When Covid rocked our world as we all know it, I knew I would go stir-crazy in our house without something to focus on besides the news. There were only so many things I could organize, post on Poshmark and hours in the day to spend on my phone. I’ve always loved craft and sewing projects, but I wanted to pick up a hobby that involved few tools and could move with me from room to room. Enter needlepoint.
I will say, when I began looking into the hobby, I noticed there were tons of resources, but not a lot for needlepoint novices. There’s certainly been a resurgence in the hobby amongst younger people, like myself, but navigating the world of needlepoint can be a bit daunting. It took a lot of time (which I fortunately had…) to find resources that I could understand, high-quality videos along with deciphering the terminology.
Which is why I’ve wanted to create a resource that will live on Adored by Alex, to share all things about my new favorite hobby, needlepoint. Let’s start at the top. Here’s a complete post detailing my beginner’s guide to needlepoint: where to start, tips and tricks.
Beginner’s Guide to Needlepoint
I taught myself how to needlepoint at the start of the stay at home orders, and I’ve been cruising through projects ever since! It really wasn’t too difficult to teach myself, granted I had experience sewing as a young girl, but I really think anyone can teach themselves with the extra time we currently have on our hands.
In order to best break things down, I’m going to list out resources I found helpful, along with specific needlepoint shops on Etsy and LNS (local needlepoint shops) that I’ve ordered from via Instagram, the telephone or their websites.
Basketweave stitch: One of two basic, beginner, stitches to utilize when stitching a needlepoint canvas. I use this stitch almost exclusively. The basketweave stitch is worked in a diagonal pattern up and down the canvas. Refer to this basketweave stitch tutorial or watch this basketweave stitch tutorial video to learn more.
Canvas: The canvas is what you will stitch your needlepoint project on. Canvases come in different mesh counts, including 13 or 18 count.
Continental Stitch: one of two basic, beginner, stitches to utilize when stitching a needlepoint canvas. This was the first stitch I taught myself when learning how to needlepoint. The continental stitch is worked in horizontal rows from right to left. Refer to this needlepoint continental stitch tutorial or watch this continental stitch tutorial video to learn more.
Fibers (threads): Fibers or threads are what you will use to create your needlepoint project. Fibers or threads come in a variety of different types including cotton, metallic, silk or wool just to name a few.
Finishing: This term refers to what your completed canvas will become once you’ve completed the stitching portion. For example, a stitched canvas could be finished into an ornament, a belt, a Christmas stocking, etc. Most local needlepoint shops offer finishing services in-house or via a third party. Finishing can range from a variety of price points, but be warned, it can be expensive based on the project and instructions. Check out this belt finishing account on Instagram or this finishing information page on needlepoint.com to get a better idea.
Kitting: This term refers to combining a needlepoint canvas AND the fibers or threads you’ll need to stitch the canvas. You’ll notice most online retailers will sell ONLY the canvas and you will need to supply your own threads. However, more and more online stores are offering ‘kitting’ meaning you can purchase a kitted canvas – the canvas, along with the threads you need to stitch it (for an additional cost). When I first started out needlepointing, I opted to have the canvases I purchased ‘kitted’ because I had no idea what kind of thread would work best for my project.
Mesh: A needlepoint canvas is made of cotton and comes in a variety of mesh sizes. The mesh size refers to the degree of openness of the holes you’ll be threading your fiber through. You’ll commonly hear that 13 count mesh is easiest and quickest to stitch, while 18 count is an extremely common mesh, but is a bit harder on the eyes.
Skein: An individual thread that has been bundled up into a single unit that’s sellable by a retailer. You might hear phrases in tutorial videos like, “take a skein of fiber and thread it through your needle”.
Stash: This term refers to the amount of canvases a needlepointer has purchased and has ‘stashed’ away to work on at a later date.
Stitch guide: Sometimes a needlepoint canvas will include a stitch guide, which is essentially a set of instructions outlining what stitches to use and where to use them on the different parts of a canvas. Stitch guides are great for beginners or complicated canvases.
Stretcher bars: Needlepoint stretcher bars are utilized to hold your canvas taut while stitching. Stretcher bars are a preference based on each stitcher. If you do use stretcher bars for your needlepoint project, you will need four bars to create the frame for your canvas, which will be tacked to the bars for stability. I purchased these adjustable stretcher bars.
Waste knot: A waste knot is a knot that is used to secure your thread when starting to stitch your needlepoint canvas. It’s specifically referred to as a waste knot because it will be snipped off after it’s been created.
WIP: Stands for ‘work in progress’. Often needlepointers refer to their work in progress, and usually they’ll have more than one work in progress at a time.
Since we were stuck at home while I was learning how to needlepoint, I turned to the Internet to search for resources and videos that would breakdown the basics and techniques I needed to teach myself how to needlepoint. I quickly found out that the site needlepoint.com is a one stop shop for tons of different canvases and accessories along with videos and classes. First, I would suggest checking out this specific how to needlepoint video. I also found this intro to needlepoint video helpful as well.
Where to purchase canvases
Needlepoint canvases are available on a variety of different sites and in a vast number of brick and mortar stores. I will say, the pandemic has forced a number of stores to move their presence online, making it much easier to purchase canvases remotely. Most canvases are hand-painted by designers or artists. For the purposes of this beginner’s guide to needlepoint, I’m going to keep this list to the specific spots I personally purchased needlepoint canvases for my new hobby.
Chapel Hill Needlepoint: A LNS located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I have to mention Chapel Hill needlepoint because their staff is amazing and were one of the first stores I called when I began diving into my hobby. They’ve been amazing and I highly recommend calling their store to find out what canvases they have available. They’ll kit, too! 919.929.3999 @chapelhillneedlepoint
Etsy: The very first spot I searched when looking for needlepoint canvases. And let me just tell you, the world of needlepoint designers on Etsy is quite vast. The very first kit I purchased was from a shop called Hermit Crab Stitchery. I know I haven’t even made a dent in the amount of stores on the site, but a few I’ve purchased from are Hedgehog Needlepoint; Hook and Harbor Co.; Jessica Tongel Designs; Middle Sister & Co.; My Pink Sugar Life; OG Needlepoint
Lycette: Located in Palm Beach, Florida, Lycette is a fabulous one-stop-shop for all things ‘modern’ needlepoint. I like to refer to this needlepoint shop as the needlepoint stop for the grandmillennial. Not sure what a grandmillennial is? Then you need to read this post about Grandmillennial style here on my blog. Tons of cheeky sayings, beautiful and classic canvases and great accessories, too. Lycette also just recently launched their website. 561.469.9155 @lycettedesigns
Needlepoint.com: The ultimate online mecca for all things needlepoint. This is one of the first stores I discovered on my needlepoint journey. Truly, they have everything available from canvases (can be kitted), to accessories and even online classes.
Needle Nook of La Jolla: On our recent road trip to California, I was told I had to stop into the Needle Nook. So I made an appointment and perused the two huge and amazing store fronts, one for fibers and threads and the other dedicated to just canvases. Needle Nook is happy to order any canvases you might like or see, and they’re so helpful. Just give them a call! 858.459.1711
Stitches in Time needlepoint: My local Houston needlepoint store that I’ve come to know and love. The owner Frances is an absolute gem of a person and so willing to share her love for needlepoint and what the hobby has to offer. If you’re local to Houston, definitely stop in and Frances will be happy to help you! 713.975.9778 @sitneedlepoint
Tools you’ll need
What I love about needlepoint is it’s a relatively easy hobby to keep in your handbag or carry with you to the beach or poolside. I just keep everything in a project bag to grab and go! Here are some of the tools you’ll need to have initial success with taking up the hobby.
Embroidery scissors: A sharp pair of embroidery scissors is a needlepointer’s best friend. I was initially using a pair of sewing scissors that were bulky and no bueno. Now I have no trouble snipping of threads with this gold pair.
Needle minder (magnet): A needle minder is an absolute must! I keep one on every canvas I work on to keep track of my needle at all times. I have this Oyster needle minder by Morgan Julia Designs.
Needle threader: Never not using this little tool! It’s genuinely a lifesaver when it comes to threading my needles. Here’s an affordable, under $6 needle threader.
Tapestry needles: These blunt-tipped hand sewing needles are perfect for working with needlepoint. The large eye can hold thicker threads. I was told to switch out my needles every project or so. Heres a pack of 8 needles for under $5.
My favorite designers
Truly, I’ve just dipped my toes into the world of needlepoint. There are SO many talented needlepoint canvas designers out there. I should probably create a post strictly dedicated to them and the LNS that carry them! Just a quick tidbit: a lot of LNS will have trunk shows each month for specific designers. At this time usually the designer’s canvases are 20% off. Most will be advertised on websites or Instagram. For now, here are a few designers who I personally have canvases that I’ve stitched or have in my stash.
Wow, what a wealth of information, right? I could’ve probably wrote more, but I will keep that for future posts. In the meantime, if you have any questions about needlepoint, feel free to reach out via email, Instagram or leave a comment on this post. In the meantime, be sure to check out the following hashtags on Instagram for tons of needlepoint accounts and projects: #ndlpt #ndlpt20in20 and #needlepointfinishing, enjoy!