When it comes to needlepoint projects, canvases come in three forms: non-printed canvas in which you follow a chart to stitch your project; pre-printed canvas wherein you follow the color on the canvas to stitch; and hand-painted canvas, which is similar to pre-printed canvases but are more accurately detailed because they are painted by hand rather than printed through a manufacturing process.
Hand-painted needlepoint canvases are typically higher in price because it is a unique discipline. It requires brush painting skills, as well as the ability to match colors, count lines, interpret designs (as in converting a design on 18-ct. canvas to 13-ct. canvas), blow out excess paint from the canvas holes, and duplicate the designs so each one looks as good as the next for the customer.
Because hand-painted canvases are just that—painted by hand—there are certain variables to consider when choosing a design to stitch. To help you in your purchase, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help make an informed decision.
Do I love this design? A finely painted canvas of a design that does not appeal to you will probably be a chore to stitch. So try to find a design that you truly love. Granted, there may be times when you intend to stitch a gift so someone else must love the design. Still, try to pick something that you would enjoy stitching. Otherwise you may not finish it in time!
Was this canvas painted well? While a design may catch your eye, if it is poorly painted it will only create frustration when you try to stitch it. So when you have found a design that appeals to you, consider if the piece is reasonably stitcher-friendly.How closely does the painted design detail follow the lines or mesh of the canvas? Carefully painting each stitch is time-consuming for the designer, and with painted canvases frequently being sold individually without a chart or stitch diagrams, it is much easier to interpret a well-painted canvas.
Do the objects and features of the design have crisp, clear lines of definition? Even a well-painted canvas may have some challenges with details that follow a curve. A detailed hand-painted canvas may cost more, but the time you will spend stitching rather than deciphering might make the investment worthwhile.
How is the paint coverage? Did the design get full, fluid color or are there faded or unpainted areas of the canvas? This makes it difficult to determine what color the section should be. Are there plugged holes from excessive paint? This should be blown out by the designer after painting. If it isn’t, the plugged areas could be difficult to get a needle and multiple threads to go through.
How complex is the design? Shading can add depth and detail to a painted design, but be sure to consider the complexity of the shading. Can the shading be stitched, and how much of the shaded details are you willing to stitch? If you decide to simplify the way the shading is stitched, you may be more satisfied with the outcome. While painted shading can add dimension, creative stitching can also add depth and definition to a design!
How do I want to finish the piece? Many stitchers have a closet full of painted canvases. And while there is nothing wrong with having a stockpile, you might consider how you would finish the piece in the evaluation process before you make your purchase. A vision of the finished piece may motivate you to stitch rather than collect!
Ask a Professional
When in doubt, talk to the professionals. There are many retail shop owners and employees who love what they do and are passionate about needlepoint. Because these designs are hand-painted, there is a human element to them that isn’t found in a printed or stamped canvas.
If you are an experienced stitcher, you probably know what a reasonable expectation is in regard to the detail and definition of a painted canvas. You will have worked your way through a sketchy spot or two when design clarity wasn’t perfect. But if you don’t have a lot of experience, your local needlework shop is a great resource.