Different Embroidery Styles: What’s Right for You?

Different Embroidery Styles

If you’re interested in picking up an embroidery starter kit and getting to grips with this ever-popular craft this winter, it’s well worth thinking about the different styles of embroidery. Embroidery, at the most basic level, is simply the art of decoratively applying yarn or thread to a fabric surface. There are lots of different embroidery styles, and they all make different kinds of project, and even feel different to practice!

Today we’re taking a look at some of the different embroidery styles so you can make an informed choice about where you’re going to focus your crafting skills this winter!

Surface Embroidery

You can divide the most different embroidery styles into two types, and the first is surface embroidery. This is the art of sewing onto the top of the textile base, not right through it. With surface embroidery, you are freer to pursue your own artistic instincts, and also have a wider variety of surfaces available to work on.

You can practice surface embroidery on pieces of fabric bought specifically for the purpose, but it’s more exciting to use it on pre-existing pieces – clothing, accessories, even furniture, as long as it has a fabric surface that will hold stitches. You can use embroidery techniques to turn old clothes into new, exciting fashion pieces, disguise damage and repairs and reinvigorate your wardrobe. You could make gifts or even start a small business using embroidery techniques to upcycle old clothes!

Counted Thread Embroidery

The other basic kind of embroidery is canvas work – this is where you sew right through the fabric. Most kinds of canvas are counted thread embroidery, where you use a carefully made ‘even weave’ fabric, where the warp and weft form an even grid with the same number threads in every square inch of the fabric. This allows you to follow precise instructions called ‘patterns’ and produce intricate geometric designs.

There are lots of different embroidery styles, which are mostly distinguished by the sorts of stitches used. Cross stitch uses exclusively cross-stitches, building up whole pictures from crossed over squares of fabric weave.

Needlepoint is a form of embroidery where the design completely covers the canvas – while cross stitch designs stand out from the blank canvas background, needlepoint is more like a landscape painting: the stitches create the background. Needlepoint is often called Tapestry work – and indeed, it’s how famous historical artefacts like the Bayeux Tapestry were created.


The key tool that distinguishes these two different embroidery styles needed two diffrent needles. Surface embroidery uses a crewel needle – with a sharp point to pierce the fabric you’re sewing onto. Counted thread embroidery uses a tapestry needle, which has a blunted point, making it easier to punch between the weave of the cloth as the technique demands. If you’re interested in starting embroidery, you need to choose which techniques you’re interested in pursuing and make sure you have the right needles!


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