You may have come across many different types of embroidery on your crafting journey. Cross stitch is fairly a household name, but the petit point maybe something unfamiliar to your ears. There is a very fine line among the different embroidery forms so that they might look the same to a newbie’s eyes.
At first glance, cross stitch and petit point might look alike, with the latter done on a smaller scale. But upon closer look, you will notice that the two embroidery styles are quite different.
Cross stitch is one of the most popular embroidery types, sewn on canvas using x-shaped stitches. Petit point is also sewn on canvas but uses the tent stitch. The tent stitch or continental stitch is a diagonal stitch across the canvas’s intersection, forming what looks like a half-cross stitch.
The main difference between the cross stitch and the petit point is the type of stitches used and the finished product size.
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What does petit point mean?
Petit point is a type of embroidery on canvas that consists of small, diagonal adjacent stitches. The petit point embroidery style uses the continental or tent stitch. The tent stitch looks like the half cross stitch on the right side of the canvas fabric but looks different at the back. The stitches at the back of the tent stitches are angled, but those at the back of half cross stitches are vertical. When you use a tent or continental stitch, you can be sure that your stitches will constantly tense.
Petit point means small point or dot in the French language. Petit point embroidery uses 1 to 3 strands of cotton thread on silk gauze or canvas using continental stitch. Petit point produces a very fine detailed picture.
Petit point is sometimes mistaken with needlepoint. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably by newbies and even veterans of embroidery. The two embroidery styles have their similarities and differences. And it is important to know how they differ (or alike) to avoid confusion when buying one when you meant the other.
Needlepoint and petit point are both worked on even-weave canvas using a blunt-tipped needle. These two embroidery types both use the tent stitch and completely cover the canvas. Petit point is a form of needlepoint embroidery which is worked on fine canvas. Petit point can produce extremely small and intricate finished pieces.
How is petit point worked?
Petit point may look like a cross stitch at a glance, but certain aspects make petit point unique among its contemporaries.
- Stitch Style
The most noticeable difference between petit point and cross stitch is the type of stitch used. The majority of stitches used in cross stitch are in the shape of an x, while petit point uses only half of a cross stitch called a tent stitch.
You can work your tent stitch either diagonally or horizontally across the intersections of the canvas. If you use tent stitches, the back stitches are angled equally to ensure that the thread’s tension at the front is consistent.
Stitching by tent stitch, the amount of time you stitch your project is halved. You only get to work on half stitches, so the petit point is ideal when you want to finish your needlework faster. Tent stitch is also great for large projects that do not seem to progress, making it very slow and hard to finish.
Modern petit point uses three variations of the petit point stitch, the continental, basketweave and the half cross stitch. These stitches look similar on the front of the canvas but are stitched in a slightly different way. Each stitch type has a particular characteristic that works to its advantage in making the petit point embroidery.
- Continental or Tent Stitch
- Basketweave Stitch
- Half Cross Stitch
The continental or tent stitch is the most commonly used stitch for the petit point. The tent stitch is worked horizontally and vertically across the canvas. At the back of your work, the stitches are diagonal and stitched across two threads. The tent stitch uses more yarn than half cross stitch but is the more durable one.
The basketweave stitch used in petit point is worked in diagonal rows up and down the canvas. The stitches at the back of the canvas also have the basketweave appearance. They have alternating horizontal and vertical stitches. The basketweave is the stitch style that is best to use on large areas. The stitch distorts the canvas the least and gives the firmest backing to your petit point work.
Half cross stitch used in petit point refers to a small, diagonal stitch that crosses the intersection of the weft and warp of the canvas. This method creates a diagonal stitch that is half of a cross stitch. At the back of the fabric, the stitch appears vertical, not diagonal and crosses only one thread. The advantage of using the half cross stitch is that it uses less thread than the other stitch types. But the half cross stitch does not give the most durable coverage at the back.
One main uniqueness of the petit point is its smaller size. That is why it is called ‘petit,’ from the French word for small. To make your work smaller, you stitch the petit point on higher count fabrics. The petit point projects are typically stitched on 24ct to 40ct canvas or silk gauze.
If you want to achieve a more cross stitch feel, you can use a higher-count even weave or linen fabric. The canvas or fabric you can use for a petit point is often made of cotton or linen. The canvas is composed of the warp (vertical) and the weft(horizontal) threads. You can use an embroidery hoop to make your canvas taut and your petit point stitches of equal tension.
Your fabric choice also determines the overall size of your design. Petit point is a perfect choice when you want to make the design smaller. You stitch your pattern in a canvas or fabric with a high thread count to make it smaller and fit into space or frame you want. You can even put a petit point design in a space as small as a pendant.
To make your finished petit point embroidery look like a tiny artwork, you need a fabric with a high stitch count. The stitch count or the number of stitches per inch is essential to determine your design’s final size. The higher the stitch count your fiber is, the smaller the petit point design you will create.
Some petit point stitchers use a fine mesh needlepoint canvas with a thread count of 22 or more threads to an inch, known as silk gauze.
For a petit point, your fabric’s high thread count can help you make realistic pictures, such as in a tapestry.
The needle size used for petit point projects ranges from 20 to 28. The needle size number is higher for fabrics that have a higher thread count.
Petit point stitching uses blunt-tip tapestry needles to glide through the canvas or silk gauze’s openings easily.
What is the difference between petit point and cross stitch?
Some stitchers believe that all petit points can be cross stitched, but not all cross stitch patterns can be petit pointed.
The ideal pattern to a petit point has only full stitches. It is impossible to split a tent stitch, so a pattern with many fractional stitches is not great to make into a petit point. If you use petit point, you will face the decision to choose which colors to use for the fractional stitches, which might alter the finished design.
Cross stitch patterns need backstitches to enhance or define the design. You will see the overall effect of the design when all the backstitches have been completed. On the other hand, petit point embroidery depends on the subtle color changes to define the design.
When a pattern is stitched using a petit point, the stitches cover the canvas completely. With cross stitch, the fabric color usually still shows through the stitches. Petit point designs look richer with the same threads used on cross stitch.
The main difference between a cross stitch and a petit point is the size. A petit-pointed design will be smaller than the pattern made in cross stitch. The thread count defines the size of the final design. The most common fabric used for a petit point is 22ct canvas or 23ct silk gauze. The stitch count typically used for cross stitches is 14 stitches per inch. The more stitches you create per inch, the smaller your design will be.
A pattern made with a cross stitch would take longer to finish than a petit-pointed one, as each stitch needs to be worked twice to form the X stitches.
What can I do with my petit point kit?
These days, you can find a wide variety of petit point kits in craft shops. Centuries ago, this embroidery type became famous as a wedding present from one close female friend to another. The popular motif or themes in that period were angelic faces or religious symbols. One of which is the bleeding heart of Jesus, which was a well-loved motif.
Petit point embroidery produces intricate designs. This technique was mostly used for small art objects such as pillboxes, small portraits and elegant handbags a long time ago. With its return to the crafts scene today, petit point kits are made into pictures, tapestries, handbags, or pillow covers. Because the petit point is tiny, some crafters use this technique to make pendants and miniature artworks.