Needlepoint is the art of pulling thread through an open-weave canvas. It can be any type of thread, but wool yarns and cotton floss are the most commonly used fibers in needlepoint. The open-weave canvas typically used is made of starched cotton, so it is reasonably stiff but can be washed and handled a lot without damage. Because of the variety of fiber choices and the durability of needlepoint canvas, the finished product can be used for many purposes which might explain why it remains popular today.
Needlepoint was first invented as a replica for woven tapestries. It was something “ladies” could do as handwork and it did not require a lot of equipment or strength – it is, indeed, very ladylike! The canvas is strong, so unlike cross stitch which is usually done on fine linens, needlepoint lends itself to upholstering. Throughout the ages people have stitched decorative chair and foot stool coverings, fireplace stands, pillows and rugs, and they continue to do so today.
In fact, needlepoint is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance and this may be due, in part, to manufacturers bringing out more contemporary designs, and to the wide variety of needlepoint kits and canvases available on the Web. A study by The National Needlearts Association entitled ‘The State of Specialty Needlearts 2007′, reports that the “percentage of needlepointers’ spending at needlearts Web sites increased from 9% to 15% from 2004 to 2006.” In years past needlepoint was firmly entrenched in English country cottages and various dog breeds, but not any more. Needlepoint manufacturers now produce contemporary and whimsical kits and canvases, some of which are the designs of well-known artists produced under license. However, traditional designs like florals and Arts and Craft movement styles are still widely available, so there really is something for everyone.
Needlepoint has known therapeutic benefits. It is a form of meditation and helps to de-stress the mind, giving it something beautiful to focus on that is removed from daily worries. Many people “complain” that once they start a project they cannot stop! Working a needle can also keep elderly fingers nimble and assist a developing brain with math skills and spacial concepts. Needlepoint is a hobby that can be carried through life.
There is clearly more to needlepoint than meets the eye. It has endured through the centuries and there may be no calmer, more pleasant way to pass the time in a dentist’s waiting room than to pull out a needlepoint kit and stitch away.