Half-Cross Tent Needlepoint Stitch Tutorial

Half Cross Needlepoint Stitch-front and back
Althea DeBrule
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 4 hrs

The half cross tent stitch is often the first stitch a beginner learns to make in needlepoint. It gets its name from the "half stitch" used in cross stitch embroidery on evenweave fabric, and it works the same way—except on needlepoint canvas. Many needlepoint beginners are also avid cross-stitchers, and may mistakenly believe that it is the only stitch you can make in needlepoint. This is not the case. Half cross tent stitch belongs to the tent family of needlepoint stitches that includes both continental and basketweave and has been used for centuries in needlepoint projects.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using half cross tent stitch. On the up side, it is great for stitching small areas of a design where the continental and basketweave stitches will not fit, and you need to squeeze in a stitch or two to complete the needlepoint project. And it uses less yarn than almost any other needlepoint stitch! 

On the down side, if used for large pattern areas on mono canvas, the mesh threads are easily pulled out of shape, making tension uneven from one stitch to another. If you are working on interlock or Penelope canvas, large motifs and design areas should be fine. The process for making the stitch can also mean the thread doesn't fully cover all the canvas mesh threads on the wrong sides. Examine the right side (left) and wrong side (right) of a half cross tent stitch canvas. 

If you were to hold the right side of the work up to the light, you would see uneven spots of light peeking through the canvas. On the wrong side, the vertical straight stitches rest in the spaces between canvas mesh threads. No matter the type of thread or how many strands are used, the stitch still doesn't give proper coverage.

This tutorial explains how to work half cross tent stitch, and includes a few options for making it. Give it a try and see what you think. Sometimes half cross tent stitch is just what a design needs (or calls for). 


Half cross tent stitch is worked in rows from left to right (left-handed stitchers will find this encouraging!) and diagonally from bottom left to top right for each stitch.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Tapestry needle, size between 18 and 20
  • Small sharp scissors


  • Plastic or needlepoint canvas for practicing
  • Needlepoint yarn for practicing


  1. Making the First Row

    Begin at the left side of the needlepoint design area.

    • Bring the tapestry needle up from the back of the canvas at 1; take it diagonally down to the back at 2.
    • Bring the needle up at 3, take it down at 4.

    Continue across the row, bringing the needle up and down as shown in the stitch diagram, until you reach the right side of the needlepoint design area.


    If you prefer to use the sewing method instead of stabbing, work across the back in one move from 2 to 3, 4 to 5, 6 to 7 and so on.

    Half cross tent stitch diagram
    Althea DeBrule
  2. Continuing with the Second Row

    At this point, you have a choice from two options.

    • Turn your canvas around and work as for the first row of stitches, beginning at a new "1" and stitching across.
    • Do not turn the canvas. Work from right to left instead, as shown in the diagram: bring the needle up at 9, take it down at 10; bring the needle up at 11, take it down at 12. Continue working from right to left across.
  3. Continue Practicing

    Work additional rows as needed to practice working the stitch.

    Remember that each stitch travels diagonally across the front, and straight down in the back, regardless of how you work the stitch.

    Once you get the feel of the half cross tent stitch, you’ll find out how quick and easy it is to work a row of stitches. Eventually the movement will become automatic, and you will no longer need to look at the diagram!