Canvas work has a long history. Some stitches which are today almost exclusively associated with canvaswork have been known for hundreds of years: originally they would have been worked on evenweave linen.
Historically, the most popular stitch is tent stitch. The name comes from the French 'tenter' - to stretch: it refers to stretching the background fabric on a frame for working. Fine tent stitch appears on pieces from the middle ages: during the reign of Elizabeth I it was used for furnishings, bags, pin-cushions and book covers. Tent stitch hangings closely resemble tapestry (woven on a loom), for which they made an excellent substitute.