquisite finish to any Tapestry/needlepoint project. Because it is a divisible cotton, any number of strands may be used to stitch on the widest variety of mesh sizes.  DMC Thread is made of long staple Egyptian cotton and is double mercerised to a brilliant lustre. DMC Mouline Stranded Cotton is available in over 450 solid colours.

    DMC Color Variations are beautiful “overdyed” threads designed to create subtle variations in colour without having to change threads. Each skein has a blend of soft multi-colours that flow seamlessly into one another along the length of the thread.  Color Variations are available in a palette of 36 distinct blends of colours in both 6-strand Cotton Thread and Pearl Cotton Size 5.

    DMC Light Effects add light and reflective qualities to your design. These 6-strand glistening threads are created to dazzle and is the perfect specialty thread for highlights and decorative sparkles. Available in a diverse assortment of colours to compliment any tapestry/needlepoint, Light Effects come in these distinct colour groups:  Precious Metals, Jewels, Antiques, Pearlescent, Fluorescents and Glow-in-the-Dark. Light Effects threads look wonderful stitched by itself on your canvas, or blended with cotton Thread to add subtle sparkle.

    DMC Satin Thread adds exceptional beauty and sheen to tapestry/needlepoint. These lustrous 6-strand threads glide easily through fabrics and come in a vibrant palette of 60 colours created to inspire. Use Satin Thread to accent areas where you want a notable glossy shine.


     Thread amounts for a project depend on numerous variables; the kind of stitch you’ll be using and the tension are the two primary ones.  A quick way to estimate the amount of thread you will need for a project is to take an 45cm (18” half yard) length of thread and stitch the canvas until the thread is finished.  You will then know how many stitches per length of thread you can make.

    Each skein and spool of DMC threads has a measured amount of meterage on it.  By using your calculator you should be able to determine the amount of thread you will need.

    Canvas is selected based on the mesh size – the number of holes per inch of canvas – and threads selected for a tapestry/needlepoint project are based on the mesh count.  Thicker threads such as tapestry wool or #3 Pearl Cotton are used for canvases with lower mesh counts (fewer holes) and finer threads such as #5 Pearl Cotton, Mouline Stranded Cotton Thread, or other thinner threads are used for canvases with higher mesh counts (more holes per inch).

    The different types of tapestry/needlepoint canvas available on the market are Mono, Interlock, Penelope/Duo, Rug and Plastic Canvas, all available in a wide assortment of mesh sizes and colours.

    Mono canvas is a single thread woven canvas where both the vertical and horizontal threads are the same diameter and the threads are spaced the same distance apart.  Mono canvas has a certain amount of “give’ to the fabric and is the choice canvas for cushions and upholstery.

    Interlock Mono Canvas is a single thread canvas and is distinguished by having the vertical threads bound around each horizontal thread “locking” them in place.  This weave stabilises the canvas and makes it possible to trim the canvas close to the finished work without unraveling.  Interlock does not stretch and is generally used for printed manufactured canvases and smaller projects.

    Silk gauze is a form of interlock and is used for very fine petit-point work.  Silk gauze comes in numerous small counts making it perfect for doll house reproductions and detailed tapestry/needlepoint projects.

    Penelope/Duo canvas is a double thread canvas where both the vertical and horizontal threads are woven in pairs which create alternating large and small meshes in the same weaving to accommodate both large and or small stitches.  Penelope/Duo sizes are expressed with two numbers to describe the counts of both meshes in the canvas such as 10/20. This canvas is perfect for décor items and for a mix of intricate and more quickly stitched large background stitches.

    Rug Canvas is a mesh of strong cotton threads, woven and twisted so that the threads are strong and inseparable. Canvases come in different gauges and mesh sizes are 3.3 and 5 the latter being better for more patterned work.

    Plastic Canvas is a stiff material that is generally used for smaller projects and is sold in “pre-cut pieces" and various shapes rather than by the yard. Plastic canvas is ideal for 3 dimensional projects because it can easily be cut to size and the edges will not unravel.  Beginners who want to practice different stitches find this easy and inexpensive canvas easy to see and to hold in their hands.

    Scroll Bar Frames helps keep your canvas taut and reduces warping. Scroll Bar Frames consists of 2 wooden roller bars and two flat spacer bars.  The spacers hold the scroll bars apart. Each manufactures system is different but generally the bars have a strip of webbing material attached it so that you can sew the top and bottom edges of your canvas on to it.  The ends of the scroll bars screw into the spacer bars with screws and nuts that you can adjust to the tension you want by rolling the scroll bars in opposite directions.  This style of frame is perfect for working on larger designs because the fabric is scrolled up or down onto the scroll bars as the design is stitched.  Select a scroll bar size that is slightly wider than your canvas and spacer bars that are comfortable to work with.  Be sure to read and follow the manufactures instructions for the system you select.

    TIP:  To keep the horizontal tension as firm as the vertical tension on your scroll bar frame, lace the side edges of the canvas to the spacer bars.  Adjustable Frame Clips are also an option.  The adjustable straps wrap around the spacer bars and attach to the canvas edges with gripper clips.  Several are usually needed to hold the horizontal span taut. These clips are easy to use and eliminate timely lacing.

    Stretcher Bars are strips of wood that are dovetailed at the ends where the bars fit together to form an open square or rectangle. Your canvas is then attached to the frame with tacks to hold it in place.  These easy to use bars are sold in pairs.  Two pairs of bars are needed to make a frame; one pair for the width of your canvas and the other pair for the length.

    TIP: Use brass tacks to prevent rust marks.

    Floor and Table Stands are available in a variety of styles and materials.  These stands hold the frame in place allowing you to keep both hands free for “two handed” stitching.   Stands are adjustable so you can arrange the height and angle of the frame to your liking.  Many stands come with scroll frames that can also be detached for portability.


    Tapestry needles are used in tapestry/needlepoint, because they have blunt tips and elongated eyes.  The blunt tips pass smoothly between the fibres in the canvas and the elongated eyes accommodate the thicker threads used in tapestry/needlepoint. The size of the needle you will use depends on the size of the mesh of the canvas. For example, a narrow needle should be used on fine-mesh canvas, while a thicker needle is used on canvases with larger hole sizes. Select a needle that accommodates your thread and will enter the canvas with little or no drag on the thread. Tapestry Needles are sized by number and the bigger the number, the smaller or finer the needle. Refer to the DMC Needle Guide to see which needles are best for the thread being used.

    8-10 count Canvas - use a size 16 tapestry needle
    10-12 count Canvas - use a size 18 tapestry needle
    12-14 count Canvas - use a size 20 tapestry needle
    16-18 count canvas - use a size 22 tapestry needle

    Click here to see how to thread your needle

    Learn about the different types of tapestry/needlepoint patterns out there in the market from hand painted canvases to printed canvases.

    Hand-Painted Canvas designs are individually hand painted on the canvas. Canvases may be stitch-painted, meaning each thread intersection is painstakingly painted so that the stitcher has no doubts about what colour is meant to be used at that intersection. Alternately, hand-painted canvases can also have areas where a thread intersection is not clearly stated meaning the stitcher will have to use their judgment about what colours to use in that thread intersection.  Stitchers often enjoy making these decisions along with choosing both the threads and stitches they will use on their hand-painted designs.   

    Printed Canvas designs are created by either silk-screening the colours onto the canvas or by using a processed heat transfer.  Printing or transferring can be done on a commercial basis and thus has a lower price point than a Hand-Painted canvas.  Printed designs are typically simpler in style because the colour palettes are limited by these methods.  A colour block strip printed on the selvage of the canvas lists the colours printed in the design.  This handy tool makes it easier to discern the colours used in the design.  

    TIP:  Purchase only those designs that are printed squarely on the canvas.

    Charted Designs are the most affordable and can be easily attained from a multitude of Tapestry/needlepoint books or monthly publications on the market.  The design chart contains all the information you will need to stitch the design.  Every square on the chart that requires a stitch will contain a symbol and the thread colour key will show you the symbols that correspond to each colour thread. Charted designs are stitched on white or coloured canvas so it can be more challenging to cover the surface with your stitches Tapestry/needlepoint stitches that fully cover the canvas work best in charted designs.

    Hand painted canvases are the easiest to follow but there are times when you just can’t find the one you’re looking for.  If you’re considering designing a piece of your own or adapting a design you like, you might want to consider painting your own canvas.  Painting a tapestry/needlepoint canvas is a rewarding experience and is easy if you follow a few basic guidelines.


    Uses: Filling stitch, repeated geometric pattern.

    Also known as the Florentine Stitch. This stitch can be worked in countless variations, by altering the number, and size of the stitches in each repeat.

    - Worked in upright long stitch or satin stitch.
    - Work your first row from left to right. Bring your needle up at 1 and down at 2.
    - Bring your needle back up at 3 and down at 4.
    - Bring your needle back up at 5 and down at 6.
    - Continue stitching.
    - Subsequent rows can be worked from either the left or right, with the stitches fitting those of the preceding row.
    - Use three of four shades of a single colour family for alternating rows to create a lovely affect.
    - If the thread is not giving the coverage desired and the canvas is showing, use a thicker thread.



    Also known as Diagonal Tent Stitch

    Uses: Filling stitch, similar in appearance to the Tent Stitch.

    - Work the stitch diagonally, starting at the lower left at the intersection of the threads, rows will be worked diagonally down then up the canvas.
    - Form each stitch by bringing the needle up at 1 and down at 2.
    - Skipping one row between stitches. On the downward rows your needle will be moving vertically; on the upward rows, horizontally.
    - Form first stitch of an upward row below last stitch of a down row, and the first stitch of a down row to the left of the last stitch of an up row.
    - Turn canvas to fill in the corner above the first row.
    - To make sure you are executing the stitch correctly turn your canvas over and look at your canvas. The stitches should look like a basketweave.


    Uses: Decorative, filling stitch.

    Can be worked horizontally to imitate the look of brick, or vertically.

    - Work the stitch by bringing the needle up at the target hole at 1, over 2 lines of canvas, and placing it down at 2, working left to right along the desired area.
    - Continue stitching.
    - The next row is worked identically, but right to left instead.


    Also known as the Tent Stitch, this is a popular tapestry/needlepoint stitch.

    Uses: Common filling stitch for large areas, used quite a bit in miniature tapestry/needlepoint.

    - Done horizontally, starting at the upper right, work each row of stitches from right to left. Form each stitch by bringing the needle up at 1 and down at 2.
    - Bring the needle back up at 3 and down at 4.
    - Continue stitching.
    - At the end of each row, finish the last stitch, leaving the needle at the back of the canvas. Then turn the canvas completely around and start the new row in line with the row just completed.
    - The Continental stitch is prone to distorting the canvas so be sure that you don’t tug your thread as you stitch.



    Uses: Filling stitch.

    This bulky stitch is worked like its counted-thread counterpart.

    - Bring needle up from the upper right at 1 and down to the lower right of the intersection of the canvas at 2.
    - The second half of the stitch is worked from the top left at 3 to the bottom left of the intersection at 4, creating the X of the stitch.
    - To make rows of cross stitch work an entire row, upper right to lower left, followed by the entire row worked in the second direction upper left to lower right.
    - It’s best to work rows of cross stitch in your tapestry/needlepoint design so that you produce tidier uniform stitches with even tension.


    Uses: Beautifully textured filling stitch.

    - Work in diagonal rows. Bring your needle up at 1 and down at 2.
    - Next, bring your needle up at 3, across two intersections and down at 4.
    - Repeat to fill the area, working a diagonal row upwards from lower right to upper left.
    - Then, reverse the direction, working from upper left to lower right for the next row.


    Uses: Make shapes and fillings by combining stitches of different lengths.

    This stitch is a textured tapestry/needlepoint stitch similar to Satin Stitch and is used to fill large areas of canvas. It can be worked in differing lengths in varying directions to create a design, or worked in a single direction.

    - Work from right to left.
    - Bring needle up at 1, this diagram shows skipping three rows, and bring the needle down at 2.
    - Bring needle back up at 3 and down at 4.
    - Continue stitching.
    - Vary the length of the stitch for an interesting design.



    Uses: Interesting filling stitch.

    - Work your cross stitch base over four canvas threads bringing your needle up at 1 and down at 2, and then crossing your x by bringing your needle back up at 3 and down at 4.
    - Next, make a small diagonal stitch over each “leg” of the cross stitch over two canvas threads by bringing your needle up at 5 and down at 6.
    - Continue making small diagonal stitches around the base of your cross stitch by then bringing the needle up at 7 and down at 8, then up again at 9 and down at 10, then up at 11 and down at 12.
    - Continue stitching.

    - The Rice Stitch is similar to cross stitch, with the exception of each “leg” of the stitch having a diagonal tacking stitch.


    Uses: Filling stitch, background stitch.

    - Work diagonally as a square.
    - Start at the upper right; each block of five stitches is worked across the row to the left.
    - Bring needle up at 1 and down at 2, then from 3 to 4; 5 to 6; 7 to 8; 9 to 10; then up at 11 to start the next block.
    - At the end of the row, turn the canvas and line up the next row with the previous one.


    Uses: Filling stitch, background stitch.

    Variation of the Scottish Stitch. It features Scottish Stitch blocks framed by Tent Stitch Border.

    - Bring your needle up through the canvas in the upper right corner of the area you wish to fill, and work one stitch diagonally across the intersection of the canvas (1 -2 followed by 3 -4 and 5 -6)
    - Next work the uppermost stitch of the Scottish Stitch centre (9 – 10) followed by two additional border stitches (11-12 and 13-14) - Following the numbered pattern, continue to stitch steps 15 – 20 to complete one stitch.


    Uses: Background areas and borders.

    Similar to standard Scottish Stitch. The difference is you reverse the direction of the stitches in every other block.

    - Bring your needle up at 1, across one thread of the canvas and down at hole 2.
    - Next, bring the needle up at hole 3, across 2 threads of the canvas, and down at hole 4.
    - The next stitch is made over 3 threads in the canvas (5 and 6) then down to two and finally one stitch.



    Uses: Highly textured filling stitch, backgrounds and border areas.

    Similar to Cross Stitch, and is worked over an even number of threads in the canvas. This illustration shows 3 threads.

    - This stitch is also known as a double cross stitch. Work a standard cross stitch, and then work an upright cross stitch directly over it.
    - Bring your needle up diagonally from lower left at point 1 to the upper right at point 2 over an even number of canvas intersections.
    - Next, bring the needle up at the lower right at point 3 and cross down to the upper left at point 4. This completes the first half of the Smyrna Cross.
    - To work the second half of the stitch, bring your needle up at the bottom centre at point 5 and down at 6. Bring your needle up again at the centre left at point 7 and down at the centre right at point 8 to complete a stitch.
    - The Smyrna Cross may be worked individually as a decorative element, or in rows.
    - Smyrna Cross is referred to as a double cross in surface and cross stitch embroidery.


    Uses: Border, decorative details.

    - Bring needle up at 1, down at 2.
    - Bring your needle back up at 3 and down at 4.
    - Continue stitching.
    When the tapestry/needlepoint design is finished most canvas work will need to be blocked.  Blocking is the method used to straighten and square the canvas back into its original shape.  Blocking can be done with a bit of time and patience or you can contact your local Needlework shop and have a professional block the canvas for you.

    Material list:

    - Blocking board
    - Heavy weight stainless steel T pins
    - Spray bottle with warm water

    - Clean towel
    Attaching & Blocking the canvas

    Dampen the tapestry/needlepoint by spraying the entire canvas with warm water.  Using a liberal amount of water to dampen the surface but not so much as to saturate it,  let the canvas rest for 5 minutes to relax the fibres.

    TIP: To remove excess water from the canvas, pat the surface gently with a clean towel.

    Hold the canvas in your hands and stretch it in the direction opposite to the distortion.  Most stitched canvases lean toward the right.  To help reshape the canvas, hold the upper left and lower right corners and pull it back into a reasonable alignment.

    TIP: Never cut the canvas before blocking.  The selvage strips are used to hold the pins when stretching.

    Using the blocking board grids as your guide, press a T pin into the centre of the top selvage strip on the canvas.  Gently stretch the canvas downwards keeping the canvas threads vertical and tack the centre of the bottom strip onto the board.  Repeat the method on the left and right sides keeping the threads horizontal and at right angles to the vertical threads.

    Working outwards from each centre pin continue to stretch and pin the canvas at 2cm (¾”) intervals.  Add the pins a few at a time equally to all four sides as you work around the canvas.  If the canvas starts to dry out, dampen it again and resume pinning.

    Once the canvas has been fully pinned to the blocking board, lightly spray the surface again.  Dry the piece of work dry at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.  Drying can take several days or longer depending on the humidity and temperatures.  Remove the pins only when the canvas is “bone dry”.

    TIP: While the design is drying, keep the board flat to avoid water marks on the canvas.

    When dry the canvas should be straight and ready for finishing.  If the design is still a little distorted, simply repeat the blocking process.  Some canvases require multiple blocking to get them back into shape.

    When dry your canvas should have retained its original shape and be ready for finishing. If it is still a little distorted, simply repeat the blocking process. Some canvases require multiple blockings to get them back into shape.


    It is recommended that you bind the edges of your canvas with Masking tape before you begin stitching. This will prevent the canvas from unraveling and from catching the threads as you stitch. Simply cut a piece of tape the length of one side of the canvas. Apply the tape over the canvas edge, with half of the tape on the front side and half on the back side. Repeat on all four sides of the canvas.

    If you plan to use a frame, mount the prepared canvas to your frame of choice.


    Learn how to separate your thread strands so you can adjust the thickness of your thread.

    DMC Mouline Stranded Cotton is a 6 stranded thread.  You will usually not stitch with all 6 strands of thread so you will have to separate the thread before stitching.  To start, find the end of the thread on your skein of DMC thread. Slowly pull the end out from the skein until you have an 45cm (18”) length of thread and cut it off. To separate the thread into individual strands, pull one strand up and out slowly until it is completely separated from the remaining strands. Continue to pull out the number of strands you need to stitch with.  To rejoin the threads, hold them together at one end then gently stroke the lengths to smooth and recombine them.

    If you are using Pearl Cotton There are two common ways to open and cut a skein of Pearl Cotton, depending on the length of thread you prefer or need.

    For approximately 50cm (19”) lengths of thread: Push the two labels toward the centre.  Find the end with the two loops and cut through the bottom of each loop.  Move the labels back into place. Pick and pull out a single piece of thread from the top loop.

    For approximately 100cm (38”) lengths of thread: Remove both labels and untwist skein to form an oval. Cut through all the threads at one end of the oval. Pick and remove one thread for use as needed. To keep the threads tidy for future use, put the colour number label back onto the threads and slide it to the centre.  Fold the threads in half and set aside.

    TIP:  Pearl Cotton is commonly stitched using one full strand for embroideries and is not doubled up to make a thicker thread.  If you want a heavier thread for your stitching choose a Pearl Cotton 3 or a size 5.  If you are working a delicate stitch or using a light weight fabric, use a Pearl Cotton 12 or a size 8 for your embroidery.


    To thread your needle it is easiest to use the DMC Needle Threader. To use the DMC Needle Threader, slide the eye of the needle onto the hook, then loop the thread on the hook and pass the hook through the eye of the needle and pull the thread through.

    Here are some other ways to thread your needle without the assistance of a threader:

    Pinch and Poke

    Pinch and Poke – Cut a clean end of thread and pinch it between your thumb and forefinger, leaving only a little of the end exposed. Holding the needle in your other hand, “poke” the eye of the needle over the tip and the thread into the eye, then pull the thread through. Pinching the thread gives you more control to guide the thread into the eye. You may have to “saw” the eye of the needle back and forth slightly to get the thread to enter the eye.

    Loop, Pinch and Press          

    Loop, Pinch and Press – Loop the end of thread over the eye of the needle and pinch the loop tightly between your thumb and forefinger. Remove the needle from the loop and press the eye of the needle down over the thread. Pull on the loop to get the thread through the eye of the needle.

    TIP: Make sure your hands and work surface are kept clean while you’re stitching. Make it a habit to wash your hands before you begin to stitch and keep drinks and snacks away from the area.