Another Time Saving Tip for Challah Cover Needlepoint Projects

Challah Cover Banner

Challah Cover Banner

In May this year I blogged about how to quickly stitch a challah cover by just stitching the center. Here is another idea, where I stitch a swath across the middle from end to end, and add material to the top and the bottom to fill it out. This reduced stitching time by about two thirds, and the results are very impressive.

I have a customer doing this project in copper and navy, and another one (on bed rest due to a complicated pregnancy) doing it in burgundy and gold. I’ll post those pictures when I have them.

Hebrew Stitch Charts Prove Popular

A while back, I posted about my Hebrew Stitch Charts, available online at That page has attracted a good deal of traffic. The charts have been downloaded close to 2000 times since then.

I was delighted to find this post by Faygie Fellig. where she describes how she used the charts to create a stunning sweater. I had no idea that needlepoint charts would be useful to knitters.

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.


Needlepoint Repurposing



If you like needlepoint pillows, but don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for them, here is a great solution. Browse the web or local yard sales for stitched wall hangings, find one you like, and purchase for a buck or two. Bring it home, pop it out of the frame, and finish as pillow.

Got this wonderful idea from this post by Evie.

Everything but the Kitchen Sync

Ever since I’ve lost all my work to a computer failure way back in the 1990’s, I’ve been careful about backing up my files. It is a pain to remember to do this; it’s much better to get an automated solution that just backs up your files without you having to think about it.

Over the years I’ve used different programs for this, including SecondCopy, FolderShare, and JungleDisk, but now I finally hit upon that best of them all: Dropbox.

This nifty little piece of software is absolutely free. It installs on your PC in a few seconds. It creates a folder on your hard drive called “My Dropbox”. Everything in that folder is instantly backed up to your private “drop box” on the Internet.

In addition, it stores previous versions of your files. So if you were working on an article, and you made some accidental changes, you can retrieve the old file with a few clicks. I just saved my bacon the other day with this function.

Best of all, if you have more than 1 PC, you can install it on all of them, and your Dropbox folder will be synced. That means they all will contain the same files, all the time. Update a document on one PC, and presto! it appears on the other one. This is the single most useful thing about the software for me, since I alternate between my home PC, my work PC, and my spouse’s PC, and now I don’t have to carry or email my files around: they’re always right where they belong.

Dropbox gives you 2 GB of free space (you can pay them for more space if you need it). If you decide to sign up, please use the following link; you (and I) will get a bonus of 250MB extra space.

Sign up with Dropbox and get 2.25GB free space.

Bringing Needlepoint On an Airplane

Will security allow you to bring your needlepoint project on to an airplane? The TSA states the following rule for Transporting Knitting Needles & Needlepoint on their website:

Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.

Items needed to pursue a Needlepoint project are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside which cannot go through the checkpoint and must go in your checked baggage.

From the wording “circular thread cutters” it appears that the TSA is zeroing in on those cute pendant things. I don’t see how they could be used as a weapon, except maybe against inchworms.

Still not clear though, is whether I can bring along a regular pair of scissors, or at least a little child-safe one. Is that a “cutter with a blade contained inside”? What sort of cutter doesn’t have a blade inside? A pair of pliers?

I found this document (pdf file), listing changes to the rules made in 2005, one of which is allowing small scissors on to aircraft. Here is the relevant paragraph:

TSA now is modifying the interpretive rule to allow passengers to carry metal scissors with pointed tips and a cutting edge four inches or less, as measured from the fulcrum, through a passenger screening checkpoint and into the cabin of an aircraft. Metal scissors with pointed tips and a blade length greater than four inches will continue to be prohibited.

TSA now is modifying the
interpretive rule to allow passengers to
carry metal scissors with pointed tips
and a cutting edge four inches or less,
as measured from the fulcrum, through
a passenger screening checkpoint and
into the cabin of an aircraft. Metal
scissors with pointed tips and a blade
length greater than four inches will
continue to be prohibited

From various discussions around the ‘net I gathered that pendants and nail clippers might be confiscated anyway. Apparently, TSA agents get twitchy when they see anything with a sharp tip. But safety scissors would probably pass.

Another idea many people suggested was bringing along dental floss dispensers, and using that little blade in there to do your snipping. (Interestingly, I find that DMC floss is actually a pretty good substitute for dental floss, when you’re in a pinch.)

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: