Updated December 4, 2018
If your are looking to save money on needlepoint canvases you might think about buying vintage printed canvases, such as this one. They show up at Estate Sales, thrift shops, and on eBay.
The design might be good, but they always use a limited number of colors. When they were made they were designed to be stitched in a single fiber, usually wool, in all Tent Stitch. It’s the kind of needlepoint that often makes people sneer that it’s just “painting by numbers.”
But these can be fantastic buys and with a few tweaks you can make them look like modern pieces. It’s best when doing this to pick classic designs, with unadorned backgrounds. Flowers and birds, such as this one, make great choices. Canvases that are reproductions of famous art or landscapes often won’t work for this treatment.
Begin by taking out the canvas and looking at it. As you do, make a plan, thinking about what newer needlepoint pieces have in them: different threads and stitches, and possibly some embellishments and additional techniques. You will also want to update the colors if needed. If the colors look dull and muddy, pick brighter shades of the same colors. If one or more colors remind you strongly of a particular era, change them as well.
Modern needlepoint uses a mixture of different threads to create a lively texture in a piece. Given that this piece was planned for wool, are there areas that you’d like to highlight? Put them in threads with more life such as pearl cotton, silk, or even embroidery floss.
These canvases are usually in larger mesh sizes. Keep that in mind when selecting threads.
Remember though that anything in a less matte thread than wool be attract more attention, so use this effect on the focal points.
The simplest way to modernize a canvas is to use a textured stitch for the background. There are hundreds of possibilities. Even stitched in wool, this will immediately make your piece look newer, without doing another thing.
While every canvas should have Tent Stitch in it, there may be other areas for additional stitches. Could you use Diagonal Gobelin for some boards or perhaps Cashmere for bricks? Could you make fur from Encroached Gobelin or Long & Short Stitch? Could you make Satin Stitch flowers or leaves?
The trick is to think of the design elements as if they were part of a modern canvas and stitch them with those techniques.
Going Beyond: Techniques and Embellishments
Some canvases look great when beads, ribbons or other kinds of bling are added. Beads could be flower centers, or part of the background? The same thing goes with techniques such as pattern darning, silk ribbon embroidery, or shadow stitching.
If you’d use them on a modern canvas, think about using them to make a vintage canvas look new.
Try it, and when you’re done, take a look, can you tell that it started out as an old piece?