For many a needlepoint stand, whether it sits on the table or on the floor, can be a real problem. They are bulky and expensive and often require lots of work to use. However there are a couple of alternatives which you should consider as lower cost and more compact solutions. The first possibility is found at your local hardware store. It is made by Stanley and is called a handi-clamp. These clamps have the equivalent of a C-clamp (which you can also use) at one end, but they have a kind of trigger mechanism at one end which makes them easier to open and shut. You put your frame and the table edge in between the jaws of the clamp and press to shut. The needlepoint stays secure next to the table so you can stitch. I saw many people using these at Seminar a few years ago and they were certainly lighter and less clumsy than my table frame. Other companies make similar products. Find them in hardware stores.
Another solution is a frame weight. Frame weights are heavy but flexible objects which are placed on one end of your mounted canvas. They act as a counterweight allowing you to work happily on the part of the canvas which is over the edge of the table. Frame weights can be overgrown pincushions, stuffed animals or just about anything else, as long as you can fill it will a pound or two of heavy, non-edible material. Craft stores sell plastic pellets for making bean bags which work. Pie weights also work as do pennies. But do not use anything edible as it will eventually attract bugs.
There is one drawback to both these alternatives and it is one you should consider. The frame is connected directly to the table, not raised above it as is the case with table frames. If you have a bad back or if you like to be able to change the angle of your stitching, these will not work well. You are better off making the investment in a needlepoint stand of some kind.
A needlepoint frame helps keep your needlepoint straight. Because it stretches the needlepoint, it is easier to stitch and allows you to use a stand to hold it.
Stretcher bars are outstanding and inexpensive needlepoint tools for keeping your stitching tight and undistorted. There are three main types of stretcher bars.
Standard Bars are available from many manufacturers and are about 1” wide. They are made of wood and come in many sizes from 4” to over 30”, in 1” increments. They come two bars per package.
Mini Stretcher Bars are also made by several manufacturers. They also come in different sizes, but are only about 1/2” in width. This makes them lighter and many stitchers prefer them. Do not use them if you are doing work which will be rough on the stitching.
Evertite Bars are only made by one company and are considerably more expensive then other stretcher bars. They have an ingenious (and patented) method for changing the tension so that the needlepoint stays tight.
Why is this important? As you stitch needlepoint, the sizing in the canvas relaxes and it moves up and down as you stitch. For the best results, needlepoint canvas should always be tight. With Evertites there are little screws which you adjust with a special tool to make the frame expand slightly at the corners, so that the canvas stays tight.
Begin by measuring your canvas and buying stretcher bars the closest length to the dimensions. If your canvas is slightly larger than the nearest inch, don’t worry about it. By taping the edges of the canvas, you shouldn’t have problems with threads catching.
If it is slightly smaller, try using standard bars, their wider width often takes care of this. If it will not, see the section below for ways to enlarge the canvas for mounting.
Most stretcher bars have interlocking ends which fit together easily.
Begin by taking one bar from each of your pairs. Interlock the ends so that they make a joint with flat edges on each side.
Push the bars together to form a corner. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes hard. If it is hard, either wiggle the bars to make them fit, or hammer them so that they come together in a tight corner with flat edges.
Take a third bar and put it onto the opposite end from the other side of the same length. Fit the corners together.
Repeat the process for the fourth bar.
With luck, your assembled needlepoint frame is square. you can move them slightly to put them in place. I do this by checking each corner on a door or window frame.
If your piece of canvas is too small for even the smallest size of bars, then the best thing to do is to stitch scraps of fabric around the edges (don’t bother to miter the corners) with a basting stitch on a sewing machine. Then stretch the new fabric over the needlepoint frame. This method also works when you have a piece with margins which are too narrow.
Needlepoint floor stands are such a help to stitching. They hold your work securely, they free both hands to work, and they can display the needlepoint beautifully when you aren’t working.
But, all too often, your first stand isn’t right for you and you end up hating it. Using the wrong stand (in other words on which doesn’t suit your circumstances) has none of the advantages and, in fact, may make it harder to stitch.
So consider each of these questions before buying needlepoint floor stands.
This is the most important factor in buying a stand as the type of seating you prefer limits the kind of stands you can buy.
Do you stitch in a recliner? The stand can’t have a center support (the footrest will hit it) and needs either be wider than the footrest or sit at the side of the chair.
Do you stitch on a sofa? A side or front stand will work.
Do you stitch in bed or on a chaise? Then you have to use a side stand.
Do you stitch at a table? Then a table stand is your best choice, but in floor stands you need to use a side stand.
It may seem like a small thing, but if you stitch lots of small or large projects, be sure the stand will work with it. The frame should be strong enough to hold a large piece steady while you stitch. But the head shouldn’t be so large it interferes with stitching small projects.
Scroll bars, stretcher bars, evertites, mini-stretcher bars, Q Snaps — all these types of frames work for needlepoint, but may not work in all types of needlepoint floor stands.
If you use a scroll frame, does the stand have a scroll frame attachment. Do you need to use their scroll frame.
If you use bars that are thicker (Evertites) or thinner (minis) than normal, will it hold them? If not, can it be changed easily and inexpensively?
If you use frames that aren’t wood (QSnaps) does the head grip too tightly so the frame might break?
At this point, the long list of possibilities should be down to only a few likely candidates.
Now it’s time to do a test drive. Do you have a friend with this stand? Ask if you can borrow it. Sit in your preferred chair with a typical project and stitch for awhile.
Can you get to the needlepoint easily? Can you flip to over to the back with no problems? Will it hold the canvas at an angle you like? Can you tighten and adjust things easily?
If you don’t have a friend with the stand, the next best thing is to find a shop with it on display. Bring your needlepoint and ask if you can try it.
If you can’t try a stand, ask others about the one of interest and find out why people bought it or didn’t buy it.
I’ve bought plenty of needlepoint floor stands which didn’t work for me, tried even more and finally settled on one. The time I took thinking about what I needed made this so much easier.
Mosaic Stitch is the smallest form of Box Stitch, made up of just three stitches. It and the diagonal version of it are some of the most popular stitches in needlepoint.
Because it is small, it can be used in many areas in needlepoint projects. Because it is square, it’s easy to vary it by changing stitch direction, thread, or color. I find this to be a stitch I go to time and time again.
Mosaic Stitch looks like this:
Share the smallest stitches between two units, and you get Diagonal Mosaic:
Stitch only the longest and one of the short stitches and you get Half Mosaic, a useful little triangle.
You can stitch it in three colors, making a needlepoint version of a gingham fabric, Gingham Mosaic.
You can alternate Mosaic with another stitch that’s the same size, such as Smyrna Cross, Mosaic-Smyrna Check.
There are so many variations of this stitch. Try making some of your own.
A commonly used needlepoint thread, we tend to forget Pearl (perle) Cotton in the bustle of trying new threads and fibers. But it is a real workhorse, coming in many colors and adaptable to all kinds of uses.
Pearl cotton is made from mercerized cotton, so it has a bright sheen. Made from two soft strands, tightly twisted together; it cannot be split. As a result it comes in different sizes, used for different mesh sizes of canvas. I have always figured that it is called “pearl” becuase the structure of the thread makes it look like tiny beads on the canvas.
The name of this thread in French is perle coton (note the different spelling of cotton). Some manufacturers in English-speaking countries call is perle cotton. But there is no consistency in the use of either spelling. In essence both are correct. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Size 3 pearl cotton is the largest size available. It is the right size for Tent Stitch on 14-mesh canvas. It comes only in skeins. Size 5 is the most popular and is perfect for tent stitching on 18 HPI canvas. It comes in skeins (most common) and balls. Size 8 pearl cotton is thinner and works well for blackwork on 18 mesh. Size 12 is very thin and suitable for miniature work and some overstitching. Size 16 is even thinner.
Sizes 8, 12, and 16 almost always come only on balls. While 5 are more easily found in skeins. Man manufacturers no longer make #3 pearl and it is becoming hard-to-find.
If you try to restich with a length you have frog stitched, or stitched near the end of the thread, you will find it has gotten dull. This happens when the mercerized finish has worn off. You shouldn’t stitch with it. Parking your needle in one place along the thread instead of moving it will mimimize the problem.
DMC, Anchor, and Presencia are the largest makers of pearl cotton. The colors are dyed and numbered to match embroidery floss. Not all colors of floss are available as pearl cotton and not all colors which are available in one size are made in the other sizes. Presencia does make all sizes of pearl in all their colors.
Pearl cotton is a very strong thread, so it is an excellent choice for techniques where strength is important, like pulled canvas. It also has a definite direction to its sheen (directional light). Because of this horizontal stitches look like they are a different color from vertical stitches. This quality of pearl cotton is a powerful one to use in needlepoint.
In addition to the solid colors, many companies make overdyed versions of pearl cotton. These make for wonderful needlepoint thread.
But it is the solid colors of pearl where my thoughts keep turning. You get the wonderful range of color which you find in floss without having to strip threads. You get incredible sheen in your stitching which can add so much to your canvases.
If you haven’t used pearl cotton as a needlepoint thread lately — think of it again!