Sunday, 15 July 2012

Elephant No. 287: Needlepoint Beading

During a workshop a few weeks ago, I was introduced to this technique. It can be quite pretty when done properly, so I thought I'd try it for today's elephant.

I've covered needlepoint and seed beads in previous posts, so I won't go through any of that again, other than to say that needlepoint with beads combines needlepoint technique with beaded embroidery. Beads are stitched into a piece of fine needlepoint canvas using a simple tent stitch. In common with many other forms of needlepoint, the design is usually based on a grid pattern of some sort.

Glass seed beads are the most common type of bead for this kind of work, although other shapes can be used for visual interest. The size of the bead used can also vary, depending on the gauge of the needlepoint canvas.

Beaded needlepoint enjoyed its greatest popularity during the nineteenth century, when both Berlin work patterns and inexpensive glass seed beads became widely available. Today, beaded needlepoint is largely limited to the world of art needlework and fine craft, with some artists producing intricate works of portraiture in addition to more traditional floral designs. Essentially, if a design can be turned into a grid, it can be turned into beaded needlepoint.

Beaded Victorian pelmet or bracket skirt. The red has been done in wool, and
the flowers are beaded.

For today's elephant, knowing how long needlepoint can take, I decided to make something small. Very small.

I was going to draw my own elephant, but instead I found this little pattern online. It's actually a filet crochet pattern, but it will work for needlepoint as well.


I started with a piece of scrap needlepoint canvas with a gauge of about 18 stitches to the inch.

For beads, I used the same beads I used for my beaded fringe a few weeks ago. These are glass beads in a size 11/0.

After this, I simply started stitching back and forth along the rows, following the graphed pattern.

If you decide to try this, here are a few tips:

1. Use relatively good-quality seed beads. If you use really cheap beads, they are likely to be uneven in size and shape, making them a bit annoying for this kind of detailed work. This doesn't mean that you need to buy really expensive beads—unless, of course, you want to. Mine came in slender tubes measuring a little over 5 cm (2 inches) in length, and cost about three dollars a tube.

2. Use beading thread rather than sewing thread to ensure that your work lasts, and that the thread slides through the beads nicely. If you use regular sewing thread, run it through some beeswax or a candle.

3. For your first attempt, try a simple pattern with limited colours.

The final piece took me about four hours, despite its size. Good thing it's pretty.

I didn't mind doing this little elephant, but it's the kind of thing you'd want to have a lot of time to play with. Although I like the final piece very much, it's not something I'd necessarily want to do everyday.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In March 2012, Peter the elephant was filmed playing with a smartphone, to show how easy it was. Although you can hear Peter's trainer speaking from time to time, most observers think that Peter probably enjoyed the sounds he was making on the device. He may also have been responding to the delighted reactions of his audience.

Elephants are very short-sighted, so it's unlikely that Peter could see the small screen images well enough to really play with a smartphone. In the video below, however, he certainly looks as though he's enjoying himself.

To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Wildlife Trust of India

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