Needlepoint with Knitting Wool

Not too long ago (just a few weeks, in fact), I was sitting on my sofa and contemplating a ball of wool.  As you do.  Well, it was Noro wool (Kureyon), and the colours are beautiful.  I bought it because I was using it for some small-scale bagweaving projects, but as needlework has come back to the fore for me lately, as I was looking at it, I started to wonder why it couldn’t be used for needlepoint.

I asked around, but couldn’t find anyone who had tried it (not with Noro, at least), or could offer any practical advice re. canvas gauge for different wool types.  A couple of negative replies just said no: the fibers of the wool would not stand the abrasion of the canvas, or no: the inconsistent thickness of the wool would prevent even coverage.  Having already decided I wanted to try it, that wasn’t sufficient to stop me.  So after thinking about it awhile, I decided to see what would happen.

Guess what?  It works!  Okay, you have to use shorter lengths of yarn, because it will fray and break with repeated friction against the canvas.  For the same reason, longer stitches (eg long stitch, satin stitch) are more successful than short or layered ones, which just fluff up – of course, you could always invent a design which embraces this feature, and then it is no longer a drawback.

I actually used Noro Silk Garden, in the end, just because the colours were better suited to the design I had envisioned.  Kureyon is a similar weight yarn, though, and should work just as well.  I stitched onto 11ct canvas because it was what I had.  Luckily, I would say this is about right.  A higher gauge would definitely crowd the stitches.  The satin stitch gave very even coverage on 11ct.   A lower gauge canvas would probably also work, and potentially give greater flexibility in stitch variety.  The yarn can withstand a little careful unpicking, but will fluff up and/or break with repeated unpicking.

I cut down the yarn from the ball into lengths of about 18″ each, and separated it into colour groups.   I ended up with about 10 different colours (with some variety in each ‘colour’, due to the tweeded colour blending of the yarn).  I didn’t use all of them in my project – in fact, I probably had about half a ball left of unused colours, which could be easily used in another small project.

I was really pleased with the results, and it was fun to work around the limitations of the quantities I had of each shade.  I normally work on a much finer gauge canvas with ‘normal’ (overdyed) embroidery threads, so this was an interesting experiment for me.  I can’t say I have been totally converted & will only ever do needlepoint with knitting yarn from now on; but at least now if I see a yarn in colours that inspire me, I don’t have to feel limited by what the label says it is for.

It is actually a very economical way of needlepointing, as one ball of Noro wool costs around $8, whereas individual skeins of overdyed needlepoint wool/floss cost up to $5 or $6 each.  To buy full skeins of each different shade I needed to stitch this design ordinarily would have cost around $30, and I would have had lots of unused thread left over so this was a bargain.  I will probably create a small series of needlepoint designs specifically for use with Noro wool, taking care to ensure the colour areas are not too large (there is nothing more frustrating than finding you do not have enough of a colour to complete a particular area).

I will also be re-charting the design for ‘regular’ needlepoint, using overdyed floss on 18ct or 24ct canvas.  The limitations imposed by the quantities available of each colour meant that I could not take the design quite as far as I would have wished.  The re-charted pattern has an additional border around the outer edge.

Needlepoint using Noro Silk Garden 247 on 11ct mono canvas. Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008. Needlepoint using Noro Silk Garden 247 on 11ct mono canvas.

An intro to TangleCrafts & me

A predominantly self-taught stitcher, I have recently decided to venture out into the world to market my own counted thread designs. I’ve been designing for 6 years, & have more patterns & ideas than time in which to stitch them (or in some cases, chart them).  Luckily, I have managed to build a little team of model stitchers who are helping me make some headway.  I can’t – of course – kit a design until I have a photo of the finished stitched pieces to show on the packaging, so this is an essential part of the process.  It also helps me gauge the quantities of thread & fabric to include in kits, find out if instructions need clarifying (something that’s harder to do if I stitch my own models), and in some cases, see things I want to change in the pattern itself.   It’s a great learning curve!

I do a lot less stitching myself than I used to, but I really enjoy the process of the designing, & stitch small samples as I go along, just to make sure things work.  I have lots of ideas I haven’t had chance to try out, yet, but with my stitchers’ help, that mythical day when I will have time to get around to everything is hopefully getting slightly closer.  At the moment, my time is spent mostly fine-tuning existing charts, typing up instructions, & perfecting the layout of the chart/kit packaging. I enjoy designing the packaging almost as much as the patterns themselves – just another aesthetic aspect of the job, I guess.

Of course, the problem with spending a lot of time charting, means that I ALWAYS get sidetracked & see how a spin-off pattern could work, or it will kick-start another idea entirely.  It’s fruitful in one way, but not necessarily productive in terms of actually getting done what I intended to!  But I have limited time for all this work, so I do have to be strict with myself, & prioritise things I would otherwise leave until later.  The ideas & planning notebook is ever-expanding…

There are related projects such as dyeing my own threads & colouring my own canvases which are on the really-need-to-get-done list, too. The charting & kitting has to take priority; but being able to supply my own hand-dyed threads would be a great addition – & I may even have to get some charts re-stitched using the, depending on how successful they turn out to be.  And canvas colouring, although not essential to the current wave of model stitching, will again play a large part in ideas I have for the future.

Why can’t I do everything at once?  I’m sure if I just had a few more hands, & a few more hours in every day, life would be so much easier!