Needlepoint Instruction and Tips

Basic needlepoint instruction, for learning how to complete a needlepoint canvas, is fairly straightforward and we have instructions right here.

However, there are also useful tips and ways of doing things to make your needlepoint stitching life easier. 

General Needlepoint Tips and Instructions.

1. What to stitch first. 
Stitch the smallest areas of color first. Stitch in the detail before you stitch in the background. After that, stitch any white or pale-colored areas, especially if they sit up against a dark-color area. By stitching the pale colors first you will prevent fibers from dark colors pulling through into them and causing a shadow.

2. Don't run your thread over to a new color area if it is more than one half inch away. This will prevent long stretches of thread running across the reverse side of the canvas and getting into a tangled mess. Instead, snip off and start again.

3. Cut your yarn into 12"-18" lengths before you use it. This will avoid you cutting longer and longer yarn lengths as you stitch, which only ends in knots and in some cases shredding of the fiber. If you are using an exotic fiber, like silk, velvet or metallic, cut the lengths even shorter.

4. Hold your canvas up to the light when you have finished stitching it to make sure there are no missed stitches.

5. Use a needlepoint frame, but only if you feel like it! A frame helps to keep the canvas taut and prevent it distorting, but it is not an essential item. Some people love them, some people....not so much.

6. Slide the needle along the thread every few stitches. This will prevent it wearing down the thread in the one spot.

7. Tape the edges of your canvas with masking tape, or sew around it in a zigzag stitch. This will prevent the edges from fraying and catching on your threads.
8. Protect your canvas once it has been stitched by spraying it very lightly with Scotchguard or other brand of fabric protector.

9. If you are stitching with dark colors and find them hard to see, place a white cloth on your lap. Investing in a "daylight" lamp, or sitting in natural sunlight, will also help matters considerably.

We know this barely covers all the possible advice and needlepoint instruction out there. Now it's your turn. Here are more tips that we have received from readers.

Needlepoint Tips

Read Others' Needlepoint Tips

Easy Needle Threader

An easy needle threader can be  a hairpin. The thickness of the individual hairpins vary, but if one is too thick, a whack with a hammer is very effective!"

Pat, Springfield, VA

Larger Needle
Many years ago I discovered a trick I have found to be very useful when doing needlepoint, and it works for any canvas mesh size, as well as any type of wool, silk, cotton, metallic - or anything else one can use to cover canvas in stitches.Use a needle one size larger that the holes in the canvas. This will not distort the piece, but will open the space just enough to allow much less friction between the canvas scrim and the "thread" being used.

Monica, (location unknown)

Great idea for black areas

This is not my idea, I am simply sharing it. It came from a woman, waiting in a doctor's waiting room. -- it works! Lightly brush the black area on a canvas with talcum powder, using a soft, man's shaving brush, or blusher brush. It won't hurt the yarn, and brushes out. If you use too much, it will come out in blocking. I use an unscented powder.

 Libbi, Sun City, AZ

Uses for Leftover needlepoint yarns and threads.
What do you do with the leftover pieces of thread you inevitably end up with when stitching a canvas? We put this question to our e-zine readers and here's what they came up with.

Condition Your Thread. 
I discovered that my yarn tangles less and stays smoother if I pull each piece lightly over a cake of beeswax before I thread the needle. When doing hand sewing, I drag the thread over the wax two or three times. Tapestry yarn only needs a light coat.

Kate, New London.

Method of Shading.
One way to shade is to let the painted canvas show by using darning stitches or very open stitches. Sometimes you don't want to stitch every stitch of the shaded part of the canvas.

Carla, Rio Verde, AZ

Repair a hole in needlepoint canvas. 

I found this set of instructions for how to repair a hole in needlepoint canvas and thought it would be useful for readers to know about. It is on About.Com Needlepoint.

by Sandy
(California, USA)

Clear storage bags for threads.  A little hint -when my needlepoint kit arrives, I separate the colors and place each color in a "snack size baggie" with the number and name of color on the outside of the bag. And as I can see the color thru the bag it makes needlepointing all the easier to do. 

by Barbara
(Lady Lake, USA)

Thread Snip Scissor.

Last month Brenda mentioned methods of ripping out stitches. Here's a dandy little scissor that, should you ever have to remove stitches, does the job as easy as that chore can be. The website is"Petit Thread Snips" #80107 $8.95. The one they show seems a little shorter than the one I have. Maybe that's even better. By Jill (Fort Myers. FL )

 Frame Above Or Below.

Usually canvas is put face up on top of the stretcher bars or frame. If you reverse this and position your canvas so the front is toward the bars, they will form a wall around the edge of the canvas, with your work area essentially sunken. If you use it this way, the face of your work will be touched less and the back, for starting and stopping threads will be easier to access; this is particularly useful with small pieces.

Bridgewalker, Canada

Cloth Moths.
You do not need to put the item in direct sunlight. I put my wool in a black plastic garbage bag and place this is direct sunlight. The heat is the moth killer. As is extreme cold. Place your item in a plastic bag and place in the freezer. Depending on how cold your freezer is, you may want to leave the item in there for a week.

Diana, MT

Avoiding a twisted thread

As you do each stitch roll the needle between your fingers. As you do this the twisted thread will untwist. This avoids having to stop every so often to let the needle dangle and untwist.


How To Make Large Dark Areas Easier To Stitch
When working large areas of dark blue or black holding a piece of white cloth under the work makes seeing the holes much easier. Hold a napkin, or handkerchief or even a washcloth in the hand that you don't use for your needle; light will bounce back off the light surface. A real eye saver!
Hallie, Southeast Florida

What to Do When Your Canvas is Finished

When you finish the project mount a copy of the headlines from the newspaper on the back so your project is "dated" in case it ever gets sold on the Antiques Road Show!
Gayle (State and City unknown)