I’m sure many of you remember the articles I wrote about my experience with canvaswork . It was the most challenging course I’d taken at the RSN and the most frustrating technique I had to learn.
My tutors were excellent and did their best, but I just couldn’t get my head around the whole concept: there were too many variables for me to get a clear picture of how the finished piece would look. I didn’t know how a particular stitch would look when it was on the canvas. I didn’t understand compensating stitches, or stitches with direction and movement vs stitches that are static. The size and repeat of the stitch never entered my mind when I was choosing what stitch to put where. Of course, my tutors helped me with all of it and that was the point of taking the course.
But how much easier it would have been for me at the beginning if I’d had The Needlework Book by Jo Ippolito Christensen in my library to read before I began the course! The publishers very generously sent me a review copy and I am so glad they did so I can share my opinion of the book with you .
The Needlepoint Book is a big, heavy, gorgeous book. And, although the title implies that the book is for needlepoint or canvaswork, the information in much of the book applies to embroidery of all kinds.
If you stitch a kit or design where all the elements have been decided by the designer, then your task is to execute the stitches in the threads provided. The emphasis is on your skill and the beauty of your stitching. If, however, you choose to create piece of your own, you need to understand color, fibre choices, stitches that are appropriate for different places, stitch order, and a myriad of other things, so your design will be successful and beautiful. All of these elements are discussed, and many examples are given, which will help us designing our own pieces as well as stitching a painted canvas.
The first chapter I read was Chapter 7 entitled “Choosing Stitches”. This is what I really struggled with during my course and the area I know I need to understand better, in order to create more successful needlepoint/canvaswork pieces.
The first statement in Chapter 7 encapsulated exactly how I felt when I started to learn this technique: “Any needlepoint creation, especially a painted canvas, has so many components to it that it’s hard to keep up sometimes.” No Kidding! Although my canvas wasn’t painted, the colors were determined by the image I was reproducing, The stitches, however, were not.
Her solution gives me hope for the future: “You conquer this situation the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time!”
Well, I can do that! “Schritt für schritt” we say in German – step by step.
Jo Ippolito Christensen goes on to explain the elements of successful stitch choices, step by step. She discusses compatibility, scale/proportion, space, movement – including dynamic and static stitches with specific recommendations and where to find the stitches in the book – size and shape of the area to be filled, how to work diagonal areas with other angles and texture. Whew! And that’s only the beginning of the chapter!
Next she writes about distorting of the canvas, mixing stitches and what kind of stitches work for very specific uses. She includes recommendations for letters and numbers, creating curved lines, what stitches to use for borders, compensating stitches, how to create detail and when to stitch specific areas of the design elements so that what is in the back looks like it’s behind what’s in the front of the design.
Then, like any good teacher, she gives her readers a summary of the guidelines she has just explained so clearly. Lastly, she encourages all stitchers to evaluate their choices and see each project as a learning experience. She writes “Trial and error soon turns itself into experience. The main idea in stitching is to have a good time!”
I’ve given you a glimpse into the book by writing specifically about Chapter 7. The rest of The Needlepoint Book is equally helpful, clear, interesting and inspiring. I love it!
The experienced, long time needlepoint/canvaswork stitchers undoubtedly already have the older versions in their libraries. I haven’t seen those editions but I understand from reading other reviews on needlework blogs, that this edition is organised differently (and better) and there are more stitch diagrams. Something to consider…
If, like me, you are relatively new to needlepoint/canvaswork and want a resource that covers everything, then The Needlepoint Book is for you! I would even be willing to say that if this is the only book you have on needlepoint/canvaswork it will suffice for many years of stitching before you will want or need anything additional!