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Since the beginning of time, mothers have passed down the tradition of handcrafted needlework to their daughters. Hand-made textiles have embodied and depicted the social values, political climate, and cultural customs of people from around the globe.

Needle-crafted textiles were once used to make personal property and establish worth in society. They include everything from needlepoint, embroidery and cross stitch to crochet, knitting, and quilting.

Debbi Novak works with the Historical Needlework Guild. She says needlework was once considered women's work. Men were considered successful if their women were "ladies" and engaged in needlework in their leisure time. A home with needlework prominently displayed was a sure sign of affluence. Today, men participate in all kinds of needlework.

It is difficult to gauge the number of people engaged in needlework crafts. There are a number of small guilds, networks, associations and textile museums around the world that exist to promote and preserve the art form.

While some engage in needlecraft as a hobby, others take the art form more seriously. They regularly display their wares in area shows and competitions. Others have made a business out of the craft.

There are software programs that can translate pictures to charts or patterns. Computers can also convert measurements and dimensions into the proper quantity and quality of materials.

There are many ways to make a living through needlework. Many accomplished stitchers sell their work at trade shows and markets. Some publish designs. Others work at museums and associations where they serve as tour guides and help organize and teach classes and workshops.

There are very few physical requirements for needlework. In fact, those who are physically challenged, but have full use of their fingers, hands, and arms, could excel at it. It is a very sedentary form of recreation.

The repetitive motion of stitching can cause repetitive stress injury (RSI). That's a condition very similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. You may have it if you have sore and swollen wrist joints due to repetitive motions like typing or sewing.

Experienced needlcrafters warn people who may have developed carpal tunnel syndrome that RSI will worsen their condition.

Getting Started

Your level of enthusiasm and skill for the craft will determine how much you spend. Some people purchase the latest from mail order catalogues and regularly shop craft stores for bargains.

You will need needles, which come in an assortment of sizes. They are all blunt-ended with large eyes. Needles for crochet, knitting, and quilting are slightly different. Needles can cost anywhere from $2 to $15 or $20.

The fabrics on which stitches are positioned are called aida, evenweaves, linens, and hardanger. Aida is the best for beginners because of its basic composition. The X's cover one fabric thread and the holes are easy to see.

Evenware, linens, and hardanger fabrics are used mostly by more advanced stitchers. Other tools required include scissors and a measuring tape. You will also need a chart or pattern that lists the quantity and quality of fabric, yarn, ribbon, thread, or floss needed to complete a project. A hoop, Q-snap, or scroll frame is used to hold the fabric taut and in place while working section by section.

The most basic of needlework is called a sampler. It is a perfect first piece for beginners. It is a piece of canvas embroidered with the simplest of stitches. It usually contains the alphabet and some personal motto or poem, decorated with various decorative symbols.


Textile Society of America (TSA)
P.O. Box 70
Earleville , MD   21919-0070

American Needlepoint Guild, Inc.
P.O. Box 1027
Cordova , TN   38088-1027


National Academy of Needlearts
Devoted to the advancement of embroidery as an art form

Mississippi Valley Textile Museum
Gives a history of stitching and textiles

Cross Country Stitching
An online cross stitch store

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.