Types of Needlework – How to Recognize

Types of Needlework – How to Recognize

Eli asked me to make a post about the different types of needlework so when you are out thrifting you can recognize what to buy and what keywords to use when listing to sell on the different platforms. I have done better on eBay with selling needlework kits of every type because of the international buyers.

I will also cover in another post the best types of needlework kits or patterns to buy.

First I will cover what is used with what looks like a sewing needle. This leaves out Crochet, Knitting and other forms using other needles.  I will cover those in another post.

1 Counted Cross Stitch – Counted Cross stitch today is known mostly as cross stitch.  Cross stitch is done on a fabric with squares.  The pattern is on a piece of paper and you count the squares from the pattern to the fabric. (sounds hard but it is really easy).  Kits come with different counts of fabric.  Aida is from 10 to 18 count (squares per lineal inch)  Hardanger is 22 count.  Linen is used in cross stitch and most of the time is stitched over two threads (example 28 count linen stitched over two threads would make the stitch count 14). I love the look of Linen over aida because you don’t see the squares.  NOTE: Make sure you read our next blog about buying completed finished needlework and what to look for.  

2. Stamped Cross Stitch – Stamped is cross stitch that is traced onto fabric, usually a cotton poly blend nowadays.  There are squares you that you cross over with the floss.  These squares are normally mixed in with lines to embroidery.  You can do fancy stitches or straight stitches.

3. Embroidery – Embroidery is stitched on fabric that has had the design traced onto it.  You can do a number of fancy stitches. This is what you see on dish towels. My grandmother had towels for every day of the week.  I always checked to see if she changed them daily….. and SHE DID.  Embroidery is stitched with six stand floss. You separate the threads into one or two strands depending on the look you want.

4. Crewel Embroidery  or Crewelwork –, is a decorative form of surface embroidery that uses wool yarn (acrylic is used sometimes) and a variety of different fancy stitches that follows a design on the fabric.  Crewel is usually stitched on a linen or canvas so that the wool does not pucker.  Make sure if you have kits that have part of the canvas silkscreened that you point this out.  (Photo 3 is silkscreened partially)

5. Hardanger – this has been called Hardanger embroidery but it is a counted form since you are still working in the blocks of the fabric.  Traditionally is it worked on white cloth with white thread but today I see it in all colors. It is worked on even blocks counting and using drawn thread techniques.  If you see any finished … just grab and send to me.. I collect it.   You will see this in doiles, tablecloths, runners etc.  It is really elaborate and if you find patterns they usually are good sellers but not big money.  The art is still so limited on who has the patience to do it.

6. Needlepoint – Needlepoint is stitched on a mesh canvas that is painted on the canvas.  You will be doing a half cross. There is also counted needlepoint where you would have an empty canvas and use patterns on paper to count similar to cross stitch.   You will see Mesh 12 or Mesh 14. This is how many squares are in a lineal inch.  (Needlepoint is my least favorite of any of the needle arts.) It is usually done with yarn.  Many new designers are using smaller mesh like 18 (squares per inch) and using floss for a different look.  I like the smoother look as it is not as bulky.

7. Petit (Petite) Point – Petit Point and Needlepoint are very similar in that they use canvas to stitch on and the same format but they are very different.   Petit point is just that…. you make tiny tiny stitches and usually stitch on single threads of Penelope Canvas or fine needlepoint canvas or Congress cloth which is 24 squares per inch.  Many people use Petit point to describe very fine cross stitch but since you are not crossing the full cross the term is used incorrectly.


8. Plastic Canvas – Plastic canvas is basically needlepoint done on plastic mesh.  You will see this used to make 3-d type items such as doll houses, magnets, photo frames etc. You cut out the designs after you have stitched and either attach to the edges to sew them together or finish off and cut the plastic so it i is not seen.

9. Smocking – I am covering smocking here because there are a lot of kits out there to make pillows with smocking. It is basically pleating and can be seen in the tops of dresses and on bonnets. There are two different types, English and Modern.

10. Brazilian  Embroidery – This is the one art I cannot tackle well. It is stunning and gorgeous but I don’t have the patience.  It is mostly flowers done in silk or Rayon Threads.

NO COUNT CROSS STITCH is the design silk screened on aida or linen with openings to do stitching to embellish the design.  This is different from Stamped Cross stitch where on stamped you have the design on the plain fabric in little blue squares and you stitch those squares.

No Count Cross Stitch Kit example
No Count Cross Stitch Kit example


No count example
No count example



There are other forms of needlework that include drawn thread, schwalm, blackwork etc but the above types are what you are going to see the most of in kits when you are shopping.

About Author

Cindy Sorley

I am a stay at home mom who runs a very large specialty needlework store on eBay. I am also involved in the eBay and PayPal communities as an eBay Voices Member and a PayPal Ambassador. Www.bubbacandance and www.stitcheryxpress.com


JoAnn Rath

February 19, 2013 at 3:22 am

Thank you a million for sharing this information Cindy, it is VERY helpful.


February 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

Excellent article for those of that don’t know embroidery from crochet. Thanks Cindy!!

Pat Curry

April 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thank you for taking the time to cover this thoroughly. I am happy to have a good reference to rely on.

    Cindy Sorley

    April 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Please come back anytime Pat… let me know what else you want me to write about.

Debbie Ybarra

April 12, 2013 at 11:26 am

I’ve bookmarked this. Thank you Cindy!

    Cindy Sorley

    April 12, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks for visiting Debbie… Come back or send anyone anytime.

Cyndee Summers

June 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm

My new go to place for everything stitch!

    Cindy Sorley

    June 25, 2013 at 12:14 am

    and I am so glad you are here.. just ask any questions and we will get them answered.


June 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Absolutely LOVE this! Thanks for taking the time to give all the examples.

    Cindy Sorley

    June 25, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Holly, let me know if you think of more… I will add them…


September 24, 2013 at 11:21 am

Thank you very much. I just thrifted a crewel piece on burlap and a embroidered piece that is matted. This helped to realize it was vintage crewel.

    Cindy Sorley

    October 3, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Donna, Glad I could help.

    Are you in the Thrifting with the Boys Facebook group?

Cathy Gimbert

March 28, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Thanks Cindy for providing what the different types of stitchery kits are and how to tell them apart, it is very helpful when listing a kit and you have the correct information on the listing. I hope it also tells buyers that you know what you are talking about. Thanks again

Susan Fry Shaub

March 31, 2014 at 11:46 pm

This guide will be a good resource for all things needlework in one place. Thanks, Cindy!

Debbie Beechy

April 1, 2014 at 12:11 am

This is great and thanks for the pictures and explanations.

Tracy Smith

August 3, 2014 at 10:01 am

Hi Cindy, I found your site while doing a search on types of needlework and it’s great! I am trying to find out what a method is called that I did back in grade school. We used embroidery thread and had a pattern on paper but nothing on fabric. The way we did the needle was drawn through the fabric, not through it. So when you look at the back of the fabric you couldn’t see the thread. I’d love to find it and do it again. Any help on identifying is appreciated!! thank you!


September 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

My Mom did needlepoint in the 70’s that had wool yarn on the canvas and then she used wool yarn to go over the one on the canvas. Imported. What is this called??

    Cindy Sorley

    September 18, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Was the fabric a mesh type fabric or a tight fabric like you see in clothing. If it was fabric then it was crewel embroidery likely. If is was mesh then a form of needlepoint in bargello or something. Do you have any photos at all you can send me and I can verify…

      Cindy Sorley

      October 8, 2014 at 1:40 am

      I have not heard back from you.

Leave a Reply