February 25, 2010

What's the difference between embroidery?

Hey guys - I have been wondering about something and maybe you can enlighten me.

Why do (some) people think of embroidery and cross stitching as separate things?

I see people talking about how they used to do cross stitching, but then got into embroidery. Huh? To me, cross stitch is sub-category of embroidery, not a category in itself. I know, there's counted cross stitch, but I would still put that under the Embroidery umbrella - and it wouldn't even stick out at the side and get wet!

Then there are other people who, when you tell them you do embroidery, will say "oh so you do cross stitch?"

What is going on? To some they are two different things and to others one is the same as the other. Am I missing something?


  1. You know I've sort of noticed that too. In my mind they are two separate things probably because the material I stitch on is different depending on what I'm doing. Like I could embroider on anything but to cross stitch I would use specific cross stitch fabric (whatever you call that). Also I guess following a pattern in cross stitch is very different than in embroidery to me. But I'm a newbie to embroidery (as I would say) and used to do cross stitch a long time ago. I guess I would say they both fall under the umbrella Needlework though.

  2. For me they do fall under the needlework umbrella but they are each a catagory all their own, as are needlepoint and crewel.

  3. I don't do a lot of either cross-stitching or embroidery, although I've tried to do some embroidery lately. I guess for me it's like: I wouldn't even consider trying cross-stitching, it seems it needs planning and thinking and all that. Embroidery on the other hand, feels more free, like drawing, and you can change direction any time you want. But perhaps that's just because I'm a beginner?

  4. To sum up: I do agree with cross-stitching being a form of embroidery, but a kind I don't believe would suit my ways of crafting.

  5. The way I look at the hierarchy is:
    Various embroidery variations
    Cross Stitch
    Various cross stitch variations
    Odd leftover categories, like Needle Punch

    I think people look at embroidery and cross stitch as different because, though they are similar, they are very different styles of creating an image.

    When I started crafting as a child, I learned counted cross stitch first. On the one hand, the stitch was somewhat simpler than embroidery stitches, and the fabric gave me clear indicators where the floss was supposed to go. On the other hand, I didn't have the attention span to count the stitches very carefully, I confused which hole I was supposed to go in when, and I didn't like the way cross stitch looked.And worst of all (to my young mind), it took forever to finish a piece. When I learned embroidery it was like a whole other world opening up. It was a more fluid, very open to interpretation, and goshdarnit if you don't want to use a pattern you make it up as you go. It feels so different to embroider, in comparison, that it seems like a totally different sport to me.

    As to people who say it the other way, it seems to me they are probably uninitiated to needlecraft.

  6. My guess would be that embroidery can be a little more labor intensive with regard to the variety of stitches you can use, which could require a certain level of stitch knowledge (unless you only use one type of embroidery stitch, but the options are quite varied). With cross stitch you are repeatedly using the same stitch, at least that's been my experience. I feel that hand embroidery is more of a traditional 'old-school' craft just because of its history.

  7. I think it's the same as when you tell someone you make lace. To some that means all and any kind of lace, even knitted and crocheted lace. To others it means bobbin-lace exclusively and to some it means tatted lace and bobbin lace.

  8. I say embroidery because I think people associate cross stitch with kittens and Winnie the Pooh and Thomas Kincaid, and that's SO not my taste. So I feel like I need to distinguish that I am NOT doing counted cross stitch. But then when I just say embroidery, many people assume I mean machine embroidery since I sew. So now I usually say hand embroidery! I think needlework is a good umbrella word. But then again, I have seen that term applied to knitting and even crochet!

  9. I see them as two separate things also. With embroidery, you follow a line drawing and can be creative with the stitches you create. With cross stitch you are stuck with a grid pattern and can only make x's (can you tell I like embroidery better? :)

  10. I use the word "embroidery" as a shorthand for "free embroidery," which I consider to be a very different sort of needlework than cross stitch (since free embroidery doesn't take weave into account). Of course, the cross stitch can be used in free embroidery too, which does introduce some confusion.

    If you use the word embroidery more generally (as in using a needle and thread to embellish fabric), then yup, both free embroidery and cross stitch fall under the umbrella. I'd be more inclined to use "needlework" as the more general term, though.

  11. The Embroidery Guild of America uses an all inclusive definition of embroidry: "an art form using a variety of threads, a needle and different types of stitches to achieve texture, embellishment and ornamental interest on fabric."

    So for me, cross stitch is a form of embroidry, as are crewel, stumpwork, needlepoint, hardanger, and the list goes on and on! :o) I love all the different techniques.

  12. embrodery means to me not only cross stitch also stitchery and every stiched works- Embroidery is every needlework ;-)))

  13. I definitely feel that "cross stitch", at least in the U.S., does have certain connotations. I (used to) envision Precious Moments, cute country scenes with ducks and geese, Persian kittens bedecked with pink ribbons, etc. But I do think crafter's opinions of cross-stitch have changed due to Subversive Stitching and everyone doing such hilarious and ironic stuff with cross stitch.

    All that said, I think *technically* cross-stitch falls under the larger umbrella term "embroidery", but that the two terms connote very different things to crafters.

    I find that people who don't craft at all, call my embroidery whatever term they're most comfortable: they'll either say I'm cross-stitching, sewing, or doing needlepoint. It's all the same animal to them, because they don't do it themselves. :)

    By the way, I LOVE this question! :)

  14. I agree with Emily that Embroidery and Cross-stitch are subcategories in Needlecraft.

    Embroidery - I love it. To "color" with thread and just go with the flow

    Cross-stitch - I don't care for it much. It's too rigid for me and counting/following that type of pattern gives me a headache. LOL

    I do respect those that can cross-stitch though!

  15. this is a tough one. I'm not even sure what to say. I think the initial reaction is that embroidery takes more skill than cross stitch...except that it's the same thing! or it can be. like those printed fabrics for baby bibs or quilts....you use a cross stitch for most of them....but it's not on aida cloth, and there can be other stitches too....what are those?? and if anyone thinks cross stitch is easy or 'too simple', please refer to What Delilah Did, haha!

    anyway....GREAT question...I wish I had the answer!

  16. Actually, cross stitching has almost as ancient a history as embroidery in general, but because so many kitten and cottage patterns are out there, people aren't really aware of it.

    I think there is a big difference. They both fall under needlework, but they are different in style and execution. I don't consider myself an embroiderer because I have never stitched anything that wasn't on aida fabric. I do refer to what I do when talking to non-crafty people as embroidery, though, because more people know what that is. :)

    The important thing is knowing you can use mediums like embroidery and cross stitch in any way you choose. Cross stitch doesn't have to be Winnie the Pooh and kittens if you don't want it to be. I'm proof of that. :)

  17. I have cross-stitched since I was 8 years old. I plan to start my first embroidery project tonight. In my head the two are as separate as either being a knitter or a crocheter. A lot of people can do both but most people have a a great preference for one over the other.

  18. This is so interesting...I was JUST reading about this last night on DMC's blog. Check it out!


    At the now age of 28, I have been officially cross-stitching for 20 years and just recently found myself utterly obsessed with embroidery. Being a diehard cross-stitcher (and for heavens sake, I have never cross-stitched a precious moments or duck in my life! *haha*) I think I separate them because embroidery is just so different to me. No aida cloth, no counting and marking, free creativity and whole different type of flow. If that makes any sense. I guess I look at it like painting on canvas and painting by numbers. Embroidery (to me) actually takes some creativity. I think that's what has me so intrigued!

  19. Like Leigh and others, I've always considered cross stitch and embroidery to be separate subsets of needlework (another would be hardanger), although I see how others would use embroidery as the umbrella term. What I have noticed over the years is that there seems to be little overlap between the people who cross stitch and embroider; I often feel like I am one of the few who does both (though this thread shows I'm not alone). Even the magazines have this division -- Just Cross Stitch v. England's Stitch which never shows cross stitch (and which I highly recommend). Few books and mags cover both.

    As for which I prefer, well that is embroidery, hands down. I love the variety and flexibility of stitches. But there are some kinds of cross stitch I really like too, mainly the non-kitten/puppy/precious moments stuff (don't get me started on Thomas Kinkade). I confess I do get bored doing the same stitch over and over, so I tend to pick smaller cross stitch projects, or take years to finish them.

  20. Because the planning, design, execution, materials and - most importantly - thought processes are so different, I can see why people seperate cross-stitch from embroidery in their minds. Embroidery is far more free - unconstrained by two default stitchs and fabric type. But cross-stitch's regularity and uniformity can achieve different effects that I find I can't get from free embroidery. But both are at their cores variations on needlework in general, yes.

    Also, I adamantly consider both forms to be mediums and techniques and nothing more. Neither embroidery or cross-stitch needs to be restricted to traditional motifs - as wonderful blogs like yours have shown again and again. It's something I personally believe in as someone who works hard making her own geeky patterns.

  21. I think this is sort of a rectangle/square situation. Like, you could look at a square and say, "What a nice rectangle!" and technically that would be correct, but people might look at you funny and tell you politely that it's a square. Maybe the safest thing to do do would be to call both things a parallelogram?

    I like what floresita said here: "I find that people who don't craft at all, call my embroidery whatever term they're most comfortable..." Yes! So true and lovely :)

  22. I am going one better: how about machine embroidery?

    I like all kinds of embroidery a lot. I am very thrilled with the different possibilities and limitations of each unique technique.

  23. I consider embroidery to be creative and independent. I draw my pattern; I choose my thread/floss; I choose my stitches. I create the effect and style.

    To me, cross stitch is prescribed and would feel inhibiting.

    So yes - it is a needleart; and no it is not embroidery.

  24. I am a cross-stitcher getting into embroidery (or free embroidery if you like). Alot of the embroidery stitchers seem to think we cross-stitchers have no imagination and only follow charts and colour as printed.
    Not true! You can make your own charts, swap colours out, you can even cross stitch on linen, it doesn't have to be aida. (If you aren't brave enough to try cross stitching on linen, there is soluble canvas, which is like wash off aida, so you have the holes to make perfect cross stitches, but it washes off - so you can in fact use any fabric really)
    Cross stitch I admit has it's fair share of country cottages and ions old sayings - but there are alot of fun, new designs. And you can design your own too. Got to say, I'm only 23 but seeing a cross stitched dildo still makes me blush a bit! It's very different to your 1800s samplers nowadays!

    I see embroidery and cross stitching as two seperate things, just like knitting and crocheting.

  25. I love embroidery but haven't ventured into my first project yet... however, I've done quite a fair share of cross stitching. So... for me they are different. Perhaps once I start following embroidery patterns and actually making them, they will be more joint crafts for my hands/mind

  26. For me it's two different things that fall under the umbrella of needlework. Because the stitches and technique and a lot of times the fabric used are different. The thing that is weird to me is that crochet a lot of times falls under needlework.

  27. I agree with others said in that they are two different activities under the heading of needlework. The stitches used are so very different! And I also think crewel and embroidery is different. Crewel has to be wool thread on linen, whereas embroidery can be anything.

  28. Embroidery, I'm told, is surface work. Crewel is surface work with wool. Cross stitch, hardanger etc are counted.

    From what I understand (I'm learning with the Embroiderer's Association of Canada) it's all under the hand stitching umbrella.

  29. I do not put cross stitch and embroidery together. Cross stitch requiring a certain type of fabric or weave and the patterns being so much different, it is separate from embroidery just like needle punch or crewel work even though they all do fit under the category needlework.

    I think part of the issue is education. Embroidery, cross stitch and lots of other hand and stitching crafts and arts are really trendy lately. And people with little previous exposure and information about these things are reading about them and maybe even jumping in and doing some stitching of their own without having an underlying base knowledge. Stitchery used to be part of our formal education growing up, but now it is not. Don't get me wrong, I *love* the explosion of popularity and use. But it's like anything else that gets popular really fast and the vocabulary and knowledge required to differentiate isn't quite there.

  30. Heehee! That is funny.

    You say tomahtoes and I say tomaytoes...

    Needle work is needle work. All fun!

    I've been trying to make time to do some needle work lately!

  31. Seconding all those who have said they do see them as separate sub-categories of needlework. I cross stitch, but don't really embroider.

    I don't use commercial patterns so I definitely don't have a kittens and Winnie the Pooh connotation of cross stitching. For me cross stitching is very much related to digital art--each stitch as a pixel.

    A lot of contemporary embroidery reads (to me) as sketches, using thread to trace the outline of a drawing or doodle. I prefer trying to do something interesting within the confines of the grid. I also prefer sonnets and villanelles to free verse. :) Doing something interesting despite strict "rules" just appeals to my brain and creativity more.

  32. I also consider cross stitch and embroidery to be 2 different crafts under the larger category of "needlework". I feel this way because to me they are so different, and I do both. I use different fabrics, different needles, use the patterns differently, etc. With cross stitch, there requires a certain amount of planning, and I usually use the colors that are called for in the pattern. With embroidery, you can just sort of do whatever! This may sound odd, but I even keep floss that I use for cross stitch separate from floss that I use for embroidery. With embroidery, I precut all my floss, and I don't save the numbers or anything. But with cross stitch, I roll the floss onto bobbins with the # on it. I also keep my "cross stitch fabric" separate from my "embroidery fabric". So, to sum up, although I consider them both to be forms of "needlework", because I use different needles, different fabric, use floss and patterns differently, I do consider them to be separate crafts.

  33. I think of cross stitch as being separate...just because it is marketed separately. Although they're somewhat of a dying breed there used to be and still are many shops devoted solely to counted cross stitch...and for the record these shops usually DO NOT carry Winnie the Pooh and Precious Moments!! Needlepoint and crewel used to be sold together (in small shops)...because they traditionally both used yarn while cross stitch uses floss.

    I think some people who turn their nose up at cross stitch might be surprised by what is available! I haven't stitched on AIDA cloth since I was 12 - I use hand dyed linens and over dyed threads - the materials today are amazing to work with!

  34. There's cross stitch that embroiders and there is counted cross stitch. I think of these as to separate groups.

  35. I'm one of those people that used to do cross stitch but now do embroidery. I got bored with cross stitch & found other kinds of embroidery more interesting. I do however still think that cross stitch is a form of embroidery as it is still a decorative stitch on fabric.

  36. I regard them both as needlework, but I refer to them as embroidery and cross stitch. (to me)Cross stitch generally uses a specific fabric and stitch and is a little more rigid in its method, but embroidery is more loose.

  37. I think when some people say "embroidery" they mean "embellishment," or at least that's how they use it. Any time that fabric is somehow decorated with thread, they call it embroidery. I was under the impression that the category is actually needlework.

    Embroidery and cross stitch are very different to me because I like one and I don't like the other one (I won't say which, so as to not offend). Most of the people I know enjoy one or the other, but not both. Crewel is really a subcategory of embroidery, since the stitches are the same, but the materials are different (more specific for crewel, that is).

    And then there are those misunderstood arts like lacework and hardanger and... they don't get nearly as much love as the others.

    Like some others have said, it's all needlework (ie, work done with a needle), just different kinds. And while they're separate in my mind, I try to not be offended when people (even those who should know better) call what I'm doing by the wrong name.

    Great question! Lots of discussion on this one!

  38. I do both surface/hand embroidery, and I also do counted cross stitch. I think of them as cousins - in the same family and related in that it's creating a design on fabric with floss, but they both go about it in very different ways. And I get very different experiences and benefits from both, so I enjoy them both. It's almost like they use two different parts of my stitchy brain.

    And I am repeating that voices saying that cross stitch isn't all Winnie the Pooh and (gag) Thomas Kinkaide. There's a lot of wonderful free charts available. I have also been able to use my mom's old charts from the early 80s - update those colors and you're good to go.

  39. "Embroidery" (both hand and machine) seems to be, more often than not, for decorating some other surface (a tablecloth, a jacket, a card), and tends to use a variety of stitches (even cross stitches)

    Whereas counted cross stitch more often exists for its own sake: samplers and so forth.

    But to answer your question Carina, probably for the same reason people use different words or slightly different techniques with the same resulting stitch: needle-stuff is pretty personal business.

  40. I think the only difference in my head is that cross stitch involves counting. I'm learning embroidery but I like to do freehand.

  41. I do feel like they are different processes. Different materials, different style (looking at a pattern vs. following lines on the fabric.) I think of them as all being in the needlework family, but different parts of it. I see it as being similar to the difference between needle knitting and loom knitting. They are both knitting, but the method is so different that they feel like separate crafts.

  42. I think they are two different things to people b/c of people like me. I do "embroidery" which can be done on any medium. I'd like to try cross stitch sometime, but it seems totally different than embroidery b/c it has to be done on certain mediums to have the stitches come out uniform. So, to me, they are different, but I can see how they are the same to other categorically. It probably depends on your experience in either interest.

  43. Hi, have been lurking for awhile but wanted to contribute to the conversation.

    I do embroidery, and also cross-stitch, have rediscovered my love of cross-stitch in the last year primarily because of the creativity out there, forget winnie the pooh check out some of the gorgeous work being done by Tracy Horner at http://www.inkcircles.com/ and also some of the wonderful work being done by European cross stitchers, particularly some of the French forums and blogs.

    This reminds me very much of people who talk about patchwork, quilting and applique - all are related, but all very different. You might piece a quilt, but never do applique. You might do both applique and piecing but get someone else to do the quilting. But all of those people would refer to what they do as quilting.

    And you could argue that all of the above is also needlework, as each requires using needle and thread, whether by hand or by machine.

    Me - I do all of the above, though everything by hand. Love the almost zen like state of piecing squares together or making cross stitches, but also love the fluid nature of embroidery and applique work - I guess I'd describe myself as a needlewoman!

  44. i ran across a flickr group the other day that said it was for all needlework EXCEPT counted cross stitch. i thought that seemed a little snotty, since cross stitch can be just as cool as other forms of needlework!

    i see cross stitch and embroidery as two separate things under the umbrella of needlework, along with needlepoint, petit point, etc. (interestingly, no one's mentioned petit point yet!)

    i generally enjoy embroidery more, because math frustrates me, but some days i totally just want to chill and i can really get into the rhythm of cross stitch and find it really relaxing. a lot like sometimes i don't feel like thinking everything through, so i sew up a piece of clothing using a commercial pattern. it's a nice change sometimes!

  45. I think perhaps it's a "snob" thing because cross stitch has become synonymous with kits - but you can get kits for all types of embroidery. To my mind, there's embroidery, worked in the traditional way, or to a pattern or a kit and there is Creative Embroidery - free, individual, no rules, adventurous.

  46. I wasn't able to read all the responses but...

    Needlework > Embroidery > Cross-Stitch > Counted Cross Stitch

  47. eta: a "Cross-stitch" is a type of embroidery stitch that is also its own category of needleworking when it's used to create a design using only that one stitch.

    Maybe just stating the obvious here...

    Just trying to keep the definition simple!

  48. I think they both fall under the needlework umbrella.
    I always thought embroidery and cross stitch were sisters. :-)

  49. Cross stitch and other embroideries generally come under needle craft...

    I have noticed,the people who do cross stitch might not be passionate about other simple hand embroidery and vice versa....

    those who do cross stitch are more inclined to do hardanger and other thread counting style of embroideries...it is just that they are interested in that technique...and get the satisfaction of that finishing..

    those who are passionate of simple handembroidery , they don't really enjoy these thread counting stuff because it is more time taking.and i have heard people saying it is not a relaxing stuff..

    This is not a generalised information...i do both hand embroidery and cross stitch...and i feel both finishes give very different feeling....i do hardanger too and i don't mind doing machine embroidery for quick finishes...

  50. When I say I do embroidery, I mean I do surface embroidery and counted cross stitch and Hardanger and pulled thread work and drawn thread work and stumpwork and even some blackwork. And all of it (and much more) is needlework.

    The folks that get snobby about not doing counted cross stitch usually are the ones that think of cross stitch only being done on Aida cloth. Working with fine linen in beautiful colors with silks fibers that have a very nice hand can make cross stitch enjoyable and make beautiful things.

    Just because something has been cross stitched doesn't mean it has to be framed and hung on the wall. Learning new finishing methods can turn cross stitched pieces into pincushions, fabric covered boxes, book covers, book marks, etc. The list goes on and on and is limited only by the imagination.

    Any work that involves needle and thread is embroidery. And we all, as needlewomen, should celebrate all facets of this beautiful form of art.

  51. My husband calls it all "knitting". :)

    I am a regular counted cross-stitcher and a sometimes embroiderer. What I like about cross-stitch is the rhythm. If you sit and follow the chart and move the needled in and out and count correctly, eventually you have a gorgeous hand-stitched piece of art to hang on the wall. It's soothing and rewarding to me. When I embroider, I don't do a lot of fill-in stitches, so my embroidered things tend to be mostly colorful outlines. The way I do it, my cross-stitch looks more like art, while my embroidery looks more like whimsy.

    I think embroidery and counted cross stitch are two different forms of needlework. Cross stitch is more prescribed, while embroidery is more free-form and versatile.

    Whenever I stitch in public, be it cross-stitch, embroidery, or crochet, someone always asks me about it, and always makes the comment "no one seems to do that any more." Oh, if they only browsed flickr and blogland, they'd know better.

  52. I know it as hoop embroidery
    this happens a lot in embroidery
    different styles get different names
    in different regions. as another example
    some people think blue work is the same as red work but in a different color. to me its embroidery that matches blue pottery like a delft tile or a flow blue dish design like the blue willow plate pattern.

  53. I came across this page in search of the difference between embroidery and crochet.
    I read a few posts and saw and then remembered that on Feb 25, 2010 Alea (the first post shown above) had mentioned something about "specific cross stitch fabric (whatever you call that)"...
    In my continued search, I happened upon 'whatever you call [it]'...it's called Aida cloth (the medium typically used).
    So there you go!