In this ongoing series, I will try and explain how to produce a needlepoint project. This is NOT the frou-frou way of doing needlepoint. It is make-do, recycled needlepoint. It is creative, artistic needlepoint. It does not require a professional finisher, although you are welcome to use one. It does not require you sell a kidney. And it looks amazing. We’ll start with supplies.
Needlepoint uses yarn or thread to fill a net-like canvas producing a thick, sturdy fabric, appropriate for covering chairs. Think shoe leather thick. The technique is VERY old, pyramid old, 1500 BC old. The fabric is useful for objects outside of clothing, and you can use scrap supplies to add detail, so it can be a frugal way of producing a very useful, very complicated textile. Does take a little bit of time though.
Canvas must be sort of openish and have a regular weave. Canvas is mostly made of either cotton or linen, and is described as either mono canvas (looks like a single grid) or penelope (looks like two grids on top of each other), often heavily starched. What you look for is a regular grid, that’s all. I’ve used burlap a fair number of times and it works out pretty well. It comes in different mesh sizes, called “point”, which refers to the number of stitches per inch. So a 14 point canvas has 14 stitches in every inch of length, and a 22 point has 22 stitches.
Yarn must be thin enough to fit into the canvas without distorting it. Having an array of colors to work with is helpful, as is stuff you can clean. Wool, silk, and cotton are the most common, although if you want to use dental floss and violin string you could do so. Be a bit weird, but it would work. I use a lot of embroidery floss (cheap), cotton crochet thread (cheap) and knitting yarn (knitters always have masses of scraps they don’t know what to do with) along with a giant stash of official needlepointing tapestry yarn.
Needles are used to weave the yarn through the canvas. The official tapestry needles can be large and blunt, so it can be a nice way to start little people doing embroidery. You don’t have to use a tapestry needle; if it works, it works. You just might have some trouble threading the needle, you might shred your canvas and you might poke yourself, but any needle will work. As long as the yarn fits the needle and the needle fits the canvas, you’re good.
“Needlepoint.” Wikipedia, available from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Needlepoint. Accessed March 31, 2014.