Needlepoint New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year! by jhnri4

It’s almost 2016.  What are your new year resolutions?  I hope to finish my needlepoint kitchen moldings (see previous posts).  I have four panels left.  When I’m finally done, perhaps I’ll have an open house.

I hope to design many new needlepoint canvases.  I see that many of my orders online come from the “New Arrivals” section.  The truth is that when I search for items (clothes, shoes, etc) to purchase, I also look for the latest arrivals.

I hope to complete the Puppy needlepoint canvas that I started stitching in July. Dogs are popular in needlepoint; I wish my customers would send photos of  finished stitched pieces that I can display in my online gallery.  If not, my puppy finished sample will have to do.  I’m stitching the dog using angora-like thread for a 3D effect.

I still haven’t tasted sushi.  Maybe I’ll try it in 2016.  I did design a Sushi needlepoint canvas in honor of the new year.

The Stories Behind the Stitches

closeup1As an avid needlepointer, I take a great interest in the motivation of a stitcher.  I know what motivates me; needlepoint relaxes me, and I feel creatively rehydrated from it.  But what’s it like for others out there?  I have been inspired by many of my customers, and here I share their stories. (Please note that names have been changed.)

Adam orders needlepoint kits for his wife.  She suffers from  Alzheimer’s, and she stitches for ten hours each day!  Needlepoint is therapeutic for her.  He is a devoted spouse, and we all have a lot to learn about loyalty from him.  When his wife loses threads or needles, he patiently and lovingly reorders them.  He pays for express overnight shipping if need be to keep her from getting agitated.

Mary is ordering a canvas to keep her brother’s hands busy.  Her brother has finally quit smoking after being addicted for 47 years!  He now needs something to keep his hands busy, so she is buying him a needlepoint as a gift.

Mrs.B, a kind women in her early seventies, lost two adult daughters to cancer a number of years ago.  She stitches daily.  She feels needlepoint is her only solace and helps her get through each day.

Mrs. E.  insists on leaving heirlooms for her children.. She feels her children will not fight over her jewelry; they will argue over who gets which needlepoint.  Her finished pieces are heirloom quality as I have personally oohed and ahhed over them.

Lisa stitches instead of eating junk. She keeps her weight down this way.  When she needs a canvas, she is always in a rush.

Tina  needed a needlepoint shipped overnight as well. She was leaving on a vacation and would not step onto the airplane without a project to keep her occupied.

My kids’ orthodontist told me that his wife also needs a needlepoint to stitch while traveling by airplane.  She uses the metal piece on top of dental floss to cut her thread in lieu of taking a scissor (TSA Safety) along.

Barbara prefers spending her money on new needlepoint projects rather than paying  her shrink.

Mrs. S. is a senior citizen and grandmother many times over.  She is retired and spends her monthly stipend from her retirement account on new needlepoint canvases. She mastered the technique of many different stitches and is on an advanced level.  She also does the finishing on her own.  She learned how to sew as a youngster.  When she finishes a project, she gives it to a grandchild as a gift for a special occasion.

Susan suffers from bad back pain and is currently recovering from surgery. Her stitching is stunning; she stitches wedding gifts for her relatives in Israel.

Jennifer brought along her dishes to match the color of thread exactly to coordinate her dining room.

Another customer confided in me, “Renee, I stitch because I’m tired of waiting.  Of waiting for buses and trains, of waiting at the doctor’s office, of waiting until I have free time.”

Last week I  mailed a needlepoint kit to a maternity ward in a hospital in Honolulu.  A customer purchased it for an acquaintance stuck there on bed rest.

I love to hear the stories behind the stitches. Enjoy them too, and feel free to share yours.







Mother’s Day Gift Ideas



Another year has gone by. Mother’s Day is around the corner. Those of us fortunate enough to have a special mom, mother-in-law, wife, or grandmother in our lives need to come up with gift ideas.  I am confident the special woman in your life owns enough mugs and perfume. I imagine she will not appreciate extra calories from exotic Belgium chocolate.  I am sure she will be offended if you buy her oven mitts or a new apron.  If you still want to be on speaking terms, do not buy a new food processor or iron.  Take if from me.  I am a daughter, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, but I am also a mom a few times over.  What I would like most is a new needlepoint canvas designed in 2015.  Okay, 2014 is also fine.  But I don’t want anything old and outdated.  I prefer modern, unique, classy, and original.  I adore bold colors yet something strikingly feminine.  I seek uncomplicated, stress-free solace in my needlepoint choices.  I would even consider something personal like a customized design.


Erma Bombeck


Erma's Column

Erma’s Column

Did you know that Erma Bombeck, the famous comedy author and columnist, loved to needlepoint?  I still think about her book, If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits? whenever I see cherry pits.  She laughed, and we all laughed along with her.  She knew what was important in life.  She had her priorities straight.  It’s no wonder needlepoint was her passion.

See this article in the Lakeland Ledger, February 12, 1974 by Erma Bombeck.

Why I Didn’t Stitch the Sesame Seeds

Finished Challah Cover

My customer Janet ordered Oval Challah Cover a few weeks ago with a stitch guide. I matched the threads to a fabric swatch of her dining room decor.  She is an experienced needlepoint stitcher and wants to accentuate her Shabbat table.  I stitched the challah cover oval a number of years ago.  It was the first Pepita challah cover design, and it enhances my Shabbat table each week.

Janet had an excellent question.  She was curious why I did not stitch the “sesame seeds” on the challahs.  I explained that some of my children have a severe sesame allergy, and I just didn’t have the heart to stitch something they could not taste.  Janet loved my answer! She remarked that her daughter and grandchild also have sesame allergy, and she would not stitch them either.

We got into a discussion about food allergies, and I showed her the cookbook Simply Tempting, The Allergy Friendly Kosher Cookbook that I authored.  It contains over 300 egg free, milk free, nut free, and of course, sesame free recipes.   While the sesame seeds would look perfect stitched in french knots on the braided loaves, and my kids certainly don’t have a DMC thread allergy (Thank G-d!), I just couldn’t stitch those seeds.

Boring Writing Assignment? Write About Needlepoint

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

Do all teachers start the school year with the same old writing assignment? “OK, class, everyone write one paragraph titled ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation.'” I dreaded writing that initial paragraph in school. My summer vacations were typically uneventful, and I pitied the teacher who had to grade so many similar essays.  As a matter of fact, when I taught creative writing to high school juniors, I threatened the students that they would have to write that exact paragraph if they misbehaved!

Well, I am here to eat my words since let me tell you HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION: it featured lots of needlepointing. I’ve already posted some of my creations in previous posts during the summer months, but here are some more I haven’t shown you yet. Perhaps I should tell you in photos and not use words.  So I’ll be quick.

Pictured above this post is my Scarlet Tanager (or in simpler terms – a red bird).


Tropical Fish Needlepoint

This is a rendition of my Tropical Fish 3 design. I stitched and beaded a tropical fish needlepoint.

Needlepointed Tefillin Bag

Needlepointed Tefillin Bag

I finished my son’s tefillin bag.

Bronze Urn With Flowers

Bronze Urn With Flowers

I stitched an urn with flowers design and used 7 mm silk ribbon for the flowers.  I consider 7 mm silk ribbon a delicacy. Some connoisseurs enjoy truffle mushrooms, others prefer caviar.  Silk ribbon tempts me.

In addition, I started a new challah cover in sage and mauve tones. Stay tuned for a post about that piece.

I did not swim.  I did not play tennis.  I did not hike.  I did not take a cruise.  But I stitched and stitched, and it was an ideal way to spend my summer. I hope you did too.

Needlepoint in the Catskills

A typical bungalow

Needlepoint is synonymous with the Catskill Mountains in the summer. While some associate the summer with barbecues and others think of swimming and hiking, needlepoint comes to my mind. As a youngster, I recall the fondest memories of spending summers in a run down rented bungalow in Fallsburg on Route 42.  The best days were when Rita, of Rita’s Needlecraft, drove up to the parking lot in her station wagon. “The needlecraft car, the needlecraft car,” was heard on the loudspeaker.  Mothers and daughters ran with their wallets.  All of us kids stitched hook rugs.  Needlepoint was our moms’ job.  But everyone had some sort of project.

Today my family vacations in the Catskill Mountains too.  The bungalows haven’t changed much in the past thirty years. And my favorite part, needlepoint, hasn’t changed either.  Susan Gross of Knit One Needlepoint Too, in ShopritePlaza in Monticello, NY, carries the Pepita Needlepoint line.  Doris Katz of Needlepoint Gallery in Woodridge, NY, has our trunk show too.  But my favorite is Rita since she remembers me as a little girl.  Whenever I meet, her first words are, “So how’s your mom doing?”  When I phone my mother in Brooklyn, she asks about Rita.  In fact, the canvases she stitched from Rita are still on display on her dining room walls!  Needlepoint was special then, and it’s just as special today.



Free Hebrew Alphabet Stitch Charts

Hebrew Alphabet Stitch Charts

Judaica Needlepoint has made available a selection of my Hebrew Alphabet Stitch Charts at their website. There are twelve different typefaces to choose from, and each one comes in a range of sizes. Everyone should be able to find a font that works for their design. Best of all, these come in downloadable PDF files, which you can print on your home printer on regular letter paper. Even better than that: all of the charts are absolutely free.

You can click on the thumbnail images at the Judaica Needlepoint page to see a full preview of one page of the chart.

Each file includes a cover page with brief instructions for how to use the chart. This blog post expands on those instructions in detail.

Cross Stitch Charts for Needlepoint People

Cross stitch practitioners are the usual consumers of stitching charts. Needlepoint artists generally use pre-painted canvas, so counting stitches isn’t needed. However, once the needlepointer deviates from the painted design, for example when customizing a canvas with one’s own text, stitch counting becomes necessary to fit the lettering into the available space. Using an alphabet chart may seem a bit daunting at first, but it is easier than you think.

Choosing a Typeface

Personal taste is the main factor when choosing a typeface for stitching into your canvas. Nevertheless, there are some other considerations as well.

If the text you are stitching dominates the design, you will aim for boldness. Decorative fonts will work well, such as those used in headlines or call-outs. Outlining and shading also will add appeal in this scenario.

If your text is subordinate to the main design, select a lighter, more delicate typeface which doesn’t distract attention.

If your text is an important element of the design, and is intended to be read, use a clear, delineated typeface that is easy to read. Also select colors for the typeface and the background that contrast with each other.

If your text is short, and not important to the design, such as the artist’s signature or a date, you needn’t worry about readability.

With Hebrew, you do not need to concern yourself with upper-case vs. lower-case. All letters are the same case.

Choosing a Size

Once you’ve settled on a typeface, you now need to select a font within that typeface. Every typeface comes with several sizes to choose from.

Larger font sizes allow for stitching more detail and the letters look much better. However, you need to choose a font your design can accommodate. If you choose a size too large, your message will be cut off.

Measure Twice, Stitch Once

Here’s where stitch counting comes in. You need to prepare a worksheet to assist you with measuring your text within your design. Graph paper is very good for this purpose. If you don’t have any, search the Internet for PDF files you can use to print graph paper onto regular blank printer paper (example).

Locate the blank area in your design where you’ll be stitching your message. Count the number of stitches in width and in length. Now use a pencil to trace that area out onto the graph paper. Note that this might not be a perfect rectangle, the sides of the area may be irregular due to the surrounding imagery.

Start with a font that seems likely to fit. Trace out the letters on the graph paper, leaving one or two stitches between letters, and a little more between words. This can be adjusted later if you need to trim it down a bit. You may want to leave a stitch or two along the sides as a margin to set off the text from the rest of the design.

If your text occupies more than one line, you need to ensure that it fits vertically, too. The space between lines depends on the position of the ascenders and descenders of the letters (the letters that extrude higher or lower than the rest of the alphabet). You need to make sure that these letters don’t interfere with one another. The only way to work this out is to trace the letters out onto your worksheet and see what happens.

The main thing is to be consistent. Make sure there are an equal number of squares between the baselines of each line of text. The baseline is the row of squares which most letters rest upon.

Stitch Away!

Once you’ve successfully plotted out how you will fit your letters onto your canvas, you’re ready to stitch them in. You can simply stitch the canvas directly from the chart, but to make things easier, you might choose to first mark out the stitching using a cloth marker. This allows for corrections that do not involve ripping thread.

After you’ve stitched the letters, fill in the background with any contrasting stitch. Stay away from overly-complex stitches, you’ll be doing a lot of compensation due to the irregular edges of the letter forms. Make sure you use a background color that contrasts well with the color you used for the lettering; otherwise, it will be difficult to read.


Presidential Needlepoint

Needlepoint portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Needlepoint portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Shirley Kerstetter has stitched dozens of portraits of American presidents. They are meticulous, 24-count, multihued masterpieces. She put them all together on a massive quilt, pictured in the article about her monumental work.

Among other ideas, she mentions this:

“I collected fabric for the presidential quilt for years,” Kerstetter said. “Every time I saw a patriotic fabric, I bought it. I stashed it.”

Takeaway: always be on the lookout for stuff you can use in your stitching.

While on this topic, I’d like to call your attention to’s Famous People category, where needlepoint canvases depicting Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama can be purchased for your future quilt project.

Needlepoint canvas of Barack Obama

Needlepoint canvas of Barack Obama

Using a Needlepoint Frame

Adjustable table/lap stand - A type of needlepoint frame

Adjustable table/lap stand - A type of needlepoint frame

In my article The Needlepoint Beginner – How Do I Start Stitching, I touched briefly on the subject of using needlepoint frames. I recently had the opportunity to read Brenda Stimpson’s article Should I Use a Needlepoint Frame? over at EZine Articles, so I thought I would expand a bit on the topic.

A needlepoint frame is a wood contraption that holds your canvas taut while you work. Using a frame offers the following advantages:

  • Warp Drive. All those stitches pull the canvas in different ways. The tension can result in a warped canvas. A frame protects your canvas from this by holding it firmly taut at all times.
  • Get Around the Blocking. For smaller canvases, using a frame may eliminate the need to have the canvas blocked once it is finished. This is not the case for larger projects.
  • Getting Down and Dirty. Your hands aren’t always perfectly clean. Constant handling of the canvas can result in noticeable dirt accumulation or other soiling. When the canvas is pinned to a frame, you touch it less.

Adjustable Craft Floor Stand

Adjustable Craft Floor Stand

Some needlepointers take the point of view that you must use a needlepoint frame or stand to do good work. Others say that without a frame you are more susceptible to injury, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, by the constant repetitive cramped-hand action. I don’t think either of these have been scientifically proven, though. I’d love to see some data! 🙂

The main disadvantage of using frames is mobility. If you will be taking this stuff with you everywhere, on the bus, train, in the car, up and down the stairs in your home, to the hairdresser, whatever, the bulk of extra equipment will make it harder.

The warping issue can be mitigated by reviewing your work periodically for signs of distortion. If you nip it in the bud, you can fix it by loosening some stitches to ease the lateral stress. Or you can try applying opposing tension nearby to compensate. In any event, your framing service will do a decent job of blocking the completed work.

Another thing to consider is your personal stitching style; it is profoundly affected by the use of a frame. Since the frame is maintaining tension in your canvas, you will find it difficult to pull thread through more than one hole at a time. Since the canvas material will not bend, you need to push the needle down, catch it on the underside and then push it back up. Many stitchers find it easier to thread the needle through a few holes at a time, if that’s how you like to do it, don’t use a frame.

Some other useful links related to needlepoint frames are: