Petit Point vs Cross Stitch
Petit point and cross stitch are two very different types of embroidery. A cross stitch creates a design using rows of two-step, X-shaped stitches. Petit point uses a single stitch to form almost interlocking diagonal, or tent, stitches.
That said, probably the most obvious difference is the size of the stitches. Although some cross stitch patterns use a smaller weave, most use a large enough size to see and stitch easily. Petit point commonly uses a much smaller weave size, with fewer strands of floss and a smaller needle.
This article will explain the basics of each embroidery style, along with some pros and cons for those who may never have tried either.
Cross stitch has been around in some form for millennia. Cross stitched samples have even been found in Egyptian burial sites. It’s one of the earliest forms of embroidery.
However, cross stitch as we know it originated near the end of the 19th century when blackwork was introduced into British society from Spain. Blackwork is black wool worked on white linen. Blackwork is ordered, often geometric stitching, and cross stitching is part of that style.
The first authentic cross stitch patterns appeared soon after the invention of the printing press, and the embroidery style has continued to evolve ever since. At first, the traditional linen used for the pastime was so expensive the craft was limited to upper-class society. But with the production of Aida in the late 1800s, a fabric specifically produced for cross stitch, a greater social range of enthusiasts began to enjoy the hobby.
Aida is a cotton, even-weave fabric created for crafting. The cloth is produced in varying weave sizes to meet the demands of crafting artisans. For example, a 28-count Aida has 28 warp and 28 weft threads per square inch. The smaller the number, the larger the weave, and the larger will be the cross stitches.
Cross stitch generally uses size 11, 14, or 18-count Aida, though some patterns may call for up to 28-count. Iron-on designs are also available and can be worked on any fabric, though keeping the lines of stitches even will be a more significant challenge.
Pre-printed cross stitch projects, such as pillowcases or tablecloth designs, are available for convenience. Pre-printed kits are an excellent way for beginners to dip their toes in the gratifying art of cross stitch.
Needle and Thread
Cross stitch is usually worked with two strands of regular embroidery floss. Patterns worked in larger weaves may call for three strands for a fuller effect.
Cross stitch is worked back and forth in an X pattern, with occasional partial stitches to define colored areas. The stitches are simple, and instructions are readily available with patterns and kits, as well as in tutorials online. Larger thread-count patterns progress fairly quickly for beginners.
Use a round-ended tapestry needle for cross stitch in Aida. Sizes 24 or 26 are the needles most often used for regular cross stitch. When using a non-Aida fabric, a sharp needle may be required.
Cross stitch patterns for Aida are worked by counting. For other types of fabric, iron-on patterns are available. Thousands of cross stitch patterns are available in craft stores, libraries, or online.
Cross Stitch Pros and Cons
- Easy-to-learn stitches
- Larger size stitches for less eye strain
- Extensive pattern choices
- Good choice for beginners
- Less detailed designs
- Some “empty” space in stitches
- Requires large-weave fabric for the best outcome
Although some have made the error of referring to fine cross stitch work as petit point, the two are actually quite different. Making cross stitch smaller does make it petit point.
Petit point has quite an aristocratic history extending to the 15th and 16th centuries. Although it began in the French court with rough tapestries, over time and in various locations the stitches became smaller and smaller with ever finer thread.
Although the scale of the threadwork became smaller, the tapestry feel remains. The compact, detailed designs and scenes created by Petit point are appealing to modern artisans for their almost pixelated appearance. Current game and animated characters come to life in Petit point.
Early petit point used the finest silk and even spun gold or silver to craft intricate designs. The designs were worked on canvas for affluent upholstery cushions and standing screen coverings. Over time, the craft became popular for small handbags and other accessories.
Petit point is worked in Penelope canvas, mesh needlepoint canvas, Congress Cloth, silk gauze, or Aida at least 22 or more count. It’s not unusual for petit point designs to require a 32-count weave. Silk gauze is often a 56-count fabric for tiny, intricate designs.
Needle and Thread
Tapestry needles size 26 or 28 will also work for many petit point projects.
Ultra-fine Gloriana Tudor silk or Pearsall’s silk works well for smaller designs on higher thread-count material. For 48 or smaller thread counts, regular DMC thread can be used.
Petit point requires time and patience. Although tent stitches may seem like only half of a cross stitch, they must be worked in a specified sequence for the best results. Also, the tiny weave of some petit point fabrics can require over 1,000 stitches per square inch.
Completing this type of project takes many hours–sometimes months of effort. But the results can be truly stunning. Classic Venetian Petit Point handiwork is becoming more and more rare. Luckily, a dedicated few still keep this art form alive.
Many cross stitch and needlepoint patterns can be used for Petit Point, with a smaller, more solid-looking result. Be aware, however, that cross stitch patterns, which include many split or partial stitches, don’t work well for Petit point, which only uses full stitches.
So if you already enjoy cross stitch and want to transfer a favorite design to a smaller area, Petit point could be your answer if the stitches agree. Many classic heirloom Petit point patterns are also available in books or online.
Petit point uses a Continental or tent stitch for a solid design. Petit point, when done correctly, leaves no empty space in the finished pattern. Several websites and tutorials will help beginners learn the three basic tent stitches.
Petit Point Pros and Cons
- Creates a more full and intricate design
- Fuller stitching is more durable
- More expressive color availability
- Pixelated appearance appeals to current art styles
- More expensive for finer thread-count projects
- Smaller stitches are more time consuming
- Harder to see tiny stitches
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