You may have wondered why does the color of my needlepoint thread change when the direction of the stitch changes. This aspect of some threads is called directional light.
The reasons for it have to do with the way light reflects of the surface of some fibers. In these threads, change the direction of the stitch and the light reflects in the opposite direction.
Some threads, like pearl cotton or Silk & Ivory have lots of directional light. Others made from the same fiber, like embroidery floss, have little. Still others, like wool, have none at all.
Why should you care?
This Bargello pattern really looks great in threads with directional light.
This is an aspect of needlepoint thread you should either use to your advantage or avoid in a piece. Let’s say you are using this Bargello stitch, called Interlocking Chevrons. It’s a pretty complex stitch and one which has lots of pattern in it to begin with. It’s the background for the stocking above.
But you want it to be a background. Then choose to stitch it in Persian Wool or floss, so that the only change comes from the direction of the stitches, not from the color change of the thread.
Another way to avoid problems if you are using a stitch like Alternating Diagonal Gobelins, would be to switch to a non-alternating version of the stitch.
If you want to have changes in color to reinforce the change in direction, use a thread with directional light. In the stitched sample above, you can see how wonderful this same stitch looks when done in Silk & Ivory.
I love this aspect of needlepoint thread, it allows you, once you realize what threads have it, to make subtle effects easily just by changing the direction of the stitches. They add richness to your needlepoint for little effort.
When you buy needlepoint stitch guides, especially if you are ordering them on-line, you sometimes feel as if you aren’t getting what you expected. The guide comes, you look at that pile of threads, read through the guide, look at the canvas and have no idea where to begin.
Relax, take a deep breath, it isn’t as bad as you think it is. And these tips will help you with the stitch guide before you take a single stitch.
Lack of Picture: Often needlepoint stitch guides are written when there are no completed models, as a result there can’t be a picture. If you have bought a custom stitch guide (one written especially for you), there won’t be a picture because your needlepoint is the model.
Complexity: Needlepoint stitch guides when you read through them can seem really complex. I know when I look at a canvas, I often feel overwhelmed by the canvas and worry about the guide as a result. Read through the guide once and then do some things to sort out the spaghetti. A good guide will have done lots of these things for you, but if it hasn’t you can do it yourself.
Highlight or write in the margin where each section of the guide begins. Then you can tell what’s what.
If the diagrams for the stitches are all bunched together in one place, I would mark in the text where the appropriate diagram can be found.
Highlight (in a second color) the name of every stitch used in every area.
These simple things should make the guide easier to understand.
Threads: Now go on and look at the threads. First, check to be sure that every thread listed in the guide is in the thread pack. Sometimes things like floss aren’t included since they are easier to find, and sometimes things get forgotten. Better to know that up front so you can get what’s needed. If something which was supposed to be included isn’t. Contact the shop right away.
I have a rule for threads in my needlepoint stitch guides, if the canvas will use less than a yard of the thread, then often I will suggest the stitcher use a thread from stash. As a stitcher, I don’t like buying threads which I will only use a little bit — I don’t need more stash. A thoughtful guide write won’t use the stitch guide as a way to sell threads you don’t need.
Too few stitches and threads for the canvas: This could be caused by a couple of things. The canvas is a flat medium and so you show shading by changing colors. Needlepoint is a dimensional medium and so I can show shading in lots of different ways. One way might be using padding, another might be using a specific stitch throughout an area. In both cases though, the canvas will have more colors than the number of threads you’ve got included.
Check to see if this applies anywhere in your canvas.
Another circumstance where you will have more colors on the canvas than in the threads is when an overdye is used. Let’s take an example where something is obviously multicolored — the sky at sunset. If I had an overdye which was just the perfect set of colors for this, I might convey the sky by using one stitch and that overdye. Once again many colors on the canvas; one thread.
Go through and see if this applies to places on your canvas.
This is similar to what I do when I work on a canvas writing a guide, I try to anticipate the stitcher’s questions, provide advice and work to make the whole thing easy to use.
But many guides do not do this to the same extent, and some go into even more depth.
If you haven’t bought the guide yet, check this stuff out before you buy. If you have bought the guide, read it through, mark it up and make notes. It’s for you to help you stitch — make the needlepoint stitch guides the tool they should be.
Double Linen is one of my favorite little stitches for needlepoint. It’s just so pretty. It gives a nice woven texture, and has a nice presence. As you can see it is a Straight Stitch, but don’t let this deter you, it’s actually easy to do. Because it’s so small, some of the problems with Straight Stitches are avoided. It compensates easily and it plays well with other stitches, including Tent Stitch.
Make the stitch in horizontal rows, making a vertical block, followed by a horizontal block, all the way across. The second row begins with a horizontal block. The two types of rows then alternate, forming the woven pattern.
It sort of looks like the back of Basketweave Stitch, but doubled.
The ends of all the stitches are covered by the blocks next to it. By making the stitch in horizontal rows, you will automatically cover these ends as you go about half the time.
This stitch makes a great background, especially if you want to give the look of paper or cloth. It is the perfect stitch when you want to stitch a small basket. In dark colors, so the texture is not as apparent, it works beautifully for clothing.
You could also make this stitch in two similar colors or two contrasting textures. If you do that, use two needles, so you can make horizontal rows. Doing this will slow down your stitching considerably but it will make the texture of the stitch stronger.
All in all, this is one of the most versatile stitches for needlepoint I know.
Making a Christmas needlepoint ornament using a covered button form is so easy and fun, you’ll be able to make tons of ornaments even if it is early December!
Begin by buying the largest size (Size 100) of button forms to make covered buttons. They are about 2.5” in diameter.
You can finish it either as a two-sided ornament, or a single-sided ornament. These directions are for a two-sided ornament with a fabric back.
If you want needlepoint on both sides, follow the directions for the needlepoint mounting twice then continue.
If you want a metallic back (included in the package) just leave out the fabric and covering the back. just pop the metal back on after adding your hanging string.
Remember to keep the back of the package as it has your template for cutting fabric.
Begin by making your needlepoint. I like to use Congress Cloth for this as it is denser and softer, making it easy to finish.
I have and have given away dozens of these and I never tire of making them. It’s my favorite Christmas needlepoint ornament. They are quick to stitch and finish and I stockpile the button forms until I have time to finish.
Once your stitching is done, assemble your materials. You will need:
Trace the template on your backing fabric. Add about 1/4 inch all around when you trace it on the canvas. I find this makes it easier to finish. Make sure the stitched part of the design is in the center.
Disassemble the button form and discard the wire going across and both backs. If you are doing one without a fabric or needlepoint back only discard the wire.
If you do not want the silver of the back to show through the open canvas you will need to put a fabric lining behind the needlepoint. Use a thin fabric and stretch this over the button form first, followed by the needlepoint.
Make the back by centering the button form on the fabric and turning the edges of the fabric so the the teeth on the inside of the button form grip the fabric securely.
Do this for the compass points (north, south, east, and west) of the form first. Then work your way around, making sure the fabric is taut and smooth. This ensures that you Christmas needlepoint ornament looks clean and neat.
Set it aside.
Repeat the same process for the front of the ornament. But this time be sure that the stitched area is centered. I find this harder to do and often have to take the fabric off the teeth to reposition. By doing the compass points first, checking it, then repositioning, you can do this more easily.
Now take your hanger and glue the knotted end to the center back, using white glue. If possible, also have the hanger catch on the teeth along the edge.
Let the glue dry. When dry, run a thin line of glue around the inside edge of the needlepoint side, then press the two halves together and let dry.
If you are using the provided back, snap it into place. This can be hard to do as the needlepoint is thick.
If you are using trim, glue it around the edge.
Enjoy your Christmas needlepoint ornament!
There are so many needlepoint fibers out there, that sometimes I wonder what we used to do. When I first started stitching the fiber of choice was wool. These days that seems like the Dark Ages, but it was about 45 years ago.
When I first wanted to try something in perle cotton (this was in 1978) I was told not to use it as this fiber was not strong enough to be used for needlepoint. But I was stubborn and did it anyway, and fell in love with the look of perle.
Now I probably use cotton more than any of the other needlepoint fibers because cotton yarns are available in an enormous range of colors, textures, and effects.
This Needlepoint Fibers article is going to cover cotton in its many forms. First, I will talk a little bit about the fiber itself and then I will discuss the current threads available broken by texture: matte, perle, and shiny (floss).
Cotton has been used as clothing since ancient Egypt. Even today Egyptian cotton is some of the finest made. More than 75% of the people in the world wear cotton clothing, and it can be used in more ways than any other fiber.
Cotton comes from a plant grown is warm climates and is harvested in the fall. The part we use for making thread is the lint which is the inside of the seed pod or boll. Cotton is harvested when the bolls break open showing the snowy white insides.
The quality of the cotton depends on the lengths of the individual fibers in the lint (like silk), this is called staple. The longer the staple, the better the cotton.
Once harvested the lint is carded (combed) and spun. Most cotton is also mercerized, a process which strengthens the thread and adds luster. If a thread uses mercerized cotton, it is often noted on the label.
Matte cottons have a dull texture and usually are soft and a bit fuzzy. While there are plenty of matte cottons for knitting, thicker matte cottons are no longer available widely for needlepoint.
I miss the thicker matte cottons because their soft hand (feel) and richness of color made it one of the best needlepoint threads, especially for larger mesh sizes.
Narrow mattes, like Flower Thread or Wildflowers, are about the size of two strands of embroidery floss. They are often used as they come from the skein for Cross Stitch and can be plied up to fit needlepoint canvas.
Wildflowers from The Caron Collection is available in many of the same colors as Watercolors and is great to use where you want varied colors but also want a change in texture.
Flower thread is available from several manufacturers and is most commonly used for counted cross stitch. It tends to give pieces a more old-fashioned look, but can also be quite dramatic when used for an entire piece.
I also consider Pebbly Perle from Rainbow Gallery to be a matte thread. Unlike the other threads in this category, it has a rougher texture while still remaining matte. I have found it to be one of the most useful matte threads because it comes in a wide range of colors, is divisible so it can be used on many kinds of canvas, and does not look fuzzy when finished, a problem with many of the other needlepoint fibers.
Matte cottons when combined with shinier cotton or silk in a piece provides a subtle and interesting contrast.
Pearl cottons were my first introduction to doing needlepoint with cotton and still are my favorites. Almost all perle cotton threads are made up of shiny two-ply strands twisted to give a pebbly, or pearl-like, texture. The come in a wide variety of widths from many manufacturers in both sold and varied colors.
Please note: In French the name of this thread is “perle coton.” In English this thread is translated as “pearl cotton.” Different manufacturers use both “”pearl” and “perle” with no consistency. Both are more or less correct.
Solid pearls are available from many companies, including DMC, Anchor, Presencia, and Valdani. The most common sizes used for needlepoint are 5 and 8. Smaller sizes of 12 and 16 are also made. They come in a selection of the same colors as embroidery floss.
Number 5 pearl is the most common and is used for needlepoint on 13, 14, or 18 mesh. It is the size I use most often. On 13 and 14 mesh, it has a bead-like quality. Number 8 pearl is narrower and works well for decorative stitches on 18 mesh or Tent Stitch on 22 or 24 mesh.
When it comes to multicolored needlepoint fibers, pearl cottons really shine. They are available from many manufacturers in many different kinds of color schemes, both bold and subtle. These companies make #5 pearl and some of them make #8 and #12 as well.
The Caron Collection’s most popular multicolored thread is Watercolours, which is made up of a pearl-type thread equal to three number 5 strands. A single strand works great on 18 mesh canvas for Tent Stitches, while more plies give different effects.
In addition to these, Rainbow Gallery has a trio of variegated pearl-type threads. All three of the threads are made up of four divisible strands and are dyed to match each other. Overture is the thickest and really only works for needlepoint on 12 to 18 mesh canvas. Encore is somewhat thinner than Overture and can also be used for cross stitch and hardanger. Bravo is the thinnest of the three and is about the same thickness as embroidery floss. It can also be used for needlepoint, cross stitch, or hardanger.
If you are doing pulled canvas, pearl cotton is one of the best needlepoint fibers to use. It is very strong for its thickness and comes in several sizes so your thread can match the width of the canvas threads.
The last group of cottons are what I like to think of a shiny threads. These cotton threads, most usually embroidery floss, have the glow which we usually associate with cotton. They are less shiny than pearls, but still have a lovely sheen. Because many of these threads can be stranded or combined to make thicker threads, they work on a wide variety of mesh sizes.
Embroidery floss is the most common thread of this type. It is a divisible six-strand thread and is available in both solid and multicolor from many manufacturers. Many companies make floss and it is widely available.
The quality of floss varies greatly from company to company, so try to buy floss from companies who sell to needlepoint shops or who have names you recognize. Poor quality floss is not strong enough to be used and will shread when used with needlepoint fibers.
Another solid color thread of this type is floche from DMC. Floche is only available in about 80 colors and comes in 10 gram skeins. It can be difficult to find. I think of it as a shiny version of Flower Thread because it is about the same thickness.
There are many makers of variegated floss. Depending on the company and the color, these variegated threads can be either multi-colored or semi-solid (shades of one color). The colors and amount of variation can change greatly from dye lot to dye lot. Because of this characteristic, be careful to buy as much as you need to finish a project.
The color palettes of all multicolored needlepoint fibers vary from company to company. All of them use excellent quality threads as their base, and you can generally, but not always, mix colors from different companies with no problem.
All cottons are strong threads and are among the easiest needlepoint fibers to use. This makes them popular with stitchers. Although many of us learned to stitch with wool, using cotton to teach stitching is less expensive and easier to do.
Because cotton threads are used so widely for many types of embroidery, there are always new kinds and shades coming out. This makes it fun for the stitcher who is looking for new effects in needlepoint and likes to try new things.