Sunday, May 23, 2010

Needlework: It's Not Just Stitch By Number

Caution: girly post ahead!

This week was a good one for me in that I finally completed a needlework project that I had started - believe it or not - over two years ago. It wouldn't have taken that long, but I dropped it for several months and there were many many weeks in which I only worked on it a few hours a week. You do get burnt out on these and have to do something else for a while. I picked this canvas about the time that I was on the verge of losing my house - a house where I had done significant improvements and had developed a lot of stunning gardens, if I do say so myself. So picking this canvas, I realized later, was part of my grieving process in having to leave that house.

This canvas is 9" X 10". There are many different stitches; you can see the different ones in the grass, the french knots that make up the potted plant on the bench, and the arms of the bench. Most of the stitches are suggested by my needlework teacher, but I'm proud of the fact that I came up with a lot of the stitches on this one myself. The arms and seat of the bench and the purple hydrengea blossoms in the lower right hand corner.

This canvas was particularly challenging because the original painting on the canvas must have been based on a watercolor; there were many areas where the colors bled, resulting in a lot of uneven edges and colors where they shouldn't have been - issues that sometimes I didn't discover until I was well into the stitch and realized that I had a problem. Anyone who think doing needlework canvases is just stitching by number has no idea.

This was the fourth needlework project for me. The third one was this one below. It took me about six months and cost me big chunks of my sanity. The little white and yellow boxes show you some of the intricacies. These stitches again were suggested by my teacher; I wanted to kill her by the time I was about halfway done. But I have to say this is my favorite piece so far and the one I'm most proud of.

One thing about needlework: the canvases can be expensive: These two canvases above ran between $100 and $200 each. Then once you're done, you need to get it framed, too. My first two projects, two small cat pictures - very cute - are just now being framed, and I finished them almost three years ago. Or you can turn it into a pillow, which will be the case with the yellow and white flower canvas above. You need to ship it off to a skilled seamstress and the cost of turning this 9" X 9" canvas into a pillow can be prohibitive.

Needlework is one of my favorite ways to relax; despite the challenging stitches and the worry that it's making me go blind, I find it the perfect way to turn off my brain. You cannot do anything except stitch. You can have the television on, but you can't watch it. So it's perfect for doing while listening to baseball games.

Here's my next project. Hopefully it won't take two years to do.

I couldn't have done any of this without Donna DiMarco, my needlwork instructor who has been just a love to work with. She is a very popular teacher who teaches a class every Monday nights and Friday afternoons at Sit N Stitch in Toluca Lake.

I've never written about my needlework on my blog, because I know a good majority of my readers are men. Then I found A Bloomsbury Life, which was written up in the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago. Lisa does incredible needlework based on photos that she's taken (she talks about the technique in one of her posts) and I thought if she can do it, so can I.

Thanks for humoring me.


Cap'n Bob Napier said...

I hope it won't damage my manly cred to say that I love this stuff, even though I don't do it. Years ago pro footballer Roosevelt Greer said he did needlepoint as a way to relax and no one was about to call him a sissy. Whenever I go to the Puyallup State Fair I check out the hobby hall and take time to view the needlepoint displays. Always fascinating.
And is there no end to your skills? Writer, gardener, needlepoint, and?

Richard R. said...

I have done needlepoint, and found it to be both relaxing and challenging. Of course I had to do my own designs, which added a whole 'nother dimension. I finished a few, did a few pillows, but the better designs are still sitting on stretchers. Maybe some day.

Deka Black said...


Walker Martin said...

You know what would be great? Do a WILD WEST WEEKLY pulp cover!

Laurie Powers said...

Will wonders never cease - closet needlework fans.

Walker, actually I did send a jpeg to a friend of a WWW cover; she was going to see how much it would cost to get it transferred onto a canvas. Haven't heard anything yet.

Barry Traylor said...

Walker may be on to something there. We could have needlepoint pulp covers at PulpFest. Maybe my wife would like them better than the covers I have on the wall.