Updated September 21, 2021.
If you look up embellishment in the dictionary, it says that is it “an ornament or decoration.” Certainly when we talk about buying embellishments for our stitching, we are using the word this way. Those beads, buttons, brads, and sequins, are all ornaments that we add to fancy up our work.
Over the past few years, you will often see the term “canvas embellishment.” You may wonder if suddenly all canvases have this extra stuff on them.
No, the needlepoint world has not lost its collective mind. “Canvas embellishment” refers to the process of creating a stitched piece of needlepoint. It isn’t limited to Tent Stitch nor does it take a haphazard approach to select stitches and threads.
Instead, it takes a more artistic approach to the process. It picks stitches and threads that will enhance and express the basic design without overwhelming it or creating an unbalanced chaotic look. It doesn’t avoid all the embellishments discussed earlier and may even add others, such as found items or charms.
It also does not hesitate to adopt techniques from other kinds of craft or new materials to the piece. This can range from coloring your canvas with paints or pens, above, to using Silk Ribbon Embroidery extensively to stitch flowers.
It’s a great way to describe the more open and artistic approach we have to contemporary needlepoint.
So why are there so many canvas embellishment classes out there?
I think the first reason is that choosing is hard, really hard. With dozens of threads, hundreds of stitches, and thousands of colors, it’s so easy to get paralyzed by the choices. I know that often I feel like the dogs in UP when picking threads. I keep being distracted by my version of “Squirrel!” — another pretty thread.
It helps when there is someone with more experience and an objective point of view to make suggestions. Even if you disagree, you are deciding against something instead of picking among equal competitors.
The second reason is that we don’t think of ourselves as artists, nor do we think of our work as art. Principles of design that are clear to those who have studied them, formally or not, don’t often find a place in our discussions. As a result, we don’t feel confident in making decisions about our work. We look to someone with that knowledge to help us on our way.
The knowledge that helps you enhance your canvases comes from many sources. Pay attention to what you and others stitch. Think about why things were used as they were on canvases you like. Learn about design and understand how it applies to your canvases. Think about the things you stitched that you loved or hated. Learn more about needlepoint. Stitch or plan canvases in your mind. Then go and apply this to your projects.