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Creative Needlepoint

Updated on August 19, 2014

Multiple Fancy Stitches and Unusual Yarns

Needlepoint is done on painted canvases. Usually the artist buys an already painted canvas. Most people probably stick to one or two stitches. But it is possible to get very creative with stitches. I took a class to learn how to do this, and by the time I was finished with the class, I was inventing my own stitches.

Stitches are used to convey a sense of different textures. For example, a straight stitch done in a vertical direction can simulate long straight hair. French knots are used to give a nubby appearance. It is also customary to use a wide variety of yarns and threads.

Canvases that are hand painted are more accurate and easier to use. But many are available that are manufactured and work just fine.

My favorite hand painted canvases are of the works of Ted deGrazia, the famous southwestern painter and artist. There is a company in town that produces hand-painted canvases of his work, and I have done several.

My Work

In the next few sections, I will show you some of my work, together with some explanations of what I have been doing.


The basic stitch in needlepoint is a diagonal stitch that crosses one intersection between vertical and horizontal "threads" of the canvas. Because the diagonal stitch tends to put tension on the canvas, even if it is not pulled tight, it will tend to skew the canvas. You will see that each of my images shows a skewed canvas. There are two remedies for this. One is to put the canvas on a frame before stitching it, and the other is to pull it straight before framing.

I used two stitches in this canvas. The basic stitch makes up the seashell. The background is vertical stitches.

I said to myself later that I should have used muted colors.


Horizontal and vertical stitches simulate water and the rocks of the cliff. Trees and sky are done with the diagonal stitch. In retrospect, using a French knot for the trees might have looked more realistic. The French knot is like the one used in embroidery.

Two Women

If I recall correctly, this was a deGrazia canvas.

I used a horizontal stitch to simulate the sunset. Various stitches in the clothing simulate the different textures of different kinds of clothing. Fringes hang loose. It is a little difficult to tell in this small image, but the woman on the right is wearing a violet pointed hat with an orange ribbon around it.

Ted deGrazia

Famous Arizona artist

Ted deGrazia is a southwestern artist of Hispanic descent. He developed his own unique style of painting and drawing. He also developed some unique glazes that he used in his pottery. In particular a rich blue glaze is frequently used. The cross hanging in the church I used to attend was made by deGrazia, and shows this blue glaze. He also made the baptismal font.

deGrazia's paintings usually included children. It was part of his style that he never painted facial features on children's faces. His paintings used many bright colors.

There is a legend that deGrazia took a number of his paintings into the Superstition Mountains and hid them there. Allegedly, the Native Americans of the region know where they are. deGrazia had a good relationship with them. Although many other people have searched, these paintings have never been found.

deGrazia also made a video of him taking some of his paintings into the mountains and burning them. This was a protest against the income tax allowing him to deduct only the cost of materials for each of his paintings, instead of letting him deduct the value of the paintings. I don't know if this story is true, but the video is entertaining.

I used to go to his Gallery in the Sun occasionally to look at his work and wander around. The ruins of his boyhood home are also on the grounds. This property is located on North Swan in the Catalina Foothills.

deGrazia also built a group of shops in Tucson. This no longer exists, largely because it didn't meed building codes. However, Sundance Designs, which produces and sells needlepoint canvases of his work, was located there. Obviously, it has since moved.

The photo is used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Sundance Designs

Sundance Designs is the authorized dealer for needlepoint canvases using Ted deGrazia's art. They are hand-painted. They have since expanded their line to include other canvases. I got all my deGrazia canvases from them. They do good work.

Visit to Gallery in the Sun

I have a funny story to tell. A friend of mine, Vicky, grew up in Ukraine. During WWII, her family was captured and shipped off to Germany to work in one of Hitler's work camps. This was done because so many German workers had been killed in the war. While she was in Germany in the work camp, she because a Christian. Subsequent to her release from the work camp, she immigrated to America and became a citizen. She worked in assembly lines until her retirement. I have known her for nearly 50 years, and she is a very interesting person.

One time I took Vicky to the Gallery in the Sun, and it so happened deGrazia was there. We looked at his art, and then we walked over to visit with him. Vicky told him, "You can't draw!" He laughed uproariously and after that, they were fast friends. She had some wonderful recordings of a deep Russian bass singing church music, and she gave some of them to him.

deGrazia is now deceased, but the Gallery in the Sun is still there, and I visit occasionally. It was within walking distance of my home until we moved where we are now. Vicky and I also occasionally reminisce about deGrazia and our visit.

Ted deGrazia

Were you familiar with the artist, Ted deGrazia? What do you think of his work?

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Doorway - Ted deGrazia's Boyhood Home

The grounds where the Gallery in the Sun is located belonged to the deGrazia family as Ted was growing up. This is one of the doorways in his home. The kitchen still has the cast iron stove that his mother used for cooking.

Kitchen - Boyhood home

Here is a view of the kitchen, showing the cast iron stove, and the chimney.

Current Home

I think the home on the far right was where deGrazia and his wife lived. The left front shows one of the structures that deGrazia erected in various places. There is also a wooden fence around the perimeter which is equally primitive. It really fit his personality, to make things like this.

In the very back are the Santa Catalina Mountains, which are north of the older part of Tucson.

I have more pictures, including a front view of the Gallery, and a picture of the cross in the chapel deGrazia built. I will add them when I find them.

Undulating Land

Just vertical stitches. The canvas around the circles was deliberately left unstitched.


This is a deGrazia canvas.

I used a variety of yarns in the Roadrunner's body. The background was deliberately left unstitched.

Hot Peppers

Red Peppers with cayenne are frequently used in Mexican cuisine. People would harvest the peppers and string them like this, and they then hung them on the outside of the house by the door as decorations. The peppers would dry out, and these would last a long time. That was before refrigeration. Putting hot peppers in food helps preserve it when you can't refrigerate it. I have always been intrigued by these bunches of peppers hanging by people's doors, so I chose to make this canvas. There are no unusual stitches in the canvas, but the painting shows shading that makes the peppers appear round.

Hot Peppers by the Door

This is the canteen where the soldiers at old Fort Lowell in Tucson ate their meals. Notice the string of chili peppers to the right of the doorway. The building itself is adobe with stucco, a common building method in Tucson.

Do you do needlepoint?

Have you ever done needlepoint?

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Indian Pot

This is a traditional Native American design. The three white semicircular areas are symbolic clouds. No unusual stitches; I just like the design.


With this one, also, no unusual stitches. I chose this canvas because I like the trees in Africa and how they are shaped after the giraffes eat the lower leaves and branches. Usually, these are acacia trees.


These are the famous mittens in Monument Valley. It is a favorite scenic place of mine. The buttes are made with vertical stitches, and the rest are traditional stitches.

Notice on the right there is a vertical line of colored squares. These are normally part of a needlepoint canvas, and are a guide to the colors of yarn or thread you will need to buy to complete the canvas.


This is a deGrazia canvas, and shows how colorful his art tends to be. I used a variety of yarns and stitches in this one. The rusty gold area is filled in with a fuzzy yarn. The light purple spots on the largest butterfly are made with a star pattern stitch.


I like unicorns!

I used line stitches in different directions for his mane, and I crossed the horn at a diagonal with a very thin metallic yarn. The background is an example of bargello, which is a particular style of border. I made this canvas not only for the unicorn, but because I wanted to do one with bargello.


This is a deGrazia canvas. deGrazia was particularly fond of madonnas as a subject for his paintings.

Vertical stitches make up the clothing and hair. The stars are made with a metallic yarn.


I like to collect dragons. They really intrigue me.

This is a traditional Chinese dragon, and was the last piece I worked on in the class. The instructor didn't think I could fill in the border with long diagonal stitches, but I did it anyway. :) I invented my own stitch for the dragon's scales. The instructor liked that. So did I. :)

This is my favorite piece.

Purple Star

Thank you to everyone who was involved in my getting a Purple Star on this Lens!!!


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