Unfinished needlepoint and their stories

One of the many unfinished canvases

A gift

I was recently given a huge box of unfinished #needlepoint. They were all from the same man, a retired tailor, who took up needlepoint when he stopped work.  The box contained at least fifty canvases in various stages of completion, with some untouched. There were also hundreds of boxes of tapestry wool, most many decades old.

It made me wonder about his story? A close look at the work showed careful, skilled stitching so why did he have so many and never finish them? Did he get tired of the subject matter and move to something new? Did he run out of walls to hang them? It’s a mystery and fun to speculate.

I gave the canvases and the wools to a group of local craftspeople who repurpose and recycle called the #Adelaide Remakery. Check them out on Instagram and Facebook, they have some lovely stuff.

Needless to say they were delighted and full of ideas of how to use the canvases and wools. I look forward to seeing what they do.

In 2014 I came across SPUN the #Society of the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint. I had previously written about possible projects for recycled needlepoints and this approach adds yet another interesting perspective.

The story of SPUN and Mary Smull

Mary formed SNEL in 2009. A gift of an unfinished embroidered tablecloth from her 96 year old grandmother began what would become her mission. Mary was upset to learn that this tablecloth was, after 30 years still making her grandmother feel guilty about not finishing it.

Mary was a graduate art student at this time and says she experienced the same guilt as her grandmother. This lead to her becoming increasing interested in the phenomenon and stories around  unfinished textiles. Mary focussed on needlepoint and in 2008 began buying old canvases on Ebay.

Interestingly Mary chose to use white wool to finish the projects. The result is eerie. In this way she honours the work of the original stitcher yet she adds another layer, her own “finishing” which results in a completed canvas which remind me of restored frescos.

On the SPUN website the organisation is described humorously as  a textile “welfare” organisation. Its mission is to “eliminate the worldwide phenomenon of unfinished needlepoint.”

“All needlepoint is entitled to be fully completed and must be protected from ending up in the purgatory of a perennially incomplete state”.

The SPUN mission:

  1. Creating a public archive-at unfinishedneedlepoint.org. Images of unfinished needlepoint are documented before and after “completion” with accompanying stories of the unfinished work.
  2. Providing a forum – SPUN members share unfinished projects with one another.
  3. Assuaging the guilt – which is so often associated with non-completion. SPUN is there to help!!
  4. Finishing unfinished projects – Members dues and sales of work fund the effort to stop the problem of unfinished needlepoint before it starts!Stillife

For more information about Mary and images of work visit http://www.marysmull.com/the-society-for-the-

If you have a stash of unfinished needlepoints or embroideries this may be the time to rethink how they could be finished for example:

  • a still life which you were going to frame could instead be cut to make into a  pair of cushions
  • change the colour scheme so that your unfinished section is stitched in opposite colours or use black and white to fill the blank areas
  • patchwork your unfinished canvases and make a handbag, cushion or upholster a footstool.

Winter Doris

October Flash Sale

This month the feature kit is the Doris handbag, available in two colourways, Summer, in clear bright green, yellow and red and the cooler tones of Winter, in Navy, maroon, yellow. Botha are on sale for October only.

Summer Doris




Whatever you do, keep well and keep stitching, sharing and enjoying the wonderful craft of needlepoint.
Happy stitching, Barbara

Studio Stitches




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