4.16.2020

A How-To Guide: Needlepointing For Beginners


This post was a long time coming so I hope it is most helpful for any beginner out there looking to pick up needlepointing. It's finding a resurgence during quarantine!

How to Get Started Needlepointing:


First things first: buy a canvas! 
For the first time, I always suggest something small like a keychain, coaster, or ornament. First, it won't be overwhelming. Second, it will be more affordable, which is great because you can first figure out if you like it, have the patience to finish it and want to do more before spending a ton of money. It would be silly to drop big bucks on something to only find out you don't really like it lol. Lastly, it's good practice and will get you ready for your next project.

There are a ton of stores out there, most of whom are shipping and are still open for curbside pickup. Not only are you helping small business but you're getting a fun quarantine project with it. Honestly, my best advice is to shop local if you can. I have no doubt that there is a local needlepoint store you're not even aware of.

A good place to search is Google (duh) but also by finding a design or print you're interested in and the artist who created it. Then look to see where they sell. A lot of these sites will have a laundry list of stores where you can pick up their canvas and from there you can hopefully find a local store!

The perfect example would be artists like Thorn Alexander or Plum Stitchery (also look for Kate Dickerson, she's one of my favorite designers)! Check out the lists of stores they sell to. It's a real rabbit hole because you'll find more shops and more designers and on and on until you want to buy it all!

Shopping local also has two major benefits. One, you're able to "have a guy" meaning you have the hookup, the inside, the direct line to needlepoint. Most of these stores have pretty old/useless websites so it's best to be able to text "your guy" and get what you need. Also, if you have a car you can pick it up and drop it off while still social distancing! Don't take that for granted. 

And the second reason is that you'll have a place that can finish your project for you. Meaning you can turn your white, flat, stiff canvas into a pillow, a keychain, a belt, etc. A lot of stores have finishing services (for an extra cost). Most places won't finish your work unless it was bought there and trying to find a random finisher can be hard to do.

If you're gung-ho about shopping online there are of course still some great options, but none will be as good as calling local stores. I admittedly haven't ever shopped online for a canvas, but one place I would go to first is Etsy. You can start by searching for needlepoint canvases to get some inspiration, but I would suggest getting more specific in the search bar if you know what you want.

Outside that, I would look at Needlepoint.com not only to shop but also to get to know artists and shop from their sites directly. And of course, Eye of the Needle and The Plum Stitchery (check out her artist's page, it's amazing). Some stores have also started selling through Instagram so dig around via hashtags, followers, etc. to find some stores that way. Some favorites of mine are Lycette, Pip and Roo, and Morgan Julia.

If you decide you want something custom, you can create almost anything on needlepoint. Half the projects I've worked on were custom painted. I would first recommend reaching out to your local store to ask about things like pricing and timeframe to see if what you want to create is doable!

Next, you'll need your supplies: a needle and thread. 
I will admit that I've been totally spoiled by Eye of the Needle. Truth be told, it wasn't until a month ago that it was normal to buy your own thread and pick your own colors. With Eye of the Needle, Mimi has always put them in a kit for me. They're one of the only stores that will send you just the right amount of threads instead of having to buy the entire skein.

They cut and pick for you so when you get your kit, you only have to deal with a few strings more than what you would need. I only realized recently that this isn't the case for everyone, and most of the time you buy the entire skein and start your own color collection. That can be helpful, but I feel it's a little overwhelming. 

There are so many options you need to decide on like type of thread, thickness of the thread (and the needle), and since I've never done it, I don't have much knowledge about it. I'm sure there are a lot of great resources online to help you decide, but I am keen to leave it up to the professionals. Most stores should be happy to help if you ask!

Once your supplies are ready, it's time to stitch. 
And there is no wrong way to stitch! As long as you're doing it, you are correct! I feel like everyone has their own special way they like to stitch. There are a ton of options for how to stitch, so it's really up to you and what you enjoy.

I almost always use the continental stitch. It's basic, easy to learn, and easy to do. I've done that for all of my projects outside of the one I'm working on now (a brick cover) where I'm trying my hand at a basketweave stitch. 

As far as learning how to stitch, if you're like me, I need a visual guide. There are a TON of YouTube videos, I posted an IGTV how to and Thorn Alexander has this AMAZING PDF guide (for free) that shows some basic stitches in an easy how-to guide for beginners! 

When it comes to stitching directly, I've never used a stretcher before but I totally see the upside to them. It makes the canvas easier to hold and also makes sure your canvas doesn't warp from the pulling of thread. I don't think they're totally necessary for beginners (or anyone for that matter), but if it's something that interests you, do it. You can buy these online, but I also assume your local store offers them as well.

A big question I was asked is how I thread my needle. Practice makes perfect! It used to be the worst part of needlepointing for me, but over the years I have found what works for me. I lick my finger and twist the tip of the thread into a little point between my thumb and pointer and then push the needle down between them.

If you want something a little easier, there are things called needle threaders that you can get just about anywhere online or at a craft store! They're usually pretty cheap, too. 

And finally, once you're done stitching, it's time to finish your canvas. 
Congratulations, you did it! Now it's up to you to decide what you're going to do with it. I love finding inspiration from other stores and websites as to the many different ways you can finish an item and what you can turn it into. I've personally never finished my own item, but it CAN be done! 

I'm actually going to try that on my next project. YouTube, here I come! As a heads up, finishing is usually pretty expensive, so the cheaper alternatives would be to frame or DIY. But don't let that deter you from making something great. Just drop it off/send it back to your store and ask them to finish it for you. It's as easy as can be. This is why it's great to have a store because they can help guide you into what it can become, can help you figure out how you want it to look, and so on!

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And that's it! It seems like a lot, but I promise you it's pretty painless and easy to do! If quarantine has taught me anything, it's my love for crafting, but my lack of skill lol. I hope to try and finish a needlepoint on my own, but I have also bought some supplies to paint my own canvas. It is a great way to save money lol but who knows how that will turn out.

If all goes well, there will be another post about that project. Wish me luck! If you have any further questions, LMK below.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the two part series, I've been looking forward to it. I just downloaded the Thorn Alexander PDF and can't wait to get started!Do you recommend starting with a project that has a smaller number of different colors to keep it simpler?

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    Replies
    1. I think however many is fine! Switching colors is the same thing as switching threads (when you run out) so there is really no difference in terms of ease!

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  2. Thanks for the helpful post! I would love to eventually work up to a belt but have only seen them finished with leather and it's not the look I'm hoping for - do you ever see D-ring needlepoint styles (without the leather end as Smathers has)?

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