Needlepoint Tips for the Novice

Needlepoint is an expensive but enjoyable pastime.  A kit may cost over $80, and if you purchase a hand-painted canvas and the yarn to go with it, the cost may run to $200 to $300.  Add to that the expense of framing the finished product or turning it into a pillow, and you have a small investment of money, not to mention your time.

But the results!  A beautiful, handcrafted piece of work that not only decorates your home but will likely be passed down through your family long after you are gone.  It is partly for that reason that needlepoint is such a special craft.  It is also a historical one, an art that women (and some men) have practiced for centuries. 

A few tips for the needlepoint novice who has not been given a lesson by an expert:

  • Never knot the the yarn.  The yarn should be caught behind the first three or four stitches you make on the canvas.  Knotting causes lumps and is simply not the way fine needlework is done.
  • Don't pull the yarn too tight.  Draw the yarn through the canvas just enough for the yarn to be snug without any strain.
  • Keep nail scissors handy for cutting yarn - they often work better than a large pair of shears.
  • Have a supply of at least three or four needles.  They sometimes break, and there are few things more exasperating than being unable to continue work on your beloved project because the eye of the needle has broken - which it may, from sheer use. 
  • Store your unfinished work and yarn in a plastic or fabric stitchery case or a basket.  You don't want it collecting dust before it's even finished!
  • Shop online if you can't get to a store: Herrschner's, Glorafilia, and Bucilla are good brands to try, and there are many others.  Check their websites frequently because new items continually come in stock. 
  • If you are handy with design, you can always buy a blank piece of tapestry canvas at a sewing supply shop and design your own project.  Use waterproof inks or paints to draw your pattern onto the canvas first .  The ink must be waterproof, because the finished tapestry needs to be dampened and stretched back to size; working a piece diagonally, as most needlepoint stitching is done, stretches it somewhat out of shape.  Too, you may eventually want to have the piece dry cleaned after using it for a while - so ink that won't run is important to use in creating your design.     
  • Be proud of your work.  It is truly an ancient craft!
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