Project Tips

We asked some of our magazine contributors and friends to share some of their favorite needlepoint tips and tricks. We’ll be adding new tips as we receive them.


From Jan Peace (added July 2003)

Here is a hint from Jan Peace concerning stitching threads running. We have not yet tried it at needlepoint now and assume no responsibility, but we wanted you to know about it This email came from Jan Peace:

I had stitched a little fox on linen and there was a red flower thread outline. Since the piece had been in my collection for a few years, I washed the piece. It seems to be okay until I steam pressed it and the red outline ran. YEEOCH! Well, a friend of mine, Bev Johnson, suggested I soak it in water with one of the new Color Catcher sheets put out by SC Johnson in their Shout! line. I soaked the linen over night… Yep, the little sheet had picked up the red where it had run on the fabric. So far the linen has not fallen apart nor has it turned a funny color. I rinsed it again in clear water, steamed the linen smooth and now it is set into a little box. I couldn’t help but pass this along to my stitching and quilting friends…


From Jody Valentine (added July 2002)

The dramatic look of all Ingrid’s pieces are achieved by this method of blending. Almost every stitch on her canvases has one or more blends of yarns or fibers. The possibilities are endless. Even the use of two color tones in the same family give a remarkable 3-D effect. Experiment with this technique. A fun spot to try this is if you have a large background area and you’d like it to have some depth in color tones. As an example try a white background mixing white and off white together. Great touch, give it a try!


From Jody Valentine (added May 2002)

Remember to change your needles often! Some needles oxidize, and turn black. This is sometimes from your body chemistry and the oils from your hands. This may wear into your threads while stitching, creating a grayish look.


From Jody Valentine (added March 2002)

When doing sampling stitches or actually working on your canvas, never reuse yarn or thread which you have ripped out. It will become too fuzzy or thin. This also should be remembered when ending a piece. The small ends will be thin from the pressure of your needle and being worn while stitching.


From Jody Valentine (added January 2002)

For a dramatic look using decorative stitches, try using different threads. Try to stitch a bulky yarn pattern next to a pattern done with pearl cotton. This concept is how samplers originated, as stitchers would save their sample stitches on one piece of fabric. Why not start your own for reference?


From Jody Valentine (added August 2001)

Recently I was asked for my viewpoint about a topic question appearing on a needlepoint Web site. I would like to share this information with you. The question was “Can Whiteout or Gesso, an artist medium, be used to eliminate lines or mistakes on a handpainted canvas?” My answer is no. I suggest using Liquitex Titanium white paint. I personally prefer this brand over other acrylic paints. The small concentrated jar has the best coverage, but the tube paint will work. After working with the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s curators I have learned that the fewer “chemicals” added the better, on any handwork. Use the fewest amounts of anything foreign. Gesso is formulated to produce a ground rough surface texture for painting. If thinned with water, Gesso will cause cracking and poor adhesion, a flaky look (dandruff). Then when adding white acrylic on top, it may not adhere. The reason Liquitex paint works so well over other acrylic brands is because the consistency of this paint does absorb into the cotton. Also remember depending on what permanent marker was used, different paints react differently. Some may turn yellow after they dry and then appear a creamy ivory white. Like French vanilla ice cream vs. Clorox white. The bottom line — Know your materials before purchasing a canvas. Look for identification. A proud artist/designer wants repeat business to keep their company flourishing. They will always sign and/or number their work for shop owners to be able to reorder. If no identification, think twice. It may just be that “Susie-Q’s” daughter, niece or friend is just dabbling and trying to make a few extra dollars using any old supplies from home. If producing your own artwork to canvas, buy good materials, don’t penny pinch. You will not need a lot of supplies when doing for yourself. You may “cheat” on the production steps but please buy the best materials you are able to afford. It will be well worth it when you are finished.


From Jody Valentine (added June 2001)

A reminder when using decorative stitching – sometimes it is helpful to do a sample stitch pattern before starting your actual piece. This is similar to how knitters do a 1″ gauge before starting. By sampling your stitches you will see tension patterns and will be able to compensate your strong and weak points.

From Michele Roberts (added April 2001)

Gently stretch a convenient working length of the metallic braid before threading into needle to help avoid tangles while stitching.

From Joyce Lukomski (added November 2000):

I like to keep both a piece of congress cloth (22 to 24 count) and a piece of 18-count canvas on stretcher bars and close at hand when I am designing a piece of needlework. I do my “practice stitches” on these “scrap canvases” because this manner of working allows me to keep a permanent record of my experiments with stitches, patterns and threads. I may be trying to get the look of “waves on the ocean” and the work may end up looking like “snow on the mountain top.” That is okay, and especially if I have kept a record of it. “Snow on the mountain” may be the answer to my needs a year or two from now. I record all of my “doodling” in a loose-leaf notebook so that I can create that very same look if it is needed. These doodle canvases and accompanying notebooks have become my most valuable tools over the years and would be a primary concern in case of fire, flood or other disaster.