Once I picked up Angel Cat again, I really went to town. I have been stitching it pretty steadily this week. So more than half of the background is now stitched including the borders. The entire process of stitching the piece (and switching from cross stitch to needlepoint) has made me think a lot about the their differences. Way back in the misty depths of time I started stitching needlepoint. I can't even remember there being much available in cross stitch patterns, though there were some stamped cross stitch pillows available. There certainly wasn't anything available in counted linen. When I started cross stitch much later I was thrilled that I didn't have to stitch the whole darn background. I know I have some needlepoint UFOs with miles of background left to do and all of that background charted for tent stitch. The cross stitch linens, especially the hand dyed ones, were just so beautiful, I didn't think I would ever go back to needlepoint. But over time needlepoint canvases began to be sold in colors other than white or ecru. Needlepoint patterns started to leave some of the canvas open. Backgrounds were now in hundreds of different stitch patterns, so tent stitch was not your only option. And the variety of needlepoint threads beyond wool exploded. But cross stitch patterns were also expanding with stitches beyond the simple cross and threads beyond DMC.
Here is a closeup of the Petite Very Velvet that I wrote about in my last post. It demonstrates some of the qualities I think that differentiate needlepoint from cross stitch. Most cross stitch patterns are pretty rigidly defined. There might be a choice of threads in some patterns, but usually the colors are the same, just the composition of the thread changes. The overall cross stitch design does not change. The only decisions are sometimes the gauge of the linen or whether to stitch small motifs as one large piece or separately. Although there are needlepoint stitch guides (even with thread recommendations), most painted canvases leave the threads and the stitches up to the stitcher. It takes a lot of confidence to choose the threads and colors for a canvas among the thousands available. And that included the confidence to change your decisions in midstitch. Originally this border was going to be stitched in the red Caron Snow thread that I used for the heart. The gray was a gorgeous Gloriana silk called Cobblestone. But once I started stitching the ribbon for the fish in Petite Very Velvet, I decided that the border would look better in this thread, too. Petite Very Velvet also has better coverage than a stranded thread would in a satin stitch. I also needed the courage to rip out parts of the design (like the aqua rayon thread in the fish's head) and replace it with a thread that would work better (Neon Rays ribbon). Overall my color choices for this design are much more muted than the "hot" colors shown in the original canvas. I know I will go back to simple cross stitch pattern, especially those with interesting variegated threads, but for right now I am more drawn to the creativity of modern needlepoint.