Q: What is the difference between needlepoint and cross stitch?
A: Needlepoint is normally done on a special type of canvas that is loosely woven and very often has a design hand-painted onto it whereas cross stitch is done on linen fabric using a chart and counting threads. Needlepoint can employ a variety of stitches whereas cross stitch employs primarily just one stitch – the aptly named “cross stitch” which looks like an “X”.

Q: What is the difference between needlepoint and embroidery?
A: Needlepoint and embroidery use many of the same stitches except that, once again, needlepoint is done on canvas while embroidery is done on linen fabric and does not, unlike most needlepoint, cover the entire ground fabric. Presently, needlepointers are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of leaving some of the canvas exposed and so the difference between needlepoint and embroidery is beginning to blur. Needlepoint often utilizes a hand-painted design on canvas whereas embroidery is done either freehand or as fill-in of an area that has previously been outlined. Embroidery is done on fabric and does not cover the ground fabric completely.

Q: Why is needlepoint so expensive?
A: The price of needlepoint can often shock people when they first walk into a needlepoint store. It is true that painted needlepoint canvases can be pricey. This is because most needlepoint canvases are painted entirely by hand. This is a both time consuming and requires skillful artists. On a “stitch-painted” canvas each intersection of the canvas threads is assigned a particular color and in detailed areas the artist must dab paint onto each intersection -- one intersection at a time. Painting a single canvas can take hours and hours. Also, keep in mind that the canvas itself is not inexpensive (it is manufactured in Switzerland and imported). Additionally, the market for needlepoint canvas is small so the number of sales per design is not great. This is definitely not an industry where “economy of scale” applies. Needlepoint need not be expensive however. To economize it’s probably best to avoid hand painted canvas altogether and to explore painting canvas yourself, working from a chart (either needlepoint or cross stitch) and/or experimenting with bargello. We sell blank canvas in all mesh sizes at Rittenhouse Needlepoint by the linear foot.

Q: What is bargello?
A: Bargello is a form of needlepoint that involves the use of straight up-and-down stitches. These stitches step up and down the canvas in rows of different colors. Bargello is a wonderfully relaxing and creative endeavor. You would be surprised at the amazing number of designs that can be accomplished using just a straight stitch, a simple pattern and a variety of colors.

Q: Why do you offer so many different types of thread?
A: Believe it or not, we actually have tried to limit the number of different threads in our store! The universe of fiber is truly vast. In our store, we have chosen to carry the traditional needlepoint threads – wool, pearl cotton and embroidery floss. We also have 100% silk threads (beautiful luster), silk and wool blends (durability plus subtle sheen), variegated threads (wonderful color combinations) and synthetic/special effect threads such as metallic, patent leather, faux fur, ultra suede, etc. Some threads are intended for a particular mesh size while others differ in terms of number of strands (a multi-stranded thread is useful for shading while a single stranded thread is easier to use). Our goal at Rittenhouse Needlepoint is to offer a wide selection of threads without overwhelming our customers. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the number of choices available to you in the store, please ask one of us for help. We would be glad to explain your options and to make thread recommendations.

Q: What is “scrim”?
A: In southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, needlepoint canvas is sometimes referred to as scrim. The most commonly used term in the rest of the country is canvas.

Q: What types of items can be made with needlepoint?
A: Needlepoint can be made into an incredible number of useful and/or decorative items: belts, shoes, cummerbunds, pillows, holiday decorations, purses and bags, watchbands, signs, picture frames, key fobs, golf club covers, footstools, chair seat covers, brick covers/doorstops, scissor cases, tallis bags, bookmarks, eyeglass cases, book weights, framed wall art, dog leashes and collars, and much, much more.

Q: Should I be concerned about the backside of my piece?
A: Yes and no. Too often people are overly concerned with the reverse side of their needlepoint. Whoever was the first person to say that your backside should be as nice as the front of your needlework has been the cause of much anguish and grief! At Rittenhouse Needlepoint, we believe that it’s called the backside for a reason! People aren’t meant to see it. As long as your backside doesn’t have knots, lumps and loose ends you should be okay. Obviously a neat backside is preferable to a sloppy/messy one but it’s best not to get carried away. The back is the back – nobody is going to see it, so relax and enjoy the process of needlepoint. It’s meant to be lowering your stress level – not increasing it!

Q: What is the difference between Basketweave and Continental and why would I choose one stitch over the other?
A: Continental and Basketweave are both “tent stitches”—that is that they are both a series of right-leaning stitches that go across one intersection of the canvas threads from the lower left to the upper right. Both Continental and Basketweave have the same appearance when viewed from the front side of the canvas. However, when you examine the backside or reverse side of piece stitched in Basketweave or Continental they appear very differently. Continental stitching because it is done in horizontal or vertical rows has the appearance on the backside of a series of ridges or ripples. Basketweave as the name suggests has a woven appearance on the backside of the canvas. Continental stitch is always worked from right to left (or top to bottom) whereas Basketweave is worked in diagonal rows up and down the canvas. Basketweave has several advantages over Continental. Chief among them being that the canvas is not pulled out of square when one does Basketweave. Continental, on the other hand, is a stitch that badly distorts the canvas. Also, Continental is not as durable as Basketweave and lastly Basketweave unlike Continental does not require one to turn the canvas at the end of each row. For all these reasons Basketweave has become the preferred method of doing the tent stitch. Generally speaking, today’s tent stitchers will do Basketweave whenever they can and will do Continental only when they must. Having said that, let me also say that we know lots of stitchers who do only Continental and their stuff looks good and they enjoy themselves doing it, so there you have it.

Q: Do I have to learn a lot of different stitches in order to needlepoint?
A: Like many things in life, needlepoint is as difficult or as easy as you want to make it so, no -- you need not learn different stitches. People do so because it is fun and challenging for them. If learning different stitches and applying them to your needlepoint project does not seem like it would be fun for you then by all means don’t do it. Be advised however that there are many stitches that cover the canvas more quickly than tent stitch and perhaps even look more interesting as well. So it is probably best not to write the idea of learning different stitches off completely; say “not today” instead of “never.”

Q: I want to do fancy stitches but don’t know where to begin. Can you help me?
A: Probably a good place to begin would be with a book, a class or a private lesson. Russell recommends the A to Z Book of Needlepoint (it has excellent step-by-step photos with instructions). I like the The National NeedleArts Association’s How to Needlepoint booklet and also The Needlepoint Book by Jo Ippolito Christensen (big and comprehensive). If you want to keep it simple, start with some of the basic needlepoint stitches such as: Mosaic, Diagonal Mosaic, Cashmere, Diagonal Cashmere, Scotch and Diagonal Scotch stitch. These are all good, basic, not too hard decorative stitches that will come in handy in your stitching.

Q: Why does canvas come in different sizes? What is mesh size?
A: Needlepoint is categorized by the number of threads per linear inch (vertically or horizontally – they will be the same). When one refers to 18 mesh canvas they are describing a canvas that has 18 threads (or holes, again this would be the same number) per inch. This is considered a fine mesh size. Designers and stitchers like 18 mesh canvas because they can achieve good detail on it however it can be difficult to see without good light or even magnification. Ten mesh canvas is considered large and is suited mostly to larger projects such as rugs. A compromise between detail and speed of stitching is 13/14 mesh canvas which is the size normally recommended for beginning stitchers.

Q: What needle size should I use?
A: For 18 mesh canvas, we recommend size 22 needles. However, some people prefer size 24 needles. For 13/14 mesh we use size 20 needles and for size 10/12 mesh we use size 18 needles. In general, your needle should slide through the canvas mesh easily without pushing aside the canvas threads.

Q: Must I separate my multi-stranded thread?
A: Plying or the process of separating and then re-combining multi-strand threads is not absolutely necessary. However, if you want to achieve optimal results then it is best if you ply your threads. Also, the use of a laying tool is recommended in order to make sure that your stitches are neat and smooth with no crossed threads.

Q: What is a laying tool?
A: Laying tools come in many different shapes and sizes but the basic principle is the same. A laying tool used to maintain tension on your stitching thread so that when the thread is laid into place it appears neat and smooth and each strand lays parallel to the others. The reason for using a laying tool is that threads that have been laid properly simply look better than those that have not. They also reflect light differently resulting in more vibrant color.

Q: What is the sewing method?
A: The sewing method is a style of stitching Basketweave whereby the needle goes into and comes out of the canvas in a single motion. It is a faster way of doing Basketweave but it can’t be done using a frame.

Q: How do I know how many strands should I be stitching with?
A: When you purchase thread, always ask your salesperson how many strands you should use. If you forget to do this, you can consult the thread packaging sometimes that will tell you. In terms of wool, one strand of our Waverly wool is meant for 13/14 mesh canvas. Two strands work on 10 mesh. Pearl cotton #3 is intended for use with 13/14 mesh canvas whereas Pearl Cotton #5 should be used on 18 mesh canvas. Four strands of embroidery floss are sufficient to cover 18 mesh canvas. The full thread or all six strands are needed for 13/14 mesh canvas. Embroidery floss is not what I would use on 10 mesh project. If your type of thread isn’t mentioned above, give us a call and we would be happy to try and provide you with an answer.

Q: Is my thread meant to be plied?
A: In general, if your thread does not separately easily then it was probably not meant to be separated and should be used as is.

Q: What is a good beginner’s project?
A: A good beginner’s project is one that is not too large in size, does not have too many colors and comes on a larger size canvas mesh (13/14, 12 or 10 mesh). I can tell you from experience that as a beginner you will probably not be attracted toward an appropriate beginner’s canvas. This is because you will see lots of enticing designs with subtle shading and gorgeous colors on small size mesh that will appeal to you because they are so exquisite. A beginner’s canvas when compared to these advanced canvases will seem like child’s play -- way too simplistic looking. That’s okay. This is your first project. It’s best to not be overly ambitious. The other canvas can wait. Start with something small and simple. Build your confidence and work gradually toward that 18 mesh version of the Bayeux tapestry.

Q: What should I be looking for when buying a needlepoint canvas?
A: When buying needlepoint canvas you want to consider the following: Is it a good design/composition? Does the piece demonstrate the principles of good design? Is it well painted? Are the colors consistent/Is the paint application even? Is the canvas stitch-painted/Do the lines and color changes fall only on canvas intersections rather than the holes or in-between threads (because these are details that will be lost once the piece is stitched)? Are the holes free of paint? Is there a color guide that indicates the number of different colors used? Do you like the colors or will you have to replace a lot of them? Do the colors work together? How clearly is the shading indicated? Will it be easy to follow or will you have to make lots of judgment calls? What about the price? Is it reasonable given the likely number of hours required to paint the piece? Is the price reasonable in terms of the amount of artistic talent required to create the piece?

Q: Do I need to use a frame or not?
A: Using a frame is a lot like plying floss, it is not necessary but a good idea. A frame will keep your project in good condition. It will prevent skewing and will make the canvas nice and taut so that it’s easier to do decorative stitches. Of course if you are someone who does Basketweave using the sewing method then a frame simply won’t work for your type of stitching. If however you are just getting started and think that you may want someday to do decorative stitches then investing in a frame would be a good idea.

Q: Do you sell knitting supplies?
A: No we do not. We are exclusively a needlepoint shop. There are two fine yarn shops in Philadelphia (Loop, 1914 South Street and Yarnphoria, 2010 Pine Street). We believe that knitting and needlepoint, although both needle arts, do not necessarily combine well into a single retail store. There are many more knitters than needlepointers therefore knitting sells better than needlepoint. Not surprisingly, it begins to attract the lion’s share of a store’s resources. As less and less goes toward needlepoint, it begins to look like a step-child making it even harder to sell. We’ve seen this happen time and time again. When we opened Rittenhouse Needlepoint we felt that it was important that we made a strong statement in support of needlepoint. Working with a frame is definitely an acquired taste. There is a learning curve but if you can stick with it your needlepoint will thank you.
PS – My favorite type of stitching is still the scrunch-it-up-in-your-hand, sewing-method Basketweave. It’s meditative and portable. Normally, I have one decorative stitches project to challenge me and one Basketweave project to relax me.

Q: What does "Ships in 2-4 wks mean?"
This means that that item is not currently in stock. We will place it on order from the vendor and ship it to you when it comes in. Generally designers keep their canvases on hand to ship right away, but some canvases are backordered with the vendor, which means it could take 4 weeks to ship. 
Q: What does "This product is not available in the requested quantity. 1 of the items will be backordered." mean?
A: This message happens when you place an item that is not currently in stock in your cart. You may still purchase it, but it will not be shipped right away. We will place it on order from the vendor and ship it to you when it comes in. Generally designers keep their canvases on hand to ship right away, but some canvases are backordered with the vendor, which means it could take 4 weeks to ship. 

Q: Do the canvases come with threads?
 Because thread is such a personal choice, unless a canvas says "kit" in the title or description, threads are not included. If you would like threads you may place them on order through our website or we can pull them once the canvas comes in. Just send us an email asking, and we will be happy to help!

Q: What is our return policy? 
A: Returns are only accepted within 90 days from the purchase date with a receipt, and will go on your house account for store credit. We do not accept returns on special ordered canvases, books, Waverly, or threads on cards or spools. If you are not sure whether your purchase should be considered a Special Order, please call the store at (215) 563-4566.