Continental Stitch

Ilustration by Cheryl Fall. Used with permission.

The Continental Stitch is the workhorse needlepoint stitch.

Every beginner must know it, before moving on to more complex ones, such as the Basketweave, Diagonal Mosaic, Byzantine, Oriental, and Scotch Stitch variations.

Here’s how you “do the Continental.”

Think of the intersecting weave of a canvas as a group of plus signs. (See diagram.)

Each plus sign forms a quadrant.

Starting at the lower left box (1),  bring the needle up from under the canvas, and taking it down at the upper right box (2).

Bring the needle up from the lower left box (3), and bring it down again to upper right box (4).

Repeat till the end of the row.

When you have reached the end of the row, bring the needle up from below the canvas, through the upper right box of the row below it (17).  (Note the arrows on the diagram)

Bring the needle down through the lower left box (18).

Moving right to the next quadrant, bring the needle up through the upper right box (19), and down through the lower left one (20).

Repeat till the end of the row.

This repetitive stitch will get  you into the rhythm of needlepointing.

Make sure you pull the yarn gently, until you feel a little resistance, and not pull much beyond that.

This is called tension.

As a rule of thumb, you do not want your stitching to be too loose, nor too tight –  but as the phrase goes, just right.


You have now learned the Continental Stitch.

© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016.


2 responses »

  1. European designers very often use a canvas called Penelope. It is useful if you want to do petit point in some of the design areas. Let’s say there is a portrait of a woman in a garden. For the background, her dress and hair, you could stitch across the two little crosswise lines to create a larger stitch, then if you want more detail in her face to show, you can stitch over each of the two cross lines and create more stitches and detail.

  2. My canvas is European, which has a single down line and two crosswise lines. I have forgotten the method. When at the bottom of the diagonal row I run my needle crosswise and when I reach the top of the next row my needle should point at the bottom. Now I am confused as to where to place the needle (somewhere between the one line or the two lines).

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