Burlap Needlepoint Mandala

Burlap Needlepoint MandalaIt’s football season and that means it’s the perfect time to introduce needlepoint art to your students! If you’re wondering what football has to do with needlepoint, look no further than former NFL great, Rosey Grier.

I used to have trouble getting my 5th grade boys to take anything seriously that involved a needle and yarn…. they just thought it wasn’t “manly” enough! But then I discovered the story of Rosey Grier, and that changed everything.

Rosey Greer's "Needlepoint for Men"

Rosey Grier’s “Needlepoint for Men”

After showing my 5th graders the book cover for Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men, I explain that Rosey Grier was a defensive tackle for the NY Giants and the LA Rams back in the 50’s and 60’s, and played twice in the Pro Bowl. In addition to his successful football career, he was also a body guard for Robert F. Kennedy, an actor, singer, Christian minister, and inspirational speaker. But my favorite thing about Rosey Grier is his unabashed pursuit of hobbies that are traditionally associated with women…. such as needlepoint. This guy is confident in his manhood!

It’s amazing how the boys are so much more accepting of working with a needle and yarn once they hear this story! Working on burlap also adds a ruggedness that kids like, and makes the stitching process quick and easy.

You will need:

  • Burlap – cut into 9″x12″ pieces
  • plastic lids or other circle “templates”
  • soft pencil (#2 or softer)
  • Sewing needles (plastic lacing needles or metal tapestry needles – either will work!)
  • Yarn in a variety of colors
  • Masking tape and pen (for labeling the back of work in progress)
  • Stiff cardboard for mounting your finished work


1. Begin by placing your largest circle in the center of your burlap and trace around it with a pencil. Continue tracing successively smaller circles into the middle. (Tip: Working from the largest circle to the smallest will help you keep them all centered!)

2. Now, using these circles as guide lines begin stitching your design in the center, being careful not to pull your stitches too tight. You don’t have to stitch on every line, and it’s okay to add designs in between the circles you’ve traced… remember, these are just guide lines! (Tip: Starting in the middle and working outward tends to help your finished piece lay flat and keep from buckling.)

3. Vary your stitches and your yarn colors as you work outward from the center. It’s helpful to print out diagrams of some basic stitches from a website like this one for students to follow. The running stitch, satin stitch, and back stitch are good ones to start out with.

4. When your design is finished, embroider your initials on the front. Then, use tape rolls made from masking tape to adhere your burlap to a slightly smaller piece of cardboard, and tape the raw edges down on the back.

For classroom and homeschool teachers, embroidery can be a calming, peaceful (and quiet!) activity for students to pull out when they finish other work early. Just secure the threaded needle to the burlap by weaving it in and out a few times and it will be ready to pick up again whenever a few extra minutes are found!


Hooked on stitching? Follow my step-by-step instructions here for another burlap “sampler” project from a previous post!

(Affiliate links were used in this post.)




Comments are closed.