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 Needlepoint and Needle Arts

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John Alexander
Embroidery Top Dog
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Join date : 2014-04-11

PostSubject: Needlepoint and Needle Arts   Thu May 29, 2014 6:26 am

If you think of needle arts in terms of needlepoint pillows only, think again. Although needlepoint was traditionally done by threading wool through canvas with a specific stitch, according to the American Needlepoint Guild, needlepoint is now defined as "any counted or free stitchery worked by hand with a threaded needle on a readily countable ground." However needlework goes beyond canvas and thread; needle felting allows you to create sculptural pieces from unspun wool that are only as limited as your imagination.
Needlepoint
When most of us hear the term needlepoint, it calls to mind images of elaborate pillows, samplers and tapestries. The durability of the canvas and woolen threads used to execute the designs-traditional needlepoint uses variations of only one stitch type, called tent stitch-is what fueled its popularity as a needlework craft.
Today's needle and fiber artists incorporate various materials into their work as well as an almost endless array of stitches, but one thing holds true: needlepoint is a skill easily learned by beginners that requires a minimal investment in simple needlework tools (needle, threads, canvas and canvas frames, and scissors).
Like most needle arts, beginners should consider purchasing a needlework kit, preferably with a painted or printed canvas to guide them as they develop their skill sets. Look for small projects with few colors and stick with tent stitches until you feel comfortable moving on.
Cross-Stitch
Cross-stitching is kind of embroidery that finds its popular roots in folk art. This needlework technique can be adapted to both simple and complex designs and the flexibility of the medium is what accounts for its popularity today. Like needlepoint, cross-stitch is easy to learn and the wide availability of beginner projects available make it accessible to almost anyone.
There are two types of cross-stitching: counted and stamped. Stamped cross-stitch is easier for beginners to learn as the stitch placement is stamped on the cloth with Xs-the cross stitches-in the thread color to be used for that stitch.
With counted cross-stitch, there is no visual guide on the cloth. Instead, the pattern is printed on a reference chart however, the stitch placements are printed in the thread color to be used for that stitch. Most people prefer counted cross-stitch, although stamped cross-stitch still has a following for certain projects, like table linens (and it's a good way for beginners to learn before they move onto counted cross-stitch).
Basic cross-stitch materials include cross-stitching cloth, a hoop or frame to help keep the cloth taut, needle and the thread colors used for the project (kits may include some or all of these for you).
Embroidery
Machine embroidery has become increasingly popular, but purists still opt to embroider by hand. How is it different from needlepoint or cross-stitching? It's really not-embroidery is simply another word used to describe the act of applying a design to some kind of fabric using a needle, thread and various stitches, ranging from simple tent or cross stitches to complex stitches like the Turkish rug.
With embroidery, the key to turning out beautiful designs comes down to stitch choice and to some degree, color. The stitches you choose are what give the finished product depth while the colors you work with help provide visual contrast.
As with other needlework, you need only a few materials to get started, but an embroidery hoop is a must. Taut cloth is easier to work with and helps ensure your stitches are even in size, shape and tension.
Needle Felting
Needle felting involves working with unspun wool, typically called roving and a specially, burred needle. You start by forming the wool into the general shape you'd like to create, then use the needle to punch through the wool to fuse the fibers together, which allows it to take a more structured shape. The burrs on the needle are what create the agitation needed to felt the wool (if you've ever washed a wool sweater in the washing machine with hot water, you know how agitation works to fuse fibers).
You need only a few materials to get started with needle felting: a felting needle, a piece of foam, a design and carded wool. Place the wool on the foam and punch it with the needle in quick, up and down strokes to form the desired pattern or design. The foam serves to protect the surface of your working area and helps keep the needle from breaking.
There are two main tricks to needle felting. The first is to keep the needle straight when you are punching the wool. If you try to punch at an angle, your needle may break. The second trick is to prevent injury-you're using quick motions to manipulate a very sharp needle. Use this technique to create toys, clothing embellishments, holiday ornaments and three-dimensional sculptures.
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