Updated July 14, 2020.
Figuring out a background for needlepoint pieces can be tricky. Why?
Because all too often your canvas looks like the Cardinal pictured here (from Rogue Needlepoint) with the focal point adrift in sea of blank canvas.
If you’re lucky it will be like this vintage dede canvas with an outline of the area to be stitched.
Before we address what to do with these lonely focal points, let’s consider two other, less common, types of canvases.
In this Kathy Schenkel canvas you have a background already painted for you. In fact, it isn’t just a solid color, a room has been painted for our sleeping kitty, with a floor, a window, and the Christmas tree. Even the outline is painted. With canvases such as these, you can just relax and stitch.
This small canvas, also by Kathy Schenkel, is typical of another type of canvas, it has a border painted on it. Borders are great because they define the area to be stitched nicely. But they can also conceal gotchas. Your chosen stitch may not fit into the length of the border evenly. Remember that when you stitch a canvas with a border, count to be sure your stitch will fit on all sides before starting to stitch. This saves disappointment and frog stitching.
Let’s get back top our isolated Cardinal. There are a number of things you could do for the background:
- Narrow background – typically around 5 threads wide, these irregular shapes match, more or less, the shape of the focal point. They are designed to set off the figure making it a stand-up. Sometimes, they have domed tops or are squared all over. This is usually used to finish them as ornaments or stand-ups.
- Finish for framing – Easy and great if a standard size frame is used. Center the focal point in the frame opening and trace the outline. Fill the outline a stitch or two beyond your line. I do this often and usually use just a textured stitch but you could also create plaids, stitch a needlepoint damask, or make stripes. When you’re done just pop it into the frame.
- Create a symbolic background – This takes the framed idea one step further by putting something in the background. It stays in the background by using shades of the background color, or washed out versions of the actual color, so the focal point “floats” on it. These could be words, a flag, small motifs, or, as I’m doing here, a shield.
- Make a room or landscape – Although yours is likely to be simpler, there’s no reason why you couldn’t create your own room or landscape around a floating focal point. This immediately puts your figure into a context and makes the design more interestng. Check out Thursday’s post to get some ideas on doing this.
Making a background so that it will fit into a ready-made frame or self-finishing item is a great idea, especially now, when finishing items in time for Christmsd is going to be difficult. I’m doing this on all the ornaments I’m making this year. So far I have stitched and finished three and plan on having one more done within a week.
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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