Canvas work includes General Canvas work-using a wide range of canvas stitches (see main picture) Needlepoint Tapestry-using tent or half cross stitch (picture 1) Florentine-Waves in multiples of straight stitches (picture 2) Bargello-Geometric shapes using straight stitch (picture 3) Hungarian Point-several long plus one or two short straight stitches (picture 4). Over the centuries, the terms Bargello, Florentine embroidery and Hungarian Point have been interchanged to describe similar types of embroidery FLORENTINE-design is a continuous flow of peaks and valleys. 'Wave' or 'flame'-shaped stitches of the same length worked in a series of repeated, interlocking rows of pattern, creating a zig-zag, wave or flame design. Characterised by parallel rows of differently coloured stitches with shading from dark to light, usually three to five shades of one colour and two to five shades of a contrast colour. BARGELLO-A geometric design, of interlocking stitches with distinct shapes evident. A more contemporary and colourful version of Florentine which developed with stylized floral motifs e.g. carnations, chevrons, zig-zags and lozenges. HUNGARIAN POINT Similar in design to Florentine but differing in structure, having both long and short stitches, repeated in a pattern. Most often long stitches over four threads, and short stitches over two threads. Within the peaks of Hungarian Point, the stitches fit inside one another like a series of Chinese boxes


Some canvas work was done as far back as the late 13th and 14th centuries, but the technique really advanced during the late 16th C. Needlepoint tapestry gained prominence when the new middle-class, anxious to add touches of luxury to their homes, began to make embroideries in tent stitch on canvas in imitation of the huge woven tapestries found in the houses of the aristocracy. Later different designs which were faster to work such as Florentine, Bargello and Hungarian point were introduced.

At the French court, the king and important statesmen would receive visitors in their bed chambers which were not the private places they are today. As a result, the bed linens, hangings and furnishings, important for keeping out the drafts in unheated rooms, were grand and beautiful. Many were amongst the family’s most important possessions.

The period after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, was one of luxurious living. Woven fabrics had become more readily available and were used for larger furnishings. Women turned their attention to smaller, fancier projects such as fire screens, small pictures and seat covers. Gradually designs became simpler and the size of the individual designs became smaller.


Williams, Elsa, Bargello - Florentine Canvas Work, Van Nostrand, Reinhold, 1967
Lantz, Sherlee A Pageant of Pattern for Needlepoint Canvas, 1974 Fischer, P and Lasker, A Bargello Magic, Holt & Rinehart and Winston, N.Y. 1973
Petschek, J Beautiful Bargello, Trafalgar Square, Vermont, 1997

Valerie Cavill