From your fibers to your finished product, choosing the right canvas is key to needlepoint success.
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needlepoint embroidery canvas and string
Credit: Carolin Voelker / Getty Images

Creating a work of needlepoint art requires only a few simple supplies—a needle, scissors, thread, and canvas. But when you're ready to start your project, it's important to have a canvas sized to match your fibers, with a pattern ready to follow, and a durability appropriate for your final product. So, how exactly can you be sure that you are choosing the correct canvas type for your needlepoint project? It's simple—answering the following four questions should point you in the right direction.

Which mesh size is best?

"When you are considering a canvas to stitch, it is important to know the difference between the mesh sizes," says Jessica Chaney, the founder of needlework shop Lycette. "Mesh size simply describes the number of holes per inch in the mesh: The more holes per inch, the smaller the holes in the canvas, and the less holes per inch, the bigger the holes in the canvas." Canvas comes in three standard mesh sizes—10, 13, and 18—with 10 mesh offering the largest holes (18 mesh has the smallest).

Do the canvases need to be stitch painted?

Chaney recommends choosing a canvas with a stitch painted design, "which simply means that each dot of paint is located on the intersection of the interlocking mesh, thus creating a foolproof guide of where to stitch each color." These pre-planned canvases allow needlepoint enthusiasts to follow along with a professional design, taking the guesswork out of color schemes and patterns. "It is possible to buy plain mesh and paint your own design," says Chaney. "Just make sure to use acrylic paint, and never use pencil, as it bleeds during the finishing."

What kind of thread do you want to use?

Needlepointers use a wide variety of threads to create an array of different stitches. "For beginners, I often recommend knitting the canvas with a fiber that is durable, easy to use, and won't break the bank, like DMC cotton," says Chaney. "However, there is an abundance of fibers to choose from in needlepoint, including glitter fibers, fuzzy fibers made from alpaca, wool fiber, and silk fiber." Their varying textures make each option best suited to specific mesh sizes. "You do not want to use a fiber that is too thick or too thin for the mesh size you are needlepointing, as it will either be difficult to pull through the canvas or not provide enough coverage to cover the painted design underneath," says Chaney. "For 10 mesh, I would recommend wool, DMC weight #3, or Trio, a thicker version of silk and ivory. Silk and ivory, wool, and DMC cotton weight #3 are perfect to stitch on 13 mesh. For 18 mesh, I recommend DMC cotton weight #5, vineyard silk, or essentials, a blend of silk and wool."

What are you making?

Finished needlepoint pieces can be professionally stitched onto fabric or leather and used for a variety of items, from small eyeglass cases or keychains to more elaborate belts or shoes. The type of canvas you choose will also help define the piece's future use: "A 13 mesh, smaller-sized canvas with a few colors is a great beginner project as the holes in the mesh are nicely sized and easy to see," says Chaney. "10 Mesh is mostly used for larger pieces, like rugs or footstools as the larger the mesh, the less detail you can fit on it."

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