Creating Needlepoint Motifs

Many of you have asked how I come up with the motifs that I use in my rugs. I have two main sources – photos of actual rugs and books of charted designs.

The next rug will be mainly teal. The inspiration is the rug below that was sold on eBay last year. I’m changing the main color from this bright blue to shades of teal. I’ve picked 3 motifs from this rug and may pull one or two more before I’m done.

Let’s start at the left side of the rug. The first motif is easy to adapt by using the Scotch Stitch. I just did a small part of this one, since I know it will be easy to do. The colors I’m using are not the ones that will be in the rug. I just grabbed some colors from the drawer of open skeins of Silk & Ivory and a few pieces of scrap 13 ct. canvas so I will know how it will really look when I start working on a rug.

Another motif is in the middle part of the rug. I’ve used Sprat’s Head several times for the Nose motif, but wanted something different this time. I don’t like the very top – the partial stitches, so I’ll probably delete them. That way the outline stitches will show better and then I can decide how to handle the empty spaces when I lay out the row itself on paper.

The third one that I want to use is back on the left side. It looks like a giant Rice Stitch. I haven’t figured out how I want to do this yet. I started by deciding I wanted it to be just over one-inch square. Then I just did a giant rice stitch on canvas. On other rugs, I’ve done a Basketweave background and then stitched over it. I haven’t been happy with the results. “Weaving” them into the rug, like on the High Atlas rug, worked better. I just keep looking at this one and trying to come up with a good way to do it this time. I know that something will come to me, and since I’m not starting this rug for another two weeks, I’m not worried about it right now.

The second source is books of charted designs. I bought Designs and Patterns from North African Carpets and Tapestries in the 1970s and have always wanted to stitch some of them. I also have smaller books on designs from Tunisia and Algeria, which also have Berber tribes who create beautiful rugs. Some motifs are very different from those in Morocco and some are very similar. It would be easier to just stitch these rugs using Basketweave, like they are shown in these books, but I wanted to use other stitches to add texture and depth to the designs. Another reason I want to change things is because the charts in these books are just black and white. Stitching from them would add a lot of stress – trying to keep it all straight. I have a charted design that I pick up from time to time, and the stitching is off by one stitch right now and I’ll need to tear out many, many stitches to get it right again. So I’m changing these individual stitches to specialty stitches – none of them very difficult to do. I want to make them appealing to lots of people, hoping others will want to create them using their own favorite colors. Here are three that I’ve been working on.

Very simple, but I have a large range of colors for this rug. This motif can be made with different colors for each repeat across a row. Did you notice how many colors are included in the rug at the top of this post? For my rug, think 4 shades of teal plus about 10 other bright colors. The second motif is still being worked on. I’ve tried it with straight stitches and with slanted stitches. I’m not sure about it yet, but maybe the straight stitches look a little better.

The last is one of my favorites. You use two different colors and stitch exactly the same pattern – they are the reverse of each other. Love this one!

Finally, the rug has a border, but I’m using that motif for a band across the rug instead. I like the border below, which is similar to the stitch I used to fill in the Octagon in the Medallion rug. This is stitched according to the pattern from the book I mentioned above, but using Scotch stitch. I don’t like the single row of Basketweave above and below the Scotch stitch, so I’ll eliminate that when I do it in the rug. I also don’t like the backstitches that divide each repeat, so I’ll change that too.

I hope this answers your questions about how I get some of my ideas. It’s fun to try to adapt these motifs from rugs and charts and put my own stamp on them. Some of them are just so easy to adapt, but some are much more difficult. For some of these motifs, I look at them and know exactly what I want to do. Others will take time and several days of trying different ideas until something works for me. Some of you might even come up with different ideas for stitches – and that’s great. That’s what this is all about – getting you to take the first steps to adapt a design yourself.

You now know about the two projects that I’m working on right now. I’ll take a few days off to stitch now. The next time I post, I hope to have some progress on Moroccan Ribbons to show you.


6 responses to “Creating Needlepoint Motifs

  1. Hi Jan,

    Very interesting in seeing how you develop the different patterns and motifs for the rugs.

    Even though teal is not a favorite color of mine I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with the different shades of teal. Also, I’m curious to see what other colors you’ll be adding to the teal. Will be fun! 🙂

    Windy Meadow

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