Monday, January 05, 2015

Stitch by numbers - aka, Needlepoint

I've tried needlepoint countless times (pun intended.)  As a kid, I couldn't seem to keep track of where I stopped my last stitch and ended up with a ridge on the canvas.  I tried again after I got married when my mother gave me a canvas complete with needles, yarn and fabric for the back.  It was a large pink bow.  I worked on it for a bit but got bored.  And to be honest, I didn't really like the design, sorry Mom.

I jumped into needlepoint again about 8 years ago during a round of IVF.  I'd knit my way through the infertility treatments that resulted in Lucy but I didn't find that knitting was much comfort this time around.  Plus, I had Lucy to keep track of, so counting stitches and worrying about dropped stitches was more than I could handle.  So I picked out an adorable painted canvas of a little girl's dress.  It was part of a larger collection.  I envisioned completing all of them, having them framed and hanging in Lucy's room.  I pulled out my little cheat sheet from the kit my mom gave me and got to work.                                      

But instead of relaxing, it was frustrating.  Needlepoint is worked on a grid.  Each "cross" of the warp and weft is painted with a color coordinating to suggested thread color.  My dress was full of rounded flowers and ruffled edges.    I would sit for what seemed like hours staring at one of these crosses that was half white and half yellow trying to figure out if I should stitch white for a daisy petal or yellow for the daisy's center.  Sometimes I would just give up, and go back to stitching the background, where I didn't have to make a judgement call.  I longed for the ease of knit one, purl two.  

The IVF cycle failed.  I rolled the canvas up and stuck it in the back of a cabinet along with other UFOs such as lace baby blankets, crocheted granny squares, felted wee people.  Every once in a while I would pull it out and stitch a bit only to lose interest, again rolling it up and placing it back with its other lonely friends.

A couple of years ago, all of that changed.  I saw a canvas that I just had to have.  A jolly Santa donning a colorful turban.  My heart said it was time.  Time to needlepoint.  So I bought it.  When I got home I dug out my Needlepoint book and set to work only to become quickly frustrated by my continue indecisiveness over what color to use when two colors seemed possible.

Then, Eureka!  The local needlepoint store had a trunk show of the most adorable Lilly-inspired canvases.  I bought one that came with a stitch guide.  Obsession set it.  It was completed in a matter of weeks.  Another one was purchased.  Then another.  I was on a roll.  

I quickly realized that this was an expensive hobby so I ordered every book ever written on the topic of finishing needlepoint and taught myself how to block my canvases, finish them and make my own cording.

That old hesitation of which color to use was gone.  The words of a friend came back to me: "Needlepoint is easy.  It's like paint by numbers but with thread."  And she's right.  I love it because I can pick it up and out it down without worrying about losing my place.  It can be rolled up and tucked into a purse.  It can be pulled out in a carpool line, at a swim meet, on the train, a bus, during Sunday afternoon football-watching.  

And now, it's not related to anything sad or bad.  It's just fun.  And when I'm finished, I have the pleasure of knowing I made something from start to finish all by myself.  

It might just be time to pull that little dress out of the cabinet.  I'm certain I can figure out when to stitch white and when to stitch yellow.  That IVF cycle didn't result in a baby but there's no reason it can't result in an adorable little needlepointed baby dress to hang in my room.

Happy Stitching!

1 comment:

Sandra Hayden said...

I'm sure your needlepoint projects are lovely; however, I won't be putting needlepoint on my to-do list. Thank you for the uplifting blog post!