My Grandy has needlepointed since long before I came into this world (remember the needlepoint kneelers in the chapel where we got married?) and is always working on a fun project (like the needlepoint collar and leash Rory wore as our ring bearer last summer). Last summer I asked her to teach me (and Ali!) how to needlepoint and she was the most encouraging and patient teacher. We practiced on a few leftover pieces of canvas she had around the house before heading to Erica Wilson on Nantucket to pick out our first projects. I was making good headway under Grandy’s tutelage, but when I got back to Connecticut and tried it on my own I’d get super frustrated and have to put it down.

design darling needlepoint belt

If you follow me on Instagram you might remember my cousin’s husband gifted us the most incredible Christmas ornament that he’d made with our wedding crest and he totally inspired me to try needlepointing again after largely ignoring it last fall. He helped me figure out a few of the things that were stumping me and I completed my first project, a super simple Christmas ornament that spells out ACK, just after the holidays. It’s not half as pretty as the one he made us and one of the thread colors was actually the wrong size for the canvas so you can see some of the white canvas underneath, but I was happy just to have my first project behind me and felt so much more confident at the end than I had at the beginning.

custom needlepoint belt on design darling

I took on a sizable challenge when I decided I could make a custom needlepoint belt for Will’s 30th birthday. I ordered the canvas through an Etsy shop called Needlepaint and worked with them to design icons for Princeton, Texas, Nantucket, Rory, golf, tennis, and Will’s initials. Then they painted that design onto a canvas, picked thread colors to match each design, and (most helpful of all) sent the canvas with a stitch-by-stitch guide showing which color should go where. This isn’t sponsored or comped in any way but I’ve gotten so many questions about the belt I’m making for Will so I wanted to share where I ordered from! They also have a list of online needlepoint resources on their blog if you don’t have someone to teach you in person, but I highly recommend finding a local needlepoint shop where you can go in and ask questions and ultimately have your project finished with leather, binding, etc. (I’ll have mine finished at House of Needlepoint in Darien if you’re local!)

custom needlepoint belt design darling

Learning to needlepoint was challenging because I’m not a remotely patient person and needlepoint demands lots of both patience and practice. I’ve learned you can’t race to complete a project; you have to pay attention to every single stitch, because taking out stitches and starting over is way more time-consuming than taking the time to get it right in the first place. Thankfully I had two patient and talented in-person teachers and now I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. It’s been a great exercise in patience for me and now that I’m making mistakes a little less frequently, I find it super relaxing!

needlepaint custom needlepoint belt on design darling

For the “icon” of Rory, I actually sent Needlepaint a favorite photo of him and they incorporated it into the needlepoint canvas, complete with different threads and stitch count for all the shades of his coat. Now he’s just as cute in needlepoint form as he is in real life!

I’m about 2/3 of the way through making Will’s belt (when I “gave” it to him, I joked he might have it in time for his 35th…) so I actually feel pretty good about the progress I’m making there! After that I’m going to stitch a Siasconset ornament my mom found for me. And I’m torn between framing the collar and leash Grandy made for Rory and letting him wear them so we can see them every day (maybe frame one, use the other?) so I might make something for him next depending on what I decide there. And of course I want to make lots of needlepoint gifts for family and friends! Needlepoint isn’t the quickest thing to learn or the cheapest hobby to take on, but knowing how intimidated I would have been by this belt project even nine months ago gives me a good deal of satisfaction seeing how far I’ve come!

Crossing off #49 on my 101 in 1001 list as we speak! Do any of you love needlepoint as much as I do? What project(s) are you working on now?

P.S. A few other Etsy shops I’ve bookmarked for future needlepoint projects… Hermit Crab StitcheryJenny Henry Designs, Kay Morse DesignLucinda Gregory, Pepita Needlepoint, and Sally Corey Designs. Do you have any other favorite places to order from?!

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  1. @annkayestudio on Instagram! Her needlepoint art is tongue in cheek and fun enough for me to want to learn! (Also I love her as a human!)

  2. Hi Mackenzie,
    I let my pooch wear her needlepoint collar that I stitched for her and it got really dirty and faded. I would recommend letting Rory wear it only on special outings 😊 Happy stitching and maybe I’ll see you some Wednesday night stitching at Erica Wilson’s

  3. I live in riverside and they have an adorable shop in old Greenwich which I have used and I just used needle paint as well for my dad and brother ( brothers grad and dads 60)!

  4. This post is great! I have been cross stitching for a few years but I have been wanting to try needlepoint. I stopped in the needlepoint store on the UES a few days ago and picked up a tiny kit to practice/experiment, and then stumbled upon this post from your Instagram story. Perfect timing! I’m excited to pick a bigger project.

  5. I see house of needlepoint on your canvases! Love that place! That’s my mom’s go to needlepoint shop.

  6. Hi! I needlepoint a TON and my friends and I in Boston have a little neeldepoint group – we call it a stitch n b*tch – going that we occaisionally move out to ACK on summer weekends. I know someone already mentioned Lycette on here – Jessica is absolutely darling and is currently opening a shop in PB, but I also think you might enjoy Thorn Alexander, Kate Dickerson, and The Plum Stitchery. Also – take a good look into Rachel Donley – she designs needlepoint Nantucket Baskets and I believe Erica Wilson sometimes carries her stuff. I also run a neeldpoint instagram – A Sailor Stitches. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, get stuck or ever want to visit the Stitch n B*tch if you stop by Boston. Have fun – needlepointing is my very favorite activity!!

  7. OK! I am super impressed, Mackenzie. You went from zero to sixty with this project. I am inspired. Harper will be learning to needlepoint in fourth grade next year (Waldorf school for the win) so I intend to learn as well. I think it’s a great discipline to practice patience and perseverance (something I need). Finishing a needlepoint project is a serious accomplishment. Did Will know or was it a surprise? Rory is adorable on the belt and I love all the thought that went into this hand-made gift. What a treasure.

  8. I recently learned how to needlepoint as well & am really enjoying it! I’m working on a sunglasses case from Thorn Alexander (I love so many of her canvases): and want to have a belt designed for my dad’s 60th Birthday next year (need to get started on that soon!). I grew up watching my mom needlepoint & we have several pieces in my parent’s home that were made by my grandmother & great grandmother. I love getting to do something they did, & if I’m honest, not sitting on our couch on my phone every night (I’m an Instagram addict ha!)

  9. You have to try the Village Ewe in Old Greenwich. They are an amazing local Needlepoint shop right in town. I love to needlepoint too!

  10. You have started a lifetime of pleasure. I have been stitching needlepoint for fifty some odd years.. It is one constant in my life. It has taken me many places and found many friends. I hope it fills in your life as it has mine.

  11. I love needlepoint! I find it really relaxing and love that it’s a creative hobby you can do almost anywhere. I actually just finished a Nantucket-themed belt for my husband. It can definitely get expensive, but once you get the hang of it it’s not hard to design your own canvases and do some of your own finishing, which really helps keep the cost down. I finish my own ornaments and keyfobs, but have belts finished professionally.