Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

My Own Private Charleston

Dear Ann,
Ever since I got back from California, I can’t stop thinking about Bloomsbury. Specifically, Bloomsbury Needlepoint. Specifically, these cushions:
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My friend Ann (aka the ‘Other Ann’, aka ‘Ann B.”) of Berkeley, California, made these stunning things from Bloomsbury Needlepoint, an amazing book by Melinda Coss, sadly out of print, but happily available from Internet booksellers. The book provides charts for many of the needlepoint designs of Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry for Vanessa’s country house, which can be visited in Sussex.
I mean, really. What can you say about these cushions? For me, the word is COVET. For the past 9 months the realization has dawned that the soothing neutrals of our old apartment look utterly washed out in the new space. I want color, but not ‘colorful’. I keep thinking about the 20s and 30s (our building was built in 1929). So I have a plan: I’m going to decorate the whole joint around these cushions and a couple of other things in Bloomsbury Needlepoint (such as this rug–yes, rug). Reupholster the chair, distribute needlepoint, and there ya go: Instant Bloomsbury. Bloomsbury to go. Oh, and don’t let me forget to paint the table!
Ann B. is an amazing knitter. She told me needlepoint is, and I quote, ‘super easy.’ HA! I’ve been to needlepoint shops,and I’ve run screaming out of needlepoint shops. Very scary, the ladies with the half-glasses and all this talk of Hessian and holes and double canvas. Not to mention the Tent and the Half-Cross. Plus, I hear it’s kind of time consuming. So I’m taking a reader poll (why should you have all the fun with the reader polls?).

Love, Kay

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. mmmhhh …… needlepoint. Interesting. For about 5 minutes. Don’t do it Kay !! Buy the Bloomsbury look by all means but don’t attempt to work it yourself. On any account.
    I say this as a veteran of untold numbers (okay, 3) joyfully started and secretively abandoned cushion covers ….

  2. Oh, needlepoint. I started fiber work with needlepoint … and now I’m (ahem) over 40 and my eyes are terrible and I can’t see the canvas. Which is why I’m knitting with lace right now, of course, I’m so inconsistent I confuse myself.
    Those pillows are to die for, though. Very, very tempting.

  3. gorgeous…absolutely COVETable…
    but, um, needlepoint?
    Let me know if you somehow find it more soothing
    than knitting.
    I rather doubt it…I could upholster a small
    padded room
    (now THERE’s an idea!)
    with my *started* needlepoint canvases from
    the last 20 years…
    I’m running back to my knitting, but I’ll peek in to see how it’s
    going…you might start a whole new
    needlepoint CRAZE….
    xoxoxo

  4. it gets a bit mindless, you know – and all those ends to sew in. (speaking as a knitter who sometimes toys with the needlepoint her sister started and abandoned). Easy though, compared to knitting. Go for a real challenge and convert one of the cushions to an intarsia work. That’s what Kaffe would do…. xx

  5. Belinda–you know me well. My first thought was intarsia. Especially for the rug, which I could sort of simplify and do with Lamb’s Pride Bulky and softly felt–or perhaps a hooked rug. BUT, the cushions have a level of detail that I think would be lost if I didn’t preserve a huge number of stitches, making them huge, floppy cushions. PLUS, Vanessa’s are needlepointed, not knitted, and somehow that seems important to me. PLUS, I have a feeling that I will like needlepoint better than intarsia. I get very irate at the ‘tangle’ of intarsia. I am always trying to out-smart intarsia with modular knitting techniques and duplicate stitch.
    I hold out hope for a sweaters-for-needlepoint swap with a friend who loves it. Stay tuned. Bribery! Begging! Drama! xoxo Kay

  6. Well, it does look nice, that’s what I say about needlepoint. But just think, once you get started, you’ll decide to redo your colours-but-not-colourful scheme for an over-the-top Kaffe Fassett look. You’ll have to have summer cushions and winter cushions and party cushions… just like summer knitting and winter knitting and party knitting. Then where will it ever end? You’ll get a stash of different canvas… I’m sure it will make amusing reading for us all!
    Mary de B

  7. Well I’m biased, I love needlepoint almost as much as I love knitting. But needlepoint is slow… a rug takes a long time. Its nice to have an alternative craft though. And those are lovely cushions. And its not scary, its very easy, just filling in the holes basically. Oh and weave in the ends as you go. Only way to do it IMHO!

  8. Oh, I saw that word Bloomsbury and got all misty-eyed, not in the least about Needlepoint, but London. *sniff* I need to get back there. I used to spend so many afternoons in that area of London, hoping to soak up some smarts or something. But good luck with the needlepoint. (snicker-snicker) I voted for “in an endearing way.) hee!

  9. Oh, pardon that weird punctuation. I’m working on the laptop, and I have to practically type by feel, the letters are so small…Need.new.eyes.

  10. Definitely take it up in a small way to see if you like it first. Unfinished needlepoint has a way of haunting you like no other WIP. One of the flowers from the second cushion would make a sweet little frameable piece to hang in your apartment if you find you can’t bear to go on.
    May I paint the table for you? Looks like Fun.

  11. I love the Bloomsbury ‘look’.Really like Vanessa Bell’s paintings.
    I have done needlepoint,but it does take time and is very boring.Beats intarsia any day though !

  12. okay – silly question: why do i have to highlight the text in a blogpoll to read the answers? is this something that everybody knows but me? ;-)
    my vote was “endearing”. and Kaffe was the first to knock me out with needlepoint vegetables… we’re all a little bit out of our trees, yes? bisous

  13. Needlepoint is really beautiful – particularly these Bloomsbury pieces. I have been to the land of needlepoint and have clawed my way back, kicking and screaming. It isn’t difficult but it is so time consuming. It just sucks the life out of you, like no other craft I have ever tried. And while the end result is lovely, it always seemed like a let down to me.
    Good luck with the needlepoint. We will all be waiting for a progress report. And praying that it doesn’t stunt your knitting too much.

  14. I have seen that Bloomsbury needlepoint book and drooled over the projects. Sounds like you need Kaffe’s “Glorious Needlepoint” next… Needlepoint is addictive at times, but sloooowwww since every intersection in the woven canvas has to be covered.
    Check out ebay for good deals on needlepoint kits. Daylilies1 is a great provider of needlepoint temptations (NAYY, unfortunately!)

  15. I truly love the 20s theme idea, but how long will it take to fully implement? Needlepoint upholstery? A needlepoint rug? Yikes.
    Perhaps consider ways that you can enjoy them sooner than later.
    Maybe you find a chair with more wood, less fabric. Maybe you find a nice plain wool rug around which you needlepoint a border.
    On the other hand, I appreciate your ambition. I’m sure whatever you choose to do will be wonderful.

  16. Well, I say, try it. You never know. Just look at my quilting adventures.
    They are very appealing those pillows.

  17. I had a similar attraction to a Kaffe Fassett needlepoint last month (“Night Tree”) and bought it. Now, like you, I am wondering if I am out of my flippin tree, since I don’t know the first thing about needlepointing AND have a long queue of knitting projects I really should be getting to. Well, sooner or later I’ll either start it or forget I ever bought it…

  18. I did lots of needlepoint back in the 70s-early 80s and have been knitting now for over 20 years. but I just bought my first needlepoint pattern in the longest time and I’m having a great time with it. there is absolultely no creativity involved, just good eyes and patience. but the pattern was adorable and I couldn’t resist. I love beautiful needlepoint. I treasure pieces my mother made. My children will not want my old hand-made sweaters but I know they will treasure a beautiful piece of needlepoint.

  19. ….. but can you needlepoint in the car, on the train, in the bathroom!, while the pasta water is boiling, while helping with homework, during t.v. commercials, in the doctor’s offices, at the ballgames?????…. ABSOLUTELY!

  20. Fabulous. I’m all for it. Let’s have a regular needlepoint evening!

  21. Ooh, I wanna learn. I don’t think I’ve met a craft or fiber-art I haven’t wanted to try. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a needlepoint shop though. I really don’t even know what needlepoint is like. Let us know how it goes :)

  22. There is no one in the world who adores a needlepoint more than ME.
    But. Rilly now. I think the knitting-for-needlepoint barter has legs. Somewhere, there is a devoted needlepointer out there wishwishwishing she could have a sweater, or eight, but doesn’t want to knit.
    I crave a sofa full of needlepoint pillows. I lurve this idea. Get crackin’, missy.

  23. Oh I love needlepoint too…the pillows are just gorgeous ….

  24. Needlepoint isn’t really that bad, though I prefer cross-stitch myself. I manage to do both, but it is hard to keep focused sometimes on which things have deadlines (something about a deadline…)

  25. Charleston is just up the road from us, Kay. The Bloomsbury stuff can be lovely; when my oldest son was about 10, the school did a couple of trips to C and spent an entire term painting furniture, making fireplaces, working out the finances required to run the place, developing their own Charleston. It was fab! One of my clients is the mother-in-law of Virginia, Olivia’s daughter. A less bohemian woman (Virginia) I have yet to meet ;/. Romance meets reality in a crunch kind of way. Enjoy the needlepointing!

  26. “Very scary, the ladies with the half-glasses and all this talk of Hessian and holes and double canvas. Not to mention the Tent and the Half-Cross. Plus, I hear it’s kind of time consuming.” Hmmm, substitute the Hessian and double canvas for kitchener and yarnovers and it sounds as scary as knitting did to me at first! Go for it, lady, there’s no such thing as too many creative outlets in my mind!
    Laura from beautiful West Michigan!

  27. I guess that makes me kooky but in an endearing way too. I have that book, I have a couple of those designs in the process, and I have a few more besides. Welcome to the nuthouse!

  28. Go for it Kay! I’m a cross stitcher and knitter myself but I’ve done the needlepoint thing too. I abandoned it because I realized I liked working with smaller more delicate fibers and linen over canvas. But there are always needlepoint patterns that call me back with a siren’s call. I love the 20’s patterns – there’s a great William Morris cross stitch book out there by Barbara Hammett… I’ve often wanted to decorate a room around that book.

  29. Thank you for reminding me that I had a Vanessa Bell painted furniture craving in the 80s…a used Bloomsbury Needlepoint book is now making its way to me and I’m sure that I’ll have a Bohemian summer. Thinking of doing up the guest room with painted walls and some cushions–and a complete set of Virginia Woolf books on the bookshelf. Am I nuts? Will only my feminist friends understand me? Can I sneak it past my husband? After all, we do live off the Bohemian Highway in Sonoma County…..

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