What Is Petit Point Anyway? And Should You Try It?

I’m a cross stitch purist. I like full stitches and that’s it. I hate backstitch, French Knots fill me with fear, and quarter stitches aren’t my thing. But what about tent stitch?
Ha! I know, tent stitch isn’t real cross stitch. Wait… It is?
Today I wanted to talk about Petit Point, or Petite Point as it’s sometimes called, which is technically a tent stitch, but closer to cross stitch than it is needlepoint.

What is it?

So let’s start simple. A standard cross stitch makes the shape of an X. A tent stitch is effectively like a half-finished cross stitch, it makes the shape of a / or \.
Petit point is a tent stitch, so only takes up the space of a / or \, but unlike a tent stitch is stitched in the continental style. This means the back of your work has long threads on it.
But, because of the way you stitch this has a different look, basically making it smaller. In the image below you can see normal cross stitch (row 1), petit point (row 2), cross stitch and petit point together (row 3) and quarter cross stitch and petit point together (row 4). I short, the petit point makes up roughly the same space as a quarter stitch.

Cross Stitch and Petit Point examples (Source: crosssitchclub.com)
Cross Stitch and Petit Point examples (Source: crosssitchclub.com)

Why Use it?

So, why would you use this rather odd stitch? Well, there are a few reasons. Unlike normal embroidery stitches that can look out of place in a cross stitch, petit point looks right at home, meaning you can stitch with it on its own, or combine it with normal cross stitch.

Better Coverage

The first advantage is coverage. We’ve mentioned this in the past, but whenever you select a count of fabric, you need to think about the coverage look you’re going for. The larger the count, the worse the coverage will be. You can avoid this by adding more strands to your work, but this makes it bulky.
This is where petit point comes in. The stitch itself makes the whole work fuller-looking, but the back of your work that might be seen also adds to the fullness of your stitches, bulking up the whole thing.

Pattern, Cross Stitch and Petite Point Geocaching Bug (Source: pinterest)

Smaller Work

Next up is a simple one; size. By stitching in petit point, you effectively half the size of the work. Now I say effectively, as whilst is if half the size, it’s not a perfect miniature. Instead, the stitch gives the whole thing a slightly different feel.
The design above, stitched in cross stitch (14 count) and petit point (14 count) almost look like different patterns. Still very similar, but the petit point version looks fuller. This is in part due to the better coverage petit point will give you, so you do need to be careful
A good example of this is my Spring in Daigoji temple miniature cross stitch. The design is full coverage, so if I had chosen to stitch in petit point, would look exactly the same. Sometimes you do need to be careful when using this stitch!


Next comes speed. Cross stitch isn’t the fastest thing in the world, and there are ways to speed up cross stitch, and one of those is stitching in half stitches. However, unlike petit point, half stitches also have negative drawbacks, such as poor coverage. With your new stitch you might be able to work through all those cross stitch patterns you’re hording.

Cross stitch and petit point in one pattern (Source: youtube)

Combining Stitches

Next, we’re going to look at combining both petit point and cross stitch. This is, by far, a lot rarer. However, is also why I started looking into petit point in the first place. By adding petit point into your standard patterns, you can create a new dimension; litterely.
That dimension is distance. By adding in petit point to something that should be in the foreground, it looks exactly like it should be; in the foreground. Look out of the window and you’ll see that things in the distance are smaller, and things in the far distance are blurry. Petit point is fine and detailed, with normal cross stitch looking blocky and out of focus in comparison.
Perversely, you can also use petit point to draw your attention to other objects. In the image above the youtuber is stitching a face in petit point. By doing this the eye picks up on the difference and focuses on the face. You do have to be careful here though, as you only want one section of petit point per pattern in order to make sure everyone is looking in the right place. You often find this in HAED patterns for this exact reason!
Shout out to Sirithre who has a great post on how petit point can be used to great effect!
Have you ever tried petit point before? If so, tell us why, we’d love to hear if there are other great uses!
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sevothtarte

    I am a misfit in cross-stitch cause my work is neither real cross-stitch nor is it needlepoint. I make my own designs of things meaningful to me (symbols, cheeky things, or things from my favorite games) then I turn the whole thing into a pillow. For this reason I need full coverage and I cannot have negative/empty space (so closer to needlepoint than cross-stitch in that regard). Petit point is absolutely necessary in what I do in order to get small details in as well as to create round or elliptical designs. Often, I will work on a single piece where parts of it (the bigger elements) will be more blocky (like clip art) while the detailed elements will be perfectly round or pointed, and that’s where I will absolutely use petit point. I have found that different needles make a huge difference in whether detailed petit point can be made on Aida. Love your page, your friendly misfit that can’t be called anything :’)

  2. Carol

    Regarding the biscornu corner motif issue that Sirithre describes: Why not simply work those half crosses at 90 degrees in two corners? Like 4-way bargello, etc.