Updated November 1, 2022.
While Mae West may have said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” She was wrong. I’m definitely of the “Less is More School.” It’s a good rule in dress (think fashion victim), in food (think overly fussy restaurant dishes), and even in music (Too many notes, Mr. Mozart!).
And it’s especially true when it comes to needlepoint.
When you pile on too many threads, colors, and stitches on one canvas, you get a mess. You get what Gay Ann Rogers calls “goop.” She has explained, but essentially it is Mary Shipp’s 1,2, 3 rule.
You rank the different aspects of the design so that there is a majority of one (3), a minimum of the other (1), and the middle amount of the third (2). For Gay Ann, the three aspects are line, color, and texture. For me, they are stitch, color, and texture.
Whatever you call it, this ranking is important. It gives direction to the person viewing the piece. The needlepoint doesn’t have six things shouting, “Look at me!” It creates balance and makes your needlepoint, as a work of art, look better. By taking away some things, you create a design that has more.
Taking the Craftsman Trees tile pictured above, let’s analyze it. Color is the smallest aspect of the piece. It’s mostly green, with only small bits of the other colors. The greens are mostly similar in value as well, further narrowing the colors. They are also mostly blue greens, another narrowing.
Stitches are the focal point, with many variations of Cashmere Stitch used.
Texture is in the middle. While many threads are used, they all have a similar matte texture. Think how it wouldn’t look as good if one tree was stitched in shiny rayon, or semi-transparent Flair.
Taken together the piece is balanced.
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