History of Needlepoint: A Whistlestop Tour pt.2

Welcome back to NeedlePoints of View, a monthly column brought to you by Emma of The Maker’s Marks and Hannelore of Hedgehog Needlepoint, where we’ll be sharing our love of all things needlepoint. Whether you’re new to the craft and want to learn what it’s all about or you’ve already fallen under needlepoint’s spell, we hope to inspire you to pick up a needle and get stitching.

Edwardian Trend Setters

Similar to the Victorians, in taste, our Edwardian ancestors favoured their needlepoint designs to depict scenes of flora and fauna. They would often stitch pieces to finish them as footstools, wallhangings and fire screens, many of which still exist and can be seen popping up in antique centres across the world today.

These pieces being such a tangible and visible part of our recent craft history, I believe, set an expectation in the publics minds-eye for what needlepoint should look like. And although many of these styles of design are still commercially available in kit form, the modern face of needlepoint has a very different vibe.

In Walks Erhman

In the late 1970’s the Erhman Tapestry store and catalogue were launched bringing with them a fresh and exciting take on needlepoint kits. Collaborating with designers like Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth, Erhman have been champions of pattern and colour ever since releasing new kits on a regular basis.

Colourful abstract needlepoint cushion kit designed by Candace Bahouth and sold by Erhman Tapestry
Life Cushion by Candace Bahouth available at Erhman

Kaffe Fassett is arguably needlepoints most influential designer, his kits through Erhman and countless pattern books continue to inspire generations of stitchers and designers alike. And he’s the only needlepoint designer I can bring to mind that has had a one person show at a major London museum multiple times.
If you fancy seeing more of his work ‘Kaffe Fassett: The Power of Pattern’ is a new exhibition planned for Sept 2022 at The Fashion & Textile Museum.

Bright rose bloom needlepoint cushion kit designed by Kaffe Fassett and sold by Erhman Tapestry
Kaffe’s Rose by Kaffe Fassett available at Erhman

The Modern Face Of Needlepoint

For the majority of the last 40 years Erhman really felt like the main place to seek out a contemporary needlepoint kit, asides from a few kits from companies like Jolly Red popping up in haberdashery stores it really was slim pickings elsewhere.
These days you’re almost spoilt for choice.

Needlepoint and cross stitch kit with the word Lucky designed on it with a rose patter either side. Designed by Emily Peacock
Lucky by Emily Peacock

Leading the charge in the new wave of designers is Emily Peacock. Emily’s designs are bold, vibrant and often feature a typographic element. As well as offering kits she runs a number of courses and is a constant cheerleader for the craft. Emily has inspired many designers to start taking their own steps into kit making including Hannah Bass and Ann’s Orchard. And it’s easy to see why!

Needlepoint kit of two blue coloured love birds with an orange branch background. Designed by Ann's Orchard.
Love Birds by Ann’s Orchard
Needlepoint kit designed by Hannah Bass showing the word Love.
Big Love by Hannah Bass

All three of these modern needlepoint designers can be found amongst the Our Common Thread collective online exhibitions. Each exhibition centres around a themed prompt posed to designers around the world and is a great way to discover the latest needlepoint styles. Their ‘Needlepoint As Fashion’ exhibition is a great example of the exciting and varying ways of ‘Finishing’ needlepoint pieces.

From Ancient Egypt to the present day needlepoint has been ever present and continues to prove it’s relevance on the craft scene. We hope the last two months of our whistle stop tour into needlepoints history has allowed you to discover something new.
Next month join Shannan as she talks you through the amazing array of needlepoint fibres out there to stitch with.