Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year - A New Project!!

Anne Stradal has begun a new design series of clocks - I really look forward to this one, as she will include the well researched history of each, just as she does with her charming lighthouses.

The very first one may be seen now - so go check it out, and watch it emerge as she stitches it on her blog - The Cape Stitcher.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Moving along with Color!

The stitching on the Talavera cross is showing progress now, as the colors make it come alive.

I've been working with yellow mostly for today's session (while watching old 50's Westerns, which I love).
The close-up shows the amazing difference just the stitches make while using the same thread. The sunflower petals and the little square things on the diaper pattern are both DMC cotton floss #3821.

The difference is that I also used Kreinik Blending Filament #028 on the sunflower. The squares in the pattern are simply floss in Scotch stitch - and they look lighter and brighter than the basketweave of the flower petals, as they lie flat and reflect more light.

I decided the flower centers in the blue ones needed to be lighter and without sparkle, so used DMC Satin floss there with no blending filament. The photo of the threads shows the versatility of this BF, as you can see that the yellow is dark, and blends beautifully with the floss. There is also a light BF, which I've enjoyed using with the next shade lighter in the floss on other things.

The green (Kreinik BF #009) looks rather dark to blend with #987 green, and I was afraid it wouldn't work for this - but it blends very very well, and exhibits a light, bright random sparkle which livens it up a lot. This shows that one needs to experiment, even if it doesn't look quite right lying on the table!!

The next photo shows the #018 Kreinik metallic - two are blending filament, and two are #12 braid. The one on the far left is just plain 018. ( I didn't have BF to show) The dark navy on the fat spool next to it is HL, and the small spool to the right of that is blending filament HL. The light one is Vintage BF. The floss is #336. (the background on this piece.) The Vintage BF is what I used with the navy floss on the square "bump" stitches in the diaper pattern.
The arrow in the close-up picture is pointing to the only one I could get the light to hit correctly to show one little sparkle. In person, it's an interesting effect, and it looks much better than it would with the darker HL version.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beads on the Un-Painted Canvas

First, I want to share the Holiday card I received from the staff of Needlepoint Now - I'm sure all subscribers have one by now.

I was ROFL at the message, as I know there are very few who don't know exactly what the sentiment is saying - without having to consult color cards. Clever girl, our Elizabeth, (new owner and editor-in-chief of the magazine), whose name is signed in what looks more like 002HL than 202HL.
So now to the business at hand. I haven't been diligent about posting lately, as I was busy with other things, and working on three canvases simultaneously. The Sunflower Cross in Talavera is the first of these on which I have been able to use beads.

These designs are so suitable for my enjoyment of using simple stitches (almost entirely basketweave) with simple materials - mainly DMC floss and Kreinik metallics. However, I felt that the sunflower center definitely needed something extra, so I placed ink dots on the weft threads in a lattice pattern based on a count of 3. Then, DMC floss in brown is worked around the dots in basketweave, and then beads placed. (Sundance, of course, in brown - not sparkling, but simply shiny.)

The next photo shows how the cross looks now, with some color added. I have been watching a most delightful BBC mini-series on DVD's, (The Duchess of Duke Street) and decided to just do outlining, which doesn't require much concentration - just relaxing.

You can see how the simple color markings with the Sharpie permanent pen are guides to shading the flat flower petals. There was no need to paint them, but I did need guidelines.

The burgundy colored diagonal band is worked with DMC cotton floss and Kreinik metallic blending filament in a Vintage color almost the same.
I really like this Vintage, as it doesn't sparkle, but emits a subtle gleam in the orange and the burgundy on this piece.
The last two pictures are of one of the "mini-crosses," first with just some color added, and the last one with background - this shows so well how the pattern really pops out against the matte floss in navy 018.
Now - back to an evening with the Duchess and more stitching. Tomorrow I paint!! At this time, I am planning great entertainment with old Tyrone Power swashbuckling movies from the 50's - which I loved when I was an impressionable child.
If I had had the chuzpah of the Duchess of Duke Street, my children wouldn't be running my life now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Joy of the Unpainted Canvas

I could call this "The Coloring Book," as I'm filling in color with thread instead of crayons or paint, and the outlines are dark (navy in this case, Kreinik 018HL #12 braid)

As I have said many times, I prefer not painting my own canvases when I intend to stitch them - and am especially grateful these days for the colored Sanford pens - the "permanent marker" kind - not the paint pens. I don't use them to "paint" areas, but rather to delineate irregular shapes, as in a flower petal which includes two colors - or for placing color on the diaper pattern area so as not to be confusing in the stitching..

I'm working simultaneously on several of these - which is easy because the DMC floss colors as well as the Kreinik braid and blending filament are the same for all of them.

The second photo is one of the original series I painted over a period of about two months - all about 6" high, so they work quickly. Very cheerful, they are!! (Most of these show now on my web page, Elegant Whimsies)

On this one, I used the orange Vintage Kreinik blending filament on the upper flower, and really am pleased with the way it works, as it doesn't sparkle, but there is a definite random "gleam" going on. The yellow area has yellow DMC floss and dark yellow blending filament. This is when it starts to get interesting, as I enjoy watching the white areas fill up with color.
The next one is another of the original nine designs. I chose to use Kreinik blending filament for the pattern only, designating the orange, white, and navy floss as "background" - so it stays in the back where it belongs.
However, at the bottom of the flowers on the shaft, I inserted the orange Vintage blending filament to make it part of the design - and I am very pleased with the effect. The last close-up shows how different the yellow floss looks on the scroll in basketweave with blending filament - and then on the diaper pattern in Scotch stitch - long, smooth, and flat without the metallic. A great effect with only one kind of thread!
I used perle cotton on the red flower, as the ropy twist gives it some extra texture to make it stand out above the rest of the pattern - and the bump stitches on the diaper pattern are the same red, but in floss with blending filament added - great effects with simple materials!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sunflowers and Talavera in Needlepoint

Sunflowers, beloved in Mexico both as fresh flowers and in art of all kinds - even paper flowers - are actually atypical of Talavera-style ceramics. I'm seeing more and more of them, as well as the calla lilies, so having taken them for granted my entire life, I decided to investigate the symbolism.

I already knew they have the characteristic of heliotropism - they turn toward the sun as it travels across the sky - and the Spanish word for this flower is "tornasol," which means "turns toward the sun."

The sunflower is native to the Americas, and evidence has been found that they were cultivated in Mexico as long ago as 2600 B.C. Sometime, probably in the early 14th century, they became important to the Aztecs in their worship of the Sun God.

Artifacts depicting this flower have also been found among Toltec and Mayan archeaological treasures, and in Peru among Inca artifacts.

Lately, in my current binge of painting crosses adapted from the Talavera style, I've really enjoyed the sunflower designs, and intend to do at least one for myself. They are so joyful looking!

Also, it gives me a good excuse to use the wonderful new supply of Kreinik blending filament I've acquired! (no stash control here). The fact that these blending filaments are available in the Vintage finish makes them more useful, as it gives a variety of looks that don't include the sparkle. I feel the pattern on these needs a bit of zing, and this helps, but too much sparkle would not be good.

I use only the DMC cotton floss for the basketweave, and add the BF to that. ONLY on the pattern, though, as the background needs to stay in the back and not compete with the design.

I'm showing mine, as it's ready to begin - I don't like painting the canvases I intend to stitch, as:
1. I'm too lazy. 2. It's more entertaining to work this way, as it's a bit like "paint by numbers" in that it's fun to see the color filling up the white spaces. The outlines are all stitched with Kreinik metallic braid #12 in navy 018HL. Perfect for Talavera - and there is also the same color in blending filament for the navy dots in the diaper pattern!

Oh - I forgot to mention that I've actually found a place to use beads on this one! The center of the flower with that cross hatching is perfect for enhancement with a few beads - so I marked it with a brown Sharpie on the weft stitches to accomodate beads in the little dips. I'll work on the stitching tomorrow, hopefully.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Beauty of the Fiber Arts

I felt I needed to share this beautiful work with any of you who haven't discovered Allison Aller's blog (Allie's in Stitches - click on it here to see).

She tells the reason for doing this particular landscape, as she does all of her landscape quilts - and they are, indeed, works of art. This one causes me to really "FEEL" the atmosphere in the picture, as well as to appreciate the fine needlework and talent involved in it's creation.

Allison A. and Sharon B. (Pintangle) were the creators of the very first blogs I ever saw - over three years ago before I started mine. I stumbled upon them while looking for old crazy quilts, and was amazed at the "new look" in CQ - traditional but yet far beyond in the colors, materials, and arrangements.

This led to my experimenting with adapting CQ to needlepoint, which is what I wanted to do in the first place, but these were soooo much better than the Victorian kind I was looking for. Allison was, at that time, working on her Crazy for Flowers, which won a national award! Beautiful thing, it was.

Anyway, we became acquainted via the internet, and she has been a wonderful mentor, as well as being a very supportive friend in my triumphs and tragedies over the last three years or so. It was she who supplied me with a block to show in my very first article in Needlepoint Now - I believe it was the May/June issue in 2007.

I have just recently gotten this out of storage, and am hoping to get it to the framer soon. It's a beautiful thing up close - exquisite in it's small details of seam embellishment and surface enhancement.

Designing needlework is, indeed, an art form, which is why I enjoy the images and inspiration I get from cruising the blogs of the fiber artists over the planet. Each piece is an original creation, which is as it should be!

I look forward to starting the translation of this block (the second photo - not the Sun and Moon quote) into needlepont soon - that which I call "inspiration, adaptation, and just plain plagiarism" - but Allie gives me permission, as I always ask first.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Hand Dyed Threads and a Fabulous Blog

Another great blog I mention fairly often, and look at daily, is Sharon B's PINTANGLE - listed on my side bar. She has been showing stitches and combinations on her great project - the Band Sampler, and today's post is one I really must try on needlepoint canvas.

These are stitches I've used for many years, but she has a really fine combination put together, as well as the effect of the overdyed threads which are framing the smaller squares. (I also rather like the effect of the sequin with bead) As for use of something like this, I enjoy making frames, or making monograms or quotes for pillows, and this would be a fine one to use.

Incidentally, my favorite book of alphabets and letters is one stocked by Colleen at The Needle Works here in Austin: Minuscules & Majuscules by Valerie Lejeune, published by Mango Pratique. It's totally in French, but the charts, etc. are wonderful and easy to read. I seldom use any other book for choosing "fonts" for my needlepoint. (Visit The Needle Works here)

The hand dyed threads in Sharon's Artfire Store are fabulous in color and quality, and I am weak when shopping there - no restraint or self discipline - and I like using them for surface enhancement and embellishment and for other "special effects." Total eye candy just to look at them. They have no dyelots, so one must be careful of the use.

The latest is her "Twisties" - and I had to order several. Granted, they are only 1 and 2 meter (app. 1 1/10 yds.) lengths, but the embellishment possibilities huge.

Although these threads are shipped from Canberra, Australia, the shipping charge is minimal - much less than most of the companies I order from in this country (even here in Austin), and the service is fast and efficient!!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Very Beautiful Blog

Just a quick word about a very very beautiful blog I've been looking at with my morning coffee for a long time - Threads Across the Web by Carol-Anne Conway in the U.K.

This came to my mind - to share it - when a young designer/friend asked me what blogs I like to read. I told her I really don't look at needlepoint blogs except for two or three, as I get much better inspiration and images to "implant" in my brain by watching the very talented fiber artists at work.

The ladies of Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. are superb in their taste and techniques - and although it isn't needlepoint, they do motivate and inspire me - exquisite taste on this one, as well as imaginative and beautiful projects.

There are great stitches and combinations of stitches that can be adapted to needlepoint, as well as just plain visual beauty. This is a picture of a beaded flower in progress, with a great explanation of how it's accomplished.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Birthday on Cape Cod!!

I was searching for something on my blog last night (didn't find it, of course) and found a post about a new blog that had just started (exactly a year ago today) that really excited me - and the excitement is still there after a year.
Today is the first birthday of The Cape Stitcher!!! I've learned SO much from Anne Stradal - and I look forward to seeing what she's doing every morning while I'm having "first coffee."
She demonstrates how effective it can be to just use simple materials, and uses decorative stitches in moderation and in good taste. Her canvases are beautifully stitch painted, so are a pleasure to work.
If you're not already watching this blog, be sure and add it to your repertoire of fine things to do for entertainment and enlightenment! My announcement of it on the "day of it's birth" can be found by clicking on "good stuff" on the side bar under LABELS.
The St. Marks lighhouse was a gift from her during pre-blog days - and her stitching is so fine, I've been afraid to work mine for fear of falling short. Maybe today is a good day to begin!
ADDENDUM: The St. Marks lighthouse is in Florida, and is one of my favorite places to escape and contemplate life in general - and enjoy the scenery. Anne has almost 100 lighhouses in her line of designs.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A "New Kid" on the block!

A young woman whom I thoroughly enjoyed last year, but with whom I lost contact due to her being busy with grad school and real life - surfaced yesterday in my e-mail, and I was delighted to hear from her and chat and catch up on what she's doing these days. A real live native of Sanibel, Florida - which is where I wish I were right now.

She's a painted canvas designer also, and I had to share this really cute turkey. She also has worked Raymond Crawford's wonderful turkey - which may be seen on her latest blog post. Do go see both of them, as well as her other recent work, at
Barefoot Needlepoint.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stitches for Edges and Small Borders

It was while painting this new Talavera tile, and deciding it needed a small border to confine and define it, that I remembered a stitch that was among the first decorative stitches I learned in about 1969 - the Knotted Stitch. That is what decided me on painting a three thread border for this piece!

I've used this stitch off and on for many years, as it's a perfect solution for a small outer border for things like 5" square pincusions - and designs such as this one. There are many stitches shown in books, but they seldom explain the uses of some of them that aren't suitable for covering areas of a design. This stitch is one of those - only should be used as a small border of one row.

It's very very simple, and is worked from right to left to avoid warping the canvas badly, and to assure it covers. I didn't take time to work basketweave inside this little border, but when that's done, it covers nicely any "dandruff" of white canvas showing at the edges. I just turn the canvas when the end is reached to start the vertical side, and work, once again, from right to left.

The first sample is worked with DMC Satin Floss - which is rayon, but much easier to handle than the old Rayon floss . This is to show how pretty the stitch is worked in something shiny - rather different!

The second photo is made with DMC overdyed perle cotton - beautiful, it is, and a subtle color scheme for a monogram pillow inset could be taken from it, as the colors are, of course, compatible with the solid color floss and perle cotton.
I like to show the stitch with two different colors on the chart to illustrate the sequence of making the stitch.

The other "small border" stitch I enjoy, and it's totally unattractive used any other way, is the long-armed cross stitch. I use it constantly, and you can see it on several projects - including my napkin rings and bracelets. It's also recommended by many belt finishers, as it makes the edges roll over beautifully and neatly.

Enough about border stitches now - I have some new DVD's from Neflix and new tea from Tea Embassy which came in the mail today - I'm off for a relaxing evening of stitching - or maybe painting, as I'm way behind.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bargello: Simple and Simply Beautiful!!!

This picture is from Liz Morrow's blog, and she's announcing that she has the patterns for sale - I'm getting in line to purchase them for myself! She says "for beginners" - but I would love to do them, and play with changing colors for different effects and looks.

Do go see them. (Click here) Sometimes, simplicity is the most effective - and these would be a pleasure to stitch. You could use simple fibers, or go nuts with really jazzy ones. Classic ornaments for any decor!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Good Shepherd and a Jeweled Butterfly

It's very rare that I get to see any of my designs stitched, but I had to make a hasty trip to Vikki's house yesterday (most excellent finisher here in Austin) to borrow back a Celtic Cross for which I had discarded the pattern, and to take a picture of this Alms basin pad (collection plate) I designed for Church of the Good Shepherd here in Austin about two years ago.

This is one my son and I chose for his family to donate as a memorial to the child of a good friend and church member.

These things really come to life when the stitching is completed! It's worked in Paternayan persian wool, of course, in basketweave, as durability is a factor. However, I chose Kreinik 002V metallic braid for the halo, as well as silk, to make it stand out against the "ecclesiastical red" background.

This piece has a very sad story that developed while I was designing the series - but I won't deal with that part of it today. It's a beautiful day outside, and time to move on.

While I was chatting with Vikki, I was also looking through the stacks of finishing on her table - she also does finishing for Amy Bunger, so there were some very interesting pieces to see.

Then I spotted one of mine from several years ago (now discontinued) - a "jeweled" butterfly that I had forgotten about. A lady who does exquisite stitching had apparently purchased it from a shop and worked it - and there it was!!! I came home and actually found the pattern, so have it offered on Freebies, Etc. for anyone to do.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Plaid without Paint (for Needlepoint)

For someone who didn't want to paint canvases any more, I'm certainly doing a lot of it. (the fish is my latest madness in the Mexican Talavera line)
Lest anyone think I've gone to join my ancestors, lost interest in pontificating and enlightening via my blogs, lost my mind, or just been too lazy to do any new posts, I 've actually been busier than usual. I've been re-writing two of my books that I did several years ago that I think need refreshing - and also put into E-Book form for sale on the web page (Elegant Whimsies).
The PLAID is one of my favorite "special effects with simple materials," and I've been doing it for personal projects since about 1973, when I first started playing around with developing "fabrics" on needlepoint canvas without having to paint.

Having studied Textiles extensively in college, the weaves are of special interest to me - and the plaid is a very very simple one, as it's an even weave pattern, so is perfectly compatible with the even weave of needlepoint canvas. I won't go into the history of it, as that's in the book - but the earliest examples of it were found in Scotland, and were simple woven grasses which varied in color.
My method is one I call "plaid without paint" - as it needn't be painted onto canvas first. Actually, painting it would be terribly time consuming, as one has to consider that where two colors cross, a second color is created.

The photo shows some simple pieces I stitched freehand with very little pre-planning except to choose colors and make marks on the canvas for size and scale of stripes.

This plaid stitching is very addictive, and I've found myself watching people out shopping and studying the clothing of those wearing plaid - figuring out how I would adapt the pattern to needlepoint. I also find that my eye goes straight to plaid on upholstery in decorating magazines.

There is a brief tutorial on my Freebies blog from about a year ago (link to plaid is on the side bar) when I was demonstrating gingham checks, which is the simplest of all plaids. Basically, as the warp of a fabric is the strength, the VERTICAL stripes should always be worked first - on the warp "bumps." Simple basketweave, skipping the weft threads is used, and this way the canvas doesn't get pulled out of shape. The weft - horizontal stripes - are then worked when the vertifcals are in place.
This is the order in which a fabric is woven - so it only makes sense to work it this way. Also, experience will show you it doesn't distort and warp the canvas. I don't use a frame, and have never had a plaid piece, no matter how large or small, pull out of shape.

The Julia pillow isn't "woven" plaid - but rather the effect of gingham checks made with cotton floss in double leviathan stitches. I just wanted to show one of the many uses of this wonderful thing called plaid.
Also showing some other fun projects. I've especailly enjoyed an old book I found in my grandmother's house of Scottish tartans - mine is the Anderson plaid, which had to be worked for a large chair seat, as it's a rare one with seven colors in it (wouldn't you know it would have to be complicated). I loved the Donaldson plaid, as it's blue and green on white - so stitched it even though I don't know anyone by that name. Also, belts and dog collars are great stitched in plaid!!! All kinds of wonderful things!!

Friday, November 06, 2009

BEADS on a "Jeweled" Bracelet!!

I very much enjoy using the pretty threads and other materials for needlepoint that weren't available to us in the decade of the 70's - and also the imaginative things we can do with them. What I like doing most, however, is creating what I call "special effects with simple materials."

These napkin rings that could be lengthened and made into bracelets were shown a while back on my Freebies - (the pattern for them is there), and were inspired by my daughter's love of emeralds, and also the fact that her husband's birthday is in April - fortunate for her!! I thought jeweled napkin rings would be a festive touch for a birthday dinner.

Anyway, the first picture is showing the DMC cotton floss, worked in a tent stitch with 4 plies, on the WARP threads only, leaving the weft "dips" for inserting the beads. The tiny little diamond chain from which the emeralds are suspended, was placed on the canvas carefully, to make sure there would be only one warp stitch in the configuration of the little diamond shape - and of course the very very small one only has one stitch, which is weft to accomodate one bead. (a sparkling, hexagonal Sundance bead - crystal clear size 14 in the #250Hex)

The next picture shows the beads in place on some of the jewels. I used green beads that aren't "hex," as I didn't want the sparkle on the emeralds. While it's great on the diamonds, it's too much for the green stones.

This effect of nothing more than Petite Very Velvet, Kreinik #12 braid in 002V, and Sundance beads makes a stunning effect, yet is so simple - no fuzzy or glittery threads and no decorative stitches except the long-armed cross stitch I like to use at top and bottom, as it makes the edges fold over nicely - and is pretty in this braid.

I also put little single bead "jewels" suspended from the edges. I used the clear beads with green floss, but am not really happy with the look - so I tried a green bead farther down the row, and it's great! Out come the sharp scissors.

The diamond chain bracelet has a great effect with the two colors, I think. n this one, I'll use the clear hex beads at top and bottom, but will apply them with blue floss on the top, and green on the bottom. This makes sense. The detail of the diamond bracelet is showing where the weft threads were left bare for bead insertion.

When drawing this onto canvas, one would take care to make sure the square cut ones have five WEFT spaces, and four WARP spaces. The diamond shapes have 9 weft, and only 4 warp spaces. If attention is given to these small details, it makes the work easier. All it requires is a little experimenting on scrap canvas.

There's still time, as these are small, to even make jeweled bracelets for holiday parties - or sew them onto the cuffs of an evening jacket - lots of possibilities here. Do experiment - and with other motifs, too, than jewels.

ADDENDUM: I failed to mention that this technique for using beads (the simple way) is explained in detail in Chapter I of my book about using beads with needlepoint. I've divided it into two chapters for the downloadable e-patterns, or it's also offered as a coil bound "workbook." You can see it at Elegant Whimsies - my web store.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sea Shells and Other Jeweled Things in Needlepoint

A really nice lady, who used to buy from me when I was wholesaling, called me about two weeks ago and asked for five of a seashell I had done for her before - I told her I had discontinued it, implying that I had trashed the pattern.

That didn't work, as she offered to send me a picture - so I agreed, as actually I still had the picture, myself, and then found the file with many many patterns for these shells and fishes and other sea critters, etc. I did during that binge from about 8 years ago.

Anyway, I was looking through the file and finding things I had forgotten about that I might decide to resurrect soon. I had started with antique fish jewelry, and then progressed to one of my avocations - the sea shells. Marine biology holds great fascination for me.

I took liberties here, though, in that I painted them with bright pastels in "Caribbean colors," and in most cases, added "jewels." The scallop shell has a fine sprinkling of pearls, which I stitched on the model I worked with Renaissance shimmer. (Painting this shell is the subject also of a post I just finished on my other blog - Freebies, etc., dealing with paint brushes.)

The pink and yellow scallop shell is actually the exact color of it in "real life." I have a wonderful huge book among my other books on shells, and was delighted to find this one. Of course I also did it in aqua, and added pearls.

The green tree snail is actually very very green, so I kind of ad-libbed with the color and made it look more like a sea shell, as I really like the shape - and added a few pearls.
Where there are sea shells, there might also be parrots - this one was adapted from a piece of jewelry! It was fun to stitch, but I won't paint it commercially - too hard to draw!!
Oh well. Back now to painting Mexican tiles and Talavera crosses. The shells were a refreshing break from "work."