Glossary of Stitching Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Aida. The most commonly used type of fabric for counted cross-stitch. There are many varieties. Blocks of thread are woven (blockweave) together leaving obvious holes for stitching

Assisi Work. This is a variation of cross-stitch. The stitches used are the same, but the principle of the design is reversed - as the background is embroidered and the pattern left plain and in outline.

Bargello. Also known as Florentine. This refers both to the craft itself and to the type of stitch. Long straight, vertical stitches on canvas produce geometric and zigzag designs. The variations in the groups and sizes of the stitches create the patterns. Despite having originated in Europe in the 17th century, Bargello has a contempry feel. It is easy to create designs, and is hardwearing, so is suitable for cushions, chair and stool covers.

Beading Needle. A long, sharp needle with a round eye. Used for beads and sequins

Berlin Work. Half cross-stitch that is coarser (therefore quicker) than standard cross-stitch, and uses brighter colours. It originated in the 19th century.

Black Work. As its name suggests, embroidery originally done in black thread. It can be in other colours or using metallic threads - the result is called silver gilt. Its history goes back at least six hundred years. It is often linked with Catherine of Aragon, a skilled needlewoman, for making it popular in court. Traditionally the style involved a fine, black silk thread worked on linen, mostly in back stitch, in diamond patterns. It is very expressive and textured.

Canvas Work. This term can be used to cover any form of needlecraft using canvas, or, more specifically, be the term used to define mixed stitch work done on canvas. This can also be known as Stitchery or Canvas Embroidery.

Congress Cloth. Cotton, which comes in various colours and is particularly good for samplers. Liable to watermark.

Continental Tent Stitch. A type of tent stitch where the reverse diagonals are longer than the front diagonals, and is sewn back and forth across the canvas /fabric. It is hard wearing.

Crewel Needle. A medium, sharp needle with an oval eye. Suitable for crewel work, embroidery and smocking

Crewel Wool. A 2 ply wool that comes in a particularly wide range of shades.

Crewel Embroidery. Also know as Jacobean Embroidery. Wool embroidery on a twill fabric, using a particular stylised form of design.

Cross-stitch. This refers both to the craft itself and to the type of stitch. There are 2 fundamental ways of sewing cross stitch: the Danish method - also called "here and there", where one completes a line of half stitches and then returns to complete the X; and the more traditional method where each cross is completed before starting the next one.

Duo Canvas. Also known as Double Thread or Penelope Canvas. This canvas has two sets of threads, creating networks of large and small holes. This allows different stitch sizes on the same canvas e.g. 10hpi for background and 20hpi for fine detail like flowers and faces. "Antique" duo is generally better quality than "white".

Embroidery Needle. A medium, sharp needle with an oval eye. Suitable for crewel work, embroidery, smocking

Evenweave. Any fabric with the same number of threads per inch vertically and horizontally, which is important for accurate count sizes. Most canvases and aida are evenweaves.

Floor Standing frames. These are the best choice for the frequent stitcher. Dependant on the design, the actually frame is clamped or rested on the stand.

Florentine. Also known as Bargello. This refers both to the craft itself and to the type of stitch. Long straight, vertical stitches on canvas produce geometric and zigzag designs. The variations in the groups and sizes of the stitches create the patterns. Despite having originated in Europe in the 17th century, Bargello has a contempry feel. It is easy to create designs, and is hardwearing, so is suitable for cushions, chair and stool covers.

Floss is a single untwisted silk thread, often used for ecclesiastic embroidery. It is much used in India and China.

Flower thread. 100% cotton thread, equal to about three strands of embroidery floss

Fractional Stitches. Cross-stitches with missing arms: ¼, ½, ¾

Gauge. The number of holes per inch (hpi) or threads. The higher the gauge, the finer the fabric. The "gauge" of fabric/canvas and type of fibres affect the size of needle, the type and number of strands of fibre used, the detail of the final design and the length of time for the design to grow!

Hardanger. Deriving its name from the Norwegian Fjord, this is a method of cutting fabric and removing threads to create an openwork mesh of embroidery. Geometric designs are based on Kloster blocks of embroidered squares. Hardanger fabric can be wool or cotton and is usually 22 pairs of threads to the inch.

Half Cross Stitch. A form of tent stitch, where the reverse has short, vertical lines. It uses less thread, and is less hardwearing than other forms of tent stitch. It is good for pictures.

Hank. A hank of tapestry wool is approximately 55 meters and a hank of crewel wool is approximatle 180 meters.

hpi. The number of holes (or threads) that a fabric has per inch. The higher the gauge, the finer the fabric.

Hoops Frames. A hand frame that is most appropriate for smaller works on fine fabrics. However there is a risk of marking and stretching the fabric

Interlock mono. Threads are bonded and do not move when stitched. Interlock does not unravel or fray. It is good for small items, but not ideal for upholstery as it can snap. 13+ gauge can be too flimsy for some projects.

Laying tools help keep threads untwisted when using several strands. The tool - which can also be a large tapestry needle or equivalent, is used to stroke the stands flat near where they emerge from the fabric.

Linen is a fine single thread evenweave.

Loop method. A method for securing threads instead of knots.

Medici Wool. A fine French wool, originally produced for the Aubusson carpets. It is finer than Crewel and Paterna wools. It is easily divisible and gives a very smooth finish when sewn.

Metallic threads. Blending filament adds lustre to ordinary floss. Braids are rounded and add definition and sparkle. Ribbons are flat threads.

Mono canvas. Mono canvas is woven, and is therefore easier to block than interlock. It is good for upholstery as it has a degree of "give", so is less likely to tear when under pressure.

Mono de Luxe Canvas. The best quality canvas, with rounder polished threads for smoother stitching, and less 'fuzzing' of the wool as it is pulled through the canvas. The higher the gauge, the stronger the canvas will be. It is available in white or antique. All kits manufactured by Sew Exciting use this canvas.

Mountmellick Embroidery. A form of white work which has no open or drawn spaces. The stitches lie as much as possible on the surface of the material with as little thread as possible underneath. It is a coarse form of embroidery, producing the maximum effect for the minimum effort.

Nap. The variation in colour reflection from threads lying different ways, as in velvet.

Needlepoint is the American name for tapestry and uses predominantly tent stitch.

Paterna Persian Wool. This comes in 3 or 5 ply and is divisible. The range of colours available in 5 ply is limited. It has a rough and a smooth direction - always use the smooth. When sewn it has a slight sheen.

Penelope Canvas. Also known as Double Thread or Penelope Canvas. This canvas has two sets of threads, creating networks of large and small holes, allowing different stitch sizes on the same canvas e.g. 10hpi for background and 20hpi for fine detail like flowers and faces. "Antique" duo is generally better quality than "white".

Perlé cotton. A lustrous, highly mercerised twisted non-divisible thread for counted thread work, which comes in various weights. It is highly versatile and can be used in most needlecrafts.

Petit Point. This refers to both the needlecraft and the canvas. The canvas is very fine with more than 17 or more holes per inch. The needlecraft uses tent stitch in wool or silk on Petit Point canvas to achieve fine detail and wonderful shading.

Plastic Canvas. Comes in small sheets of various shapes. Good for children to use and for rigid projects like boxes and tags.

Railroading. A method for preventing twisting on cross-stitch when using two threads by bringing the needle between the threads. It adds time but improves the appearance of the stitch and coverage.

Rayon thread. Divisible, shiny and good for blending. Rayon thread is not particularly hardwearing.

Ribbon floss. Flat and shiny.

Rotating Frames. Good for larger works. They hold fabric secure with rollers (scroll bars) at the top and bottom.

Running under. A method for securing threads instead of knots.

Silk thread. These are expensive, but are wonderful to sew with and have a longlasting sheen. They can be variegated in colour and are not always colourfast.

Silk gauze. Very fine fabric, commonly 40hpi and very expensive

Single Thread Evenweaves. These are made of single threads woven together. They are generally stitched over two threads. So a 30 hpi fabric will produce the same size work as a 15 hpi aida. Stitching "over one" fabric thread, usually with a single strand of floss, produces a picture a quarter of the size. Aida is generally cheaper and stiffer than evenweave.

Skein. A skein is a 1/6th of a hank. The length of a skein varies for each type of fibre and manufacturer. Guide lengths are stranded cotton - 8 metres, tapestry wool - 9 meters, crewel wool - 30 meters.

Stranded cotton. A divisible thread made of double mercerised long cotton fibres. Stranded cotton usually has 6 strands.

Table Frames. Good for larger works. They are similar to rotating frames, holding the fabric secure with rollers (scroll bars) at the top and bottom. However they have short legs so they can be used on your own table. They are less bulky than floor frames.

Tapestry is design by weaving the fabric itself rather than by stitching designs onto an openweave canvas. The origins go back well over a thousand years, coming to Europe via the Middle East. The great age of tapestry was in the 1600s and 1700s, especially in France. Hand looms gave way to power looms in the nineteenth century. Many of the designs from that period have retained their popularity for needlepoint kits. The term Tapestry is now often used to refer to Needlepoint.

Tapestry Needle. A medium, blunt needle with an oval eye. Suitable for almost all counted thread work. They range in size from 14, the heaviest to 26, the finest. Too large a needle will distort canvases and too fine will fray the yarn.

Tapestry Wool. Non-divisible four ply wool. Good for tapestry and canvas work.

Tapisserie. Anchor's trade name for their tapestry wool.

Tent Stitch. Tent stitch is a diagonal stitch over one canvas thread. There are several types, all of which look similar from the front, but have different qualities. Half Cross Stitch - The reverse has short, vertical lines. It uses less thread, but is not as hard wearing. It is good for pictures. Continental Tent Stitch - The reverse has longer diagonals and as a result it is harder wearing. It is sewn back and forth across the canvas. Diagonal Tent Stitch (Basket Weave) - The reverse has overlapping horizontal and vertical lines. It is very strong and is good for backgrounds as it has less distortion. Gross Point - Sewn like Continental Tent Stitch, but on course canvas or over 2 threads on finer canvas.

Tramé (tramme, tramming). The canvas is marked out with horizontal lines of wool that are then overstitched with a continental tent stitch to give raised areas. It is excellent for hardwearing chair covers and commonly used on duo canvas to define designs and colours accurately. Tramé dates back to medieval times, the world centre today for this work is Madeira in Portugal.

Tweeding. Two or more colours of thread in the needle

Twist. A yarn will either have an 'S' or a 'Z' twist depending on how the yarn is spun: clockwise (S) or anticlockwise (Z).

Waste canvas. Threads held together by starch. Allows counted thread work to be done on non - evenweave fabrics. Afterwards, dampen to remove starch and extract threads with tweezers.

Waste knot. A method for securing threads with a knot on the top that is cut off once the wool/thread has been sewn over.

Zweigart. A particularly high quality make of canvas. All kits manufactured by Sew Exciting use Zweigart canvas.

 


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