Needlework/Stitching Glossary Episode One

For those of you that received this via email back on Feb 10 and then couldn’t find it again, my apologies. 🙂 I mis-scheduled!

This is the first in a random and un-organized list of stitching terms that I think people should know. These are just the first things that come to mind when I think of needlework terms today. Tomorrow there may be something completely different!

Beading – Oooh there’s a can of worms. Stitchers and knitters go not near the bead store for you know not what temptations await you there. Oh, ok. I’m an enabler. Shiny little things, beads can be added to knitting, crochet, embroidery, sewing, macrame, tatting or what have you and all be called “beading.” And guess what? You can perform the act of “beading” all by itself with some wire and a pair of pliers. Defining beading is like defining “embroidery”.

Batting – the cotton or wool or polyester filling used between quilt layers. Originally, the etymology comes from the word “batt,” which is the name for the carded fiber mass that is the step before spinning into yarn.

Calico – In the USA, a cotton fabric often used for quilting. It is usually printed with a design, and traditionally this is a small print, often floral. In the UK, for calico, see Muslin.

Crochet – making fabric with one hook and a thread (can be thin for lace doilies or thick for afghans or something in between). Uses lots of thread, and is faster than knitting although often mistaken for knitting by random people on the street. (I’ve also had people see me cross stitching and ask me what I’m knitting, but that’s a bit extreme…)

Counted Cross Stitch – Using the cross stitch and a pattern to create pretty pictures. In many ways it’s similar to the Berlin woolwork of the 1800s, but now days is usually done using cotton floss on linen or other evenweave fabric.

Embroidery – Any surface embellishment created with a needle and thread. For example, all counted cross stitch is embroidery, but all embroidery is not counted cross stitch!

Frogging – Ripping out, whether embroidery, a seam, knitting, or what have you.

Knitting – the making of fabric with two or more sticks and one strand of yarn. Usually uses less yarn than crochet, is slower, and is often mistaken for crochet by random people when doing it on the bus.

Muslin – a 100% cotton fabric either natural or unbleached in color. It’s a plain tabby weave, and can be sturdy or less sturdy, often depending on the price you pay for it. It’s used as a ground for crazy quilting, as an inexpensive way to test out sewing patterns, and many other uses. In the Victorian era, muslin was available that was fine enough for high-end clothing.

Muslim – A follower of Islam. I include this because the misuse of this term instead of muslin is one of my pet peeves. I know they’re similar, but people, if you try to stitch a crazy quilt patch onto any of my Muslim friends, you are going to get at least an earful about sticking people with needles and pins.

Needlepoint – Know who you’re talking to when you use this one! To a “normal” person these days, the word needlepoint brings up thoughts of that tent or half-cross stitch wool on canvas monstrosity that Grandma made in the seventies.  To an historical reenactor, it might very well mean very delicate lace made with a needle and thread instead of knitting needles or bobbins on a pillow! But if you go into a store specializing in needlework you will find many many wonderful designs stitched on canvas, and many ways to stitch them. (Even though I rarely do needlepoint, I haunt needlepoint stores for really neat fibers to use in my other embroidery styles!)

TINKing – Knitting backwards. (Ripping out one stitch at a time.)

Wadding – UK terminology for batting.

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2 Responses to Needlework/Stitching Glossary Episode One

  1. Knitting isn’t necessarily one strand of yarn. There are several knitting techniques which specifically utilize two or more strands. Though I will agree that most knitting is one strand.

    I’ve also always found it faster than crochet for me, personally, so I think which of crochet and knitting is faster ends up varying by person.

    • You are very definitely right. I suspect that “which is faster” in any form of needlework is extremely variable by person. Speed is probably something I should have left out, especially with the big broad areas like crochet and knitting – which can be broken down into so many more layers beneath them. I tend to find needlepainting faster then cross stitch, but I know several people who would disagree with me.

      I’m more amused by the fact that everyone seems to call everything either knitting or crochet – including needlepoint and stumpwork: “my mother crocheted, too!” they’ll tell you. Um… Yeah.

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