Teach Yourself Needlepoint & Embellishment

Over on Facebook's needlepoint group known as Needlepoint Nation, one of the most common questions I hear is How Do I learn Needlepoint?, immediately followed by How Do I Go From All Tent Stitched Canvases to Fancier Ones?  This article is intended to pull together information available via the Internet for those who don't have a local shop to help them.  If you do have a needlepoint shop in your area, they will be your best friend when it comes to learning and  then improving your stitching.

Read through all this a bit at a time.  There is a lot of information here but sometimes what one person says really rings true, so take your time and browse.

If you are familiar with cross stitch but not needlepoint, this article will help you understand the differences.

Janet Granger is a designer of miniature pieces for dollhouses.  Her rugs, pillows, tiny pictures, etc. use tent and basketweave which she explains for those who only have done cross stitch before.

If reading charts is a puzzle, this will help.

Find a Local Shop

If you are in a larger city, check the Yellow Pages to see if there is a shop with needlepoint supplies in the area.   The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) is an organization for shops and designers and other needle arts businesses.  A good way to find a local shop is to search their directory.  Not every shop that sells needlepoint belongs to TNNA but any shop that does is serious about needlepoint.  Use the pull-down menus to sort through types of shops, states, etc.

Use Shop and Group Resources

Vetty Creations in Australia has created a series of small beginner pieces.  These kits come with everything you need and are worked from charts.

In Stitches in Atlanta has a neat little book called "How to Needlepoint" that will teach you the basics.

Brooke of Thorne Alexander has an article called "A Beginner Guide to Needlepoint" that teaches continental and basketweave stitches and away knots.

The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) has a great little booklet to teach you the basics of needlepoint.  This is how I learned eons ago. Many needlepoint shops and Amazon carry the booklet.

The Eye of the Needle in Kentucky has a nice explanation of tent stitch and basketweave.

The Needlepointer has some darling beginner kits called 1st Stitch that have everything you need to start stitching and even include a frame for finishing your piece at the end.


Needlepoint for Fun has a large range of beginner kits, including some Stitch and Zip coin purses, glasses cases, etc. that are self-finishing.

3AC has designs that are not too difficult for beginners, including some self-finishing projects.  They also plan videos to help folks learn to needlepoint in the Learn section, once the shop gets off the ground.  (They are new as of November 2017.)

Twisted Stitches Needlepoint in Albuquerque, New Mexico has several beginner classes that are said to be very good.  They are not online, just classes inside the shop, however.

Check Instagram to see if there is a Stitch Club in your area.  They are mostly social gatherings where everyone stitches and chats.  Ask online Facebook groups if there are American Needlepoint Guild or Embroidery Guild chapters in your area.   Hanging out with other stitchers is a great way to learn.

StitchBinge.com has kits for beginners geared for pre-teens and older.  There are a few beginner kits for younger kids, too.

Greystone Needlepoint also has a beginner's kit, cleverly packaged with threads instructions, and a small heart canvas in a tote bag.  It's geared more toward feminine tastes but it may be perfect for the child in your life.

Morgan Julia has a video that mentions how to read a chart.

Puzzled about how to work basketweave backgrounds around an irregular shape?  Poppy Monk Needlepoint to the rescue!

Teach Yourself Online

The Needlepointer has a nice beginner's explanation that covers things a beginner might notice that aren't covered elsewhere.

Oz Needle and Thread has a series of beginner videos to introduce folks to the basics.   There are also videos about how to finish a key fob and even a free "Gingham Is My Safe Word" chart for those who can't get enough gingham plaids in their life.

Fire and Iris' website has a good section for beginners with video tutorials about cutting skeins, the terms needlepointers use, how to thread a needle, how to do tent stitch and continental stitch and basketweave and explains the differences, and how to use stretcher bars.  

Poppy Monk Needlepoint has a really good blog that covers all sorts of topics for beginners. I particularly like their basketweave tutorial.

Needlepoint.com has a video on YouTube that will teach you the basics of needlepoint in five minutes.  The shop also has some good tips on choosing your first project (second and third links below).

Consult their website videos list to see if anything else looks useful. There's everything from how to put stretcher bars together to how to use a needle threader and ply threads. 

If you need more formal instruction, Needlepoint.com has a Learn to Needlepoint course for $35.  You will have access to videos and downloaded files.  No materials are supplied with the class.

Needlepoint.com also has a lot of online classes.  You get a kit in the mail and access to their online videos explaining the focus of the class.  The videos never end so you can go back and watch them again and again.

Needlepoint.com's stitch instruction videos are short but thorough.

The National Academy of Needle Artists (NAN) has a four part lesson to teach yourself needlepoint and learn the various terms needlepointers use.

Wellesley Needlepoint has started posting videos for beginners on their website in the Learning section.  Currently there is a two part introduction to needlepoint and a video about basketweave.

Ruth Schmuff of Bedecked and Beaddazzled has started a series of article for beginners on her blog.    So far she has described several stitches, talked about lights and Evertite stretcher bars, talked about compensation, and explained how to start/end threads.  You can find everything she's written to date here--

Ruth also has a YouTube channel for the shop with plenty of embellishment tutorials.

Kimberly Ann Needlepoint has #SheStitches, a new collection of kits to teach needlepoint.  Each kit includes a detailed stitch guide, canvas, threads and needle. They are available for two different level of stitchers. Level 1- to learn the very basics of Needlepoint and Level 2- an introduction to decorative stitches.

Kimberly Ann also has the #SheStitches Kit Collection which is larger count painted canvases, geared toward tempting young women to learn needlepoint.

Anna Pearson has a series of teddy bear or elephant kits for beginners on 14 count.  Since she's in England, this is an important resource for folks not in the USA.

Anna Pearson also has an introduction to needlepoint for those of us not in the USA.

Comfy Cottage and Beth Gantz have collaborated on an cyber class to teach new stitchers.  They sell a $45 kit to go with the class (second link below).  The third link below is the first YouTube video for the class.  Once you watch video one, click on the others listed on the right side of the page or go to the fourth link below, which is to their YouTube channel which is full of useful tips on how to put canvas on stretcher bars and how to do a variety of fairly common stitches.



Here's Comfy Cottage's newest kits that include free video help.


The Needlepoint Teacher website has loads of information for beginners and anyone else.  This section talks about stretcher bars but check the left side of the page for more help and tips.

Enriched Stitch in Connecticut has written a list of tips for new stitchers.

Needlepoint For Fun has a great many tips on their Basic Needlepoint Stitches page and at the bottom you can click to see even more stitches.  The header at the top of the page has a "How To" section that will talk about many important things including how to rip out if you make a mistake, how to clean needlepoint, how to estimate how much thread you'll need, etc.  Under "Kits" there is a section called Beginner Kits which has pieces suitable for beginners.  I recommend you sign up for their newsletter which is terrific.

NP For Fun also has a blog that's not very active but which also has some great articles.

Threadneedle Street in Washington State has a wonderful page of hints and tips.

Ridgewood Needlepoint in Ridgewood, NJ carries beginner kits for kids.  These have everything you need to work a project on 7 count canvas.  (Most needlepoint projects are for either 13 or 18 count although older canvases, rugs and English tapestry kits are usually 10 or 12 count.)

Horse Country Chic has a nice article with tips about teaching yourself and resources.

Abigail Cecile explains needlepoint to beginners.

Carly the Prepster has taken up needlepoint and has lots of advice for beginners.


The Metropolitan Museum has a lovely article about learning needlepoint with plenty of videos to teach the basic stitches.

Sandy Jenkins has videos for sale that teach various complex stitches.  You can buy one or all of them at a discount.

Mimi at Eye of the Needle has an encouraging little article about starting to needlepoint that you might find useful.

Barbara's Needlepoint in South Dakota has a cute introductory video about starting to needlepoint.

Rittenhouse in Philadelphia has a beginner's playlist on YouTube, mostly covering how to execute the various tent stitches.

Mary Legallet, who is famous for her Whimsical Stitch series of books, has a free download on her website of what she calls "The Essentials" which teaches the basics of needlepoint.  You'll need to enter your email address to get it but it's free.  (By the way, if you own Mary's first Whimsical Stitch book, this is the first chapter in that book.)

Aren't quite a beginner any more?  Coco Frank has some good advice for choosing a more advanced project.

Are you left-handed?  

Greystone Needlepoint has a guide to needlepoint especially for lefties.  All their guides are a free PDF download.  They also have a short article in their blog to help (second link below).

If you can find a copy of Davie Hyman's out of print The Diagonal Basketweave, it has a chapter that explains basketweave for those who are lefties.  There are three editions of this, identical except for the cover.  It's a book worth having as it covers basketweave thoroughly no matter your dominant hand.

Blog has a list of recommended books for those who are lefties.

Teach Yourself More Advanced Pieces from Charts

If you have blank needlepoint canvas and thread (you can substitute 10 count plastic canvas and knitting yarn or DMC's cotton floss or cotton perle from the big crafts emporiums although this will throw the size of a project off because most needlepoint projects are on 18 count needlepoint canvas), you can do all sorts of wonderful geometric pieces to have fun while you learn.  The American Needlepoint Guild and the thread companies Rainbow Gallery and Caron all have great projects online.  Let's start with ANG's website.  This is the direct link to their Stitch of the Month program.  Most months a new stitch is shown that is used in a project.  At first the projects were only unveiled in December but for the last few years the project is a mystery one that starts in January.  You will be told what supplies you need and each month you will work another section using a new stitch.

The thread companys' projects are done to promote their products but don't let that stop you.  Use any thread you can get your hands on to work some of these delightful designs.  Here is the Caron website.  Projects are hidden in several places here.  Look under "Online Classes," "Free Patterns," "Designer Spotlights" and "Kids Projects" until you find something that appeals to you.

Here is the Rainbow Gallery website's free needlepoint charts.  Both websites have many tips on how to use their threads and online color cards to help you choose threads or use those you are unfamiliar with.

Shop Help with Beginner Supplies

Come to the Point in San Rafael, CA stocks beginner kits for $19.95 from DeElda (second link below).  For the older beginner, they suggest the Lee three inch round ornaments and they stock a nice assortment of those.   Call the shop and ask Michelle for help if you need to mail order supplies.


Pippin Studio is now offering First Stitch Kits, simple designs with everything a new stitcher needs.  Your favorite shop can order one of these for you (there are 17 designs) if they don't stock them normally.

Ridgewood also has a nice beginner class kit.  They teach this in the shop but are willing to send it via mail order to folks who aren't in New Jersey.  As you can see, this is customized with the right initial for you.

Needlepoint.com in Raleigh, NC has beginner kits and beginner videos online, and they do several cyberclasses with videos to help their long distance students whether they are just starting or want to learn new techniques.


Viola has a series of beginners kits.  Your favorite shop can order one for you.

Gone Stitching is introducing new beginner kits.  All are $35 for a 5x5 design printed on 13 count that comes with a needle and size 3 perle cotton and basic directions.  There is a unicorn, ice cream cone, hot air balloon, duck, panda, and a puppy design.  These don't seem to be on their website yet but you can contact the shop for help.  

How to Embellish Needlepoint Canvases

The trend these days is to use fancy threads and stitches on painted canvases.  How do you know how to do that?  Experience, my friend.  You learn by doing.  However, there is help available to get you started.  ANG's website posted this article I wrote ages ago about how I choose threads and stitches for a painted canvas.  I also wrote an article for ANG's magazine Needle Pointers about why I choose the threads I did for a Russian Santa canvas.  If you have a friend who has the May 2014 issue, ask to borrow it. (NOTE:  ANG's new website hasn't put up the FAQ page yet so this article is currently unavailable.)

There are a great many online courses to help you learn various aspects of needlepoint once you are past the extreme beginner stage.  Sign up for the Shining Needle Society in Yahoo Groups to get notices of their classes, check the American Needlepoint Guild website for their latest (you have to be a member to take cyberclasses), and watch for new cyberclasses from Sandy Arthur or Laura Perin.


Laura Perin (embellishment or geometrics)

Sandy Arthur (embellishment)

The designer SharonG has an interesting article that outlines her philosophy for embellishing painted canvases.

Needlepoint for Fun has an article called "Basic Theory For How to Choose Needlepoint Stitches" on their website.

The Stitches for Effect series of books are very very useful to someone who needs help choosing fancy stitches for their canvas.  Written by Suzanne Howren and the late Beth Robertson, there are three books in the series.  They are organized by effect so that if you need a stitch for snowflakes, you can look in the index and find stitches recommended for snow and snowflakes.  The front of each book talks about various threads and the companies that produce them which is helpful if you don't have a shop nearby and have to mail order supplies.  (By the way, Stitches to Go is the portable version of these books, but it is diagrams from all three only.  There isn't an index or help choosing what stitch will make good snow or hair or clothing.)

Ruth Dilts's Needlepoint 101 and Needlepoint 202 books are also useful.   I think they are very inspirational for new stitchers as Ruth shows off a series of projects and explains what stitch (with diagrams!) she used and why.  You can use Ruth's ideas for beards, clothes, houses, etc. over and over in your own projects.  Her books are not as full of stitches as the Stitches for Effect series but they are cheaper if you aren't certain you want to learn embellishment.


Shop Help with Embellishment

BeStitched in Arizona has what they call the Stitch Addiction Boxes Club.  These are a monthly delivery of interesting threads and gadgets with videos on how to use them.  This is perfect for the stitcher who wants to branch out, even if they are a tad pricey.

More Help is Available

These are the most basic resources available.  There are many, many more. For example, at the bottom of the front page of Blog I list all the sites I know about with online stitch diagrams and online thread and color assistance.   There is also a tab at the top of this page called "Tutorials and Hints" which might answer a specific question.

If you know of a shop or website that has special online help for new stitchers or great help for those learning to use fancier stitches that I don't have listed, let me know by using the Comment section below or emailing me at chillyhollow at hotmaildotcom.  Thanks!

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