Converting Cross-Stitch to Needlepoint

Have you ever fallen in love with a counted cross-stitch pattern and tried to work it in needlepoint? Chances are you ran into one of these problems:

  1. The cross-stitch pattern was extremely detailed with many color changes, making the basketweave stitch almost impossible to work.

  2. The canvas showed through the stitches.

  3. Partial stitches in the pattern left you wondering, “How do I work half a basketweave stitch?” 

If you’ve run into these issues and were disappointed with the results, don’t give up on adapting a pattern. These guidelines will help make your next try a success.


Choose a Design

When choosing a cross-stitch design to adapt to needlepoint, carefully evaluate the chart. Some designs are going to demand a lot of extra time and patience, but some easily lend themselves to adaptation. Check for the following:

  • What size fabric is used?

  • How many colors are used in the design?

  • How many half or quarter stitches are used?

  • How intricate are the color changes?

Designs that are easy to adapt are generally charted on a size of fabric similar to the most common sizes of needlepoint canvas (12-, 14-, or 18-mesh), have large blocks of color, and depend almost exclusively on full stitches. Designs of this type are perfect for a needlepointer who is new to charted work.


Select the Right Canvas

Your canvas choice is very important. Since you don’t want to end up with glaring specks of canvas showing through all of your stitches, you must make some decisions. There are a few options, depending on how intricate the design is and how much work you are willing to do.
Penelope canvas: If the cross-stitch chart you are adapting has a lot of half and quarter stitches, try using Penelope (or double mesh) canvas. It comes in the same mesh counts as mono needlepoint canvas, but there are two threads instead of one, which are normally covered by each stitch. These pairs of canvas threads can be separated to use individually, allowing the needlepointer to create half and quarter stitches just as cross-stitchers can do on their fabrics.  Stitches also cover this type of canvas more easily, so there is less of it peeking through the stitches.
Colored canvas: Whether using a double mesh or mono canvas, try using a neutral-colored canvas—such as ecru—instead of white. The neutral color won’t be as glaringly obvious peeking through your stitches.
Paint the canvas: If you are willing to do a bit more work, try tinting areas of the canvas with diluted acrylic paint. For example, paint a sky area soft blue, a field in green, or a house in red. This will help the exposed canvas blend into the stitches. Blocking out areas with acrylic paint is also helpful when it comes to stitch choice. If you are accustomed to working in basketweave stitch on painted canvases, you may find the basketweave stitch difficult to work from a chart. Of course, the simpler the shapes, the easier they will be to work. If you block out the major shapes on the canvas with paint, your basketweave pattern will be much easier to follow.

Adapting Stitches

When working from an intricate chart—or if you choose not to paint the canvas—consider using half cross stitches rather than basketweave stitches. Since they are worked in horizontal rows rather than the diagonal rows of the basketweave stitch, half cross stitches are much easier to work from a chart. However, this does not cover the canvas as well as the basketweave stitch. You can overcome this problem in several ways.

  • Tint at least the largest areas of colors. This will make it less obvious if the canvas is showing through.

  • Work on a higher-mesh canvas. Your stitches will cover much better on 14- or 18-mesh canvas than on 12- or 13-mesh.

  • Add one or more plies of fiber to attain the best coverage from your stitches.

With these guidelines in mind, start checking out those cross-stitch charts with a more educated eye. You just might find your next needlepoint project!