By TACP Staff on July 23, 2021

Needlework is typically considered to be an art that is created with different forms of thread-able materials and pliable surfaces. Being a professional in the field might mean working for historical associations or museums repairing or replicating nearly extinct forms of needle art, such as tatting. Or more commonly, working as a freelance artist, a research textile technician, consultant, educator or tailor.

What Is Needlework?

Needlework is a type of craft that involves the use of a sewing needle and thread to decorate textiles. This type of decorative craft can be used to create designs or images on bedding, window treatments, floor coverings, table coverings, apparel, and accessories, like handbags and scarves. Some needlework pieces can be considered works of art in and of themselves, and they are framed and displayed as such.

To create needlework pieces, several different types of stitches are usually used. The different types of stitches that are used are often determined by what type of needlework technique is employed. Some of the most common and popular types of needlework include embroidery, appliqué, and cross-stitch.

Besides thread, other small items might also be used for added embellishment. These embellishments might include such things as pearls, beads, and sequins.

What Does a Needleworker Do?

A needlework artist creates a variety of different decorative elements on fabric materials with thread or yarn. While many needlework artists work alone, some collaborate with other artists, like fashion designers or accessory designers.

This type of artist might use large, medium, or small needles, depending on the type of work being done. Large needles, for instance, are often used to create outlines and larger stitches. Smaller needles, on the other hand, are usually used to create more delicate stitches.

Needlework is typically very slow going work, and needlework artists should be very patient individuals. Stitches are usually added one by one, and it often takes several hundred or even several thousand stitches to create a piece of needlework. If a mistake is made, the wrong stitches must be removed and re-stitched.

Many needlework artists work to create their own original designs. This is traditionally done by hand using a sewing needle and thread. The designs, however, are often sketched out on paper or fabric beforehand.

Today, however, many designs can be created with computer graphics programs. Sophisticated sewing machines can also be used to create the actual needlework designs.

Needleworker Education & Training Requirements

Many needlework artists learn this skill on their own. They may read books or watch DVD’s and – most importantly – practice. A sound education, however, should not be underestimated when pursuing a needlework career.

Needlework classes and workshops are often offered in most areas. These are typically very inexpensive, and they allow students to learn the basic skills associated with this craft.

Individuals interested in a needlework career can also choose to earn a degree in fashion as well. A fashion degree can be a great stepping stone for students interested in a needlework career that focuses on decorating apparel and accessories.

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Needleworker Salary & Job Outlook


The average annual salary of needlework artists can vary, depending on a number of things. More talented artists will obviously be able to command higher wages, for instance. Professionals experienced with computers and technologically advanced needlework machinery will often be able to secure employment with apparel manufacturers. Most needlework artists, however, work as craft artists, selling handcrafted pieces at regional craft co-ops or online. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, craft artists made an average annual salary of $34,240 in 2018.

Job Outlook

A needlework artist can often find employment in the manufacturing industry or the fashion industry, or as a craft artist. Some fashion designers might work with needlework artists, for example, in order to create original and unique designs. Large clothing manufacturers might hire needlework artists to create unique designs with computer software and transfer them to mass-produced items. Many needlework artists, however, may work as craft artists, creating original and unique handmade pieces. These artists typically sell their crafts at craft co-ops and local street fairs.

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