At last – my malachite needlepoint zippered bag. Not that you’ve been waiting for it, but I have. This is my very first needlepoint project. I’m still surprised that I did it and especially surprised that I’m ready for more. Needlepoint has mostly confused me. I love looking at the beautiful colors of wool, silk and cotton hanging in the shops, but the canvases are so expensive – hundreds, multiple hundreds of dollars for many of them! Then you still have to purchase your materials for stitching, spend hours doing the stitching and maybe you’ll have someone else finish the project … adding to the cost. Of course there is the subject matter of those painted canvases themselves, a lot of holiday imagery and what-not. It just never really added up for me.
But then I found Lou’s book and he opened my eyes to what needlepoint could be, i.e. the actual creation of a fabric with a design, not just a picture recreated in needlepoint. Not that there’s anything wrong with pictures recreated in needlepoint if that’s what you like. Whatever floats your boat is fine by me.
Dear, dear Lou. Can you believe the wonderfulness of his malachite design? If I could I’d have a room with walls upholstered in Lou’s needlepoint malachite – wouldn’t that be wild? Yes, Lou did an awful lot to straighten me out on needlepoint, but I’m still not sure I would have tried it yet if it hadn’t been for Alice. That’s Alice as in Alice Peterson Co. They manufacture a wonderful product called the Stitch & Zip™.
This is a blank Stitch & Zip™ purse. I found it at a shop in Placerville. I knew exactly what I’d do with it. I’m really surprised that more shops don’t carry these Stitch & Zips (they also come in coin purses and eyeglass cases). They seem like the perfect item for a beginner as the stitching area is fairly small, the finishing is built in, and they make useful accessories. No matter, you can purchase them online. They also come with designs if you prefer them that way. I wanted to use Lou’s malachite design on mine, so I started by copying the following page from his book.
Then I blew up the section I wanted to use on my bag and cut it out to fit my canvas.
I used a Sharpie to trace the lines from my photocopy onto my canvas and then I was ready to stitch. There are two basic stitches (really the same stitch, but a different pattern of working them on the canvas) in needlepoint. Most authorities recommend the basketweave (worked on diagonals) as opposed to the continental (worked across rows) because the continental tends to distort your fabric. I don’t think I could have attempted this design if I thought I had to do it in basketweave, however, so I used continental. You need to block your work with a hot iron and a damp cloth anyway, so the distortion isn’t permanent. I used 3 strands of Bella Lusso 100% pure merino wool from Italy for stitching. Dee from Why Knot Stitch in Los Gatos helped me choose the colors in her shop. I didn’t have a plan for what color to put where; just made it up as I went along. Dee also sold me the needlepoint canvas for my flip-flops when she was the proprietor of Exclamation Point in Saratoga (now in Santa Clara). I should really start on those next, shouldn’t I?
But let me show you one more thing about Lou.
He liked to stitch his initials and the initials of the project recipient as well as the year in his work. Dee suggested I stitch my initials on my bag. I tried, but I only got as far as a “C” for Colleen. That might be all I ever do, but it’s such a cool idea, isn’t it? Both charming and visually interesting at the same time.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll give needlepoint a try. It’s not something to do in a hurry, but like knitting, the repetition of the stitches is both soothing and satisfying. It’s the perfect kind of thing to leave on your coffee table for whenever you find the time for it.