Cross Stitch vs. Needlepoint

By Shana Benhayoun

Whenever people ask me what the difference between cross-stitch and needlepoint is...

I always say that they are basically in the same family or under the same umbrella. They are both needle arts that are stitched onto a fabric using needle and thread. The difference is the type of fabric, the type of thread and the type of stitches (the needle is the same). In order to explain the difference, we first have to understand what cross stitch and needlepoint are! Needlepoint is a form of embroidery which is traditionally stitched with wool through a stiff open-weave canvas (meaning there are more holes than fabric) called “Mono Canvas.” Cross stitch is also a form of embroidery but is stitched on an open-and-even weave fabric (meaning equal hole and fabric) called “Aida” .

Now that we understand what cross-stitch and needlepoint are, lets dive right into the differences


Needlepoint is worked on a stiff canvas called Mono Canvas. The durability of the needlepoint canvas is important because needlepoints are typically finished into items that need long lasting wear-and-tear such as handbags, pillows, belts, bookmarks and key fobs, just to name a few. Cross-stitch, on the other hand, is stitched on a thin piece of cotton or linen fabric that typically has to be inserted into a hoop in order to maintain the tension while stitching. 

Below is an example of a needlepoint canvas taken from my instagram page @sbtstitches.  Take notice of the.....

Cross Stitch vs. Needlepoint - SBT Stitches


It is no secret that the needlepoint hobby can be very expensive. Typically, the most expensive part of the “kit” is the canvas. The high cost of needlepoint canvases is due to the fact that needlepoint canvas designs are hand-painted. There are two ways that a needlepoint canvas can be painted: stitch painted and hand painted (to be clear, both ways are hand painted). Stitch painted is probably the easiest because the artist has taken the guessing game out for you. The designer has painted each intersection on the canvas which tells you exactly where to put each stitch and in which color. On the other hand, you will typically find a hand painted canvas on projects that including shading or curved lines and there is typically a lot of ambiguity as to what color goes where. Some people think this type of stitching can be fun since you get to explore your creative side, while some (like me!) find it very stressful! 

When taking on a cross-stitch project, typically the pattern is printed on a piece of paper and you are to start in the middle of the blank fabric and count your stitches in each direction to make sure they are even on both sides. 


The main difference between cross-stitch and needlepoint is the type of stitch that is used. The traditional needlepoint stitch is called the tent, or continental, stitch and is stitched on the diagonal from bottom left to top right. Most commonly used needlepoint stitches are all based of this simple concept of the diagonal stitch.

Cross-stitch is stitched as the name implies; intersecting the stitch to form an X. This is why cross-stitched canvases typically look more squared-off and less fluid. 

While needlepoint can incorporate a “cross-stitch” on any given canvas, cross-stitch does not incorporate any of the needlepoint stitches. 


Cross-stitch primarily uses DMC cotton embroidery floss which can be bought at any hobby shop/craft store (Hobby Lobby, Michael’s JoAnn’s, ect.). Needlepoint has an array of threads including silks, cottons, wools, variegated, & many decorative fibers including glitter, fluffy stuff, and more! These are specialty fibers and are only sold at LNS (Local Needlepoint Shops) which can typically be found in any city across America and online.