Saturday, January 28, 2012

Needlepoint For The Soul

Last week I suffered one of my periodic attacks of "I've got to do something with my hands!"  I've been doing quite a bit of writing lately (not here, I know), and writing often brings on an almost physical urge to do something completely different.  Over-taxed as well as over-stimulated, my left brain begs me to let it go vacant for a while, and switch to the other side.

Drawing is a good right-brain activity, but not what I would call restful--for me at least, it involves too much judgment.  No, when my cranium feels like a dried-out husk but it's still not time for bed, nothing soothes me like needle and thread.  Crochet works sometimes, but it's too monotonous.  And ever since the German nun who tried to teach me to knit in second grade yelled at me for dropping stitches, knitting has been way too fraught for me.

I got yelled at by various other nuns on both sides of the Atlantic for being a sloppy embroiderer, too, but they didn't leave the scars my knitting instructor did.  Crewel is my favorite--it is close to painting on cloth, and the many possible stitches produce a variety of textures.  But, after a stint at the computer, crewel is hard on the eyes.

For ease and mindlesness combined with color and tactile pleasure, nothing beats needlepoint.  You buy a kit that includes a design stamped in color on canvas, a needle, and a bunch of woolen skeins in the appropriate shades.  The work itself is a lot like coloring in a coloring book.  You try to stay within the lines and to make the stitches as even as possible.  The needle is sturdy and blunt--you don't even have to use a thimble.

Then the fun begins. There is the scratchy feel of the starched canvas, the satisfying thwack of the needle going in, followed by the pshhhhht! of the thread being drawn.  Another thwack, another pshhht! and before you know it you have colored in the pale green half of a curvy leaf.  You turn to the wrong side of the canvas, anchor the thread and cut it.  Now it's time to work the dark part of the leaf.  You gloat for a moment over the delicious collection of wools in your work basket, then thread the needle with the evergreen-colored wool, and before you know it you have a lovely, woolly leaf.  Next you get to do a flower.  The hardest part is stopping.

Since needlework is an old-timey pursuit and I feel deliciously old-timey while I'm doing it, I lean towards old-timey designs:  overblown roses set amid generous foliage and spiraling tendrils.  But it bothers me that these are someone else's designs, not my own.  After all, how hard can it be to design one's own needlepoint?  As far as I can tell, all you need to do is keep the design fairly simple and remember that different shades will be juxtaposed instead of shading into each other.  Sort of like this:




10 comments :

  1. If I were able to make it to your place today, I would insist upon seeing your project. (Have an excellent afternoon! We are symphony bound!)

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  2. Needlepoint is something I've wanted to start when up at the cabin, but I've been blocked by the terrible lack of kits. Where do you find designs that are not of rainbows and kittens? (not cats like the ones you drew, but, you know, kittens with bows around their necks) Maybe you could go into business painting canvases for the rest of us.

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  3. Alison, so glad you asked. Here is a fabulous website I found after buying my kit (and wending my way through stacks of kitten-and-bunny-stamped canvases):
    http://www.ehrmantapestry.com/ Be sure to look at the designs based on paintings by Klimt. And, once I figure out how to paint on needlepoint canvas, I'll paint anything you want.

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  4. Aha. You have explained something I've always wondered. I've heard Americans talk about needlepoint, and never understood what it was. I think it's what we would call "tapestry," and was the first form of sewing I learned as a child. I remember trying to get back into it some years ago, but the cats were far too interested in the thread!

    I definitely think you should do a needlepoint of your beautiful drawing.

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  5. Yes, "needlepoint" is known in the wider world as "tapestry." I'm catless at this point, but remember well how it is with cats and thread. I'll let you know how the three-cat tapestry turns out.

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  6. I tried needlepoint, but embroidery was my stitching-of-choice when I was young. I've not done any stitchery for at least 30 years. My daughter found my partially finished unicorn needlepoint and took it with her to school. It was doing me no good in a box in the attic.

    I've been planning on posting about my teenage love of embroidery. Will move it up the list.

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  7. How interesting that you liked to embroider as a teenager. I had to age into it.

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  8. Did you get the comment I just tried to post? I can't tell if it went to you or got lost. It said:

    My Ehrman kit arrived today! Thanks for the tip!

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  9. Congratulations--I'm envious! Which one did you get? And yes, I did get your original comment.

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