The difference between free embroidery, needlepoint and cross stitch

The word embroidery is used to describe any kind of decorative needlework on fabric, that involves threads and needle. The term encompasses many different types of needlework like applique, cut-work, free stitching, cross-stitch etc.

The term free embroidery (or free-hand embroidery) describes the style of needlework that involves applying several decorative stitches to fabric without using the fabric's weave as a guide. The typical process is the following: At first, the stitcher draws the pattern on the fabric using pencil, carbon paper, erasable marker etc and then he/she stitches the pattern with threads and needle. The length of each stitch might be slightly different since the stitcher relies on his/her experienced eye. Suitable fabrics for free-hand embroidery are cotton, linen, silk and others.

Free embroidery or plain embroidery

The term needlepoint describes the stitching work on an evenweave fabric, such as mesh canvas, or aida, using the weave of the fabric as a guide for the placement of the stitches. The are two typical processes. 
Process A: The design comes pre-stamped on the canvas and the stitcher fills the areas of the design using the appropriate color threads. This type of needlework is considered generally easy and relaxed.
Process B: The design is worked from a paper chart. The stitcher counts the stitches marked on the chart to determine where they belong on the fabric. Each box on the paper chart is a stitch on the canvas. This type of stitching requires great concentration in order the stitcher not to loose counting
μετρητό κέντημα
Bargello needlepoint. 
Needlepoint was probably invented to re-create the look of woven tapestries. One of the most popular types of needlepoint is definitely cross-stitch. Cross stitch is a type of needlepoint in which stitches are X shaped. Unlike needlepoint, which typically requires that the canvas be entirely covered with stitching, cross stitch leaves areas of the background unstitched. 

Traditional cross-stitch from Hungary
Image source: "Cross stitch detail" by Paula Kate Marmor - Own work by the original uploader. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 


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