On Art, Needlepoint, and Canvas

Art and needlepoint can meet but it’s helpful to understand what both are. Understanding will make you a better stitcher and it will help you make informed decisions about what canvas to buy.

The Canvas

We all believe in the polite fiction that needlepoint canvas in evenly woven. We talk about mesh count and pretend that every square inch of a canvas is the same count.

The reality is that canvas is mostly the stated mesh but it does vary. All canvas is slightly uneven. The thread count can vary by a couple of threads each side of the mesh size.

That has consequences for the design. If a canvas is printed by mechanical means, no matter what they are, lines may not be straight on canvas. This is because the canvas itself is not straight. Higher end canvases will be better than lower end. In order from bad to good are printing, silk-screened, computer printed.

This heirarchy is due to the sizes of the print run. The larger print runs have little opportunity to adjust the canvas. If the canvas can be adjusted some of the problems, but not all, can be avoided.

The only way to get straight lines on canvas (i.e. a line on one canvas thread) is to hand-paint it. The only way to get a single color per intersection is to stitch paint the canvas.

This does not make other canvases bad or unstitchable, it just makes them different. If you know what you are buying, you will know what to expect.

The Art

Art is done, almost always, on something solid. It’s obvious, but that means solid blocks of color, clear shapes and lines that are continuous. If the art you see is otherwise it’s by the artist’s choice.

When we see a piece of art often we react to exactly these things.

The Intersection of Art & Needlepoint

What happens when we take that artwork and put it on needlepoint canvas?

Suddenly the lines aren’t continuous, the colors are less clear, and the whole thing looks a bit dull.

It’s not the fault of the canvas designer, it’s natural in the transition to canvas.

Needlepoint canvas differs from the original ground of the art in that it has significantly more hole than ground — it isn’t solid at all. When artwork gets transferred to canvas those holes interfere in the process. Details might be lost. Lines aren’t solid, they’re dotted. Most importantly colors are less clear and duller because the color behind the canvas interferes with the color on the canvas to change it.

This won’t change. It can be modified somewhat by hand-painting but because it is in the nature of the material it won’t go away.

How then do you fix it? You stitch the canvas. This turns that mostly holes canvas into a solid surface. To get color and design right, look to the original if it is a reproduction of a work of art.

You’ll love the results.

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