Looking at the comments for yesterday’s post, the concern most often expressed was the high cost of needlepoint, especially vs. knitting.
I worry about this much of the time and I agree the cost keeps many folks from trying needlepoint. I’d like to look at this on several fronts in today’s article. I’ll talk about what parts of needlepoint are expensive and why, the costs of knitting, ways to make needlepoint affordable, and how we can promote and encourage affordable needlepoint.
The picture at the top of this article shows how you can create amazing needlepoint affordably. It uses two threads: a metallic and one ball of pearl cotton. The seams are a metallic ribbon from a fabric store as are all the flowers in the center. The most expensive part of the project, besides the finishing, was the piece of canvas. I used many of my Blackwork books to find the patterns, but I have an ebook with two Blackwork stockings in it available for $16.50 here.
When most folks think about expensive needlepoint they think about hand-painted canvases. And these can be quite expensive indeed. That’s because a person holding a brush painted the entire canvas. You have to pay people who do this whether the designer holds the brush or it was painted by a painting service. These wages are based on a per hour salary. So if you paid $1/hour and the canvas took 10 hours to pain, the salary would be $10.
To this the other costs of the business get added on. And this happens for each business the canvas goes through, including the shop. As canvases get larger and more complex, they become more expensive, it can’t be helped.
Another factor in the cost of needlepoint is the cost of canvas. While we do need to buy less of it than if it was fabric, it’s much more expensive. That’s because one company makes it, or most of it, they use high quality materials, make it in one place on special looms and have to treat it afterwards to make it stiff. These things will make any fabric more expensive, it’s just that we see canvas more often.
Although as stitchers we love or unusual threads, it wasn’t that long ago that they were the exception not the rule. If you think about thread cost as per yard instead of per skein, even many expensive threads end up being pennies per yard. And if that’s still expensive, use floss. It’s the cheapest thing out there. You can buy it inexpensively at chain craft stores. Unlike their knitting yarns, with floss you are using a natural fiber!
The Costs of Knitting
Lets talk about knitting and its costs. Yes many patterns in knitting are free. And yes there are plenty of projects out there that only require a skein of yarn. These are the impulse buys of knitting and often are projects that cost well under $20 (some of my affordable needlepoint ideas can do this too).
But what if you want to do a larger project, such as a shawl, afghan or sweater? Then you will need multiple skeins of yarn. I looked at free patterns at a popular on-line knitting store. I looked at a shawl. It took 3 skeins of yarn at $11 each and circular needles at $2.50 (the cheapest ones). A blanket would take 12 skeins and a sweater 7-10. These prices are comparable with my ideas for affordable needlepoint at the low end and the cost for smaller needlepoint canvases at the high end.
Although some projects can be done quickly many others take great skill and significant amounts of time. While I think knitting is a good comparison to needlepoint, I think needlepoint wins on the creativity side and knitting on the practicality side. The costs can be similar on the low end of needlepoint and medium end of knitting, but needlepoint can be much higher in price.
What Is Affordable Needlepoint
Years ago I thought of the cost of needlepoint as what I called the “lipstick problem.” You know the old story: a woman is depressed and she goes out and buys a lipstick as a treat. It’s perfect for that : beautiful, fun, and inexpensive. She doesn’t usually go out and buy a new pair of shoes or a new dress. The key is that lipstick is inexpensive enough to be bought on impulse.
Even back then, 20+ years ago, needlepoint didn’t have many projects priced like lipsticks, even expensive ones. The same thing is true today.
Affordable needlepoint needs to be something folks will buy on impulse. It needs to be appealing and complete. This is not rocket science and sometimes I see painted canvases that achieve this but not often. Canvases do not have to be hand-painted; you can create beautiful needlepoint from canvases at any price. It is only our prejudices and the prejudices of shop owners that works against this.
Here are some ideas that could be put together easily to make needlepoint projects that could sel affordably in shops within days.
- Package canvas and required threads with print outs of free charted designs, such as the ones from Rainbow Gallery
- Line-draw outlines based of free vintage embroidery patterns and package with threads and stitch guides
- look for designers who create more affordable canvases and promote them
- encourage your favorite designers to create smaller more affordable projects, package them & stitch a model for your shop
- look at computer-printed designs
- create projects that fit into ready-made frames or that can be finished easily and cheaply and make models
For my own business I’m committed to an affordable needlepoint model. All my classes are inexpensive so that you can afford to learn. So are my books and ebooks. I also have lots of blog posts with free designs and on ways you can create your own designs affordably, even if you aren’t artistic. I also have clubs that give you lots of projects (One this year specifically teaches you how to create designs as an alternative to painted canvases).
Promoting Affordable Needlepoint
It will take creativity and willingness to create a new paradigm for needlepoint. As stitchers it takes us buying these products. It takes us encouraging folks who might not stitch to needlepoint and to show them that it isn’t only a craft for the old and rich. It takes us stitching in public, helping others, and showing that it can be done.
Knitting did it 15 years ago — why can’t needlepoint do it today?
It takes a few brave shopowners to give some space to package these projects and give them space. Make a model or two. If you and your employees aren’t stitching models for the shop, ask your customers. Many would be happy to stitch for you. Remeber models sell things!
Educate yourself. Instead of picking silk (the expensive option) or floss (the cheap option) understand about thread prices. And stitch from your stash. Show how something lovely can be made from your leftovers. It’e recycling so this is popular.
It won’t take much. We can change the paradigm of needlepoint.
It’s up to all of us to show how creative and affordable needlepoint can be!