Needlepoint Canvas, a stiff fabric where the holes take up more space than the threads, is the basic ground (the base fabric for an embroidery) we use to do needlepoint. Woven on special looms that space the threads a specific distance apart we use it but how much do we know about it?
Mono canvas has a basic over-1-under-1 weave, also called a tabby weave. Congress Cloth is also a mono canvas.
The important characteristic of mono canvas is that the intersections are not locked in place so they can be moved. That allows use to use specialty stitches and techniques and it makes finishing easier.
The majority of hand-painted and high-quality computer-printed canvases use mono canvas, pictured, above.
Penelope canvas is far more popular in Europe than in the US. It has two threads where mono canvas has one.
The important characteristic of Penelope canvas is that the pairs of threads can be separated. This means you can easily do both Petit Point and regular needlepoint on the same canvas. Penelope, or duo, canvas is pictured above.
Interlock canvas, like mono, has only one thread in each direction. However the horizontal, or weft, threads, are actually two threads, wrapped around the intersections , so they lock them in place.
Silk gauze and garment canvas are interlock canvases.
This characteristic means that interlock allows this canvas to be thinner and lighter. It also means you can cut very near the stitching without worrying about raveling. Thus, it’s great for clothing, accessories and 3-D objects.
You will find interlock canvas, pictured above, most often in kits in the US.
Needlepoint Canvas Questionnaire
If you have a piece of canvas in front of you, You can easily ask questions to determine the type of canvas.
- Are there two threads in each direction?Then your canvas is Penelope.
- Can you easily unravel a thread from an edge that isn’t a selvage? If you can do this for more than an inch, you’re canvas is mono. If you can only do it for a couple of threads, it’s probably interlock. Go to the next question.
- Can you significantly enlarge a hole and then move the threads back into place with your needle? Then your canvas is mono. If you cannot your canvas is interlock.
Recognizing Quality Canvas
Most shops only carry high-qualliy canvas, but you can find lower quality in many kits. The best needlepoint canvas, in all weaves, comes from Zweigart. If you have a selvage it will have orange threads running through it.
If you do not have a selvage, recognizing quality is harder but still possible. Here’s what to look for:
- In all canvases the holes will be clean and free of fiber strands and sizing. Shorter fibers are a characteristic of poor-quality threads. When you see fibers in the holes of your canvas, not only is it poor-quality but it will be harder on your threads.
- In Mono canvas the threads will be very thick for the size of the hole, thicker than the threads in other canvases. If you unravel a thread you will see that it is very smooth and just a bit shiny.
- Penelope and Interlock threads will be thinner than mono threads, but the holes will be clean with sharp edges.
- The canvas will be stiff. Softer canvas means either the stock is old, or not enough sizing was used. In either case it will be harder to stitch because needlepoint canvas needs to be taut. This is true for all canvases except soft Congress Cloth, silk gauze, and garment canvas, which are not sized.
How did the design get onto the Canvas?
The type of canvas has an effect on the way the artist can put the design on canvas.
On Mono canvas you can use acrylic paints (hand-painted), oil paints (not often used today), or high-end computer printers (giclee).
If your canvas has not been produced by these methods, it has been mechanically produced either by silk screen (high-end) or printing (low-end). I recently learned that the inks used in these processes will not work on mono canvas. I don’t know why but I do know they do not use acrylic inks/paints.