Textile art and crafts are on the rise again as people need something real to point to at the end of the day. Hours spent on a screen are just not soothing the soul. Anxiety and depression is at an all-time high and people are in danger of being frazzled and disconnected. The process of designing, making, problem solving, evaluating and extending creativity brings people back to the basics.
Working with wool is portable, clean and lovely. I see people knitting and crocheting which is fantastic but if you want to create wall art using wool you should try needlepoint tapestry. There are kits available but if you really want to express your creativity it’s easy to design your own.
The roots of needlepoint go back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, who used small slanted stitches to sew up their canvas tents. Howard Carter, of Tutankhamen fame, found some needlepoint in the cave of a Pharaoh who had lived around 1500 BC. It is not surprising that the most common stitch used is called the tent stitch, it’s a half cross stitch usually like the forward slash on the computer keyboard.
It’s your art piece so you have some choices to make. Needlepoint tapestry is a form of counted thread embroidery in which yarn is stitched through a stiff open weave canvas, the canvas comes in Count Point sizes, I regularly use .5 CT which literally means 5 holes per square inch. The higher the number, for example .14CT the finer the stitches and detail in your finished piece. The higher the count size, the thinner the yarn and it will take longer for you to sew.
Designing can be daunting, many an artist has sat in front of a blank canvas afraid to make a mark. You need to get creative and find out what you like. To take the stress out of starting begin with a design mind map.
Take a piece of paper and fold it in quarters, unfold it and at the top of each square write-
1. Colours – list 3 or 4 colours that you would like to use. Note whether they are warm or cool colours, it they are contrasting or harmonious.
2. Line – will your line be realistic and outline a familiar shape, e.g. a dog, person, cupcake or a sunset. Or will it be abstract and whimsical?
3. Shapes – for this design will they be organic or symmetrical? Will they fill the space or repeat the pattern? You can look through magazines or on the web for inspiration.
4. Feeling/Vibe – ask yourself what feeling you’d like to impart, will it be festive, nostalgic, romantic, thematic (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, anniversary). Remember it’s your needlepoint and it’s your choice.
Once you know what you want go to your nearest craft or wool supply shop or go online and access the many outlets that supply tapestry canvas, needles and wool. Here are a couple that I have used.
It’s time to transfer your design to the tapestry canvas. Your design can be a hand drawing, an enlarged photograph, a computer generated design, an outline from a colouring book blown up on a photocopier. It can be a copyright free image from the internet or any image that you can find. Try to keep the image simple with well-defined outlines, it will make your project achievable and enjoyable.
The holes in the tapestry canvas make it transparent so you can place your canvas over the image and copy over it with permanent markers. Be mindful to use the colour you are planning to stitch with as the texta mark may show through and spoil your work.
Once your image is transferred and you have your wool and needle ready you can start the stitching. Decide if you are going to stitch in a vertical or horizontal direction and then stick with it. I use the tent stitch but there are many stitch styles you can explore.
The rhythmical nature of needlepoint tapestry stitching can be relaxing, engaging and make the most of your spare time. I take mine on plane, train, bus and car trips, it passes the time and my needlepoint tapestry grows as I go.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and remember, it’s your needlepoint tapestry so the choices are yours.
You can see more of my processes and work here