American Needlepoint

Written by Linda Alexander
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Colonial American needlepoint, beginning with European settling in this part of the world, was largely practical. There was little time to spare for leisure stitching. Consequently, early examples of needlepoint from that time in history are of household items like seat cushions and pillows.

History of American Needlepoint

American needlepoint, back in the 1700s, was called tent stitching. It differed from cross stitch in that it only used half the stitch. With just one stitch, you could build portraits and landscapes. By the 1840s, landscapes and Biblical themes on needlepoint largely replaced portraits as the popular subject. By the 1870s, a method of printing colored charts for needlepoint designs was developed; "Berlin Work" became popular. Less creativity has been seen since then.

By that time, people had more leisure time to stitch, and items became more decorative. Decorative rugs, bell pulls, benches, and seat cushions were both practical and useful, and household items such as these were often done in needlepoint. During World War II, many women left home to work in factories, thus decreasing the time they had available for needlepoint. But the 1960s brought back the desire to get back to our roots; quilting and other types of American needlework were taken up again as a pastime.

Today, American needlepoint is only a hobby rather than a necessity in sewing. However, it's still an art that should be preserved. We can learn from our mothers and grandmothers so that this great creative art of handwork is not lost.


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