Enhancing the Small Needlepoint


The temptation when stitching a small needlepoint is to do Tent Stitch alone. But even with different threads, this can end up a bit . . . dull. My Small Stitch Samplers (buy here) give you lots of ideas for stitches but let’s use the pirate chest to see how I combined them and different threads to elevate the canvas.

The Threads

Inside and around the chest we have jewels and necklaces, and golden cups. Sparkly threads will need to be used. Rayon could be used for the jewels but I don’t have much in my stash, so I used all metallic. For the jewels I used mostly holographic metallic. For the gold I used to gold with several other colors in it. To make the depths of the chest (in black) look even deeper, I used a matte black thread because matte textures recede while shiny textures advance. For the beads I used a fine pearl metallic.

The gold one the cups is just one of three golds I used. I picked a metallic/rayon blend for the chest that was more brassy because I wanted it to look a bit worn. For the key I used a darker gold to give it some weight.

The two browns on the box are Persian wool and High Cotton. The smooth matte texture along with the darker color of the High Cotton makes this color recede visually so the chest looks bigger.

The Stitches

The key is off by itself and is out of proportion to the chest. While I didn’t make it the focal point, that’s the jewels, I did want to emphasize it. I did this by stitching the shaft of the key in a fancy stitch, Herringbone.

The jewels create a problem because they are odd shapes and small. Or do they? Wherever I had at least a two thread square I made a Smyrna Cross, a great stitch for jewels. There are enough of these to establish that pattern. If I had more space I made partial crosses.

A tougher situation were the faceted jewels, mostly green. I stitched those in Gobelin in two parts. The pointy bottom had Gobelins that shared a hole and radiated out. The more shallow top had ones that only had two stitches sharing holes. Essentially I stitched to give them the feeling of brilliant cut gems.

The chest presents a problem we often encounter. It isn’t the focal point but it is important. The best approach is to think about what this would be in real life. It would be boards joined together by strips of brass. The two stitches should be different in size and texture. Because the brass is one thread wide, the choices are limited. Because my thread has metallic in it, it’s already a bit showy so I just used Continental.

The boards are wider and need something that has a smoother, more unified look. Diagonal Gobelin is perfect.


The important principle in creating interesting small pieces is to push the elements apart so that they give you more depth and interest. Pick threads that allow focal points to advance and background to recede. Use stitches that imitate the real life items and enhance the depth you’ve created. Look to use variety in picking threads; just because it’s painted the same color doesn’t mean it has to be the same thread.

When you push your small needlepoint, you can easily create something special in a small space.

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