Often, if you want to learn needlepoint, you go to a big box crafts or fabric store and look for a needlepoint kit. You might even find one. But don’t buy it! The materials and instructions in cheap kits all too often lead to heartache and a dislike of needlepoint. You’ll find my suggestions for a DIY (and inexpensive) kit at the end of the post.
The inexpensive kit has problems that make them very hard for beginners and challenging for everyone else. These problems fall into three groups.
Instructions: If there are instructions, which is not always the case, they are for Half Cross Stitch. While this stitch uses little thread, it is unstable on canvas, can create crooked stitches, and is hard to control. If you learn only this stitch your needlepoint will often look bad. Use Continental, which is easy to learn, or Basketweave, which gives more even results. But doing either of these leads to problems with threads.
If you do Continental or Basketweave, you will probably run out of thread. Because inexpensive kits use no-name threads and are made by big companies, you won’t find thread that matches. If you write to the manufacturer, you may get no response.
Let’s say you decide to preserve with the kit and decide to stitch it. Then you will run into the third problem area, the quality of the printing.
Printing Inexpensive kits print in huge quantities. Because of the nature of needlepoint canvas, the design will not print so that intersections are all a single color. This means that on all those intersections you will have to decide what color to use, slowing your progress and making it hard to relax.
DIY Beginner’s Kit
You can create a beginner’s kit that will be easy to stitch. The key is finding an inexpensive hand-painted canvas.
Begin by setting your budget for the canvas, I like to look for ones under $15 and use eBay for this. Look for ones that say they are hand-painted or say HPC (for hand-painted canvas). Try to find ones on 13 or 14 mesh, although 18 mesh is fine (and more common).
Then set your budget for threads. If your budget is small, go to the local crafts store and buy floss and a tapestry needle assortment. Floss is harder to use than threads that are single strands, such as pearl cotton.
If you can spend slightly more money, opt for pearl cotton and buy it from a needlework shop (in person or on-line). If you really want to splurge on thread, use the store’s expertise to help you pick other single-strand threads. These will be easiest to use.
Always buy a package of needles. You might be lucky and use only one needle for your project, but I lose needles all the time. With a package of needles you have back-ups.
Although it adds to the cost, try to buy stretcher bars and tacks. This are items you’ll use over and over again, so it is an investment. Don’t use office tacks, look for brass tacks made for needlework (best but most expensive),tacks from the hardware store, or quilter’s tacks.
Once you have everything, gather it together, put the canvas on the stretcher bars and find a good beginners course, such as my email class, Right from the Beginning (sign up here).
Get started and enjoy this lovely, easy, and creative art form!