The most common types of needlepoint canvas include mono, double mesh (also known as Penelope), interlock, and plastic. They come in a variety of meshes, which determines the fabric count. For example, a 10-mesh canvas means there are 10 holes, or threads, or stitches to the inch (100 stitches per square inch). The more threads per inch, the smaller the stitches will be. If needlepoint is worked on 5-mesh canvas, it is called Quickpoint. Fast and easy to work, the big stitches do not allow as much detail as a standard 10-mesh canvas.
Canvas can be purchased blank, by the yard, with no printed design. It can also be purchased with a design painted or printed on, in a kit (with yarn, needle, and instructions), or open stock (printed canvas only). It can also be purchased with a pre-embroidered motif, in which case only the background is stitched.
Mono or single-thread canvas: The holes in this canvas are evenly divided by single threads running in both directions (crosswise and lengthwise). Mono canvas is easier for beginners to work with and may be used with any needlepoint stitch except the half cross stitch. It’s commonly available in 10, 12, 13, 14, and 18-mesh (though it can be found in mesh counts up to 56).
Double-thread or Penelope canvas: This type of canvas is woven with double threads instead of single, leaving evenly spaced holes for the needle to work through. It retains its shape retaining and is suitable for any needlepoint stitch. This is the only canvas that can be used for small stitches (petit point) and is most commonly found as 5/10 and 10/20- mesh (the first number is the count for over-two threads, and the second number is the count for over-one threads).
Interlock canvas: This type of canvas is named for its horizontal threads that “interlock” (wrap) around the vertical threads. Due to the two thinner threads that make up the interlocking horizontal threads, this canvas is lightweight, making it better suited for smaller, framed pieces. It’s available in 10, 12, 13, 14, and 18-mesh.
Plastic canvas is plastic mesh with square holes, and perforated plastic is plastic mesh with smaller round holes (similar to the perforated paper often used in cross-stitch). Both are useful for functional items, as they are strong yet flexible. Due to their plastic composition, they won’t unravel, making them perfect for items with unfinished edges. Plastic canvas is available in a variety of shapes in clear 7- and 10-mesh. Perforated plastic (sometimes referred to as plastic canvas) is sold in several colors of 14-mesh.
Needlepoint is traditionally stitched in tapestry wool. However, craft or rug yarn—and even embroidery floss—can be used. Always choose yarns of excellent quality. This is especially important when your needlework will be used for home furnishings or any other items that get constant use.
Most people prefer wool yarns, because after a needlepoint piece is finished it is generally distorted and has to be brought back to its original shape. With items worked with wool yarns, this is easier to achieve and they will retain their shape. Here are the most frequently used types of needlepoint yarns:
Tapestry wool is luxurious 4-ply yarn comes in a wide range of colors. Wonderful to work with, it gives the finished piece a very smooth and even look.
Persian yarn: Usually wool, this 2-ply yarn is loosely twisted into threads of three strands. The strands can be separated for blending colors, working with smaller stitches, or used together as one strand.
Craft or rug yarn: This is a bulky, heavyweight wool or acrylic and often used for Quickpoint projects.
Tapestry needles with blunt points and large eyes are used for needlepoint. The yarn or the number of strands of yarn used and the mesh size of the canvas determine the size of the needle. The bigger the needle, the lower the number. For 10- or 12-mesh canvas, use #18 needle. For 5-mesh canvas, use #13 needle.
If you have difficulty getting the yarn through the eye of the needle, it is too small. Try the next size. Conversely, the needle is too large if the yarn moves around easily in the eye of the needle, causing friction and the yarn to fuzz.