Needlepoint vs Cross Stitch [How are they different?]

So you’re wondering what the difference is between needlepoint vs cross stitch? These two needlecrafts can be hard to tell apart if you’re not familiar with them. Here are some of the similarities, differences, and defining characteristics of both of them.

Needlepoint Vs Cross Stitch

First, let’s go over the defining characteristics of both of these needlecrafts and then we’ll do a little bit of a comparison between the two.

Cross Stitch

Cross stitch is a form of counted needle work that is worked on evenly woven fabric.

Looking to learn the basics of cross stitch? Check out this post: Beginner’s Guide To Cross Stitch


needlepoint vs cross stitch
Aida fabric

The most common fabric that it uses is Aida fabric or evenweave fabric. Aida fabric is a grid-life fabric that has visible holes in it’s weave. This makes it easy to make cross stitches over each of the “squares”.

Fabrics come in different thread counts, which are the number of threads per square inch in the fabric. The higher the thread count, the tighter and smaller the holes/weave of the fabric is.


2 strands of 6 strand embroidery floss is the most common thread to use. This gives cross stitch a relatively flat appearance.


basic cross stitch on Aida fabric
The basic cross stitch

The basic cross stitch is the backbone of this needlecraft. There are variations of this stitch called fractional stitches, and some patterns use a few embroidery stitches in them. However, you can create an entire pattern using just a cross stitch.


Tapestry needles (blunt tip) and embroidery needles (sharp tip) are two types of needles frequently used in cross stitch.

Stitch Coverage

cross stitch design
Cross stitch on Aida

Cross stitch patterns usually only require the stitches needed to stitch the design. There are patterns that cover the entire piece of fabric, but more often than not the background is left alone. As you can see in the photo above, the background fabric is left exposed.


Patterns are formed on a graphical chart with colors and symbols. You can learn more about cross stitch patterns here.


Next, let’s go over the defining characteristics of needlepoint and then compare them to cross stitch.

Needlepoint is a technique where stitches are made on open weave canvas.

needlepoint canvas
Fabric Canvas

Want to give needlepoint a try? Check out this tutorial for DIY needlepoint coasters.


Unlike cross stitch, the canvas for needlepoint is open weave, meaning there are large holes in the canvas. Canvas can be plastic or fabric, but the most commonly used is the fabric canvas.

Canvases come in different sizes. You can determine the size of a canvas by the meshes per square inch. The higher the count, the smaller the holes.


There are a wide variety of threads to use for needlepoint. The type you use depends on the size canvas you’re using. The fibers that people will most commonly use include embroidery floss, tapestry yarn, rug yarn, etc.

The most common thread you’ll see used are different kinds of yarns, which are thicker than embroidery floss.

Using thicker threads will give needlepoint a more raised looked in comparison to the flat appearance of cross stitch.


bargello needlepoint
Bargello Needlepoint

There are five different kinds of stitches in needlepoint:

  • diagonal
  • straight
  • crossing
  • composite
  • pile stitches

The most basic / common stitch to fill in a canvas is the tent stitch.

Similar to cross stitch, you can use one stitch to fill in a canvas.

However, needlepoint has a way larger variety of stitches to choose from than cross stitch.


Needlepoint uses tapestry needles (blunt tip) to fill in a canvas.

Stitch Coverage

Since canvases have large visible holes in them, patterns fill in the entire piece of fabric.


Patterns come in graphical charts, similar to cross stitch. At times, the pattern may also be painted onto the canvas. This is common in needlepoint kits.

Comparison Chart

Below is a cross stitch vs needlepoint comparison chart to help you easily see some of the similarities and differences between the two.

needlepoint vs cross stitch comparison chart


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