Development Credit: Faith
Needlecraft encompasses four related techniques: sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet. It is the art of making items of clothing, toys, accessories and so on using one of these techniques with thread or yarn. It is important to note the difference between this skill and Textile Production. Textile Production is about making fabrics or textiles. A fabric created using Textile Production might be sold to a character with Needlecraft to make a dress. A yarn created by Textile Production might be used to knit or crochet a scarf with this skill.
Throughout Idalos, Needlecraft is utilised by a range of people from the parent creating clothes and bedding for their child to the seamstress or tailor who is sought after by nobility. Surgeons with a high Needlecraft skill might use the techniques they learn here to perform sutures and the sails of many a biqaj ship are made stronger by a well-sewn seam. Each of the four techniques has specific stitches which it uses and effects which it can create.
A Note About Patterns
Patterns are directions which needlecrafters follow to create their items. A pattern can be a set of written instructions (knit 10 stitches and then proceed in knit one, purl one for ten rows) or they might be shorthand (3TBL in nxt dbl - to mean put three treble stitches into the next double stitch). It might also be a design chalked on to fabric for embroidery or pieces of pre-cut parchment for sewing. The creation of these patterns is not in the remit of this skill, they would be created by the Design skill, although more experienced needlecrafters can often look at an existing garment / item and follow what was done.
Sewing is the technique used to join two items or pieces of fabric together through the use of a needle and (usually) thin thread. The thread (also called floss) is passed through the eye of the needle and then various stitches are used to join the two pieces of fabric together. The thickness of the floss used is dependent on the fabric pieces being sewn together - one would use a much thicker floss for sewing together two pieces of velvet, for example, than two pieces of silk.
Some examples include:
Running stitch: The most basic stitch where the floss runs in a straight line.
Cross stitch: Two stitches are completed in an "X" in order to provide a more sturdy finish.
Backstitch: At the end of a series of running stitches, the stitches go back in the opposite place, filling in the gaps between stitches and making a stronger seam
Using the same tools as sewing, this is the art of using decorative stitches on fabric, not joining them together. Embroidery might involve decorative edging on fabric or embroidering designs on to fabric. It can be small and delicate or very complex. It can be used on clothing or as a decorative piece on table linens or as a piece of art. The thread used here is usually fine. '
Some examples include:
Split stitch: Created by the needle going back into a stitch from below and splitting it in half, this creates a thicker stitch.
Satin stitch: Single stitches are placed next to each other in order to 'fill in' a design.
Chain stitch: Put two stitches side by side and then go back into them in your next stitch. This forces the first two open and creates a chain effect.
Using twin needles with a single pointed end and yarn, knitting can be used to create garments, accessories, bedding and so on. The thickness of the yarn is usually what determines the thickness of the needles - a thicker yarn demands thicker needles. Knitting consists of two basic stitches, but these can be used in a variety of ways to produce increasingly intricate designs. Each stitch adds a small "v" to the work - each of these end up nestling together and adding height and width to the piece. Someone who knits creates things in rows, determined by the number of stitches held on the needles at any given time.
There are two stitches in knitting:
Knit stitch: Created by the right hand needle going into the back of the stitch on the left hand needle before winding the yarn around, slipping the left stitch over and taking it off the left needle, thus transferring it to the right hand needle.
Purl stitch: Created by the right hand needle going into the back of the stitch on the left hand needle before winding the yarn around, slipping the left stitch over and taking it off the left needle, thus transferring it to the right hand needle.
However, these two stitches can be used in basic or advanced ways. Advanced stitches include:
Cable stitches: Where a number of stitches are held on a small double-pointed needle and stitched (either knit or purl) out of order - this creates textural and ripple effects
Circular stitches: Created with a 'circular needle' or two small needles with a cord between them. The knitter does not reach the end of a row and then move back, but simply continues knitting 'in the round'.
This uses a single hook and yarn. Similar in look and texture to knitting, this works on one stitch at a time and can be worked much more easily in the round or in other, odd shapes. Crochet has many more stitches than knitting, all of which are created by wrapping yarn around the hook and pulling through. A crochet stitch looks like an "I", with the height of the "pillar" being determined by the number of times the yarn is wrapped.
Single crochet: A short pillar comes from inserting the hook in a stitch, wrapping the yarn around the hook once and then pulling it through.
Double crochet: A medium height stitch where the hook is inserted, then the yarn is wrapped around twice. These are pulled through in two movements.
Treble crochet: A tall, much more open stitch - the same technique as a double crochet, but the yarn is wrapped three times and these are pulled through in three movements.
At a novice level of skill, the character has a basic understanding of the four techniques but can do very little with them other than the most simple of tasks and even then, they must follow a pattern. This might involve the creation of a scarf or tablecloth, or a very basic skirt. The novice can not create anything more complex and has to work hard to ensure that their stitches are uniform, for example or that their tension (the tightness of the yarn / floss) is consistent throughout the job.
When competent, one is able to create functional items which serve the purpose they are created for. Work at this level is sturdy. Issues of uniformity, tension, gapping or other mistakes are a thing of the past and the character is able to work effectively and efficiently. They still have to follow a pattern in order to create anything other than the most simple of items. Items created here are most basic clothing (trousers, skirts, shirts and so on) without embellishments, plain bedding and basic accessories.
An expert in this skill is able to craft items which are as beautiful as they are functional. In each technique, the expert learns either new stitches (in sewing and embroidery) or new ways of using already-known ones (in knitting and crochet). They can utilise their knowledge to combine techniques and create decorative items. An expert might make a particularly complex ball gown, knit a beautiful openweave shawl or crochet an intricate throw. Embroidery at this level is delicate and truly enhances whatever fabric it is on. Patterns are still needed for more complex items, but simple items can be made by copying existing ones and working out dimensions, techniques needed, etc.
A master of this skill is able to produce masterwork clothing, items and accessories. Highly sought after, these pieces are exquisite in their detail, durability and functionality. A character who has mastered this skill can combine techniques to stunning effect, producing unique work. It should be noted that a masterwork item of clothing, for example, will hold its shape and form a lot longer than any other and will be able to be worn time and time again, yet still look as good as new (as long as no damage is done to it, of course). A master of needlecraft does not need a pattern to create anything, they are able to reproduce items easily.