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What's the Difference? Embroidery vs. Cross Stitch vs. Needlepoint

When I'm embroidering "in the wild" aka away from the comfort of my own home, it's inevitable that someone is going to ask me what I'm working on. Often times, my embroidery project will be referred to as knitting, crochet, needlepoint or sometimes cross stitch. While I can't fault the people who call embroidery cross stitch, I do inwardly cringe when my embroidery is referred to as knitting.

While embroidery, cross stitch, and needlepoint are similar, they are actually different types of needle art. So the next time you need to explain what your embroidery is called here's what you can share.

Needlepoint, cross stitch, and embroidery are all forms of needlework that involve using a needle and thread to create decorative designs on fabric, but they differ in various aspects.


Hand embroidery is a general term that encompasses a wide range of stitching techniques used to create decorative designs, generally found on fabric. Pretty much any hand sewing could be called embroidery, it's one of those very broad terms. Embroidery is usually done on fabric, however, modern makers have started using a wide range of materials, such as wood, metal, paper, and more. Embroidery also uses a broad range of stitches to create various textures and effects. Along with various stitches, embroidery is also a versatile craft and can be used to create a wide range of items, including clothing, home decor, and accessories.

Photo credit: Junebug and Darlin Mushroom Cross Stitch Pattern

Cross Stitch

Cross stitch is a form of embroidery that uses X-shaped stitches to create a design. Cross stitch typically uses even-weave fabric, such as Aida cloth, which has evenly spaced holes for easy counting and placement of stitches. Cross stitch patterns are typically made up of a grid of squares or blocks, with each square representing a single stitch. Think a pixelated image. You can find cross stitch often used to create decorative items such as samplers, framed pieces, and greeting cards.

Garden of Joy Needlepoint Kit by Kelly Knaga


Needlepoint is a form of canvas work that uses a canvas fabric, typically made of cotton or linen, and a special needlepoint needle to create stitched designs. Needlepoint often uses a variety of stitches, such as tent stitch, basketweave stitch, and petit point, to create intricate patterns and designs. It is often used to create decorative items such as pillows, cushions, and wall hangings.

While all three techniques involve using a needle and thread to create decorative designs on fabric, needlepoint specifically refers to canvas work, cross stitch involves X-shaped stitches on even-weave fabric, and embroidery encompasses a broader range of techniques and fabrics.

Hope that helps!


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