This embroidery method is not a tradition in Sweden but much so in Britain and France. Scandinavia has a cross stitch tradition which is rather different. The needlepoint embroidery goes back in history at least to the renaissance. I came across it by chance reading an article in a newspaper.
You cover a canvas with small stitches mostly of wool yarn and the result resembles delicate tapestry. It is like painting with yarn and you can make images of just anything. Ehrman Tapestry has hosted many wonderful needlepoint artists over the years, the most well-known is probably Kaffe Fasset. Ehrman once had a shop in London but it is now closed but they have a web shop which sells yarn, canvases and prepared needlepoint kits.
There are many books on the subject, here are two of my favourites:
I have made wall hangings, cushions, chair covers etc both from other’s designs and from my own. I have to make a confession: I don’t stitch the usual way where all the stitches look the same. The usual way has the disadvantage that the work looses shape and has to be stretched by force back to the original shape. I stitch one row with stitches pointing to the left and the next row pointing to the right. This makes the work perfectly straight and right-angled and from a little distance you can’t see the difference.
Many needlepoint designs are of pretty things like flowers. I see a great potential here to make more varied designs. Needlepoint stitches are like pixels. It would be possible to “pixel up” photos and get a model for needlepoint. It could be landscapes, faces or just anything. There are apps that you can download that pixel up photos. This is one my future projects. Maybe there are many of you out there who have already tried it? In that case it would be very nice to hear from you!
Gallery of needlepoint projects
Some of the cushions I have made:
Up to the left is a Beth Russel design and the other is an old pattern from the 16th century, unknown artist. Up to the right a detail of fruits from one of Elian Mc Cready’s wonderful designs. They are immensely elaborate and you can see that she started with a water-colour painting and then converted it to needlepoint. To the right is my design (very simple in comparison!). Middle left is actually a wallpaper pattern from the Arts and Crafts artist William Morris, made to needlepoint by Beth Russel. The next two images are details from Elian Mc Cready designs.
Up left a design of my own, an attempt to make something” old nordic style” to fit my son’s chair which is from the “national romantic” era in the turn of the 20th century. Middle is a photo of a work in progress: from a book with facsimile prints of lace and embroidery patterns from 1587 I choosed eight patterns to make seats for my eight simple but nice Ikea chairs. Next photo shows all eight embroideries done and ready to be sewn on to the seats. Last picture is two of the chairs completed. The seats are sewn of high quality felted wool fabric called “vadmal” in Swedish. A contemporary Ikea design combined with patterns from the 16th century: nice!
Inspiration from nature:
I have made a few attempts to stitch pictures with motifs from nature. One inspiration is Gotland with its typical limestone on beaches and stone walls. Here is a wall hanging with such a motif:
I am very fond of woods and forests, here in Cornwall:
From this and from a view from the window of a little cottage I once rented one summer in the middle of Sweden I stitched this early embroidery attempt. It was a beautiful old oak tree and a bicycle that was included in the rent of the cottage:
Another great inspiration for me is my beloved Stockholm archipelago, where I have spent many summers with my family sailing in the sailing yacht we had back then. It is a very special landscape with shifting colours and shapes. The rock is grey granite but in fact it is never grey to the eye. This photo is taken a calm November day when the horizon is invisible and the islands seem to float in the air. In this light the granite is blue. But the attempt that I made to stitch an archipelago motif is in summer evening light and the rocks glow in pink, orange, dark and light blue. I didn’t use a single strand of grey yarn in this picture. A love this colour palette and will surely try to stitch more of this motif.