What Is the History of Needlepoint Canvas Designs?


Quick Answer

Needlepoint canvas designs go back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians, who used the technique of making small, slanted stitches to sew up canvas tents, and they have been popular throughout the centuries since. In the 17th century, the Bargello style of needlepoint embroidery, in which upright flat stitches are laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs, had a major influence on the evolution of the practice.

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Full Answer

Howard Carter found some needlepoint in the cave of a Pharaoh who had lived around 1,500 years before Christ. While embroidery was done on coarsely-woven linen fabric in the 13th century, people began to mimic the technique in the 16th century but used a canvas background and steel needles to perform more intricate work than the previously available thorn needles and fishbone. Although many associate needlework more with women, men originally started the craft, and many worked hard to master it.

In colonial America, women had less time to engage in hobbies such as needlepoint. As a result, there are very few examples of needlepoint from this era. Increased leisure time during the decades and centuries that followed brought needlepoint canvas designs back into style. Needlepoint canvas designs enjoy broad popularity in modern times, and a number of well-known figures from recent decades, such as Princess Grace of Monaco and the football player Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier, have been avid collectors of needlepoint canvas designs.

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