Updated November 5, 2019.
often canvases these days have no background. The focal point floats in a sea of white canvas. Just because there is no background doesn’t mean you can’t add one.
If you subject is outside, make a landscape around it. If your subject is inside make a room.
To do either you need to start with an outline and a line of your canvas. Begin by marking the outside of the stitched area. Remember to use an extra fine pen made for marking fabric, such as Pigma Microns. The line you need marks a division in the background. This is where floor and wall met if it’s a room. If it’s outside it could be the horizon line or the shoreline, as it is in the pictured ornament. It should be somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 of the way from the bottom of the canvas, but never in the exact middle. If it is a room, the line must be straight. If it’s outside the line should be uneven, if just slightly so.
The simplest form of landscape has ground (your focal point is sitting on this) and sky. My pirate chest is a variation on this with land and sea. If the canvas is small, as mine is, that’s enough to ground the design and keep the focus on the focal point.
A minimal landscape such as this can also be a mystery. It might raise questions about where the item is located and why it’s there.
If your piece is larger, you can do more things with the sky but you can also add more elements to the landscape.
The Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse from ABS Designs is perfect for showing this. The lighthouse is on a river in New York City, located in a park. You can see that around it we have trees and grass. We can see the river and the trees on the far shore. This is a far more complex background, but it grounds the lighthouse in its place.
Look at the wonderful lighthouses from ABS to get lots more ideas for adding landscapes to your canvases.
Even our pirate’s chest on a desert island could have more stuff if it was a bigger canvas. You could add the trunk of a palm tree on one side, maybe with parts of leaves on top. You could add some coconuts on the ground. Maybe a shell or two, or a turtle, or even a ship in the distance or part of a rowboat on shore.
Interiors as backgrounds tend to be more complex, largely because even in a simple room you have more choices.
The simplest version of an interior background has a floor and a wall. Even for this you have questions:
- What is the floor made of? Are the rugs on it?
- Is there a baseboard? What does it look like?
- Is the wall painted or does it have wallpaper? If it’s wallpaper, what’s the pattern?
You see that when it comes to interiors, you have lots of choices for interesting backgrounds.
If your canvas is larger you may want to “furnish” the room. Could there be a window or a door? Even if partially shown they will provide lots of context. What about pictures on the wall? Could the focal point have furniture or accessories around it to provide context?
All this will create setting. Think of it as the needlepoint equivalent of making a centerpiece for a table.
When you’re stumped for a background for your next “floating focal point” needlepoint, consider creating a setting around it. Not only is it easy, it will enhance the design.
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
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