When picking stitches for your needlepoint, you can use the textures of your threads and stitches to highlight an area, to provide definition to an item, or just to make the piece more interesting.
Our eyes tend to interpret sameness as being flat or dull. How often have you looked at a piece and thought the needlepoint was boring or that it looked old-fashioned? That’s because in modern needlepoint we want to see variety. Just as painting changed from having no brushstrokes visible to pictures with lots of brushstrokes and texture, our needlepoint has changed too. We want to see variety, even in an all Tent piece. Change some thread textures to make your needlepoint more interesting.
You can, and should, use different stitches to highlight the focal point of your piece. By picking threads and stitches with more texture than the surrounding areas, you set off the focal point. This can be subtle or bold. I once did a lovely realistic sunflower all in Tent except for some areas in the center that were beaded. It made the center the focal point. Today I might do a similar piece with a simpler center, but 3-D needleweaving for some petals making them stand out from the canvas and making them the focal point.
Because many needlepoint canvases do not have strong focal points, we need to create one through our choice of threads and stitches. Take this Cooper Oaks piece pictured here. So many things could be the focal point: the candy box, the lady’s hair, the frog’s face, even the pillow. By highlighting an area through texture you can put the emphasis where you want it to be. This is an advantage needlepoint has over illustration and painting.
A more subtle aspect of texture is the idea of textural contrasts. Because texture provides interest and variety to our needlepoint, it’s easy too have too much or too little. To avoid this you need to make sure textures don’t melt into each other. You do this by making sure that the edges of objects are distinct. Sometimes the design has outlines that create visual breaks. Sometimes there is a change in color or value that provides some contrast. Even so by changing the scale, type, and direction of the stitch in many cases your design will look better. Look at the Cooper Oaks piece again. The frog’s short is white against and off white background. That is a low contrast situation. By using a stripe in the background and a stitch with different directions for the shirt, I added textural contrast, keeping the short from visually disappearing.
When it looks as if some part of your needlepoint is disappearing, look for a new stitch with a textural contrast.
Learning to manipulate texture in your needlepoint can often be a mater of trial and error. If I look at this piece, stitched recently, it looks like a miss for texture. The background and focal point use the same stitch and the most noticeable thread is in a border. I should have been more careful. If I had used a different stitch on the focal point and changed the border thread, it would be much better.