Susan Battle, who owns <a href="">the Point of it All,</a> Washington's premier needlepoint shop, joins the weekly chat.

Mar 24, 2011

Susan Battle, who owns the Point of it All, Washington's premier needlepoint shop, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Hi, folks. Thanks for joining us today. We have Susan Battle, the owner of the DC needlepoint shop The Point of it All, with us today to answer all of your pressing crafting questions. Let's get started.

We have a very deep closet where things are constantly getting lost in the back. Has anyone used Shelf Genie, which advertises in the weekend Post, or anything similar? We are not do-it-yourselfers.

We are throwing this out to our chatters! Terri and I would love to have genies in our home but so far none have shown up. Have you guys tried Shelf Genie?

We are getting ready to put our house on the market, and we know we need to de-clutter the house. I've been looking for storage units, but I am shocked by their expense! We live in Alexandria but would be willing to drive outside the city to save some money on this. Any of the readers have any good recommendations? Thanks so much!

Before you buy any storage units, make sure all this stuff you are planning to keep and store  is really worth keeping! Did you declutter as much as you could? Are you talking about those storage pods or storage units away from your house? Have any of our chatters recently moved - can you help?

My husband and I just bought a split foyer house and we are in the middle of replacing a broken banister. The banister is going to be a cherry stained redwood and it's turning out great so far. This is providing a nice compliment to hardwood floors and a new door that we're having installed. The problem is the floor when you walk in the front door... It's a vinal sheet that's white/grey and it looks dirty now against the nice wood. Would it be bad to do the vinal sticky tiles until I can get someone to lay a nice tile (maybe 2 to 3 years). I don't want it to be cheap but my budget is very small.

You could always just give the current vinyl a good cleaning and put a pretty area rug on top for now. An entry rug would look welcoming on the future hardwood, too.

Hi, Susan -- I'm on your store's mailing list, and I had no idea you were 32! I'm 31 and almost never hear of people my age or younger needlepointing (I've been at it for five years). What's the age range you see in your store? Are more "younger" people getting into it? I've wondered if it will take off and get trendy like knitting did, but I suspect it's too expensive for that -- what do you think?

 Hi! I am so pleased the shop has younger needlepointers now! I think it has to do with the fact that there are hipper, jazzier canvases now. More designers our age are painting canvases.

A cuff bracelet is a fanastic project and not too expensive.  or key fobs. Plus we do a lot of custom belts for girls stitching them for their boyfriends!

Hi, Susan. Any inside tips on creating "shading" effects on needle point that doesn't have the shaded coloring built in. Whenever I have tried, it just looks blotchy!  (Longtime TPOIA fan), so tough! My best advice is to create jagged lines rather than one smooth, straight line. You can then "fill in" those jagged bits with your next color. Kind of hard to describe in words...I would be happy to show you in person though...come by The Point of It All.

Also, use colors that are close in value...stark contrasts do not lead to successful shading!

Thanks for having YHL's John and Sherry Petersik on the chat last week. Since then, I've become addicted to their blog and been exposed to the world of DIY blogs. Especially love not only their blog, but the House Crashing where they get a house tour of other DIY homes. So many fantastic ideas out there! Thanks again.

Glad you enjoyed the YHL story last week. Their blog is definitely addictive! Thanks for writing.

I am going to buy a rug for under our kitchen table. But I don't know the difference between jute, sisal or seagrass. Is one better than the other for a kitchen? Thanks!

That's s a great question. Here is a good website for information and definitions: . We have heard from designers that they often prefer seagrass for wall-to-wall installations; but for area rugs sisal is often chosen.

Hi there. My husband and I were married several years ago in Europe and most of our wedding photos are in a square, 6x6 format. I was wondering if anyone would have suggestions as to where I can find silver or silver-plated (or any kind, really!) frames in this format? I have the impression that the format is even unusual in the country were we were married, as I have only found one frame in that size there. Have been looking for years but have not found any 6x6 frames in the US. The photo I would like to frame can't really be trimmed down to a 5x5 size. Thanks!

You could always just buy a larger frame and have a mat cut to fit the photo.

Hi, there. I would love to get started learning to needlepoint. What do you suggest as a good first project? Also, how can I learn to needlepoint?

Come by The Point of It All! We will help you pick out a project and schedule a lesson with our wonderful teacher. She's a former kindergarten teacher and she is the most patient person on earth. She can teach right handers as well as lefties. A one hour private lesson (scheduled at a mutually convenient time in the shop) is $35. If you aren't in the DC area, check out the stitching videos I made. Step by step instruction on how to needlepoint. They are available via my website ( or on

As for the actual canvas, I suggest one with medium sized holes (say 13 holes to the inch) with large patches of NOT attempt anything with crazy shading for your first project! I want you to have success not extreme frustration.

Also, choose something that isn't too big...a rug would not be a great option!

Last bit of advice: select a canvas you really like. You will be more inclined to stitch a piece if you are excited about it and can envision the finished product (pillow, Christmas ornament) in your home!

Happy stitching,


What is the best way to hide cable/wire? We are installing a large tv on the complete opposite side of the room from the cable hook-up. We have white walls and wall to wall carpeting. The cable will have to go across either a hallway/stairwell area no matter which way we go. We are investing quite a bit in the tv (i.e. mounting on wall with surround sound) so I am not afraid to spend a bit of money to make the wires and cabling look clean. Thank you!

The only solution I can think of (besides having it run beneath the wall to wall or having the cable hook-up moved) is to have it run along your baseboards and paint the wires the same color as baseboards. 

I saw that you can make custom home portraits. Can you do any other custom-painted canvases?

Absolutely! I work with a fanastic custom artist...if you can dream it...she can paint it!

Dog portraits are particularly popular...the artist really captures the animal's expression. My dog, Buster Battle, has been immortalized in needlepoint many times over!

We can also paint the logo of your business and then insert it into a leather folio. Won't you look snappy at meetings?

Houses, animal portraits, logos, boat names, favorite sayings, belts...ANYTHING!

Give us a buzz at 202 966 9898 or email me at and we can discuss the possibilities.

PS Everything is hand-painted by an computers involved at all. You are getting a work of art.

Thank you so much for highlighting needlepoint! I'm on my fifth project and am thoroughly addicted! One of the things I love about it is that I can pick it up and put it down fairly easily in the midst of a busy family life - kids, dog, etc, - unlike a book, yet still feel productive. And, as you mention in the article, you can make so many different things; my next project is a doorstop. Beware, though - my addicted-to-needlepoint mother-in-law passed away with 185 unfinished/unstarted projects. We're lucky to have inherited much of her finished work. Finally, want to make sure readers/chatters know about Waste Knot in Arlington, which is where I have purchased several canvases.

Wow...185 unfinished projects. Looks like you have lots of work to do! Glad you liked the story. Thanks for writing and for the tip.

I have a collection of over 100 shot glasses from various states and countries that I'd like to move from my parents' house in Boston to my home in Virginia. What's the best way to display these while avoiding dust and without it looking like my grandma's house?

Hmmm. Do you have a bar? They would be appropriate to display there on a shelf. Or what about one of those small tables with a glass top you can display things in? You could use that to line them up inside it and it could double as a coffee table or end table as well as a collectible display area . Any other ideas out there?

Susan, when did you first start needlepointing? Do you still stitch every day?

Oh I've been a needlepoint addict since I was 7 years old! Really. I still stitch every day. (Sometimes my sweet husband wishes I would put down the canvas!)

Needlepointing is so relaxing and I always have multiple projects going. One with big holes and big patches of background when I just feel like zoning out. One with intense shading when I'm feeling a little obsessive-compulsive. I fully embrace needlepoint A.D.D.

When in doubt, NEEDLEPOINT!

I am an apartment dweller wondering if you have any tips for dissipating cooking odors, particularly fish. I don't want to spray or use anything perfumey, as that just ends up giving me an allergy attack. Thanks!

Do you have a good fan in your kitchen? Not all apartments have this feature. You could get a small table fan to try and blow the smells away. There are candles that have a pretty non-descript smell that just take the odors away.

Help! I'm doing some updates in my kitchen and need to replace the kitchen island. The problem is I have no interest in replacing all the cabinets, but I can't match the new island exactly to the existing cabinets. Is it okay for the island to not match? Should I keep a similar style (beaded inset) and try to match the doors as much as possible? Or is it okay to have different doors? Or can it be completely different?

Your island can be completely different, top and bottom, if you like. Just make sure it's complimentary to the rest of the kitchen.

A good temporary solution for distressed vinyl flooring is to get a low-pile area rug (I would recommend either a relatively thin style like a woven or Berber style) that is larger than your space, cut it down to custom fit it to your space and then use either a non-slip rug pad or the adhesive carpet webbing designed to keep rugs from slipping (one example is "Rug Grippers" but I've found different brands at Lowe's and Home Depot that work fine). You can get a carpet for $50-$70 (Ikea, Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, etc) and the pad/grippers for $10-$20 depending on how much you need. Note, use a box cutter to cut the carpet and cut it inverted (bottom side up). I've often seen remnant or discontinued carpets for even cheaper, but you don't always have a lot of selection that way.

Thanks. Very helpful.

I love needlepointing, but sometimes I wish it didn't take so long since I'm short on time. Do you stitch projects at the shop for customers?

Of course! We work with "ghost stitchers." You bring us your unstitched or partially stitched canvas and we'll do the rest. The stitchers charge by the square inch.

What if you love needlepoint pillows but don't have the inclination to do hand work? Come to the shop and pick out a canvas and the fibers. We'll do the rest. Then you can pick out the trim, backing fabric, etc. Voila! You have a completely unique pillow.

I also work with interior designers on this sort of project all the time. Most recently, I collaborated with Sally Steponkus of Sally Steponkus Interiors.

We have two cats who *really* like to look out certain windows. They have destroyed the cellular blinds in out living room; the resulting glare makes it hard to watch TV during daylight hours. I'd like to replace the shredded blinds with something that blocks light and also has some sort of insulating ability. But, it needs to either completely prevent the cats from looking out or give them a section of visibility without compromising TV watching. Is this a pipe dream? And don't laugh, because I know those of you with pets make design decisions that take them into account!

Here are a couple of ideas. Believe me, we have pets and we put up with lots of damage! Nothing like coming home and finding some cat puke on your Stark needlepoint carpet. Meanwhile, Terri suggested perhaps doing a valance with a roller shade - the shade may not be something they can really get their claws into if you know what I mean. Have you set up another comfy spot in the house for them to look outside at the chipmunks? I have a guest room bed against the wall so my cat can lie down and look out the window all day long. Cat lovers - please chime in with other ideas.

Hi there. I have a hard time finding linen by the yard for my cross-stitch projects, and prefer not to buy the tube stuff at Michaels. I checked your Web site, but couldn't tell if you have it. Do you?

The Point of It All is just needlepoint but we do carry DMC floss since it can be used for needlepoint as well as cross stitch.

I believe In Stitches (which is near Mount Vernon) carry a wide selection of linen.

Once you have finished the cross stitch, please bring it to TPOIA...I would be happy to turn it into a pillow or prepare it for framing. We don't do the actual framing but The Chesapeake Framing Company in Kensington does a really nice job.

Happy stitching, Susan

We finally have a guest room and our first house guest will be arriving next week. I think I once read here about nice things to provide in a basket for overnight guests. I'll have fresh towels on the bed, a basket with water bottles, packaged snacks (I hate getting hungry in someone else's house!) and metro maps, but I'm looking for other nice things to include. Any suggestions?

I also like to stock my guest room with travel-size toiletries (such as shampoo, soap, mouthwash, toothpaste, etc.), an alarm clock, tissues, extra pillows and blankets and a little vase of flowers (doesn't have to be fancy, just a few pretty stems will do in a pinch).

When cable companies are retrofitting older buildings, they use a special paintable U-shaped rubber moulding that covers the wire and attaches to the wall or floorboard. You could probably find it at Grainger or other specialty electrical shop, or even ask your cable operator. (Go to the office and ask for a construction manager.)

Good idea. thanks!

For Susan: I've been doing needlepoint since college (I am 41!) and did not know of your shop, which I now must visit. Is Needlepoint "in" again as it was in the 70s when it seemed everyone did it and decorated with it? Is this part of the knitting trend that still seems so hot?

Oh you must come by The Point of It All and introduce yourself! I think needlepoint is totally "in" again...mostly because there are so many more options, as Terri pointed out in her article.

In addition to jazzy canvases, the fiber selection is awesome. Not just wool and cotton anymore. Silk & Ivory is one of my favorites. It's a beautiful blend of silk and wool and it's a dream to stitch with, in every way. Metallics add fab bling to your canvas.

Plus, I think there is really a resurgence of hand-made items. (I always differentiate between "hand-made" and "home-made" could ruin your house!)

Come by the'll be amazed by the possibilites!

What prompted the needlepoint article today, and is this a hobby Terri or Jura are going to take up?

We are getting a good laugh about this. Terri says she has never tried needlepoint and she is intrigued by it but has no time right now with a busy job and a one year old.  Jura - that's me - has a shopping bag of unfinished needlepoint projects in her attic. In her 20s, she took needlepoint classes at Guy Mason and attempted to make a glass case and a Christmas ornament. Nothing was ever completed. Jura has no plans to add needlepoint to her hobbies at this time.

I used to live in an apartment without a kitchen fan. I bought one of those fans that will sit inside a window. It had a reverse feature that I used when cooking fish. I think the brand was Lasko.

Great. Thanks. Those fish smells are the pits.

For the person who wants to hide cabling and have it cross the room, she should look into wire ducts. These are used in offices all the time. You can get slotted ones which allow you to push cables in and take them out or solid ones which get routed once. They can be mounted along the toe molding around the outside of the room and when you get to the doorway/archway, it can go up alongside the trim and cross the hall along the ceiling. The PVC can be painted the same color as the trim/molding around it to help it blend against the surface. You can get it in various dimensions for fewer or more cables and you get it in long length and then cut it to size as needed. It's relatively easy to cut with ordinary heavy-duty house scissors.

Wow. I had no idea. Thanks for passing this along.

One hint I use that is a shortcut on shading when I'm stitching a needlepoint canvas is to use over-dyed fibers and fibers that have slightly varying colors in one thread.

Love that! Over-dyes are hand-dyed fibers that produce a variegated effect. Be sure to ply (meaning separate the fiber into its component parts and then mate them back together) so as not to get a striped pattern.

Decorative stitches can look really cool with an over-dyed silk. Fun to experiment!

And you can DIY with frames and matting from places like Michaels or Hobby Lobby. It's not too hard and you can find instructions online via Google. (There's a good one at

Also a great idea. thanks.

How can I figure out what needlepoint would work in my house? Do I need color swatches or do you help out with what works for a particular home?

Here's what I suggest: bring in a couple of color swatches and even a pillow (not necessarily needlepoint) from your sofa. Together we can pick out a canvas that will work with your room and then we can tweak the colors so they are just right for your color scheme.

Finishing (once you've stitched the canvas and are ready to make a pillow) is important too. We can do something really simple, like a knife-edge or box, with a self cording or we can go crazy. Beads! Loopy fringe! Raw silk! I have lots of examples at The Point of It All. Remember this is completely custom so we'll work with you to design something special just for you.

I just had my wall-to-wall carpet removed and laminate flooring installed on two levels of my house. There is a fine layer of dust on everything! Vacuuming is not getting rid of it. What/how would you recommend cleaning up the dust, both on the floors and on furniture, books, etc.? Thanks.

I would hire a cleaning service to come in for a few hours and clean your entire house.

My 7-year-old daughter was given a preprinted needlepoint kit for her birthday (snoopy) and LOVED doing it! It was on the plastic canvas with the larger holes and really wonderful for a young beginner. Since then, my mother and I have been searching for more of these beginner kits. At Christmas, Mom went so far as to purchas the plastic and, using acrylics, painted a Santa design onto the canvas for her to do because we were unable to find them! Do you sell these kits or know of any sources?

Yes! We have a nice selection of hand-painted canvases that come with the fibers...all in a package. They are excellent for beginners. Those are on 5 mesh. Once your daighter feels confident, she can move to 10 holes to the inch (a smaller gauge).

We also do a summer needlepoint camp for kids...she and a couple of her girlfriends might be interested in that. Email me ( for details.

PS Your mother did everything right: acrylics are the answer. Controlling the paintbrush is a whole other skill! We sell blank canvas for you adventurous types...

A couple of weeks ago someone wrote it because they wanted to find a landscaper, but several places they tried were pretty well booked. There's a new landscaping business in the DC area, Greenroom ( I've seen his work, and it's great.


Good morning ladies. I live in one of the ubiquitous post-WW2 brick homes in NoVA. Currently it has white trim, shutters and doorway. I am debating breaking out of the mold since I need to repaint anyway and redoing all in robin's egg blue. Thoughts? Recommendations for exterior paint options. TIA! Love the chats!

Go for it. But, if your brick is unpainted, be sure to pick a blue that also goes well with the color of your bricks.

My husband and I are turning a spare bedroom into a TV / entertainment room, and we're stuck on what to paint the walls. The main pieces of furniture are two very modern-looking red leather love seats. The carpet is grayish-blue (carpet will be removed/replaced as soon as our budget allows, but we're stuck with it for now.) We both want the walls to dynamically contrast with the love seats (eg bright green or robin's egg blue) but I'm wondering if we should stick with neutrals as long as we have that carpet. What do you ladies suggest?

Red leather makes a strong statement. I'd go for maybe a pale gray wall at this point. What about Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore.

You could also add magazines. Local ones would be great - Washingtonian, Northern Virginia, Bethesda, etc. as appropriate. Lucky guest!

Yep. thanks!

Put out a small bowl of vinegar--an old favorite for absorbing odors.


Ozium is a spray that I've found at auto parts stores. Its smells a tiny bit medicinal at first but then disipates quickly. i think its been used in hospitals so it may not affect your allergies too bad.

My father was big fan of  Ozium. Thanks for bringing that up. It is a very good product.

I've never used it, but there is a product called GG Bean Fish Odor Kleen which supposedly can dissipate fish odors. Google to the rescue.

Never heard of it - but worth a try.

Can cross stitch patterns be used successfully for needlepoint projects?

Cross stitch and needlepoint are two different animals albeit related ones. Cross stitch generally has a separate pattern that you then translate onto the linen. Needlepoint usually involves a canvas (stiffer materia with larger holes) that has a design painted on it by an artist.

If you have a cross stitch pattern that you love, we can have an artist replicate it on a needlepoint canvas. That's always an option.

Happy stitching! Susan

Haha. I have a roomful of unfinished crochet projects, unfinished beading projects, unfinished felt ornament projects... maybe I could add some unfinished needlepoint as well.

Thank goodness  I didn't take up any other crafts... my pottery classes were a bomb as well and thankfully I have  dumped anything I actually made.

My kitchen is yellow (think Hawthorne Yellow) and gets a ton of sun, so I plan on keeping the color. But, I'm planning to have the cabinets refaced and can't decide what color would go best. Right now they're your basic oak cabinets that are in desperate need of a face lift. Would white be too strong against a yellow wall? The countertops are a mix of grey and black, so i have a black a yellow thing going on in the kitchen, with black seat covers on the chairs and wall art framed in black. Not sure if white would be appropriate, and if not, what color brown would go best? We also have hardwood floors, that are a light oak.

I think white would be a good, safe choice. A light gray might look nice, too.

Carefully with putty knives remove the molding along the carpet. then run wiring in the crevice tyou now see and reattach molding. Cover putty knives and screwdrivers ends with duct tape. Not that diffcult. Other option is running through ceiling but more difficult. They make wiring to hide behind molding that is flat etc.

Thank you.

I loved your article on needlepoint- I've been doing it for about 35 years, and have the pillows to prove it. (I can't watch TV without needlepointing or knitting). The Point of It All is a great resource; another one, possibly a little out of the way for many Post readers, is Bedecked and Beadazzled, in Lutherville, just north of Baltimore.

Thank you for another source.

I used to love doing counted cross stitch about 15 years ago. I took it up when I quit smoking. It was the perfect thing to keep my hands busy and my mind off cigarettes. I gave it up when the books did not keep up with my decor. A bit too "cutesy" if you know what I mean.

Give needlepoint a whirl! I don't go for cutesy either. I think you'll be pleased with the sophisticated new look of needlepoint!

That's all the questions we have time for today. Thanks to Susan Battle for joining us and talking all things needlepoint! Chat with you next week.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius uses her years of experience as a home expert and her network of well-placed sources to help you choose everything from paint type and colors to how to de-shed sofas from pet hair to where to find the best designer fabrics at a discount.

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Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Susan Battle is the owner of Washington's premier needlepoint shop, the Point of it All, which has been in business for close to 40 years.
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