Questions About Stitching


Stitching Tips



Tools and Supplies


The Answers


What is needlepoint?

ANG defines needlepoint as "any counted or free stitchery worked by hand with a threaded needle on a readily countable ground." Traditionally, needlepoint has been embroidery done on canvas, using wool to execute the tent stitch. While such embroideries are needlepoint, needlepointers now have available a much broader palette of stitches and techniques. For more information, see What is Needlepoint?

What exactly is the difference between cross stitch, needlepoint, and embroidery?
      Courtesy of Nan Evelyn Hansen

The definitions of these three terms are not mutually exclusive. There are some differences and some similarities among them.

Embroidery refers to the decoration of a stitchable ground with thread, by hand or by machine, sometimes including other, non-thread materials such as shisha mirrors, buttons, beads, charms or found objects.

Cross-stitch is not only the term used to refer to a type of stitching, but is also the name of a stitch used in any kind of decorative stitching. Cross-stitching usually refers to a design done completely in cross stitches. The cross stitch itself can be used anywhere that any other stitch can be formed.

Through the years, "needlepoint" has become a term that is inclusive of more kinds of work than simple tent stitch in wool on canvas, especially in the United States. The American Needlepoint Guild's definition of needlepoint is given in the answer to the first question on this page. Some stitchers refer to stitchery done on a canvas ground as "canvas work" instead of "needlepoint."

Many other names exist for different types of stitchery, and these terms also do not exclude some other types of stitchery that may also go by other names. Here are a few: pulled work, drawn work, Hardanger, blackwork, goldwork, bargello, voided ground, silk and metal embroidery, surface embroidery, crewel, Japanese embroidery, Brazilian embroidery and ribbon embroidery.

What is cut work and its various forms?

From Mary Thomas's Embroidery Book, via Margaret E. Travis:

  • Cutwork is "a name given to those forms of embroidery where portions of the foundation material are cut away from the background of the design."
  • Hardanger is "characterized by little rectangular groups of satin stitches, known as kloster blocks, arranged to outline the cut spaces and build up the major portion of the design."
  • Drawn thread work "is a delicate lace-like nature, necessitating the removal of certain weft or warp threads of the material and adding decorative stitchery upon those which are left."
  • Hedebo Embroidery is "a Danish form of cut and drawn work, in white on white linen, and flourished chiefly in the 18th and 19th centuries among the peasants who lived on the flat tract of land known as Heden (the heath), which lies between Copenhagen and the and the former capital Roskilde.
  • Needleweaving is "a decoration woven upon the warp or weft of the material after certain threads have been withdrawn. It is a form of drawn thread work and is often known as woven hemstitching when done in narrow borders on linen."

How should I organize my stash or store?

By color, by fiber type, or in any way that makes sense to you. However, if you are organizing a store, make sure to have maps or conversion charts available.

How can I take pictures of my needlework?

The best light is natural sunlight, on a bright, but not blinding, sunny day (a flash may throw dark hard shadows and have a "flattening" effect.) Use a neutral background, and take several different shots with different settings, to maximize your chances of one of them coming out right. You may be able to pay extra for hand printing, and ask the developer to match the printed colors to a snippet of thread or fabric. Also read: What is copyright, and how does it apply to Needlework?

For more information, see Mike McCormick's article on photographing needlework in the March 1997 issue of Needle Pointers.

What is Rozashi?
        Courtesy of Margaret Kinsey

Rozashi goes back to the eighth century in Japan. It is embroidery worked on Ro (a silk gauze/scrim a fabric, woven 37 to 40 threads per inch in the warp direction, and 3 twisted and crossed called the dan in the weft direction. There are approximately 11 of these dan per inch.)

The small hole established by the weave gives a distinct surface design.

Rozashi silk is tightly twisted. It is made especially for this silk scrim. Metal Threads are also used which are special threads to Rozashi. There are three types of stitches- straight stitches, step and irregular stitches.

What is copyright, and how does it apply to Needlework?

Any original work, including a needlework chart, is copyrighted as soon as it is "fixed in a tangible medium," i.e., written down. The copyright holder, i.e., the original author, is the ONLY one who may duplicate, reproduce, or make derivative (or adaptive) works of that piece. When you buy a chart or painted canvas, you are implicitly granted permission to stitch that project one time, for your own personal enjoyment, and nothing else. If you want to enlarge it, publish photos of the completed piece (on paper or on the web), or display it in any other way, you must write to the copyright holder (designer) and obtain explicit permission. Most designers will be more than happy to grant permission for such non-commercial uses. For more information on how copyright laws apply to needlework see the January 1999 and March 1999 issues of Needle Pointers and also http// .

What is Underside Couching, and how does it differ from regular couching?

In regular couching, you lay a (usually thicker) fiber, and place it on top of the canvas, in the area you wish to cover. Anchor the (usually finer) couching thread securely on the back. Come up right next to the laid fiber, go around it and back down through the same hole, or one right next to it. For normal couching, pull until the couching fiber is snug. For underside couching, pull tighter until you hear a small pop, and the laid fiber is actually pulled down through the hole and appears on the back of the canvas. Move a few holes further along the laid thread, and repeat. Continue until the area as the desired coverage.

Are there any fictional mysteries/crime novels with needlework themes?

One series is written by Monica Ferris (real name Mary Monica Pulver). "Crewel World" and "Framed In Lace" were published in 1999, a third novel is called "A Stitch in Time" was published in July 2000. The protagonist in these books is Betsy, who inherits a small-town needlework store upon the murder of her sister.

Another series has been written by Earlene Fowler, about Benni Harper, a folk art museum curator and quilter. They are:

  • Fool's Puzzle (published 1995)
  • Irish Chain (published 1995)
  • Kansas Troubles (published 1996)
  • Goose in the Pond (published 1997)
  • Dove in the Window published (1998)
  • Mariner's Compass (published 1999)
  • Seven Sisters (anticipated publication 2000)

Should I put my orts out for the birds or not?
        Courtesy of Neva Pruess

Most birders think you should not. Wool, cotton and silk threads incorporated into a nest can hold excess moisture which then leads to mold and disease. Rayons and synthetics may also interfere with natural drainage and glitzy colors can interfere with camouflage making the nest more vulnerable to predators. The young birds may peck at and ingest metallic threads in the nest.

Although there are messy and non-selective nest constructors who will use colored threads of many types, they are better off using natural materials.

What is the effect of light on color?
        Courtesy of Mary Shipp

There is only one correct light under which one should pick colors for a project for your home, and that is the type of light under which it will be seen when it is finished. Suppose you have absolutely perfectly color-balanced lighting for picking colors but use light bulbs that emphasize warm colors in your living room. You may be in for a real surprise when you move that project into the living room. A friend had this happen when she picked colors under a lamp that emphasized yellow, then moved to her living room where the lighting was much more balanced. Her spring green turned out to be closer to aqua.

If you at least test the colors in the place where the finished project is to go, any surprises can be corrected before you begin stitching. I recommend that if you are doing a sofa pillow, for example, you lay out the threads right on the sofa and spend some time looking at them there. Turn the lights up, and turn them down. Stare at the threads, the turn away, and
turn back. Walk past, looking at them out of the corner of your eye, etc. If the room is used a lot in daylight, view them both in daylight and artificial light. It's a lot easier to make changes at this stage than later. The same thing goes for a piece to be hung; prop up the canvas near where it will go and pin the colors on it, then stand back and check again the lighting and the wall color.

The actual color that surrounds the finished piece makes a difference, as well as the type of lighting. If you had an electric blue sofa and stitched a pillow with a lot of red it in, you could very well find that the red shifted toward orange-red when the pillow was placed on the sofa. This is due to a phenomenon called "afterimage." What happens is that your eyes get tired after looking at an expanse of a certain color and show you the complementary color (across from it on the color wheel) when you look away. Thus, you see orange after having looked at blue for a while. Once again, having placed the red thread on the blue sofa before stitching, you may find that you should pick a red that is shifted ever so slightly toward red-violet to cancel out the afterimage orange. You can do this at the beginning without ripping out half the project.

All of this is very subtle. It occurs more with strong colors than with tints. It also affects some people much more than others. I know of someone who sees afterimages very easily, to the point of distraction when she is stitching. But my advice still holds. Before stitching a piece, check the colors in place, rather than elsewhere under a perfectly balanced light and on a white background, as is so often recommended.

So--what do you do if you are stitching a piece as a surprise for a friend and you do not want to invade her house with an armful of thread and a canvas, thereby giving the surprise away? It is, in my experience, very rare that someone else will notice it as much as you do. You have been staring at those colors for hours and hours; you know how they should look. Or, use soft colors rather than strong ones, if at all possible. Or, try hard to match other colors in her home because you know they look fine in place. Or--pray a lot!

I sincerely hope that these suggestions will NOT encourage anyone to say, "See, I knew I could never pick colors anyway!" Yes, you can! Just, after picking them, check out how they will look in the place and under the lighting where the piece will be used. That's very simple and it works.

How do I find a needlework shop in the area that I will be traveling?

The National Needlework Association (TNNA) has a free online director of retail shops, searchable by location. Simply go to and click on Retail Shops. Many of the shops listed have active web pages for you to peruse before your travels, to help you decide if stopping at their shop will be beneficial to you.

How do I value my needlework for insurance?

Some insurance companies consider needlework as art. Others require you to cover it under a rider. Whether you need to consider it as art or you need a separate rider, here's a quick way to calculate the value of each piece.

Establish the actual out-of-pocket cost of the materials -- painted canvas, chart, threads, finishing costs, etc.

Establish the value of your labor -- estimated at 1 hour per square inch of the design area times the minimum wage in your state (don't forget to re-figure that amount if your state's minimum wage goes up or if you move to a different state)

If your policy is based on actual replacement costs, you'll need to maintain a list of the threads used since the replacement cost will be different from your actual cost some years ago.

Take pictures of each piece! And maintain them with your materials list. If you haven't saved the receipts for finishing (and I suspect most of us haven't), you'll need the pictures to establish the replacement value of the finishing.

Send 1 copy of the pictures via registered mail to your insurance company with a request they keep it with your policy. Keep your copy of the pictures and other documentation, including the signed receipt from the insurance company verifying they received their copy, in your safe deposit box or at the home of a friend or family member. It won't do you any good if it's destroyed along with your pieces.

Contributed by Gini Armstrong

Stitching Tips

How do I stitch on very dark fabric?

Put a white cloth or lamp underneath the canvas, in addition to your regular stitching light. Putting a black or red cloth under a lighter fabric sometimes helps also.

How do I block a canvas that has gotten out of shape?
        Courtesy of Anna-Marie Winter

Steam Blocking on Canvas

Steam blocking is a quick, easy method to gently reshape and re-align a canvas back to its original dimensions. The direction in which the stitch is worked and the stitch tension used by the embroiderer combine to produce a strain on the canvas threads causing them to warp. As each stitch and stitcher produces a different tension, the degree of warping can vary greatly from a slight puckering to a badly distorted piece of canvas embroidery. Steam blocking is a relatively safe method to use with most natural and synthetic fibers, especially delicate fibers such as silk or fibers with unstable dyes.


The secret to a perfectly blocked piece of embroidery is in the initial preparation of the canvas prior to stitching. Use narrow wooden stretcher bars and brass tacks rather than roller bars to mount the canvas. Attach the canvas securely to the stretcher bars with the tacks placed no further than 1/2" apart on all sides, working from the center of each side to the corners. When attached, the canvas should be taut, true to grain and ready for stitching.

Keep your embroidery clean as you work, eliminating the need to have your work cleaned before it is framed or taken to the finisher. Oil and unseen grime from your hands as well as the dust and smoke in our everyday environment can easily soil the canvas and working threads. To protect your canvas and fibers, secure a piece of tissue paper or clean unbleached muslin over the canvas, leaving a small opening over the working area.

When to Block

With traditional methods, blocking a canvas embroidery is usually done once the embroidery has been completed, just before it is either framed or taken to a finisher. The embroidery is removed from the frame, dampened, then stretched back into its original shape on a blocking board and left to dry, usually for about 24 hours.

Steam blocking is a faster, easier method that does not depend on dampening or wetting the canvas embroidery prior to blocking. As in traditional blocking methods, steam blocking is done once the embroidery has been completed, but it can also be done at any time while the embroidery is still in progress.

In contemporary canvas embroidery, the combination of stitches, techniques and/or fibers often cause the canvas threads to stretch or warp. This is often seen as large ripples on the surface of the canvas or areas in which the threads along the margin seem pulled out of alignment. A simple method to combat this problem is to steam block the canvas after each change in technique. This will not only re-align the grain of the canvas, but re-stretch it as well, producing a taut, smooth surface on which to continue your stitching.


Proper preparation of the canvas prior to stitching is the secret behind steam blocking. Once the canvas has been properly attached to the rigid stretcher bars, it remains secure. It may warp out of shape and be pulled off grain while stitching, but the tacks still hold the edges of the canvas on grain. Steaming the canvas while it is still attached to the stretcher bars will re-align the canvas threads perfectly and return the canvas to it's original appearance. Do not remove canvas from stretcher bars prior to blocking.

The method used for steam blocking is as easy as boiling water. Plug in an electric kettle or put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Once the water is boiling and steaming, hold the stretcher bar, with the canvas still secured with tacks, approximately 6-8" over the steam. Working from the wrong side, slowly move the canvas over the steam so that it penetrates the entire area evenly, not just the worked section. The steam will penetrate the canvas from the bottom and exit from the right side, through both the canvas and the stitches. A few light passes is all that is necessary for most pieces, but for those that may be badly distorted, several light steamings may be necessary. Lay the stretcher bars on a flat surface, with the canvas facing right side up, until thoroughly dry - at least one hour.

Some words of caution. Do not over steam, allowing the canvas threads or the fibers to become overly damp or wet. Test any questionable fibers for dye stability and/or reaction to steam before blocking. Boil distilled or bottled water if you live in an area where the tap water has a high iron content. Avoid using other appliances such as steam irons or clothes steamers as they may spit, leaving water or mineral spots.

How do I block my needlepoint if it does not need to be washed?
        Courtesy of Bidwell C. Drake

Yes, you definitely can block your pieces yourself. It is quite easy, although it does take a little time. Allow an hour for your first piece.

Please note that there is a definite difference between blocking wool and other fibers. We have used the damp method (see below) successfully for canvas pieces stitched with silks, rayons, and metallics. We also have washed and blocked new and partially stitched canvases that were dirty, with excellent results. See the FAQ section on washing needlepoint.

When in doubt as to the colorfastness of a fiber, test it first by wetting it, then squeezing it in a white paper towel. If any color shows, use the damp method. The paint on commercial canvases is very unlikely to bleed. If the canvas was painted by a non-professional the paint may not be colorfast, but the way to correct the problem is noted below.

Needlepoint canvas will ravel if given the slightest opportunity, so the amount of blank canvas needed for blocking varies by the mesh. An inch is adequate for 18-count, but two inches are needed on larger meshes. If the margin is less than this, see the FAQ section on washing needlepoint. Tape the edges with Seams Great, and then proceed with the instructions below.

You will need a clean yardstick, blocking board, large stainless-and-aluminum push pins found at artist's supply shops (one for every inch around the piece plus extras), and an old towel. For non-wool fibers you need an old white sheet rather than the towel. You may also want to wear latex examination gloves when blocking, as the pressure of pulling wet canvas is ruinous to manicures.

Plywood can be used for the blocking board, tightly covered with oilcloth or freezer paper, but it is very hard to push the pins into plywood. Plain wood is much easier, and hollow-core doors are the easiest of all. Some people use ceiling tile, but water dissolves it, so beware.

We use wood boards and hollow-core doors, covered with teal and white plaid oilcloth, which provide straight lines in both directions, and show through the canvas margins. The lines can be rectangles rather than squares, but they do need to be straight, and no more than three inches apart. For round pieces mark circles on the shiny side of freezer paper with a fat paint pen, one-half inch larger than the stitching area, or use the pen to mark a grid on the shiny side of freezer paper. Securely tape or staple the paper to the board. You must rub the lines with a damp paper towel to make sure they are permanent before going any further.

If you do a lot of blocking, you may want to buy a pair of webbing pliers at an upholstery supply shop. The tips flare out to three inches wide, and give great mechanical advantage when pulling the canvas. Clasp the edge of the canvas with the pliers, roll the handles up and pull with both hands, then hold them with one hand while you insert pins with the other.

Do not trim the canvas before blocking, but do clip the selvage every two inches. The selvage is precious - it's the easiest side to block, and doesn't ravel. Hemmed canvases are better than taped, as the hem gives the pins purchase. On large canvases - over three feet long - the hemmed edges may also need to be clipped. Do not trim the canvas until late in the finishing process.

For wool pieces
Unroll and dip the piece in cold water for a minute or two. If any colors bleed, rinse it continuously until they stop, however long that takes, which could mean a day or two in the bathtub.

Do not let the piece dry before blocking. Roll the piece in the towel, squeeze it gently, and head to the blocking board. Spread the needlepoint out wrong side up, but keep the damp towel handy to drape over it if you are interrupted. If raised stitches were used, then block it right side up.

Damp method for other fibers
Dampen the sheet, only as wet as you would dampen a lightweight cotton before ironing it, and securely pin or staple it to the blocking board. If the lines on the board don't show through you can mark the appropriate shape on the sheet with a pencil, one-half inch larger than the canvas, and use it as your guide. For a round piece hold an appropriately sized glass plate or lid over the stitching to check the shape. Block the canvas right side up.

For all fibers
When you unroll the canvas on the blocking board it will be obvious if it has assumed a parallelogram shape, and which two corners need the most stretching. If the canvas is warped, give it a few good tugs at a 45-degree angle to help straighten it out. Put three pins close together at the centers of both long sides, always pinning as close as possible to the edge of the canvas, away from the stitching. If the piece is square or round simply assign "long" sides. Line up the yardstick with the grid lines on the board to make sure the center is straight on the board.

The two long sides of the canvas are pinned first, and the ends last. Work out from the center pins, first pulling and pinning the section that needs the most stretching. For this first phase, the pins should be no more than two inches apart. Use the lines on the blocking board to help you keep the edges straight. Pin just a few inches while stretching the canvas towards the end of the board, then turn the board, and pin opposite the first set of pins, gently pulling the canvas towards the edge of the board.

Repeat the above step on the second section which needs stretching, again working out from the center pins. Lay the yardstick across the piece, line it up with the straight lines on the blocking board and see if you need to re-stretch these two areas before you continue. If it isn't straight, pull out a few pins at a time and re-pin. Then work towards the ends, pinning a few inches at a time, always pinning the side which needs the most stretching first.

When the pins are two inches from the corners start working on the ends. Again, stretch and pin the corner that needs the most stretching first, alternating ends until the entire piece is pinned. Be careful to pull only the half of each end that needs it, and not the half that doesn't.

For a round piece, follow the above pattern, pulling the worst areas towards the edge of the painted circle first, and the sections that need the least stretching last.

Re-measure. Re-check that the designs are straight. Go back around the entire piece, pulling out the scallops and pinning them, so the pins are no more than an inch apart. Pin the four corners of the canvas down too. Leave it to dry 24-48 hours where it will not be disturbed. Don't use a fan, as it will make the canvas buckle. 

Some canvases are very resistant to blocking - don't despair, just re-block them. Usually they behave after the second or third blocking, and the tugging gets easier with each blocking.

Hang up the towel to dry, and fix yourself a cup of tea. You earned it!

Copyright BCD Designs, January 2002

How do I start basketweave in a curved area?
        Courtesy of David McCaskill

  1. Find the furthest right vertical thread in the design area.
  2. Find the highest intersection of that vertical thread - that is your starting point.
  3. Determine if the top thread of the intersection is a vertical thread (pole) or a horizontal thread (step)
  4. Work up the steps and down the poles.

How should I handle blending/shading?

This can be accomplished by using an overdyed/variegated thread, or by using multiple strands of different colored solids in a single needle. No matter what stitch you are using, completing each one as you work will give a gentle transition. Working half the stitch then finishing it on the return trip will give a more mixed effect. The stitching should be worked in the direction that makes sense - sky should be worked in horizontal rows, tree bark in vertical rows, so the shading will appear natural.

How do I keep the back of my needlepoint pieces neat?
        Courtesy of Bidwell C. Drake

To not have a lumpy back, start your first thread with the big fat knot on top of the canvas an inch or more away from the first stitch (in a straight line North-South or East-West, not on a diagonal). Then as you stitch, the thread on the back will be buried in the stitching, and when you get to the knot just pull it towards you gently and cut it off very short.

You can end threads much the same way -- turn the piece over, and slide the needle under some stitches, pull very gently, and cut off the extra thread. After the beginning, you can start new colors or the next needful by sliding under existing stitching -- no knots!

How far to slide under the stitching depends. If the stitches are relatively small and next to each other (like Basketweave) an inch or so is plenty. If they are open or loose, you need to make it longer, so it won't pull out.

Then, again to have a clean-looking back, plan your work so you don't skip around a lot. If you only need to carry the fiber across a few stitches on the back, you can turn the work over, and slide under the stitches that are already there. Any farther, end the thread as above, and start it again in the new area.

How do I convert a cross stitch chart to needlepoint?

There are two ways to do this:

  1. You can treat it as a charted canvas pattern, and work one stitch for each square on the chart. This will not work for a pattern that depends heavily on partial stitches and backstitching, since you can't do a half-tent stitch. A warning sign is a pattern designed to be stitched over 2 threads -- these normally use a lot of partial stitches. (In this case, you will also have to pay attention to thread count, or you may end up with a piece twice the size you expected.) Depending on the pattern, the finished piece may come out taller and narrower than you expect, since tent stitches are not exactly square.
  2. Alternatively, you can draw the areas from the chart onto the canvas, then fill in with whatever fibers and stitches you like.

    To handle fractional stitches, you can use penelope canvas (the one that has 2 strands), and use a petit point stitch for each partial stitch. Alternatively, you can do the whole stitch in a single color, and experiment with which color to use for which stitch. Another alternative would be to use very fine wool or floss, and do both colors.

How should I clean my needlework?
        Courtesy of Janet Mitchell Fishel (Director of Conservation and Textiles for a regional collection):

When cleaning any type of needlework, begin with the least harmful methods. Remember that some things cannot be "undone," and damage to threads, fabrics and fibers fall into this category.

Begin by vacuuming the item to remove any dust. To vacuum, make a "vacuum cloth" from nylon screen (yes, the type used in screen doors). Be sure the screening is not metal. Sew wide bias tape around the perimeter of the screen to prevent fraying and to prevent damage to the piece being cleaned. The screen will allow you to remove dust while assuring that the threads will not be disturbed in the process.

Using a hand vacuum with an upholstery-type attachment, carefully vacuum by slowly moving the vacuum from top to bottom in long straight sweeps. Overlap the "rows" of vacuuming. You may wish to cover the intake of your hose with a small piece of thin cotton fabric to gather the dust that comes from the piece. By covering the intake, you can see the results of your work.

Many times the vacuuming will clean the needlework sufficiently, and no further measures are necessary. By the way, most museums stop with the vacuuming process, if at all possible.

Regarding Orvus:

I use huge amounts of Orvus for everything from fine linens to special clothing. It has a neutral cleaning agent and is suitable for many washable fabrics. The key word here is washable. Disasters can occur when the fabric is washable, but the threads are not. If the threads are not colorfast, your work will be ruined.

Example: A fine batiste christening dress was washed, assuming that the cotton fabric was washable. The tiny rosebuds and leaves worked in pink and green, unfortunately were not. The end results were a clean dress with off-white flowers and leaves. All of the color washed out of the thread. It was washed in Orvus.

If you plan to wash any old stitched piece of needlework, it is necessary to assure that the threads are colorfast. To do this, wet a Q-tip with water (and Orvus, if you plan to use it). Find threads on the back of the piece or in the margins that can be tested. Many times older pieces have long threads that are either "carried" across other stitches or long ends that have not been clipped. ISOLATE the thread by lifting it from the fabric or canvas and slipping a flattened dry Q-tip under it. If the color runs, it will not get on the fabric. If you see any color on the wet Q-tip or on the dry one underneath, do not wet the piece. It is far better to have a "not so clean" treasure than a ruined one.

How do I wash and block old and/or dirty needlepoint?
        Courtesy of Bidwell C. Drake

You definitely can wash a canvas or needlepointed piece yourself. However, if it is a very old piece, very delicate, valuable, or damaged, send it to a professional textile conservationist to restore. Do not ever take needlepoint to a dry cleaner because dry cleaners use heavy-duty chemicals, too much heat, and flatten the stitching. 

Please note that these instructions are only for wool on cotton or linen canvas, and do not apply to silk or rayon threads. Cotton threads may wash nicely, but they should be tested for colorfastness first. If it is a commercial canvas the paint colors are very unlikely to bleed. If it was painted by a non-professional the colors may bleed. Instructions on how to deal with any kind of color bleeding are found below. Luckily, most old pieces were worked from charts, so there is no paint to bleed. Old canvases also are easier to block than new work.

To wash it yourself you will need:
     - tape measure
     - clean yardstick
     - blocking board New wooden boards must be tightly covered with oilcloth or vinyl tablecloth 
     - fabric (available by the yard at fabric shops; see particulars below) or with freezer paper.
     - large stainless-and-aluminum push pins (one for every inch around the piece plus extras)
     - large old towel
     - Ivory or Lux soap flakes/granules or Orvus WA Paste. (Orvus is a pH-balanced horse
       shampoo without additives, sold by feed stores. Small containers are also available in
       fabric, quilting, and some needlework shops. Three brand names are Treasure Wash,
       Ensure Quilt Wash, and Quilt Soap.)

More than likely you will also need:
     - small roll of Seams Great (available at fabric shops)
     - thread to match the stitched background color
     - sewing machine with zigzag stitch

You may also want to wear latex examination gloves when blocking, as the pressure of pulling wet canvas is ruinous to manicures.

Plywood can be used for the blocking board, tightly covered with oilcloth or freezer paper, shiny side up, but it is very hard to push the pins into plywood. Plain wood is much easier, and hollow-core doors are the easiest of all. Some people use ceiling tile, but water dissolves it, so beware. We use wood boards and hollow-core doors.

Our blocking boards are covered with oilcloth printed with a dark teal and white plaid, which gives straight lines in both directions. The white lines are visible through the unstitched areas of the canvas. The lines can form rectangles rather than squares, but they do need to be straight, and no more than three inches apart. For round pieces mark circles on the paper, one-half inch larger in circumference than the stitching area. A fat paint pen can be used to mark a grid or circle on the shiny side of freezer paper, but whatever you use to mark the paper, you must rub the lines with a damp paper towel to make sure they are permanent. 

First, measure the needlepoint in place, so you can measure it during the blocking process and make it fit. Then remove the needlepoint from whatever it's attached to: chair, stool, frame, velvet, etc. 

If the previous finisher clipped off the extra canvas (usually the case) you must stabilize the edges before you can proceed. We use Seams Great by Dritz. It is a fine mesh tape that stretches the long way but not sideways. Set your machine to wide zigzag and short stitches because you want them to penetrate the canvas so it will be sturdy. 

With the canvas right side up, slide the end of the Seams Great under the edge of the canvas and stitch it to each side. If there is no extra canvas you will have to attach the Seams Great to the needlepoint stitching, and machine-stitch over two threads' width of canvas. The tape should stick out past the edge of the canvas, so you can pin the tape, rather than the stitching, to the blocking board. 

Tape just to the corners of the canvas, cut the tape off, and turn the canvas to tape the next side. Seams Great is pliable enough to use on a round canvas, as above. 

If there are wax spots on the piece, remove them next with the point of a very warm iron and white paper towels.

Then give the piece a bath. Dissolve a good half-cup of the soap in a small amount of hot water in the bathtub or sink. Then add cold water to a depth of two inches. If necessary let it cool down to tepid before you proceed. Immerse the needlepoint and stroke both sides with the pads of your fingers to help loosen the dirt. Do this at least twice on each side. If there are large areas that are really discolored with dirt, you may rub them with a bar of Ivory Soap, but extra rinsing will be needed. If the piece is extremely dirty and the water is shockingly dark, let it out and repeat the above process. 

Roll the piece up, squeeze (but don't wring) it to get rid of some of the soap, let the water out, and rinse both sides over and over with cold water until you cannot see any evidence of soap. It is faster if you use a hand-held spray for this step, rather than repeatedly changing out the water. 

If the thread or paint colors have bled you must rinse the piece until all bleeding stops, even if the canvas has to spend several days in the bathtub. Do not let the piece dry before all bleeding has stopped. 

Do not let the piece dry before blocking.

Roll it in the towel, squeeze it gently, and head to the blocking board. Spread the needlepoint out wrong side up. If raised stitches were used, then it must be blocked right side up. Keep the damp towel handy to drape over it if you are interrupted.

When you unroll the canvas on the blocking board it will be obvious if it has assumed a parallelogram shape, and, if so, which two corners need the most stretching. If the canvas is sturdy, give it a few tugs at a 45-degree angle to help straighten it out. Put three pins close together at the centers of both long sides, always pinning as close as possible to the edge of the canvas or Seams Great, not into the stitching. If the piece is square or round simply assign "long" sides. Lay the yardstick on the center of the piece and line up the yardstick with the grid lines on the board to make sure the center is straight on the board. 

The two long sides of the canvas are pinned first, and the ends last. Work out from the center pins, first pulling and pinning one of the two sections which need the most stretching. For this first phase, the pins should be no more than two inches apart. Use the lines on the blocking board to help keep the edges straight. Pin just a few inches, turn the board or walk around to its opposite side, and pin opposite the first pins. 

Repeat the above step on the second section which needs stretching, again working out from the center pins, pinning just a few inches. 

Lay the yardstick across the piece, line it up with the straight lines on the blocking board, and see if you need to re-stretch these two areas before you continue. If it isn't straight, pull out a few pins at a time and re-pin. If it is still twisted, re-pull both sides again, a few pins at a time. 

Continue to work towards the ends, pinning a few inches at a time, always pinning the side that needs the most stretching first.

Check the length with the yardstick, and see if you're close to the needed size; you may need to really pull the ends. Or you may decide that straight is all that is needed, and it doesn't matter if the piece is slightly smaller than intended. When the pins are two inches from the corners start working on the ends. Again, stretch and pin the worst areas first, alternating ends until the entire piece is stretched and pinned. You must be careful to pull only the half of each end that needs it, and not the half that doesn't. 

For a round piece, follow the above pattern, pulling the worst areas towards the edge of the painted circle first, and the sections that need the least stretching last.

Finally, go back around the entire piece, pulling out the scallops and pinning them, so the pins are no more than an inch apart. Leave it to dry 24-48 hours where it will not be disturbed. Don't use a fan, as it will make the canvas buckle. 

Hang up the towel to dry, and fix yourself a cup of tea. You earned it!

If there are spots left after blocking, you may well be able to remove them with lighter fluid and a white washcloth. Wrap a single thickness of the washcloth over a finger, put a little fluid on it, and gently rub the spot with the grain of the stitching. Keep moving the washcloth on your finger, so you are always using a clean area. Alternatively, if you have yarn that matches the original color, you can mend out a spot by going over it with fewer plies of yarn.

Copyright BCD Designs, January 2002

What sorts of things could I make as a baby gift for a friend/relative?

Some ideas that have been suggested include a band sampler or geometric in pastels, stuffed, stand-up animals, plastic canvas blocks, or a growth chart. For framed pieces, put a pocket on the back with the history of the piece, who made it, and their relationship to the child.

What sorts of small things can I make as gifts?

Luggage tags, key chains, bookmark, box top, scissors case/weight, hot pad, name tags, key tassel for on china cabinet (initial or small design mounted on a button form, second button form covered with backing material, a tassel attached between the two halves, and the front and back glued or sewn together), 2" x 3" canvases be put into a Sudberry music box, jewelry box, or presentation box. They could also be finished as a belt buckle, pendant, pin, sachet, gift tag later used as an ornament, tassel fob, just a cool looking mini framed work of art, credit card case, key case, flap for a cell phone case or eyeglass case, get two matching ones (or request on be done in the mirror image and use them as decorative clips on dressy shoes, do a third one as an evening bag clasp (apply it to a black velvet evening bag for the clasp) and a fourth can be made into a barrette.

How do I estimate how much fiber to use for a particular project?

For large areas, one hand print with fingers slightly spread is approx 5 sq in, and will take approximately 1 40 yd skein, or an ounce of Paternayan (using 2 strands on 14 mesh).

For small areas, 1 to 1 1/2 yd per sq inch on 14 ct. canvas, a little more for higher count. A thumb print is approx. 1 sq in.

These estimates are for tent stitch, compound stitches will take more thread.

How do I achieve a transparent/sheer effect? OR How do I stitch over something, but let the details show through?

Stitch the area with an opaque thread alone, and let the painted detail will show through. Suggested fibers include the smaller size of Prism, Water N' Ice, one ply blending filament.

Use a stitch that lightly covers the canvas - On 13 mesh canvas, try 4 way continental, using 1 ply of lacquer jewels or 1 ply cord from Kreinik. On 18 count try skip tent, or the T stitch or Alicia's Lace.

Appliqué sheer fabric over the stitching.

For more ideas on transparent stitching, see Amy Bunger's article in the September 1999 issue of NeedlePointers.

How do I make a perfect bullion knot?

Most people recommend using a milliners needle for bullions, because the eye and shaft are the same diameter. This helps the bullion keep to the proper shape. You can also use a darning needle, but may want to blunt the tip with a nail file or cement sidewalk first.

Pay attention to the direction you wrap the thread around the needle, as this will affect the look of your knots. If you want rod-like bullions, wrap the thread around the needle in the opposite direction of the thread's own twist. If you want bullions that are narrower on one end, wrap the thread in the same direction as its own twist. In this case, you will be adding twist to the thread, the threads will be getting thinner as you go, and the finishing end of your bullion will be narrower than the beginning end.

As with all stitches, practice, practice, practice......

What is the difference between an away knot and a waste knot?

Both are used when starting stitching in a new area, and there are no existing stitches to run the thread under. A knot is tied in the end of the thread, and the needle is plunged into the canvas from the top, a few inches away from where you are going to start stitching. The difference between the two types of knots comes in where the knot is put.

An AWAY KNOT is put in the direction you will not be stitching. After you've stitched awhile, you can clip the knot off, then slip the end under existing stitches to secure it. A WASTE KNOT is placed a couple inches away from where you will start stitching, in the direction that you will be stitching. In this case your first few stitches go over the loose end and tied it down, and when you reach the knot you just cut it off, and your thread is already secure.

How do I read a needlepoint chart?

Needlework is charted in two "languages" and it's necessary to know which you are using and be able to read them both.

Jean Hilton, Orna Willis, Susan Portra, nearly everybody currently producing designs to be stitched with many different stitches and stitch patterns, do "needlepoint style" charts in which the lines represent the canvas threads and each square is a hole in the canvas. Tent stitch areas in these charts are shown by diagonal lines across an intersection.

Kaffe Fassett and Hugh Ehrman charts use the "cross stitch style" of charting: each square represents a tent stitch over a canvas intersection and the color of the square, or the symbol in it, show what thread color to use. The squares are the canvas threads, the lines in the chart are the channels between threads, and the intersections of lines are the holes in the canvas. There are a lot of older books around with this sort of charting for designs that were to be stitched with tent stitch. The Jean McIntosh designs are charted this way.

Sue Lentz uses "cross stitch style" charting but her designs utilize different stitches; Byzantine, Scotch, Satin, etc. A diagonal stitch over three threads will be shown as a line drawn diagonally across three squares. I love her designs but sometimes, being more accustomed to the "needlepoint style" find the charts hard to follow and I occasionally resort to recharting in "needlepoint style." Some of the sampler charts designed for linen, ("Just Nan" for example) incorporate different stitches but use the "cross stitch style" chart. Sometimes these use one square equals TWO threads.

How do I remove pencil marks from a canvas?

Always use a "white" eraser. Erasers with color will deposit the color on your canvas and create a larger problem than you started with. Art Gum erasers and Kneaded Rubber erasers are for paper only. Magic Rub, a white eraser available from office supply stores, works fine, as does the eraser sold in fabric stores under various names, but with the designation as a "fabric eraser".

What can I do with a rust-stained piece?

Your first step should be to try to clean the piece. Start with mild detergents, and work up to harsher ones. Remember that any of these methods may damage colors or fibers, so use as little as possible. Begin by putting some on a cotton swab, and dabbing at the affected area, and gradually increase amounts if it appears to be working. Some of the methods described below are quite drastic, and should only be tried on pieces that would otherwise be discarded.

According to "The Stain and Spot Remover Handbook", rust stains on fabric can sometimes be removed with lemon juice and salt. Apply the mixture directly to the stain and let it stand for a few minutes. Then pour boiling water through the fabric until stain is out. If the piece has been worked with colored threads, either only treat the affected area, or make sure the fibers used are colorfast to boiling water.

Fabrics that can be boiled can be treated in a cream of tartar solution, Use 1 tablespoon to 1 qt. water and boil for 10 minutes or longer. Rinse well.

As a last resort, a grocery store product called WHINK can be tried. It is very harsh, but is an alternative to throwing out the piece.

If you can't clean it, you can always try to patch the work.

  1. If the rust spots are evenly spaced, you can use surface stitches to cover them. Good stitches might be Smyrna cross stitch, satin-stitch heart, queen stitch, satin stitch lozenges/triangles, palestrina knots, etc. If the spots are not evenly spaced, balance the design by adding extra stitches between the spots.
  2. If there's not enough room to add stitches between the rows of drawn thread work, think about adding a(nother) row of hemstitching to make a border for that row, and repeat it on the other side to balance the design.
  3. Withdraw a rusted thread from the fabric, and replace it by re-weaving a spare thread from the hem into its place. Use a blunt tapestry needle so you don't pierce any threads. Do this one at a time ONLY, and keep it mounted in the frame to control tension while you do it.

If you remove a vertical thread, just remove it in the area affected by the rust, between bands. Anchor the ends of the replacement thread in the closest hemstitched borders where you started and finished - use a sewing machine thread to match and work from behind if necessary, then trim the excess away. If you take out a horizontal thread, anchor replacement at the outside edges of the fabric (you probably zigzagged the edges before starting).

In either case, Make sure to match the thickness of the thread you replace to the thickness of the one you removed.

You can also cut some threads, then weave the remaining threads with a 1/8" (or wider) ribbon, to cover the remaining vertical threads. By carefully choosing the over and under pattern, you can cover the stained threads, and leave unstained ones showing.

How can I turn a piece of needlework into a book cover?
        Courtesy of Bid Drake

Your lining fabric should be fairly thin, but sturdy. Cut it the same size as the trimmed needlepoint (ie, with a half inch seam allowance all the way around). Also cut one extra piece of lining, five inches wide and the same height as the rest of the lining. Cut the lining in half vertically so you have two pieces, for the inside front and inside back covers. Fold over the edges that will be closest to the spine of the book one inch, and seam these hems. Pin the large pieces of fabric to the needlepoint, right sides together, with the hemmed edges towards the center. Pin the extra piece of lining fabric vertically to cover the gap in the center, right side towards the needlepoint. Stitch all the way around with a medium-length straight stitch. Clip the corners, just barely.

Then comes the most difficult part...turn it right side out! You'll need to roll one side to slip it under the center lining panel first, then turn the ends.

Work the corners with your fingertips or a chopstick to make the insides lie flat. You can help it adjust to the fold by pressing just the edges of the needlepointed side, under a damp pressing cloth, depending on the fibers. If the fibers can't take a damp pressing cloth, put heavy books on the edges to flatten them, and let it rest for 24 hours.

Voila, a book cover!

How do I cover a dark outline on a light canvas - the drawn line shows through the stitched thread?

Sharon G suggests using white acrylic paint, either Golden or Liquitex, in the fluid form. If buying Golden, use the Titanium White not the Zinc White which is transparent. If all fails, get some white gesso (in an art store) and dot it on the canvas just over the black outline.

She also suggests using a small round brush, size #1 should be fine enough. Use a Robert Simmons, Gold Takalon or other synthetic brush and keep it wet and wash it out with soap and water when you are done. If you let the paint dry on it, it will be there forever. Don't waste money on a natural hairbrush -- canvas painters use synthetic brushes since the canvas will destroy the brush with use.

Sharon G cautions that white paint of any kind shows on canvas. In fluorescent light it will take on a yellowish green cast so be careful and only paint out what is really necessary.

Jody Valentine uses Liquetex concentrate Titanium White found in a jar (found in art supply stores.) To go over a line she would just dot it, let dry, then touch up with a few more dots if necessary. For any correction use as little white paint as possible. If you are going to be stitching with Persian wool, you still may see a faint gray line, depending on the light and angle you look at your piece.

Carole Lake offers a non-painting solution. She tries to attack these problems with stitching, so here are some suggestions for the paint-impaired! Of course, the size of your design will make a difference, but maybe one of these will work.

Alternative suggestion #1: Distract your 'eye' by stitching with a blend of colors in your needle for a 'tweedie' look.

Alternative suggestion #2: Stitch up to the line in white, then stitch outside the line in cream, like a shadow (or vice versa.)

Alternative suggestion #3: Stitch along the black line in gold (or something) perhaps in cross stitches or Smyrna cross) to look like an accent outline.

Alternative suggestion #4: Change your stitch at the black line: perhaps do tent stitch inside the line and switch to Scotch outside the line.



What is the difference between Marlitt, DMC and Fiesta rayon threads?

All are stranded rayon floss. Marlitt and DMC have good coverage. Fiesta sometimes doesn't, but only by a hair. Running it over a damp sponge before stitching can help remove kinks and make it easier to stitch with, but some people feel this removes some of the sheen.

Which threads are colorfast? How do I keep the others from bleeding?

Because of environmental regulations, not all threads can be made colorfast. You can set the colors before you stitch, or plan to never get your piece wet. For more details, see the article by Stitcher's Paradise.


Does canvas have a grain, and does it matter to me?

Compiled by Denise Beusen, from contributions by David McCaskill, Bid Drake, Linda Holden, Mary Swinehart, Davie Hyman, Karen Duggan, Roberta Jessing, Sue Strause, Sharon Garmize, Neva Pruess, Janet Perry.

Yes, canvas has a grain. Vertical threads (the warp) are first placed on the loom under tension. As the foundation of the canvas, they are the stronger threads and support the total length of the textile.

The horizontal threads (the weft) are the weaker threads, as all they do is go back and forth and attach only to the side of the vertical thread. They are not attached under tension as the vertical threads are. You may see holes in the selvage edge but these holes are mostly for the rolling of the fabric as it comes off the loom.

Stitched pieces will retain their shape better if worked on the true grain of the canvas, with the selvage vertical. The importance of the lengthwise grain depends on what the finished object will be and the stresses it will experience. If it is to be framed, where it is held securely on all sides, it is less important than a wall hanging, where the selvage should run lengthwise. This is analogous to garment construction, where fabric cut crosswise will never hang right.

For tent stitch (basketweave and continental), stitchers report that the needle goes into the canvas a lot easier when the design is aligned with the grain. Coverage of the canvas by the fibers is also reported to be better, with the appearance of the stitches more uniform. These observations may result from the fact that working with the grain helps hold the warp threads in place while stitching.

Sometimes the thread count per inch is not equal in both directions of the canvas. This can present a serious problem if two pieces of canvas are to be joined to complete a project. Some geometric designs, large ones especially, may look different when stitched in different directions.

Once you've identified the grain of your canvas (see below), mark the top. Cut the piece you need, with the longest part of the design in the north/south direction and the narrowest part of the design on the east/west direction. Once you've bound the edges of your cut piece, mark the top of this piece so you will know which are the selvage edges corresponding to the straight of grain.

How can I identify the grain on a piece of canvas with no selvage?

These approaches work on white canvas only. Take a needle and run across the ditch (between two vertical or horizontal threads). There is a distinct noise difference, with the vertical selvage louder than the horizontal threads. Another method is to pull a thread from each edge of the canvas. The more tightly curled thread is the warp (the vertical thread). Or, you can close your eyes and run your finger tips slowly and lightly up and down the canvas. With your eyes closed, your fingers seem to be more sensitive. It should feel smoother with the grain (up and down) and rougher across. For interlock canvas, there is a single horizontal (weft) thread. Vertically (the warp) and parallel to the edge there are two threads twisted around each horizontal thread.

How do I get creases out of old fabric?
        Courtesy of Janet Mitchell Fishel, (Director of Conservation and Textiles for a regional collection):

There are some wrinkles, creases and folds that cannot be removed. The "old" folds that have become soiled on the crease will never appear flattened, because the soiled line may remain -- even after cleaning. Folds that have been pressed for some time, and possible heat-set by being stored in an attic or non-air-conditioned area, will remain permanent. A canvas that has been pressed between heavy layers of books (or even other fabric) may retain a crease.

With these factors in mind, the following is the method recommended for removing "removable" creases from unworked canvas and Congress Cloth.

Prepare a heat-proof, hard pressing surface (ironing board, wood or masonite pressing table) by layering at least eight layers of clean, washed cotton fabric, ironing each layer as it is laid. An old cotton sheet is ideal. Congress Cloth or canvas may then be laid with the crease pointing up on the sheet surface. Cover the canvas with another four to eight layers of cotton fabric. The heavier the canvas, the more layers are required. Congress Cloth can be pressed with four layers, but heavier canvas will require eight layers. The layers of cotton fabric should be pressed individually, stacked and then laid over the canvas as a group. It is important that there be no wrinkles in the pressing fabric.

Using an iron set on cotton/with medium steam, begin to carefully press over the entire area containing the canvas. A stamping motion is better than a "sweeping" motion. Let the fabric cool thoroughly. Lift the top layers to see if the crease is "lower." Move the canvas slightly to another section of the prepared surface. Turn the canvas over so that the crease is pointing downward. Cover and press again. Do not press an uncovered canvas. The layers of cotton cover should always be used.

The amount of steam may be increased, but it is important that the steam does not produce drops of water that could circle or watermark the canvas.

Repeat the steps until the crease is removed. This is a time-consuming task that may require a full day. If, after a dozen or so steps (turning the canvas and pressing each side 12 times), the crease has not been removed, you may assume that the crease is permanent. At that point, begin planning smaller projects that will allow you to use the canvas by cutting on the crease.

To prevent the problem of wrinkles, creases and folds, make a conscious effort to store canvas flat between layers of cotton fabric or acid free tissue, or in round mailing tubes.

What is silk gauze, and how do I stitch on it?
        Courtesy of Jane Wood

Silk gauze looks like netting or panty hose with very fine, even mesh. You can't do pulled stitches on it, and it is not blocked when finished. Traditionally the background of a silk gauze piece is not stitched, as unstitched mesh seems to disappear in contrast with the stitched area. Silk gauze comes in various counts (32, 40, and 48 holes per inch are common), colors (ecru and black are generally available), and either already mounted in acid-free mat board or just straight off the bolt. Unmounted is cheaper. Mounted silk gauze looks like a matted picture, with the gauze in the center.

It is easier to stitch on silk gauze if it is either mounted in a mat or sewn into the center of a piece of fabric which is then put into a hoop or onto a scroll frame or stretcher bars. Kreinik's Soie d Alger silk thread, or one strand of cotton floss covers beautifully on 40 count.

Except for the #28 size, tapestry needles are too fat for the meshes in silk gauze. SharonG recommends #15 or #16 beading needles. These are sharp-pointed, tiny-eyed, and about two inches long, though they can be hard to use when the thread length is short. John James Company makes beading needles half that long. You can use an emery board to blunt the tips but they'll still be quite sharp. Only the diamond-shaped wire threaders will work on the beading needles' tiny eyes. Reinforcing the place where the wire is threaded into the metal base with a drop of glue can help prevent pulling it apart during use.

See also the May 2000 issue of Needle Pointers, for an in depth article on stitching on silk gauze

Tools and Supplies

Where can I get needlepoint supplies (canvas, fibers, books) in my town, or how do I locate needlework stores in other towns?

The first place to try is your Local Needlework Store - look in the yellow pages under "Needlework" or "Sewing". You can also find shops by using your favorite search engine or an on-line yellow-pages lookup site.

What is a laying tool, and how do I use one?

A laying tool is used to help fibers lie straight. There are many types - anything from a large needle to an expensive Japanese tekobari can be used to lay threads. Martha Beth Lewis has an article on what they are and how to use them.

What should I look for when buying a floor stand?

The most important thing is that the stand you buy works for you. Consider

  • Will this stand hold the types of frames you work on?
  • Will this stand fit under or beside the chair you usually stitch in?
  • Do you need to travel with this stand? If so, does it fold up/disassemble easily?
  • If you work on very large pieces, will it be stable?
  • How easy is it to get to the back of your work?
  • Do you need a place for it to hold a pattern/chart?

The best thing to do is go to your local needlework stores and try several stands. Take measurements with you - how much clearance is there under your stitching chair, what height is the seat, and so on, so you can see how it will work with your stitching area. If possible, sit at the floor model stands and stitch for a few minutes, to see how they feel. Find on-line information on various types and brands of frame stands by using your favorite search engine. Suggested search terms:

        needlework "floor stand"
        needlework "frame stand"

What kind of glasses should I get for stitching?

Contributed by Teresa/Ladydoc

The "no-line" bifocals are great for most of the time. But for stitching, if you want to work on higher count fabrics, you can get a pair of glasses specially made up just for that. If you get them done correctly, you can use them to stitch while watching TV etc and still get the best possible vision for stitching.

Take your prescription to wherever you have your glasses fabricated. Tell them you want a "flat-top" or "straight-top" bifocal. Tell them you want the bifocal to be 35 mm wide -- if you need to wear a small frame that will not accommodate a 35mm seg, then you want a 28mm seg. Tell the person doing the fitting of the glasses to set the bifocal line at the margin of your lower lid. Also, explain that these are for fine needlework, and tell them to make the bifocal +0.50 stronger than your regular glasses in the bifocal.

Viola! Stitching glasses! You will probably not be able to wear these for routine use as the bifocal will be too high for walking around in comfortably, and too strong for normal usage. But for your stitching, they will be wonderful.

You should find that the flat top bifocal is not as expensive a lens as the "no-lines" you have for everyday usage. If you combine this with a basic frame (since who is going to see them?), this should not be a particularly expensive pair of glasses -- and they will really make a difference while you stitch.

What is best artificial light to use for stitching?

Most of the "true light" or "day light" fluorescent light bulbs available today are broad spectrum light bulbs. These have most, but not all of the color spectrum; leaving off bits at each end of the color range if you will. These light bulbs are becoming more and more available through lighting and hardware stores.

The Ott lights sold in many needlework stores are full spectrum lights, which cover the entire light spectrum - like sunlight at noon. There are some incandescent bulbs that give a full band light spectrum, but these generate more heat than a fluorescent bulb. The broad spectrum lights sold in office supply stores are not the same as the full spectrum lights sold through needlework stores, and there is a significant difference in price.

Grow light bulbs are not the same thing, they emit more ultra violet light and may fade fibers, threads, etc.


How should I behave in a workshop?

Classroom Etiquette ­ as expressed by past Seminar attendees

Most people at Seminar are kind and courteous, but in the past, some have been rude. People giggled at classmates of the opposite sex; they audibly disparaged teachers (even while sitting in their classes); their chatter drowned out the teacher. They even (gasp!) threw their orts on the floor. Just one student can ruin a class for the others. Each is responsible for helping to make Seminar the best it can be for everyone.

Please be kind. It is not considered nice to critique other people or organizations, or other people's stitching, with your neighbor or teacher during class. Make arrangements to do this after class, in private. Be thoughtful: don't touch someone else's stitching or materials. And speaking of damage, needlework was never meant to absorb food or drink, so please arrange to spill only on your own work. So, absolutely no food or drink of any kind in the classrooms!

No smoking, and no scent. All Seminar classes and events are non-smoking. There are ANG members who are severely affected by smoke or scents (asthma attacks, etc.), and this policy protects their health and ANG itself. "No scent" applies to many substances besides "perfume." Allergies can't read labels. It doesn't matter how terrific something smells; if you can smell it, don't use it.

Be on time. If you are late, take the closest seat that disturbs others least. If you will be late for class or can't attend please tell your teacher, angel or another classmate. If you can't do this yourself, ask someone to do it for you.

Be prepared with all supplies plus pencil and paper for notes. Burrow into your tote bag and set out your essentials as soon as you arrive. Stash all the rest out of the way under the table is good. If things are piled behind you, the teacher has to climb mountains to see your stitching.

Make sure your frame holder doesn't squeak. Be courteous and thoughtful of those in your class and in others, and keep your occasional murmurs soft and gentle. Recipes, restaurants, mutual funds, kids, the World Series, etc., are good chat subjects for breaks or after class.

A teacher once defined the difference between an intermediate stitcher and an advanced stitcher: the advanced stitcher puts down the needle and listens when the teacher speaks. Be alert; listen to the teacher the first time she or he says something. Questions? Your teacher is eager to hear and answer them. If you ask your neighbor, neither of you can hear the teacher.

Remember, you are sharing the teacher with everyone in the class. Do not hog her or his time. If you want private lessons, ask the teacher after class. Don't use class time to tell the teacher your methods. The other students paid their money to study with him or her, not with you.

Do not bring or show projects from other classes. 'Tain't couth!

Please remember that the classrooms are used for other events, and sometimes there is not time between events for the hotel staff to tidy up. So please place your trash, orts (thread ends) and other leftover bits in the trash bins, not on the floor or the tables.

Overheard at Atlanta: "I can hardly wait to go home and teach this to my Guild!" Class work directions may not be copied or taught without the teacher's permission. You could be zapped by copyright laws. Thus, it is also extremely poor etiquette to put people on the spot by requesting or offering copies.

Cell phones and beepers are disturbing, but not all cell phone calls are mere chats. Some are deadly serious. There are people attending Seminar who must bring their home responsibilities with them. For them, a cell phone is indispensable, the only thing that frees them to leave their homes at all. If you must bring one of these devices to class, please set it on "vibrate" or "single beep" instead of "scream" if possible, and answer it quickly and quietly. If you must talk, leave the room before you continue the conversation. If you anticipate a call, please tell your teacher in advance and sit where you can leave easily. Obviously, it is rude for anyone to place calls during class time.

It was once said of a past Seminar student, "This particular student made class time miserable for many of us. And what's worse, I don't think she ever caught on that she was being so rude." A word to the wise!

These ideas came from many ANG members, both teachers and students.

What are the "usual stitching supplies" that I should take to a seminar or class?

This list was originally compiled by the Gateway Chapter ANG.

These are basically the things you can't stitch without - the list will vary for each person. Don't be afraid to ask other members what they have, and if you can try their tools. Finding the right item is a matter of trial-and-error, but shouldn't require that you purchase every option to find one suitable for you.

Essential Items:

  • a variety of sizes of needles
  • 2 pairs of scissors (one for metals, one for other threads)
  • laying tool
  • stitching stand or clamp or frame weight (to free both hands for stitching)
  • pencil and paper (lined and gridded) for taking notes
  • name tag
  • if you'll be mounting the canvas at the workshop, you'll need 1-inch wide, acid-free tape to bind the edges of the canvas, stretcher bars (if required) in the size specified by instructor, rust-proof tacks and a small hammer, or a staple gun and pliers

Optional Items:

  • lamp (with extension cord)
  • magnifying lens or glasses
  • jacket or sweater
  • canvas marker or pencil (to trace pattern to canvas)
  • damp sponge in a plastic case (for unkinking threads)
  • tweezers
  • seam ripper (with tip cover)
  • dololly (for weaving short thread ends)
  • hemostat (locking tweezers)
  • hand lotion (non-greasy)
  • needle threaders
  • ruler or tape measure
  • magnetic needle safe
  • straight pins
  • basting thread
  • pair of magnets to park needles
  • bee's wax
  • awl
  • thimble
  • boo-boo stick (for removing cut threads)
  • fraycheck
  • magnetic wand
  • magnifying sheet
  • scrap canvas to practice stitches
  • colored pencils
  • small zipper bags for threads
  • ...

    and of course a tote bag to carry it all!

How do I pack needlework on stretcher bars to travel?

(Paraphrased from Carole Lake)

Cut a piece of foam core (or cardboard or mat board or something stiff) to fit inside the interior of the stretcher bars. Cut two more pieces to the size of the outside of the stretcher bars. Cover the actual stitchery with a clean white handkerchief, soft handtowel, something like that. Put the inside piece of foam core inside the stretcher bars to brace the canvas. Make a "sandwich" out of the larger pieces. Put rubber bands around or tie with string. Voila!

What is a stitch notebook?

This is a notebook you create containing worked examples of many different stitches. By working a small area (normally 1" to 2" square), you can get a feel for how to do the stitch, where it might be useful, what threads do and do not work, etc. It becomes a great reference book to look through when you're looking for a special stitch to use on a new project.

A good place to start would be by working the stitches from ANG's Stitch of the Month. You can use any threads and colors you want, but a light colored canvas and darker threads will make the stitches easiest to see. Pearl cotton is a good choice because it does not have to be laid. Many stitches use two, three, or more different type of thread, but you may be able to use different colors instead. If you use contrasting threads for stitches with multiple layers, it's easier to see the pattern later.

If you like a particular stitch, you can play with different threads, and changing the size and shape - make it tall and thin, or short and fat.

You can put your stitched squares into plastic pages designed for slides, photographs, baseball cards, computer disks, etc. depending on their size. These pages are available at most office supply stores.

Additions or corrections to this FAQ should be sent to