Saturday, February 14, 2009


Welcome to the Rittenhouse Needlepoint blog. My name is Stephen and I will be primarily responsible for what you read here.

I am a co-owner of Rittenhouse Needlepoint with my partner Russell Palmer (III). Russell and I have owned several businesses together so although this is our first needlepoint shop it is not our first business venture together.

Russell doesn't do needlepoint. He says that it is important for one of us to maintain a lay person's perspective. He also likes to say that while he doesn't do needlepoint he is a lover of needlepoint.

I myself have only been stitching for four years so although some customers have referred to me as an expert needlepointer I definitely don't consider myself one. I enjoy needlepoint a great deal. I find it to be both relaxing and satisfying. I've enjoyed learning about needlepoint and I am looking forward to sharing some of what I've learned with you.

So, where to begin? I suppose as good a place as any would be my current project. Before I go any further I must tell you that I am a multiple-project personality. It is hard for me to finish a project but it is easy (and fun) for me to start one. Therefore, I currently have something in the neighborhood of ten different projects in different stages of completion.

Recently, meaning the last few days, I have been working on a Susan Treglown design (#WL-1006) of koi fish and water lilies (I like koi fish -- this is my second project with koi fish). It's all blue, white and turquoise. Its very impressionistic and I love the colors. This is a project that I bought some time ago (2+ years probably). I purchased it at the Natchez Needle Arts Studio (such a fancy name but an excellent shop in Natchez, MS -- say "hello" to Miss Katie). The design seemed rather daunting to me for a long time as it requires multiple color changes and includes few areas of unbroken color. As a beginning basketweaver at the time, the idea of all those starts and stops intimidated me so I went with a different project that I had also bought. The turquoise and blue impressionistic koi sat in my stash waiting patiently for a long time. Occasionally, I would bring it out and admire it but then back it would go.

A couple of weeks ago I moved the canvas and threads to the space between my night table and my bed (a strange spot I know but I guess I was operating on the principle "in sight -- in mind"). It worked. I picked up the canvas the other night after a long evening of learning decorative stitches. I was looking for something less challenging. A relaxation project. So, I started basketweaving in the upper right hand corner.

I was not initially satisfied with my work. The white color that I had for the small areas of "background" was Silk & Ivory Natural. It was too blah. Also I had used some turquoise Appleton wool for an area of light blue at the top of the canvas to the upper right of the water lily. The color was too intense I felt.

So, the next morning I brought the work to the store where I proceeded to rip out the work that I had already done (using my super fabulously sharp Gingher tweezers (item #3988 -- $18.00) and my "Precision Stainless Steel Thread Cutter" (item #4847 -- $15.95). It was still a job but when I was through I laid out all the colors that I had purchased from Natchez and tried to map out where they were to go.

I substituted Threadworx Overdyed Floss -- Vanilla Ice (color #1008, item 4906). This is an off-white color with probably too much pale tan/yellow in it to be a convincing shade of light reflecting off water but still I like it better than the flat Silk & Ivory color. I also added some metallic thread for the water lilies. The Kreinik braid is actually a very pale mauve (color # 193, item 2962).

Steve Smith was very helpful in this whole process. Steve works at our shop but mostly on the computer and in the back. He took it upon himself to help me with this process and I have to admit I was leery because Steve doesn't do needlepoint (he likes hockey and football and the flat tax idea of Steve Forbes). But he was very helpful. It is always nice to have someone suggesting alternatives and offering opinions. And, he's pretty good with color too so go figure!

So, armed with my new threads as well as some wonderful new -- product plug alert -- Bohin size 20 tapestry needles (item #4820, $2.25) I began yet another project. It's always so satisfying to begin a project. Oh the enthusiasm, the promise of a new heirloom piece ... you know the drill.

Now, I've been working on it for the last couple of evening after work (and dinner) while listening to Adrianna Lecouvreur and Turandot. I am still enjoying working on the project. I love as I mentioned earlier all the colors and now that I have them all grouped by the canvas area that they cover it is much easier or me to feel confident that I am not forgetting a shade or worse yet using the wrong color.

I like the way the Threadworx overdyed floss has added interest to the "background" area. I am also really liking the Kreinik braid that I am using for the water lily. I had reservations regarding this thread because I thought that it might be a.) too lavender and/or b.) too glitzy. So far it seems okay on both counts.

I am having a bit of a hard time starting and stopping my colored threads without going through a white area. I've seen too many otherwise lovely canvases be marred by this common but easily avoidable mistake but unfortunately I don't have much room to maneuver so its been a challenge.

That's about the only issue that I have discovered so far. The Silk & Ivory is just a wonderful thread to stitch with. It positively floats through the canvas. I've noticed however that it has looked a bit funky when I de-skeinned it -- maybe a little more fuzzy than normal and reluctant to let go of the hank shape (understandable I suppose since it has been wrapped up as a skein for two plus years).

It is also still a bit difficult to determine where the blue-green vs. the turquoise vs. the blue-gray all go but I am going to take it slow and easy. Repeat after me -- "this is meant to be relaxing."


  1. Hello, Stephen. Welcome to the world of Needlepoint, blogs, and shops full of threads and canvases and charts and tools and....

    Well, you have that part figured out anyway.

    I have a tip about stitching a design (I presume you are doing all tent stitches?) with a lot of color changes. If you have 3 blue stitches surrounded by white, do the white first and then thread up with a short length of your blue. Don't put a knot in the end, just hang on to the loose tail on the back with a finger. Stitch your three blue stitches and then with both tails on the back, tie them together in a small knot. Don't make the knot loose and don't pull tightly, just tie it snug against the back side. If you are making a pillow, the knot probably won't make a bump on the front. If you plan to frame this piece (I love koi pieces myself!) and you are worried about a bump, you can thread up each loose end and run each under the back stitches. When you have done that, come straight up through the blue stitches in a hole and pull the needle and thread as tight as possible and cut it off right at the canvas surface. The stitching you've already done, putting the loose ends under the back side blue threads, plus this last "come up and cut" technique should probably hold the thread in place well with out raising a bump on the front.

    I hope this makes sense. I'll see if anyone else has good tips for you....

    Jane, waving from Chilly Hollow --hey, I'm only a 6 hour trip south of Philly--ROAD TRIP

  2. You've started out very well, Stephen. You're using basketweave! You didn't say what kind of canvas you are using. 18 count? 14 count? That also contributes to choosing the best threads for a project.

    I'm going to be starting a large, new project this week that is on 13 count canvas and I will only be using Silk & Ivory.


  3. Stephen - there are "process" people and "Product" people. I am a process person. I rarely finish anything - and I've been doing this since 1968. I just enjoy the process, and when I see what it's going to look like, I put it down and start something else.
    Judy Harper

  4. Stephen and Russell, good luck with your store. Phyllis told me about it this morning and I went on line to check you out. You almost have me ready to lay down my knitting needles. When the grandchildren get a little bigger and no longer need sweaters I'll be back to you.... Lots of love, Mimi K.