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My name is Jean-Pierre Valteau and I have been working for the Joan Rose Foundation for the past five years. Recently I officially joined the Good Threads team and will be contributing to this blog.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, first hand, the stability Good Threads has brought to the households of the children who attend the JRF. Every single parent who has kids in the JRF stitches for Good Threads, and makes good money doing so. I recently decided I want to learn to stitch so I can better understand how our products are made. Here is my experience learning how to stitch:

When I first started I thought, this is going to be easy and I bet I can teach myself. So I grabbed a piece of mono canvas, a needle, and some embroidery thread and set off to teach myself to stitch. Simply put, I failed miserably.

From left to right my first attempts at needlepoint stitching are terrible.

When I first started I explained what I was doing to my girlfriend and she immediately wanted to try, hence the descending cross stitch on the far left. That was her first and only attempt. My first line I decided to give vertical stitching a try. Wrong. It is impossible to cover all the canvas with vertical stitching. My second attempt was horizontal stitching that didn’t work out either, and just for laughs I did two lines of vertical stitching side by side, just to see what it would look like. For my third attempt, I actually took off my needlepoint belt I was wearing and closely examined it. After studying the belt for about 10 seconds it was obvious to me that I need to do a cross stitch in order to cover all of the canvas properly. I then proceeded to do two lines of cross stitching but still had a vertical line of canvas showing. On my fourth attempt I finally figured out the technique needed to properly do a cross stitch and not have any canvas showing.

Or so I thought… 

Here is a photo of the back of the canvas of my first four attempts, it is just as terrible as the front stitching.

After realizing I had no idea what I was doing I decided to ask one of Good Threads best stitchers, Jeantilla, to teach me how to stitch. Jeantilla, or Jansi as she is more commonly referred as, laughed at my first few attempts and then sat me down and showed me how to stitch.

First, she told me I needed to set up a border so I know where I need to start and finish stitching. Each Good Threads belt measures 1.25 inches in height so she sketched that out for me on a piece of canvas. Then she began to teach me how to properly cross stitch. There are probably a few different ways to cross stitch but Jansi taught me the method she uses. This cross stitch looks a lot like this / vs. \. The stitch descends from right to left. I began stitching my first square and Jansi gave me tips along the way. My first square was a bit incomplete but by my second square I got the hang of it. My third square is the full height of a Good Threads belt.

My first square (far right) backing is a mess, my second square backing is probably the cleanest, and the third backing is extremely inconsistent.

The best way to stitch is to start from one corner and fill in a complete square. I stitched all of these squares by rows, which can be done, but isn’t correct and once the canvas is inspected on the back side it won’t pass. The reason is because it stretches the canvas and it is difficult to keep all the stitches uniform and looking good. If I was stitching a custom design, such as a flag, it would look crooked and off center.

You can see from this picture that this belt is properly spaced and sketched out thus making it easier to stitch and fill in. Magali, the stitcher pictured, is stitching the background diagonally using the cross stitch method. You can see she has started in the bottom left corner and will finish in the top right corner of this particular square. This is how backgrounds are filled. Designs such as flags, teddy bears, beer cans, dogs, and other items are stitched exactly the same but the stitcher must estimate, and correctly stitch, each design making sure to pay close attention to small details such as colors, sizing, and proportions.

One of the many custom belts Good Threads has made over the years.

It was a great experience to be able to sit down and learn from Jeantilla exactly how Good Threads products are stitched. All in all I feel like I learned how to stitch even though I’ve yet to stitch a whole piece of canvas correctly yet. It’s something I’m going to make time to eventually do and I encourage everyone interested in needlepoint stitching to give it a shot. It’s not as easy as you would think, and you might find yourself easily frustrated… If that happens just leave the stitching to us and order some of our fine needlepoint products!