Saturday, February 26, 2011

Flower Show 2011

The annual Philadelphia Flower Show is coming up soon! It's being held March 6th through the 13th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 12th & Arch. This year's theme is Springtime in Paris. We love flowers, both fresh and needlepointed, and definitely love Paris too! In honor of the flower show and spring being around the corner, I thought I'd show you some great floral needlepoint canvases that we have in stock right now.

There are so many amazing floral needlepoint canvases that it's very difficult to find just one that would be a beautiful addition to your home. The good thing is that there are different types of canvases for beginners, intermediate, and advanced stitchers.

The key to finding a good beginner's canvas is to find one that has a large mesh size, which makes it easier to see where your stitches are going. Colonial Needle recently bought the company Lee. Lee has a lot of really fun canvases, as you may remember if you saw their trunk show in shop in November. They carry a few beautiful flower canvases that are perfect for beginners. The Iris canvas on the left, which is painted on 12 mesh, is a perfect choice for a beginner. It's stitch painted, which makes stitching very easy. You don't have to decide where to begin shading, as each shade is already painted. Also, the canvas is just gorgeous. It would make a very nice pillow once it was stitched and finished. The tulip above is also by Colonial Needle and is also great for beginners.

At the Intermediate level, you'll be able to start doing a little more shading and dealing with smaller mesh sizes, such as 18 mesh. By this point, you'll be able to work with a lot more detail as well, which means your pieces can be much more intricate. This red and white orchid piece would be an excellent choice for an intermediate project. It's still on 13 mesh, but there's quite a bit more detail involved. Orchids are lovely flowers, and this piece would look gorgeous finished.
The Geranium bush by Sandra Gilmore on the left would also be a good intermediate canvas. There's definitely a lot more detail, and you get to start working with shading and patterns. This is done on 18 mesh. Both of these canvases are starting to deal with shading and patterns.

As an advanced stitcher, you should be comfortable with shading and patterns and also with doing lots of detail. The Orange Hibiscus on the right is an
excellent example of a canvas that an advanced stitcher would feel comfortable with. Although it's not stitch painted, you have the opportunity to decide where you want the shading to begin, and also get the opportunity of blending fibers. This would help create seamless shading and make this flower look as realistic stitched as it does painted. This piece is gorgeous, and I think it would look very pretty framed or as a pillow. It's made by HP Designs.

All of these canvases are beautiful, and whether you're a beginner or advanced stitcher, you're sure to find something you would love to stitch. If you have any questions about any of these canvases or would like to come in and see the other canvases we have (we definitely have a lot!) feel free to get in touch! We look forward to seeing you in the store!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Portraits in Needlepoint

I've seen a lot of different needlepoint canvases of people. There are some simple portraits, and then there are some very detailed portraits. Certainly doing people in needlepoint would be time consuming, but I think the results are worth the time. They are beautiful canvases.

One of the type of needlepoint portrait that I've seen is a reproduction of a master painting. There are definitely a lot of canvases available of paintings from artists like Vermeer, Picasso,
Matisse, Degas, and Renoir. The work in progress on the right by Robyne Melia looks like it's being copied from a Ingres painting. What's amazing about this person is that they are free-stitching it. She didn't draw in the different colors and where they were going to place them. She is deciding as she goes. It looks like it's going to be very impressive! I'm definitely already impressed, and it's only about 1/3 of the way finished!

The painting below is a painted canvas by Barbara Russell. We love it! Not only is the portrait fabulous, but with all of the fun colors and shapes, you really
could do a lot of different fun stitches and practice using fun fibers as well!

Another technique of using needlepoint for a portrait can be seen in the following canvas. The artist, Megan Morman, uses saturated colors and a pop art kind of feel to paint her subjects. The colors are not usually naturalistic. A lot of her pieces look like snapshots that had the colors modified. I like how detailed she got in her pieces, yet they still keep a very individualistic aspect. The way she has shaded them looks painterly. Like I have mentioned in other posts, needlepoint and needle arts have been around forever, but they are still respected and often used as art forms in contemporary art shown in galleries. Ms. Morman's work has been shown in galleries. You can view it and other pictures of hers on her Flickr page.

There are a lot of artists that people find inspiring. It seems almost natural to want to have a piece of your favorite artist's work on your wall. However, you may not be able to afford to buy an original, or even a print, or maybe you just want to make one of their images your own. The artist below, MeroSmero, really liked the art of Piero Fornasetti and decided to do a needlepoint of one of his images. I like that she took an image that was inspired by a classical portrait, that had then been modified and made humorous, and made it her own by translating it into needlepoint, which is a traditonal art form, much like the painting had originally been. It's kind of funny when you think how art is inpsired by traditional art forms as well as contemporary. If you'd like to see other work she has done, you can visit her page on Flickr.

If you would like to try a portrait for your next project, we certainly have many canvases ready made that have people as their subjects. However Jim, our custom painter, can take one of your photos and make a custom piece just for you! The photo on the right is his version of the famous Obama poster. Whether you want something graphic or something very naturalistic and detailed, he would be able to help you.

Portraits are very personal and can really help show someone's true self. Doing a needlepoint portrait would be a great way to personalize a portrait and make it unique.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Custom Painting

There are so many different canvases available to needlepointers, but sometimes, you want to create something a little more unique, something catered to your specific interests. Here at Rittenhouse Needlepoint, we have a custom painter for exactly that situation, when you want something a little different, something personal.

Jim, our painter, has been here since we opened and has helped many customers create wonderful needlepoint projects. He graduated from Uarts in 2005 with an Illustration degree. As an already talented artist, he used his education as well as the training he received from a renowned needlepoint painter, to learn how to cater to needlepoint and create exquisite stitch-painted and painted canvases.

One of his most recent projects is for the Academy of Vocal Arts. They are having an auction event spotlighting Argentinian Music, and we are donating a stitched pillow for the auction. The canvas design centers around the Argentinian Tango and references traditional Argentinian musical instruments and colors that reflect the heat and energy that is used for the Tango and Argentinian music in general. This piece will go to Patsy, our stitcher, and will be stitched. After that, our in-house finishers will be finishing it into a gorgeous pillow for the auction. This is the 2nd custom piece we have done for the AVA. Our first was a pillow for the Scarlet Letter, an Opera the AVA hosted this fall. They loved it, and when the auction was held, it sold!

Besides doing custom projects for customers, Jim is also in charge of creating projects specifically for Rittenhouse Needlepoint. He has created wonderful canvases referencing Love Park, the Art Museum, Boat House Row on the Schuylkill River, sports themed canvases for teams such as the Eagles, the Phillies, the Flyers, and more. The wall below shows some of his masters, which are displayed in his office and painting room. It's fun to look at them and see what he's been up to and what kind of canvases you can have created for yourself!

If you would like more information about custom painting, or would like to speak to Jim about a project for yourself, feel free to email him at As you can see from some of the pieces shown here, he is very talented and is able to create many different projects, from stitch painted canvases to charts for cross stitch.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Here at Rittenhouse Needlepoint, we love to give classes on Needlepoint and stitching. Our most common and frequent classes are: the Free beginner's class every Saturday morning at 10 am, and the $5 Stitch of the Week class, which directly follows the beginner's class, at 11 am every Saturday. We also always offer the option of having a private lesson with one of our teachers on the subject of your choice, whether it is learning to needlepoint, learning new stitches, learning how to use different stitches in a piece you're currently working on, or other types of stitching, such as embroidery, cross-stitch, stump-work, ribbon embroidery, and etc. These classes are all $20 for every half hour.

The Stitch of the week class is a great way to come and learn an entirely new stitch every week for only $5! Not only do you learn a new stitch, but you get to enjoy the friendly atmosphere that comes along with being taught in a small group of needlepoint lovers. :) We always offer tea and/or coffee to our customers to encourage relaxation (although the stitching is enough to relax most anybody by itself!). As you can see to the right, Mindy, our Stitch of the week teacher, is teaching a student a fun new stitch. You get a piece of canvas, thread, a print-out, and instruction and a patient and friendly teacher to teach you what you need to know to master the new stitch.

One of the fun group classes we offered was a class on how to make a Temari ball. It is a traditional Japanese ball that is wrapped with beautiful colored string and given traditionally at New Years. We recently made them for a charity auction and after customers exclaimed that they too would like to make one, we gladly offered a class! As you can see, Wendy, our store manager, taught the class, and the results looked fabulous!

These balls were so easy to get a hang of, and really looked beautiful once they were stitched up. Another great thing about them was that you could use pretty much any fiber. It really didn't work with slippery threads, but cottons, silks, and wools looked great, and for an extra splash of excitement, we added Kreinik to them as well! It was a great way to use up some of the skeins of thread we had in our stashes!

If you're interested in coming in for the beginner's class, stitch of the week, or are interested in learning more about a private class or the classes we have on schedule you can come into the store and we'll be glad to tell you all about them! You can also check out the calendar on our website. You don't need to make an appointment for the beginners and stitch of the week classes, so just as long as you come at exactly 10 (for the beginners class) or 11 (for the s.o.w. class), on saturdays, you'll be able to enjoy the experience too!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Needlework in Contemporary Art

This weekend I made a trip to NYC and went Gallery hopping in Chelsea. Among the many galleries I visited, I made a point of visiting Jenkins Johnson Gallery. There's a show up called Girls Girls Girls, and it centers around art on just that topic: girls! There were a few pieces in that show that involved needlework, and I thought I would share them with you.

One piece is called "Pink Cloud" and it is by the artist Maggy Rozycki Hiltner. It is 5 x 13 feet and is featured right at the entrance of the gallery. It uses embroidery and hand stitching on found textiles. The subject matter is mostly little girls with lots of pinks and reds. At first glance, it looks very sweet, especially when you note that the little girls are eating ice cream cones and desserts. However, upon a closer inspection, there was a more adult feeling. There were little girls who were biting the little boys, as if they were testing out things they had seen or heard about from adults. This brings to mind the typical way that children learn about sexuality and go from young adults to adults. The following statement from the artist's website sums it up quite well. "I grew up a tomboy. Upon adolescence, I approached my newfound femininity and sexuality with this sporty gusto. Relationships, hairdos, food, sex- everything was a game, a contest, something to push on.
This piece was created to evoke the overwhelmingly sweet smell of icing at a party or perhaps a flower shop on a hot day. Everything seems all right at first, upon closer inspection my girls act out the consequences of overindulgence."

Maggy also has another set of pieces in the show. They are done in latch hook. These are more blatantly humorous than the larger piece. The three rugs center around pixie-like little girls. Each one is in one color, with the girl drawn with white. The juxtaposition of the innocent girls
with the candy-like colors and the "titles" underneath each girl makes you reconsider the meaning behind the pieces. The colors themselves are too bright and harsh to view the girls as really pure, but with a title like "liar" or "princess", you're given a description of these girls' personalities and reconsider who they are.

Maggy's work seems to focus on social commentary and feminine issues. If you check out her website, you can see more of her work, which all incorporates stitching on a large scale. This piece, which is not shown at Jenkins Johnson, but I think is interesting is called "Strawberry Girls."

This exhibition was another example of how stitching and needlework is still very much alive and is being used in many ways, even in art that's shown in galleries in New York City!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Cross stitch is a very popular stitching pastime. It's similar to needlepoint except that the stitches are all "x's." Coming up we have a great class with Mindy, our resident cross-stitcher. This class is for beginners. You'll be stitching an adorable cat and dog. They're simple and very cute, the perfect project for a beginner.

The cross stitch on the right is a very adorable message piece by Penelope Waits. Because it's in one color it would be a very good choice for a beginner, and the added benefit is that it's also very cute! It would finish into a nice framed piece or pillow.

Another example of what a cross-stitched piece could look like is the piece to the left. It incorporates the old-fashioned practice of painted silhouette portraits, except this is a cross-stitch silhouette! Because this is also only one color, it would be another excellent choice for a beginning cross-stitcher. This canvas is from the online store What Delilah Did however if you were interested in creating one of these silhouette portraits for yourself, of yourself or someone you know, our custom painter Jim can create charts, and would be able to use a photo you supply to do one for you!

For those of you who have cross-stitched before and yearn for something a little more detailed, something like the piece to the right (stitched by Becky) would be a great choice. The primitive style of design used in this piece reminds me of samplers, one of the most common cross-stitch pattern types. This piece, as you can see is an excellent small pillow. It would be great as an accent on your couch or mantel. Once again, there are many patterns similar to this available on the market, but ify ou have an idea for one that you would like to create, Jim would be able to create a chart for you and either he or our staff would be able to help you choose colors so that your piece would be the best it can be.

If you really want to challenge yourself, take a look at the piece below. This is a replica of a print called "A Young Hare" by Albrecht Durer. The chart is sold by The Scarlet Quince. As you can see under the magnifying glass, this isn't just a trick of the eye. This is actually cross-stitched! It's amazing how much detail you can get. Using this much detail would be a great way to transform your favorite master painting into a finished cross-stitch.

The beginners cross stitch class is $10 and will be held Saturday, February 19th from 3:30-4:30. The fee will include the materials and instruction. We hope you'll be able to make it and take advantage of this wonderful beginners class!