Here’s a fact about me that you may not know: I do needlepoint. I’ve been doing it since high school. You can see some of my designs and projects on my needlework page.
In the last few years, crafting has enjoyed a renaissance among younger people, fueled by the Internet. Etsy, for instance, has been both a cause and a result of this newfound interest in crafting. And for me, nothing epitomizes this renaissance better than Julie Jackson’s Subversive Cross Stitch.
Last week, my friend and coworker Tracey Kirk invited me to do cross stitch with her at lunchtime while she knitted (my wife thinks this is a scream). While we did our respective crafts, we discussed this crafting renaissance. Tracey agreed with me that some crafts have enjoyed more new-found attention than others: knitting and cross stitch have certainly ridden the wave, but needlepoint has been left primarily in the hands of old ladies.
I got to thinking about why needlepoint hasn’t ridden the wave of gen x or y (or whatever) crafters. Let’s think about why cross stitch, on the other hand, has made the generational leap.

  • It’s easy to learn and do: there’s only one stitch.
  • It is, or can be, fast to complete a simple project: since you only stitch the parts of the canvas that have a design, you leave most of the canvas blank (though there certainly are cross stitch designs that call for stitching the entire surface)
  • It’s cheap: the supplies for a small project should only cost a few dollars
  • It’s easy to get supplies: every craft store carries cross stitch supplies
  • It’s portable: you can easily carry a small project around with you

With Subversive Cross Stitch, Julie Jackson has capitalized on these features and added a big dose of irony.
So, how does needlepoint compare to cross stitch?
Complexity: There are many needlepoint stitches, though I only do one simple stitch (the equivalent of half a cross stitch stitch), so I think the general perception is that needlepoint is relatively hard to do.
Speed: Unlike many cross stitch designs, with needlepoint the entire surface of the design is stitched. If you do the math, that makes it several times more time consuming than many cross stitch designs.
Cost: Needlepoint canvas and thread tend to be pretty pricey. The materials for one of the pillow-sized projects that I do (though they are not by any means small beginner projects) probably costs me upwards of $75.
Availability of supplies: In my experience, the big chain craft stores carry needlepoint kits, but not the materials for doing other designs (and the kits tend not to appeal to the hip young crowd, in my opinion). I get my supplies from an awesome local shop, The Needle Works, that sells only needlepoint supplies–but of course, I have to make a special trip halfway across town for supplies.
Portability: As far as I know, all needlepoint uses a frame or hoop. Small projects might be easy to carry,but mine certainly aren’t: I staple my canvas to a 24-inch long wooden frame. It’s certainly not something I can just carry with me in case I have a few spare moments; and I certainly can’t just whip it out on a bus or airplane, for instance.
If you compare needlepoint to cross stitch based on the criteria above, it’s clear why needlepoint hasn’t ridden the wave of twenty-first century crafting. Now, I’m trying to figure out ways to change the business of needlepoint to make it easier for poor young people to get started in it.

Categories: Crafts

1 Comment

Tracey · 2009/02/05 at 14:16

Woohoo! I can’t wait to see what you come up with. And thanks for linking to my site.

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