It’s not your grandmother’s needlepoint


Charley Harper Rainforest Birds, 12-by-10-inch hand-painted canvas ($90 at www.purlsoho.com). (PURL SOHO)
March 23, 2011

It wasn’t long ago that the word “needlepoint” conjured up thoughts of dusty cushions with fusty florals. But in recent years, thanks to a handful of retailers, designers and enthusiasts, the craft has become cool again.

“There’s been a new look for needlepoint in the last five years,” says Susan Battle, owner of the Point of It All needlepoint shop in Friendship Heights. “There are more graphics, brighter colors, cleaner designs. . . . It’s not an old, stuffy hobby anymore.”

Needlepoint is a form of embroidery done by stitching fibers through an open-mesh canvas. It can be bought as a finished product (such as a pillow), or as a do-it-yourself project with a hand-painted canvas or a computer-generated kit.

The resurgence of needlepoint is due in part to big names in the design world embracing it. Designer and potter Jonathan Adler and clothing and textile designer Trina Turk both sell pre-made needlepoint items in their shops, helping to introduce the craft to new demographics.

At her full-service store, Battle, 32, sells hand-painted canvases that she can finish into just about anything after the stitching is done, including doorstops, pillows, purses, rugs, belts, Christmas ornaments and custom house portraits.

Needlepoint can be a pricey hobby (Battle’s canvases run from $30 to $800), but the handmade results are often future heirlooms.

Essentially, says Battle of her artistically rendered offerings, “You’re buying a work of art, and you’re adding to it.”

Needlepoint resources

Amy Holbrook of New York-based AMH Design (347-788-8850, www.amhdesignonline.com) created her affordable needlepoint kits with beginners in mind. The projects, such as key chains ($20) and iPhone cases ($25), don’t take long to complete, don’t require professional finishing and come with all the materials and easy-to-follow instructions. “You either love it or it’s just not for you,” says Holbrook. “But people who love it are obsessed with it.” Other needlepoint resources include:

The Point of It All (5232 44th St. NW, Suite 1, 202-966-9898, www.thepointofitallonline.com). The D.C. shop’s Web site provides instructional videos. Click on “Monkey See” under “Videos.”

The Purl Bee (www.purlbee.com). The blog of New York yarn and fabric shop Purl Soho posts on needlepoint and related crafts. It also provides links to buy painted canvases, kits and more.

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