SPUN – The Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint

I can hear you saying “The society for what???”. And as I browsed through the internet and stumbled across it, I too was initially tempted to chuckle and even gently scoff. But I have to tell you that I very quickly changed my mind – it is really rather cool!

Over on Facebook this week, I have been following with interest a discussion in the Needlepoint Nation group about unfinished projects. It has been so much fun to see how many of us have WIPs stashed in the cupboard – and all the different ways that we can justify them! And then in a moment of serendipity I stumbled across a reference to SPUN – The Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint.

My initial reaction was to think that this was some kind of delightfully quirky joke. (I wonder if that is my irreverent Australian sense of humour taking over :)). But in fact SPUN is the brainchild of Mary Smull, an artist, writer, and curator living in Philadelphia, PA. This article from Needlepoint Now magazine gives an excellent overview of the project and Mary’s philosophy. Simply put, Mary and a group of volunteers collect unfinished needlepoint canvases and complete them usually only white thread. This has the effect of preserving the work of the original stitcher, whilst at the same time finishing the canvas. The result is a completely different kind of needlepoint which is simply lovely.

"Lute Player", Found unfinished needlepoint completed by Mary Smull using only white yarn, 20" x 21", 2011
“Lute Player”, Found unfinished needlepoint completed by Mary Smull using only white yarn, 20″ x 21″, 2011

This piece, “Lute Player”, is almost ethereal – and I love it. As an embroiderer, I know what it feels like to roam a canvas working small parts at a time. And here that process has been captured and preserved for all time. The original stitcher enjoyed working the solid black background, and perhaps enjoyed making a start on the beautiful gown. And then something (who knows what) interrupted the stitching progress. Maybe it turns out that those half-finished pieces tell just as much of a story as the fully completed ones….

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