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Precious Needlework - Creative Tapestry

Linda Lycett, Editor-in-Chief

f one is looking for a lifetime hobby that is easily portable, Needlework fills the criteria very nicely.

From ancient times to modern day, needlework has played a big role in society. Many pieces of art are still adorning the walls of homes around the world, many hundreds of years after their creation.

Needlework covers aspects of handcrafting from needlepoint, embroidery, bargello, cross-stitch to needle-lace to name just a few. There are many more avenues to be explored. It can be carried around in a bag and stitched in the most unlikely places.

The label ‘Tapestry’, although now mistakenly associated with canvas-work, is better known as being woven on a loom.

From small children to senior adults, needlework satisfies a creative need in many of us. We enjoy the hours spent working the stitches onto the fabric and creating the design in many different colours and threads.

Clown creative tapestry

With my own experience of needlework, the first piece of work I recall was a needlecase, worked on canvas in a very simple bargello design. It hung around for many years before finally getting lost amongst life’s busy-ness.

How does one decide which type of needlework to work with? Trial and error. Try different types and see which you enjoy the most, for that one will open up your creativeness. It can be the smallest of incentives that can lead in one direction or another – a picture of a famous work, chatting with someone who kindles an interest, a chance sample to work on comes your way. Whatever the inspiration, go with it, nurture it and learn more about your chosen needlework. And if that one doesn’t quite fit the bill – change it and try another one.


A few years ago I discovered what is called in Australia ‘Creative Tapestry’, the art of creating a 3D picture with different stitches and threads. I completed a ‘beginners course’ to learn the basics, and away I went. Some of the threads include embroidery cotton, pearle, maderia (a shiny thread), medici (fine wool), wool, flower thread (a fine matt cotton), and soft cotton (a thicker matt cotton thread). Then you have the ‘speciality’ threads – hand-dyed, variegated, a blend of two different threads to create a specific look.
The possibilities are endless, only limited by your imagination. What can be created with threads, and hundreds of colours, is incredible.

Mare and Foal
My first attempt was a mare and foal at dusk. Using Pearle number 8 (thicker), Pearle number 4 (finer) soft cotton, and stranded embroidery cotton, I created a realistic picture. Stitches used were continental stitch, reverse continental, straight stitch, and candlewicking. It’s a very simple ‘plan’ to start with, but as one becomes more experienced, the level of difficulty increases.

Detail of stitching section of tree

With ‘traditional’ tapestry one uses just wool, and follows a chart or pre-printed canvas. Creative Tapestry requires a ‘plan’ to be made. The easiest way to start is to purchase a printed canvas with a fairly simple design. Then sit and look at it. Take in all the colours, shapes, and areas. Create a picture in your mind’s eye of how it will look when stitched with certain threads and stitches, then get to work writing your plan down. You will find you will need many more colours than the traditional stitching as shading comes into the picture, along with many different threads. A colour chart of all the threads is a must, then as you go along write down the colours, as well as the type of thread and stitches to be used.

Section of bank in reverse continental stitch

When the plan is completed, and threads purchased, stitching can begin.

It is best to start at the top and work down the canvas, then you are not damaging the threads with constant touching while working. A good firm tapestry frame is needed to keep the canvas tight and the stitches even. When completed, the stitched piece can be protected with such products as scotchguard. Depending on where one lives can dictate the type of framing to be used. For instance, in North Queenland, Australia, where it's very hot and humid, framed needlework needs to be covered with either glass or perpex as the humidity, and the many geckos that manage to find their way indoors, will ruin many hours of work.

Creative Tapestry is a very rewarding handcraft and the finished pieces make good heirlooms to pass down through the generations.


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