It’s one of the basic tools of our work, but how much do we know about needlepoint canvas?
There are three main types of needlepoint canvas, characterized by the way the canvas is woven – Mono, Interlock, and Penelope. There are other canvases too, but all of them are woven in one of these three ways.
Mono Canvas is the most popular canvas for hand painted canvas needlepoint. It is usually found in white, but it comes in a variety of mesh counts and colors. Mono Canvas is characterized by a simple “over 1, under 1” weave, also called a tabby weave.
The advantage of this is that the intersections are not locked into one place, so they can be moved. This way the stitcher can make a wider variety of stitches and the finisher can block the needlework back into place.
The threads in Mono Canvas are thicker than the threads in other types of canvas and are made from a higher grade of cotton. You can easily unravel threads from Mono Canvas and you can even stitch with them.
There are also two kinds of Mono Canvas with special finishes. One type has sponge painting done on mono canvas, making a mottled background that doesn’t need to be stitched. The other has metallic threads woven through it in one direction, also making a background which needn’t be stitched.
Congress Cloth is a special type of Mono Canvas which has 23 or 24 threads per inch. There are some older types of Congress Cloth, such as Cordova (yellow), that are no longer made.
Interlock CanvaS can fool the eye, it looks almost like Mono Canvas, but it’s not. As you can see by the drawing, the horizontal threads are two threads, not one, and split at each intersection, so that the intersections cannot be moved.
You can always tell Interlock from Mono because you cannot unravel a thread.
The locked intersections have some consequences, good and bad. The threads are thinner, making the canvas lighter. The canvas can be trimmed close to the edge of the stitching and made into shapes. Those are the good things.
On the bad side, Interlock is hard to block back into shape once it is distorted (so many stitches don’t work well on it). This also makes it hard to block. Basketweave is hard to do correctly on Interlock because the canvas doesn’t tell you the direction to stitch.
Silk gauze and Garment Canvas are special kinds of Interlock Canvas.
Penelope Canvas has two threads in pairs running in each direction. Like Mono the intersections float. This also means that each intersection can be split so that one stitch becomes four small stitches and the thread count is doubled.
If you see a piece with areas of petit point and larger needlepoint in it, chances are it was stitched on Penelope with some threads split.
Penelope Canvas is usually found in either white or a dark tan called ecru.
Waste Canvas is a special type of Penelope canvas.
Silk Gauze is Interlock Canvas made entirely from silk. It comes in a variety of thread counts from 20 to 60. The silk threads used to weave this canvas are very thin and almost transparent.
Because Silk Gauze is so expensive, you usually find it mounted into matte board and do not have wide unstitched margins as you do with other types of canvas. Needlework done on silk gauze is generally counted, not painted.
Garment Canvas is a special type of Interlock made from polyester. This makes the canvas washable, hence the name.
Waste Canvas is a canvas which is designed to be removed. You baste the canvas, including a generous margin, onto a fabric. Then you stitch. When you have finished, you wet the canvas and, using a tweezers, you pull out the threads. Waste Canvas using a type of sizing (the stiffener) which dissolves easily as soon as it gets wet.
Once the threads are pulled, the needlework is left on the fabric. Most often you find Waste Canvas recommended for counted cross stitch, but it works really well for needlepoint.
When you can recognize the different types of canvas, it makes it easier to choose the correct one for your project and widens the scope of where you can put needlepoint.