One thing has stayed consistent in to 40 years I’ve been doing needlepoint. And it’s not the canvas. It’s that needlepoint education sucks.
Originally I thought that I was the problem. My mom’s an artist and a tinkerer, and so we always figured out how to do it ourselves. So I took that into needlepoint and bought books and played. I didn’t take a class until I’d been stitching for a decade or more.
But I was always dissatisfied, both with the books and, mostly, with the classes I took. The books never seemed to tell me what I wanted to know and the classes, while the projects might be lovely rarely taught me the techniques I wanted at the price I could afford.
Even with the Internet this hasn’t changed much. If we want needlepoint to grow, be popular, and change the world, we need to embrace the Internet and change what we do and teach. I’ve come up with some guiding principles for needlepoint education.
First, needlepoint education needs to be targeted. It needs to teach you something specific you can go out and use on another project. A project-based class is fine for a treat, but if you learn many things you can use, that’s even better.
Second, needlepoint education needs to be achievable. The most exciting project in the world isn’t worth it if it doesn’t get done. The project should be small enough that I can both learn and see my progress. If I can use it, that’s even better.
Third, needlepoint education needs to be affordable. The materials shouldn’t cost the moon, the canvas should be inexpensive. I know that point differs for everyone, but what is your point? I rarely take classes that are more than $30, unless I adore the piece. And my DH keeps me from going to expensive classes. But what are you willing to pay? If the class fee is $30, how much is too much for materials?
Fourth, needlepoint education needs to explain things. When we aren’t face to face, the teacher has to be willing to explain things different ways. That can be hard to do, but if the student can do it, with the extra explanation, that’s worth it.
Finally, needlepoint education needs to be fun. The project should look like something fun to stitch, you should be able to pick things you like and go for it.
I’m struggling with defining what I see and what seems to be lacking. I’m trying to design a class right now and can’t find the proper balance. So I’d like to know what you think. What do you want? How much are you willing to pay? How do you want it delivered? What’s been good and bad in the classes you’ve taken? Let me know, no names please, and have at it. If you want to express your opinion privately, send me an email.
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Joyce Shannon says
I like the idea of targeted. If I learn one thing from a piece, whether the whole thing ever gets finished or not, the class was worthwhile. The idea of being a small piece, with a greater chance of getting finished, is a good one. I’ve got a huge sampler that would need a miracle to finish.
Knowing you are just an email away, and willing to walk me through my problems, would make me more apt to sign up for a class.
My big request for all teachers, would be to treat your students with respect. I had a teacher who really let me know what an idiot I was. That’s why I took the class, to learn! And in the end, I was the only one in the class who finished the piece.
I think one of the most important things in classes is the opportunity, and even more importantly the encouragement, to make your own changes. It seems to me that needlepointers in general lack confidence in their own ability to make decisions, and that means they are forever stuck doing things exactly as the pattern suggests, using the exact threads and colours called for etc.
This has really been highlighted for me since becoming part of the needlepoint ‘community’ on the internet. So many questions asking where to get the required threads, belief that they cannot change colours etc. That lack of confidence then means so many stitchers seem to be unwilling to try anything without very specific instructions. This phenomenon seems stronger in needlepoint that in any other art/craft type thing I have been involved in.
One of the very best needlepoint classes I took involved us actually designing our own piece, under the teacher’s supervision.
She had us take a short length of crayon and just sweep it, broad-side down, in a curve across a page. Then make 2 more curves. The curves created ribbon-like sections. Then she helped us decide what sort of stitches, and what sort of threads to use to produce our own individual works of art. It was exciting and very staisfying; we all left that class with a lot of confidence in our own abilities to make design choices as well as how to craft the actual stitches.
I am a visual learner…it would be nice if the ladies in the shop would sit down and take the time to show me stitches. This doesn’t seem to happen.
Wouldn’t it be nice if more canvas’ were kitted with not whole threads but maybe just small amounts…that would greatly decrease the price…thread could then be shared communily. I don’t know how you would charge for snippets…I suppose it might not be cost effective. I have often dreamed of having every thread at my disposal like a shop owner would have.
I suppose the canvas’ are so expensive because they are all handpainted? Does Melissa Shirley really handpaint all of them???
Amy Sidelinger says
I took a beginner course a few years ago. Each week we worked on specific stitches together for 1 1/2 hours and then had homework for the following week. We discussed what stitches and threads would work best for different canvases being worked on by class members. The instructor brought in numerous reference books for us to peruse and made suggestions on books to purchase. It definitely made needlepoint less intimidating to me as a beginner and the weekly class schedule pushed me to complete my project. No matter what hobby the class is about I want to learn specific techniques that can be utilized in the future on other projects. I might not like the class project, but I will take the class because I want to learn the technique. I like an enthusiastic, accessible teacher who doesn’t get offended when I ask stupid questions. Cost to me is determined by what I am going to learn and the difficulty of technique.
I agree with so many of the points you’ve made. I’m trying to squeeze needlepoint in btwn work & school, so the idea of a small project, focused on 1 or 2 objectives seems great to me.
The other issue for me is the level of classes. While it is probably more fun to teach advanced techniques to v. knowledgable students, the rest of us won’t get there without good teachers willing to show us things.
I’d like to see seminar offer a few more beginning/advanced beginning classes. I don’t know if ANG has tried this in the past. But even if it’s a loss on the accounting sheet, getting more stitchers a broader base can only add to ANG support long run.
Stitch sampler courses might be a good place to start. Another option might be to focus the “Studio Time” around a skill level or a technique & suggest that more experienced stitchers at the seminar come in to help others.
I took a course and the stitch guide and text looked like they came off the old memo graph machine. The diagrams were so blurred and you had to flip back and forth between the pages as the stitch diagram was on one page and the text on another. Fortunately I found a clear stitch guide in one of my needlepoint books. This was a correspondence course from EGA. I wrote a letter to the chair, but never heard back.
I like the idea of teaching different techniques on small projects. But the serious student must do their homework. Go home and practice the technique over and over using different threads. Make a reference book for all these techniques and keep it close at hand.
The cost of supplies is over the top. This is not always the teacher’s fault. The manufacturers of thread and canvas seem to think that if it is for needlework, they can charge the highest price they can get. We are asked to support our LNS, but are driven to on-line shopping to save money. We also can pick up DMC floss at Michael’s, etc. for half or more off the LNS.
The same goes for finishing. I am not making an heirloom piece, just a piece that can be enjoyed without breaking the bank. Some finishing costs more than the canvas and threads.
When I take a class and pay $30 or more and count the number of students, that teacher is making a whopping amount. Then there are the kit fees on top.
Judie DePerry says
I so agree with the above comments. All have validity. I wonder why the manufacturers don’t pay attention to these comments. The cost of supplies is over the top. It sends me to eBay to find canvasses at a better price. No doubt about it……….everyone is entitled to a mark-up and to make a living, but let’s face it….what’s happened to the price of threads!!! I too, have have gone undercover to Michael’s and Joanne’s for DMC floss. I love silk and ivory threads, and those wonderful threads that are out there, but come on……there are price increases every six months. Especially when you need very little of the thread and your stash explodes with threads that you you’ll never use. We no longer have a LNS in our area……forced to go online and the shipping charges are ridiculous. Thanks for letting me vent a little bit……let’s hope for some changes!