Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Year, Unfinished Needlework





I won't bore you with my New Year's resolutions because quite frankly I don't make them. But, if forced to make one, I might say it would be to make the time to do more needlepoint. I've been working on the same canvas now for three years- seriously. It's an Erica Wilson design called Erica's Diamonds, and the reason that I chose it was because it was surprisingly modern looking. Do you know how hard it is to find needlepoint designs that aren't cutesy nor overwrought traditional? My only hesitation about Erica's Diamonds is that it's a riot of color, and I haven't a clue where I'll eventually put it once it's been made into a cushion. But still, once I start something, I must finish it-even if it's three years later. So, I will finish this darn thing in 2011.

What I would absolutely love, and I really mean love, is to find canvases with designs that are chic or modern or unique. To me, the ultimate needlepoint designs must be those geometric masterpieces by the late Sol Kent:





Now this is my kind of needlepoint. It's sophisticated and the colors are subtle. But the important thing to note here is that Kent created his own graphic designs. I suppose that he couldn't find contemporary looking canvases either.





The late Birmingham designer Joe McKinnon took up needlework late in life. He worked on pillows, game table covers, and runners like those, above. I don't know if he designed these particular examples himself or not. That Chinese fretwork pillow would be perfect in my home.







The first time I came across Lou Gartner's book on needlepoint, Needlepoint Design, was about seven years ago. Well, I found it so inspiring that I just knew that I would run out and start stitching up a storm. But once again, I realized that I would have to paint my own canvases or something, so that deterred me. Still, aren't his designs absolutely amazing? Obviously, this man had sophisticated tastes and would not have settled for anything twee. In fact, he likened needlepoint pet portraits to bronzed baby shoes. I knew that I liked this man.


The conclusion that I have come to is that I simply don't have the time to create my own designs and put them down on a canvas. And then there's the actual process of stitching too which takes a lot of time- or at least, it does for me. So, I either need a Lou Gartner or Sol Kent in my life to whip something up for me at my request, or I'm going to have to wait until my retirement years to do it all. Unless, of course, any of you have any better ideas!


(Kent photos from Veranda, Fall 1994, Cameron Wood photographer; McKinnon photos from an old Southern Accents; Gartner photos from Needlepoint Design by Louis J. Gartner.)

41 comments:

  1. I adore needlework! I have used crossstitch patterns with canvas and silk thread or yarn. I would love to do a pillow this year. I just finished a stocking last night. his was the end of my 2010 projects!
    Thank you for sharing. This piece gives me some ideas.
    Have a nice week.
    Teresa
    xoxo

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  2. By the way, the piece you are working on is absolutely brilliant!
    Teresa
    xoxo

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  3. Couldn't you do a bit of borrowing, toss it in power point and make a grid overlay on it then print? However, I agree that the one you're working on is a very clever pattern and definitely worth finishing.

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  4. Jennifer,

    I have to say the one you are working on is gorgeous!! I adore all of the colors.

    Oh and I know that Mrs B has come across some very cool designs!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  5. Oh! Those Sol Kent pillows! What a memory they bring back. I saw that spread decades ago and decided immediately that I must have some just like them. I mentioned this to a brilliant needlepointing friend, who offered to teach me the various stitches---saying that I would enjoy the work, and that it would give me ever fevered splintered attention span some focus. Well, it's 20 or 30 years later, and somewhere in a drawer, forgotten until this post, are my unfinished Sol Kent pillows....it's like they say---the road to hell....

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  6. I adore the pillow you were making!! Keep at it, it doesn't have too much left to do! Where are the best places to get patterns?

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  7. First, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who can't seem to finish a canvas! I'd like to design my own canvases, but the real problem is that I just don't have the patience!

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  8. Needlepoint Design takes the craft to a completely different level! This is amazing stuff. I adore the sixth photo you posted. It even has shading on the straight pin!

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  9. Jennifer, decorative painter Graham Rust did a book some years ago with wonderful designs for needlework. Take a look and see if these don't inspire you to branch out a bit.

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  10. Mary Jane9:24 AM

    Lovely topic, I think that working on a needlepoint is an excellent way to slow down and is actually meditative. I'm fond of Kaffe Fassett's needlepoint designs.

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  11. May I suggest that you attempt to find a copy of one of Maggi Lane's needlepoint books. The Chinese Fretwork pillow you show in the third picture is one of her designs all of which are inspired by Chinoiserie. Plus, the designs are done on plain canvas by counting stitches rather than a painted design. Enjoyed the post.
    Marion

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  12. William Sefchick, NY9:47 AM

    Good morning, Jennifer.
    Welcome home, and Happy New Year.

    'Love the pillow, and I'm impressed that you've found any craft time at all in your increasingly hectic schedule. Keep heart; finishing this year is certainly doable at your current pace. It appears that you have 9 squares remaining, which is 25%. So 3 years down, and only 1 to go!

    And you probably already know this, but it fascinates me that Erica Wilson is married to the modernist furniture legend Vladimir Kagan. Two people together for ages, with such seemingly opposite design sensibilities. I wonder if they have the kitten or bunny pillows on their Serpentine sofas?

    Happy stitching, and mind those needles!
    William

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  13. Have you been to The Nimble Needle in Atlanta (Sandy Springs)? I think you might find the type canvases you're looking for. They have a fairly extensive website, as well.
    www.atlantanimbleneedle.com

    I have a canvas that I started 30 years ago, and I've never finished it! It was going to be a pillow for my mother, with a saying about being a grandmother.My daughter had recently become her first grandchild. At this point, I'm saving it for myself, just in case [said daughter] makes me a grandmother! lol

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  14. The Duke of Windsor's needlepoint cushions were quite chic as well.

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  15. Jennifer - honestly, you're almost there. Try artneedlepoint.com. Truly, amazing projects already ready to go.

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  16. Anonymous10:43 AM

    I would move on from the Erica Wilson pattern - its never going to work for you.. find a pattern you really love and could live with and then there is a reason for finishing... or send the E.W. pattern to someone to finish for you...

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  17. Jennifer--the pillow is looking great!! Just keep on working at it and you will get there. Patricia's advice sounds perfect.

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  18. Janet Blyberg and I found an amazing book of needlepoint patterns that weren't twee and ghastly, but she has it, so you'll have to ask her!

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  19. I second Marion, Maggie Lane's designs are wonderful. You can generally find her books on Amazon for a good price. She has a turtle patter to die for!

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  20. I suspect that the reason you haven't finished your "Diamonds" project is that you aren't sufficiently excited about it. If you cannot visualize the colors in your house, why spend countless hours working on it? A needlepoint project should be leisure or meditation, but not a chore! I believe one's time is better spent on a design one is eager to own and use. I love the Sol Kent designs. They can easily be rendered in one's own color scheme without painting the canvas. Simply start in the middle, and count outward. I intend to start one today. Thank you for the inspiration.

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  21. It is so hard to find time to do those things..but I bet it is relaxing when you do.?

    I have never been a needlepointer. I have a good fried who used to, her speciality was initialed belts for friends and boyfriends -- doesn't that sound cute?

    The one piece that almost drove me to try was a piece done for a poker table -- yes a poker table! The set up of the poker table was all stitched in needle point, and to top it off, on the sides they had cards, casually laid down, an ashtray, and a couple of other thing that may be found on an active table. It was incredible!

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  22. Anonymous5:15 PM

    Try Woolworks in NYC. It has been around in one location or another since the 1960's and has an incredible array of high end, sophisticated patterns.

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    1. Anonymous7:51 PM

      I love Woolworks. They are the go to place for modern designs. Their artists are also brilliant designers and can make any idea you have come to fruition. You still have to do the stitching but they make it your colors so it is fun.

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  23. In complete agreement about the finding sophisticated needlepoint canvases. there is a wonderful shop in London called Tapisserie - they did a book too - you can buy it on the used book market - check out their website too - i did a "bespoke" cushion for my daughter and i designed a belt for my husband's 50th birthday based on a dorothy draper wallpaper border - they transferred the design to canvas and selected the perfect threads based upon a e-mails and letters. it is terrific and sophisticated -done in lovely english shades - he wears it all the time. check out the cushions with names if you get the book.
    you can also look at purl soho -they have charley harper canvases which some people like - not really my style - they have kilm canvases too.
    I have been working on my latest canvas for three years too.

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  24. forgot to mention that i really like the canvas you are working on.

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  25. one more thing - your canvas reminds me of the ribbon cushions from the 70's - you are probably too young to remember

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  26. If money's no object, I'll bet you could find a needlepoint crafter on Etsy to make you custom pillows from images you supply.

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  27. When I was in college, I used to design needlepoint for the suburban Chicago shop where, for a while, my mother bought her needlepoint supplies. I didn't paint the canvases, I just worked the designs out on graph paper & let people figure the other stuff out for themselves, but my designs weren't like anybody else's (this was the late 60s & early 70s, when frogs, owls & daisies were the motifs du jour) so for a while, I was pretty popular, at least as a ghost designer, since the store put its own name on all my designs. I was just in it for the moeny.

    Then I was in a motorcycle wreck that messed up my forearms & hands and by the time they healed, I'd lost a lot of fine motor skills from disuse. The skin on my hands was like flesh-colored shrink-wrap over the atrophied muscles. They hardly looked like my hands at all, and when I'd try to draw, the pencil would just slide out of my fingers. Even picking up off the floor was hard for me.

    My physical therapist suggested I learn to crochet to get the muscles working smoothly again, but there was no way I was making some ugly granny afghan or macrame plant hangers, so I decided I'd work one of my own needlpoint designs--a hand holding two sparklers against a background of colored fireworks in a Maxfield Parrish Blue sky seen through black silhouttes of leafed-out summer trees. The design was cool to begin with and by the time it was done, my hands had recovered, but before I put away the giant needle I had used, I decided to make a belt as a gift for my therapist.

    Her initalis just happened to be three consective letters, so I did a design of a printed block-letter alphabet, just the way it looked up above the blackboards in first grade, white letters against black, with gray horizontal guidelines & everything, and her own initials in apple green. It came out even better than the fireworks thing, but since most of my experience with needlepoint had been on paper, rather than canvas, I didn't really know what I was doing, and after I finished the design, I cut away every bit of the openwork backing except for one thread all around to keep it all from unraveling.

    Obviously, cool or not, the thing ended up being totally useless as a belt, but I gave it to her anyway--what was I going to do with it?--and she matted it & hung it up as a piece of art in her office. Oh, well: live & learn.

    Not, though, that the lesson in How-not-to-do it ever came in useful after that, anyway: my career as a needlepoint designer was already at an end, and the only souvenir of that period--my cool fireworks piece, still, I'm sorry to say, unmounted after forty years--burned up in a fire at my dad's house last spring.

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  28. woolworksneedlepoint.com10:32 PM

    Woolworks Needlepoint NYC has tons of geometrics!!!!!

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  29. Lisa T.8:57 AM

    Hi, I've been reading your blog for about a year and really enjoy it. I love your needlepoint- if you can't find a place in your house for it, why not have it made into a purse or tote bag? Also, you might want to look at Julie Pischke's geometric and abstract canvas designs- I believe that In Stitches needlepoint store on E Shadowlawn in Buckhead carries her line.

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  30. Artist Harrison Howard called and directed me to your blog thinking I would be interested in reading it. LOVELY! Very sophisticated needlepoint! All of us at www.artneedlepoint.com truly appreciate your keeping needlepoint in focus.

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  31. I would be happy to paint something geometric an modern on a canvas for you...once that one is finished...which is stunning. Perhaps a border of ribbon or fabric on the corner would help to make things go a bit faster.
    That Louis book has been presented to me by a client for inspiration.
    I have a "Medusa" that needs finishing...you motivated me.
    pve

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  32. I loved needlepoint as a hobby earlier in my life and had a wonderful canvas I had worked on for over a year. I was finishing the last bit of it and had it on an international flight with me and ended up leaving it on the plane!!!!! I called British Airways sobbing when I discovered I'd left it and they did some checks but it was gone. I haven't had the guts to start another one. I love your graphic canvas. I love taking a very traditional old fashioned craft and doing something modern with it.

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  33. The woman at my local needlepoint shop tells me that you can finish a piece (like a big stocking b/c that is my dream. To do the expensive stockings without thread that are $275 for just the canvas) in 3 months if you do a half hour a night. Only at night it's hard to see the canvas sometimes. By the way I am not even 40 yet and can't see the canvas.

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  34. Absolutely brilliant Works!You are genius as well. thanks for sharing.

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  35. Anonymous1:40 PM

    Dear Peak of Chic...check out Charley Harper's needlepoint designs- available in NYC at Purl Soho-- they are graphic and quirky and look fun to do..Also someone else mentioned Lady Palumbo's shop Tapisserie on Walton Street in London, the website looks rahter boring but they have amazing things commissioned from Contemporary artists like Sol Lewitt and Tracey Emin

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  36. Hi there!
    Almost all good needlepoint shops will copy any design you want onto canvas. Just show them a picture!

    That is one idea!!

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  37. i have lots of unfinished work too. rug pattern in david hicks' jan 13 post would make a terrific needlepoint belt

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  38. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Once upon a time I saw an article about Erica Wilson and her DIAMOND pattern. Loved it, didn't have the money to make it in needlepoint form. Fast forward to two summers ago..12 weeks recovering from major surgery...and needing something to do.

    Guessed on colors, matching as best I could to the article I saved from eons ago from whatever magazine it was, (and finding it on the internet too to determine colors of one set of squares not shown in my clipping) sent my hubby to get the floss, and I cross stitched the entire thing in no time.

    Took a few liberties here and there, and then, still needed more to do, so I designed another x stitch project, based on the good old fashioned granny square, and used the same colors from DIAMONDS to complete what I call two decor pillow tops.

    Just need to put the pillows together....but oh for so long I was bound and determined to cross stitch DIAMONDS....just never thought it would take major female surgery to have the reason to sit and stitch.

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  39. Anon- I'm sorry for the reasons that gave you the time to stitch "Diamonds", but I'm glad that you got the chance to do it!

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  40. Suzanne8:21 AM

    Just came across your post on needlepoint, and want to suggest you take a look at http://www.atomicneedlepoint.com to see some incredibly artistic needlepoint work.
    Suzanne

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