Updated May 12, 2020.
A book like The Needlepoint Book can be one of your handiest tools when you are stitching. While this book is like a college degree in needlepoint between covers, most people (even experienced stitchers) turn to it because of the wealth of information about stitches included in it. These kinds of books are called stitch dictionaries.
In a stitch dictionary you will find many different needlepoint stitches diagrammed for you. Often, as is the case here, there are also pictures of the stitches made on canvas.
The diagrams tell you how to make the stitch. Sometimes, as in my diagrams, the stitches aren’t numbered, sometimes, as in The Needlepoint Book, they are. Although for most stitches you don’t need to follow the numbering on the diagram for making the stitches, it is good to do so until you understand how to make the stitch. Then you can make them any way you like.
Often the stitches in stitch dictionaries are divided into families of stitches. Some of the families are diagonal, cross, box, straight and compound. Each family of stitches consists of stitches which share common characteristics. In the case of diagonal stitches, all the stitches are made up of diagonal lines, not forming a definite box.
A unique feature of The Needlepoint Book is the table of stitches which appears at the beginning of each chapter of stitch diagrams. It lists along the left side each of the stitches which appears in the chapter. Then it gives information about the characteristics of each stitch. It tells you about possible uses (border, background, accent, etc.) whether it will work for areas which receive lots of wear (backing, snag-proof), how much texture and pattern it has, and whether it uses a ton of yarn.
I love these tables because I can use them to find a perfect stitch for a particular use. Other stitch dictionaries will have lists of stitches for particular areas, will be divided by area (sometimes even in different books), or will say something in the text itself. Althoughh mostlly I use stitch dictionaries for the diagrams and for ideas, I love this aspect when I am looking for astitch for a specific purpose.
I also make notes about the stitches in the margins of my stitch dictionaries. Sometimes I note when I use the stitch, sometimes I comment on whether I like the stitch or not. When I’ve done classes exploring threads, I them as opportunities to try new stitches. That way my stitch dictionaries become records of my needlepoint experiences.
As you become more familiar with different stitches and threads in needlepoint, you will find your own favorite stitches. Some teachers like particular kinds of stitches so much they become trademarks. For example, Jean Hilton has invented and is identified with wonderful “string art” stitches. She used them in most of her designs and they are so associated with her that people call the “Jean Hilton stitches.”