Sunday, September 28, 2008

Colors! Putting them together

I hear a lot of people lately wondering about how to put color schemes together - and a lot of talk about "analagous and adjacent and complementary" colors, etc. etc. - but this doesn't really help much in the matter of putting a pleasing combination together and choosing threads for a needlework project. Also, after choosing colors from a color wheel, there is the additional dimension to consider of value and intensity of the individual colors - and will they work well together? I had an intensive course in color theory with my interior design studies in college - and this has been invaluable in mixing paint colors, as it makes it soooo much easier and faster to create the desired color, and to make sure the colors work together. Also, it helps me in matters like ecclesiastical pieces, as I have to consider the effect of the light on surface colors as it comes through stained glass windows - adjustments have to be made for this.

It also helps if one understands the effect of individual stitches on a piece according to the nature of the fibers - as for example, basketweave stitches break up light, and cause a color to be darker and duller than it would in long, flat stitches. Interesting effects - and they need to be considered when choosing threads. However, I still use just the visual thing to choose colors that are pleasing together - and get inspiration from many sources - I never sit down and decide to do an "analagous" color scheme. It's good to understand these things, but I still get my own color schemes from looking at nature, and other assorted sources.

I found these gorgeous pictures on the Thread Gatherer website (see this under "Good Stuff"), in which color schemes are ready made for needlework projects - this has fabric, so appears to be for a quilter. Great color combos! These I would definitely "borrow" from for maybe one of my crazy quilt pieces - and use the threads, as they are already put together!

Another great place to get inspired is in catalogs for home decorating accessories - fabrics, etc. I find these in the Pottery Barn, Gump's, etc. - and sometimes in the clothing ones also. Look sometime at the stacks of colored towels so tastefully arranged for eye appeal - and also T-shirts are many time displayed that way. Trained professionals arrange these, so they are very attractive! I also remember Maggie Lane saying in her Needlepoint by Design that her favorite way to select a color scheme was to just dump all her yarn onto the floor, and the most amazing combinations appear. I do this a lot myself - and the important thing is, if the colors look good to your eye, there really doesn't need to be a complicated explanation via the laws of the spectrum and color theory for it. It's good to understand why, but not really necessary.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Something new! A "Freebie" Ornament

I just posted a "Freebie" ornament on the new blog. I'm a bit (or a lot) clumsy at this, as I haven't done it in a long time. My thought is to do this once per week if I can get to it - I used to write a weekly, illustrated newspaper column, and wash, iron, shop, cook, and clean for six children - in addition to producing a major line of painted canvas. Now pore old Granny just doesn't do much to be useful. My magazine deadlines (Needlepoint Now) are two months apart, and I don't market painted canvas any more. Oh well. I play on the computer a lot.

Anyway, I really loved - and still do - sharing these things and encouraging people to do things for themselves, so will offer lots of patterns, techniques, and tutorials this way. My designs are simple, as I do not like a lot of counting. I think the most one has to count on this one is six - and that is only for the centers of the four corner petals. I simply will not work having to look back and forth from a chart to the canvas!!

Anyway - enjoy! If there is anything you would like to see, just let me know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Silk Ribbon Chrysanthemums for November

November is finished - unless I get it out again in a few days and decide I need to add or subtract. I'm working on the other ones too, but will slow down now, as I have some other obligations and responsibilities that need tending - a big painted canvas that needs to be finished and mailed in a day or two, and a deadline coming up that requires thinking and work.

I spent much of today organizing my stash and putting it into stacked clear plastic drawers where I can see what is where. I should be ashamed of myself - until I got it out and into these drawers, I had no idea I had so much. YIKES! But at least now it won't take me so long to find things.

Incidentally, I showed my daughter the SRE chrysanthemums and asked her if she could tell what they were (she is the mother of two little boys, and is her brother's legal assistant - and does no needlework of any kind.) She studied them for a minute, and said, "Well Mama. They aren't daisies and they aren't roses - but they are some nice big fluffy flowers." I suppose that is success.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Jewels" in Needlepoint (and progress on Nov.)

First the November "Crazy for Birthdays" - I have the seam treatments finished (didn't take long, of course) and a spray of leaves in silk ribbon across the bottom. Now for some creative avoidance, as I am still a little bit afraid of the chrysanthemums. In working with silk ribbon to create flowers on needlepoint, I learned from Judith Montano's books about ten years ago the stitches - but to create my own flowers, I work from either nature or from flowers in photographs. Images on the internet have really been helpful!

I saw a mistake after I took the photograph on the next to the last topaz close to the bottom. Oh dear. I'll just improvise and cover the boo-boo with a French knot or something clever.

I have been receiving the catalogs from the Art Museums lately, and it occurred to me that I could make much more imaginative arrangements of these jewels-of-the-month by making replicas of bracelets - so I got on a roll and started several more. The jewels need to be stitched first, as I can then see better what colors to use and where to put them. This is December with the turquoises! I have already chosen three of the colors I want to use, and of course keep in mind the narcissus and holly that are the "flowers" for this month. The dots are for bead placement. I want to stay away from making this heart look like Christmas - but will stay with what is right for the month. It will have holly and mistletoe, as those are at their best in December - and it will sparkle with beads! I did find some wonderful enameled "holly" jewelry in the catalog from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That was my inspiration for doing the holly here. (later in silk ribbon)

I had already started "June," so continued to choose the textures and place colors - pearls and roses are easy! I have decided to only use five patches on each of these, as the main focus is on the jewel and the flowers - much too busy to do lots of little patches.

The peridots I am pleased with (for August) - as is my daughter. I have enjoyed the attempt to make "bracelets" on the curved seam. It's quite a challenge, as Needlepoint canvas is square.

The diamonds for April are made with beads - the Sundance #250Hex, as they glitter beautifully. I couldn't find a thread that would produce the effect I needed - so this worked out well. I will probably leave this project along for a while, as far as new designs - but will continue to work on the ones I have - I think that makes seven of them!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mrs. Santa has a Heart! Donations for Research

My article in the current issue of Needlepoint Now deals with the wonderful idea presented to me by Old Town Needlework in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Alice Borge is planning to "run for the Cure" in November for a good friend who has breast cancer. There are certain canvases - many of them in fact, that are designated as "profits donated to cancer research." This also includes the wonderful children's art from the program at M.D. Anderson - proceeds going to cancer research for children. (Denise de Rusha provides the painted canvases) The store has a section too, of canvases for donations for heart research.

Heart disease is actually the #1 killer of women in this country - and having been touched with major illness myself, this is of primary concern to me. When I decided to do this article - as I would love to see shops and designers across the country follow - I asked my friend Gail Hendrix (see her blog and her e-bay store posted on my list) to design a special piece for me to show, as I really love her style. (Another splendid designer, Anne Stradal, also provided a canvas for this article - an egg for breast cancer, as she is a ten year survivor herself. Do see her site listed here as "Anne Stradal's Catalog")

Gail has recently told me that she plans to donate a percentage of her wholesale for this little ornament to heart research, so I wanted to show it again. My condition would not have been as devastating a few years ago if I had heeded the warnings or known the meaning of the symptoms - or if my mother had been aware of symptoms when I was a child. (actually, it never kept me off the dance floor or the water skis back then, but it was bothersome at times) Also - a few months ago, the needlepoint community here in Austin lost, suddenly, a very dear friend and an active member of our "stitching group." She didn't even know she was sick, and went to bed one night thinking she had pulled a muscle in her left arm - and never woke up. Again, if we were more aware of this heart thing - and if there were more research being done, these things might be prevented.

Do take a look at Alice's store: Old Town Needlework Also at Gail's sites. I think it would be great to have this little ornament on the tree at Christmas - or displayed year round, as it symbolizes a donation to heart research. Besides - it's awfully cute!!

UPDATE: I just got an e-mail from Anne, telling me she also donates proceeds to breast cancer research - to the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Here's the egg, in case you have missed it - it's charming! Also, as are Gail's canvases, it's stitch painted, which makes it super easy and pleasant to work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

November CQ moving along, and June is beginning

I wanted to show again how great the color palette for September is for my latest "birthday CQ in needlepoint." The piece is actually representative of November - with the topaz - but I had been doing battle with my stash over colors until this was chosen for us this month. (TIF Challenge) The actual colors on my stitched piece are like the illustration - but on the screen, the blue turns almost turquoise. Oh well. This is the heart with the stitching finished and ready for the silk ribbon embellishment - I will, of course, add more colors and accents beginning with the seam treatments tomorrow. The chrysanthemums are not going to be easy, so I stalled a bit today and started work on June - as the colors are pretty, and pearls and roses are easy.
On November, in the dark blue patch, the white spots showing are the stitches left bare for insertion of beads. I wanted some subtle pattern here, so chose to use, once again, my favorite combo of the Sundance #250 clear beads, and this time a light blue floss to stitch them in. I usually don't put the beads on until the SRE is finished - but I had to see what it would look like, so I cheated - you can see them (enlarged) on the upper right curve of the heart.
Already thinking ahead - or back - to August, which is my younger dd's birthday, I sent Jean Krynicki at River Silks a picture of gladiolas, and asked her to choose some ribbon for me - and this is what she sent. Gorgeous! I just wish I could stitch in "double time" or something - like those old Charlie Chaplin silent movies. The images in my head start coming so fast, I have to make quick sketches - as I will forget them in a few hours. I just hope it keeps up before I suffer burn out on the project.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friends in Houston

This is a quick and brief post - my good friends Tish and Steve Watkins live right outside Houston, and I haven't heard from them or had response to my e-mails. Tish is a designer - see her "Stitching Hands and Happy Hearts" blog listed on my side bar, and her husband is my wonderful, kind, and patient-with-electronically-stupid-little-old ladies web host. However, in his other life, he is a paramedic in Houston - which means he most probably stayed there to work.

I am a firm believer in the power of community prayer, and am requesting the favor of a few for their safety - as well as for millions of other people.

I have also thought of Tish's beautiful garden that she tends lovingly, and uses as insipiration for her needlepoint design - with the horrible flooding, I fear for that too - but gardens can be replaced. The framed needlepoint is Tish's portrait of her husband. It suits his personality.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

CQ for October Finished!! (and November on it's way)

This one gave me a few difficulties, but after adding the beads and subduing the marigolds, it will do, I think. I studied the flowers closely on the internet - photographs of calendulas - and then reproduced them with stitches in silk ribbon. (the flowers are 4mm, and the leaves are 7mm). One of my errors was on the left side - the bead pattern. I was trying to be clever, and won't go into the mathematics of the thing, but the motif I was trying to do is scattered looking. I won't do that again. I know why I counted it the way I did - but will have to admit, it didn't work. Oh well.

The flowers were a bit labor intensive, as I did the centers using one ply of Soy Luster in two-wrap French knots. I tried doing two ply with one wrap knots, but for some reason, these looked too fat. For the darker outline on the yellow flowers, I used two ply of Soie Cristale - as that is what I had in my stash for the correct color. With two-wrap French knots, it worked fine.
The soft, muted colors were a bit difficult - but seemed appropriate for the month, and work well with the Opals. In Texas, October is kind of the end of summer and (hopefully) the beginning of cooler weather. Symbolically, the Opals are for "Hope" and according to Victorian reasoning, the marigold/calendulas say "My thoughts are with you." Apparently, verbalizing feelings were tabu in polite society, so they spoke with gifts of flowers.

Now for an update on November! I am using the TIF colors for September, as they are absolutely perfect for this - even including the Topaz. The first thing I do before beginning the stitching, is to start with a color/fiber that is suitable - and add one patch at a time, as building this way seems to work best. As I add each, I also plan the appropriate texture for the patch, keeping in mind on these birthday hearts that the flowers and jewels are the main focus - I don't want any patch to be overwhelming in pattern or color.

I used one of my favorite stitches - created in desparation some time ago. I usually work this straight down in rows from top to bottom. However, in this case, I am using the "shimmer" version of the YLI Ribbon Floss in Smokey Blue for the tiny areas of basketweave between the long, satin stitches. I have found it best to work the long checkers from lower right to upper left when doing it this way - on the diagonal. It is less likely to pull the canvas than doing it from upper left to lower right. Then, the basketweave checks are filled in going on the diagonal again, but from upper right to lower left. It's just common sense and logic. After my frantic/begging/desparate e-mail to Jean K. of River Silks, she "Googled" chrysanthemums and looked at colors - and sent me these. Gorgeous, and softer than what I had. I'm looking forward to the experience - but it won't be easy. I'm rusty with the SRE!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Progress Toward "October"

I have worked on "October" and "November" simultaneously this weekend. so am a bit too tired (brain wires short circuited) to make wise and wonderful or inspirational and motivational comments on the subject. The first picture is showing the background stitching finished, and the seam treatments in place - which are simple so as not to "fight" with the flowers.

Next I put stems with two ply of Soy Lustre (by The Pure Pallette) in simple stem stitch. Leaves were next, using the River Silks 7mm ribbon - but only in one area, as I want to build it a bit in layers. Before calling a halt to stitching for the weekend, I did go ahead and place one Calendula, after looking at many many images on the internet. 4mm River Silks ribbon was used for this, and 1 ply of soy lustre for the center French knots - with only two wraps. The little touch of green in the center brightened it a bit. Tomorrow I will continue the flowers and make some yellow ones! Last, of course, will be the beads - which is always the finishing touch.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Squiggee's Gingerbread People

I've been busy today with no time for stitching - but I want to show these wonderful gingerbread cookies in Gail Hendrix's collection. Besides being whimsical and wonderful - and different from most others, they are so beautifully painted, one never has to wonder where to put the next stitch. Also, notice the little charms and embellishements she uses on her presentation. Almost too cute to remove for stitching!!
You can see the entire slide show, which is delightful with quite a few of these, by going to her blog at Squiggee Land.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

September TIF Colors and November Birthday CQ

The September colors appeared, and solved a dilemma I've had with the colors for my November "Crazy for Birthdays" ornament - The Topaz is right there, as are the colors so compatible with it and suitable for a fall theme. I like the brighter intensities of the artwork, though, so brightened my thread selections accordingly. The blue Mandarin floss in the picture with the heart looks almost turquoise on my screen, but in real life it is a lovely, soft greyed blue.

I have had to approach this series a bit differently from my other crazy quilt pieces, as the jewels and flowers are the main features, and must be considered when choosing the other colors. I had already decided to use gold beads to make the "topaz" bracelet, as there were no threads that really looked right - so here they are! I used YLI Honey gold ribbon floss for the warp stitches, and Sundance #4 gold beads for the weft - and they give the effect I wanted.

I had already gone through my stash and pulled out lots of fibers in the colors above, and will make the final choices as I go. The gold settings for the jewels were stitched with Kreinik 002V braid, as the soft gleam is so pretty with the sparkle of the beads - sparkling gold braid would have been too much. These designs are only divided into five or six sections, as the flowers and jewels are the focus, so I wanted to not have them quite as busy as some of the others I've done.
The next step was to pull out my silk ribbon - this from River Silks, but I had to send Jean an emergency S.O.S., as the colors are a bit too bright, in my opinion, for the chrysanthemums I will make - after a lot of practice, of course, and a lot of searching for flower images on the internet. I had no idea so many sizes and shapes existed! I'm thinking about lists now, as that is the "thought" part of the challenge for this month - and already am examining my own habits. I have enjoyed so much these Challenges, as a lot of introspection has resulted, and I have examined different aspects of my life, habits, and way of thinking and working (and taking a few breaks!)
Now I have to get back to "October," which is almost ready for flowers and seam treatments. This could get confusing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

October and Opals (and evolution in design)

Crazy for Birthdays for October is coming along nicely, although it has had a mind of its own, and I don't think this was what I had envisioned in the beginning. I didn't want it to look "Halloween" - so just started with one color, and added more when the look was right. It will brighten up considerably when I add the flowers, which are yellow and orange Calendulas

Several people have asked me if the things I show here are my my designs - yes, most of them are, as this has been my work for over 40 years. These crazy quilt designs have been a process of evolution, as I started playing around with it again about ten years ago, after I discovered silk ribbon embroidery. Before I found the wonderful world of blogs, I was using Judith Montano's books - and then I found Sharon B. and her In A Minute Ago blog - and that led to Allie's in Stitches, when she was in the middle of her gorgeous "Crazy for Flowers," and I was hooked. This departure from the Victorian traditional has been enchanting, as I learned to use curved seams, and that it is O.K. to put an exuberant spray of flowers traveling across several patches instead of confining them to one at a time. (Allison has given me total permission to study and "plagiarize" her blocks, and lots of encouragement as well.)

I have also been asked recently several times if my designs may be purchased - they are available on my web page, Elegant Whimsies (the link is at the top right of this blog.) After so many years of doing painted canvas, I am now wanting to just share techniques, etc. and encourage people to design their own - and to use their own imaginations and creativity - so there are e-patterns for download for doing it yourself, and thereby avoiding the expense of most painted canvases. (including mine).

Lately, I have thoroughly enjoyed making a point of using ONLY threads and materials from my stash, which is rather out of control. It is exciting to be able to just dump it out, and choose colors as a design evolves - and not have to go to my LNS to buy anything. Exciting to be using threads I've had for years, and that were being wasted in the depths of dark boxes. In progress now is this ornament re-do. The original was made about five years ago - so last night I drew another one, and will be interested to see what happens. As I said - they have a mind of their own, and I just choose threads out of my stash as the right colors present themselves. This is a great way to make ornaments in traditional shapes - practice new stitches and learn techniques!!