I’ve been sharing quite a bit of my needlepoint obsession over the past couple of years. My friend taught me right before a trip to Nantucket. I was hoping for one project to relax with while vacationing… and ended up with a full-blown addiction.
Especially with the pandemic last year and not having a lot of things to really do plus just the overall stress and anxiety surrounding it, it was so nice to have an activity I could safely at home. And it keeps your hands busy and off your phone. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned, pandemic or not.
Whenever I post anything needlepoint related, I always get questions about how to start (here’s my guide for needlepoint for beginners) and then followed with: what do you do with it when you’re done. The process of turning your canvas into another finalized product is called “finishing.” You can finish your needlepoint in a ton of different ways, honestly. I’m going to share some of my favorite and go-to ways here along with some tips.
NEEDLEPOINT FINISHING: WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR CANVASES
WHAT CAN YOU FINISH NEEDLEPOINT CANVASES INTO?
Ornaments, pillows, framed pieces of art, brick covers, patches for clothing, Christmas stockings, pouches for glasses, eye masks, lucite trays, napkin rings, belts, wallets, key fobs, clutches… As you can see there are really many ways you can finish needlepoint.
I have found that recently there are a lot of new canvas designers coming into the market (it’s the best part!) and they are getting so creative with coming up with projects that are more modern, too.
WHERE CAN I FIND INSPIRATION FOR FINISHING?
If you’re getting into needlepoint, I can’t recommend following needlepoint accounts on Instagram enough. Follow LNSs (needlepoint retailers), canvas designers, and fellow stitchers. People are so creative. I am always in awe of what people are stitching and creating. If nothing else, it inspires me to pick up my latest canvas to stitch a few more rows. My stitch account is @carlysstitchclub and you can go through the list of people I follow for inspiration too.
I also recommend joining the NDLPT Facebook group. There are others out there, but this one is a much better environment and I personally find the projects to be much more aligned with my own needlepoint taste.
HOW DO YOU FINISH NEEDLEPOINT?
So there are two options for finishing. You can self-finish or send away your canvas to be finished by a professional. There are pros and cons to both.
To find a professional, you can reach out to your LNS (local needlepoint store) as they usually have relationships with finishers, find one via Google, or follow on Instagram to see if there’s someone’s work you really love. With a professional, you are going to get back a finished product that is, well, professional. People are brilliant and it and if you’re nervous, trusting a professional is probably the way to go. There are some things to keep in mind, particularly timing. There are “finishing deadlines” for most places. That is, they come up with a cut off date to ensure delivery by a certain timeframe. (As an example, here are the finishing deadlines that Needlepoint.com provides.) It can be scary to send canvases you’ve worked so hard on in the mail. Always get tracking and make sure it’s properly packaged to avoid damage.
The cons to sending finishing away to a professional can be timing and detail related. Because of the pandemic, there was an INFLUX of new stitchers and quantity of canvases stitched. While the number of canvases stitched increased, the number of finishers didn’t. So a lot of deadlines weren’t forgiving enough. You could wait months and months for the finished product to make it back to your hands. And I’ve had a few friends receive their products back with mistakes, wrong fabric choices, incorrect embroidery on the back of ornaments, etc. It can also be expensive… but I always keep in mind that needlepoint is a labor of love and many hours go into it, from the artist handpainting the canvases, to you stitching them, to the finisher finishing them. (Side note: If someone ever gives you a handstitched needlepoint gift– know that many hours went into it!)
Self-finishing is almost always my preferred method. I love the challenge of trying to figure something new out and I also love that, while a project may have mistakes or some imperfections, it was made with love by me! There is a sense of satisfaction!
For me, the pros are that you are in completely control of the finished product. I change my mind a lot and I would hate to send a piece off to a finisher expecting the fabric I chose to look one way, only to get it back and realize it doesn’t work as well as I hoped. It’s also significantly more affordable (since you’re the one providing the labor); your own real cost is the materials you want to finish.
The big con is that self-finishing isn’t super easy. It’s not impossible, but there’s a learning curve and it can be intimidating. Sometimes a project simply requires more skill and expertise that you can’t just learn from Youtube. (I would not, for example, personally try to finish anything involving leather.)
ANY ADDITIONAL TIPS?
I recommend starting a canvas with the finished product in mind. First of all, I think it makes it more fun and more motivating when you know exactly what you’re doing.
You’ll also want to know exactly what you’re doing with it so you can make the right decisions along the way. Like if you’re going to do a pillow where the stitches are exposed, you won’t want to do delicate stitches, but if it’s going to be behind glass in a frame? You can get away with more delicate stitches and lighter colors that won’t need to stand up to wear and tear. If you’re doing something like an ornament, you can also prepare an outline of shape outside as spillover to make it easier to finish.
Projects can get warped from stitching, so you will have to do a process called “blocking.”
Blocking straightens the canvas out to get rid of the distortion that happens while stitching. The method typically involves wetting the canvas, pinning it straight, and allowing the canvas to dry so it straightens out. The professional finisher you send your canvas to may or may not do this, so it’s best to ensure whether or not that’s the case BEFORE you send it. And if you’re self-finishing, 100% block your canvas to the best of your ability– there are some tutorials on Youtube that can help you out!
Now, if you’re stitching a ton of canvases, there are only so many pillows one person can have….. so don’t be afraid to make gifts!! Honestly, I love creating handmade things and giving them to friends and family!
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS?
The first project I ever did, I sent it to Framebridge to have it framed. I think this is my favorite, I think. It just looks so nice and professional to have a needlepoint canvas framed.
I have also done countless ornaments and I’ve even tried my hand at a few pillows. Ornaments are so special, though they live in storage most of the year. But… I think they’re the most fun to collect and because they go on a tree, you can have a little bit more fun with fabric choices and thread options. (When I’m doing pillows or framed canvases, I have to keep in mind the space where I intend for it to go!)
My big project this year is our baby’s Christmas stocking. I just got the canvas in the mail and I can’t wait to stitch it… to be determined if I’m able to finish it before deadlines. I don’t think I trust myself enough to sew a stocking. And I think it may just become my favorite needlepoint creation.