Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stitching the Seahorse

I'm not exactly a "turbo-stitcher" like Gail is, but I'll get there eventually. This seahorse is, as usual with her canvases, delightful to work.

Threads used are entirely silk, as that's what was in my stash in the right colors (I love silk anyway). However, cotton floss would also be effective, as the colors are gorgeous and the pattern is busy enough not to need a lot of "fancies." I used for the white lines, the Renaissance Shimmer, as it needed a bit of sparkle - but not a lot.

The silver metallic is Kreinik #12 braid in the Vintage, as I wanted gleam and not sparkle in this instance.
In the detail you can see where I made smyrna cross "bump" stitches for small accents. This is an effect I enjoy doing when no more embellishment is called for - or "overkill" in texture. It's simply a matter of making the bump wherever there is a configuration of four stitches square - the lines point to them. Hopefully I'll have this beauty finished sometime tomorrow, and can start on the small, multi-color fish that I really look forward to - an incentive to finish the seahorse!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Fish is Finished!

What a joy it is to stitch on a very small piece with such delightful colors and personality! Also a joy to be able to complete something worthwhile in a short period of time - a feeling of accomplishment without stress.

Gail had sent me, along with the fish, a photocopy in color to show where to re-place the beads after removing them for the stitching, but I decided not to remove them at all, as it's simple to just stitch around them.

Hopefully, in this detail picture, you can see the difference in the surface textures of the threads I chose to use. Silk would have been too smooth, so I chose to use perle cotton instead for the body of the fish. The floss, which is normally my preference, would have also been too smooth. (However, for a bit of contrast, I did use floss for the dark pink patch and the spots in the same color.) The perle cotton has a ropy twist, so makes the surface of the body appear a little bit rougher - kind of "pebbly."

The green spots and also the yellow are YLI Ribbon Floss. This was used because the color is great, and the shine is a nice contrast against the more matte look of the cotton. Gail painted the gold parts in metallic gold, but the Kreinik I usually use seemed a bit heavy - so I opted for the YLI ribbon floss in Honey/Copper - which has a bit of sparkle. In person it is beautiful!! I didn't want a lot of glitter/sparkle, etc., as I didn;t want any distraction from the gleam of those gorgeous "pearls."

It is always a good idea to stitch about three rows of basketweave around the ornament, as a few stitches would be lost in the seam allowance. A really competent finisher usually needs no more than this.

I have shown with arrows that I drew lines 3 threads out from the horizontal and vertical stitches - even when there were only two or three stitches. Then, just "connect the dots" on the diagonal, and you will have a smooth, even and consistent seam allowance outline.

The color was chosen to contrast with the body of the fish, and also to give the idea of the beautiful blue/green water in which this little fish lives and swims. It will provide a tiny outline around the shape when the finishing is done.

Next on my agenda is this gorgeous little multi-colored companion, and I can hardly wait to get started. It will take some serious "pondering" (and a whole box of stash threads dumped out) to select the right threads and colors, as one mustn't just pick threads to match each little segment - they must coordinate and look right as a whole.
Then comes the Sea Horse, which is one of my favorite critters of all - I have studied marine biology, and this animal is a fascinating one! Gail did a splended job of making him beautiful.

These canvases of hers are giving me a great relief from stitching on my own designs - as that gets really tiresome. (especially when deadlines are pushing.) It's good to have friends who are great designers, and who also know how to put a design on canvas properly!! These are easy and delightful to work.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Beautiful Blowfish

When Gail Hendrix (Squiggee Designs) showed me this beautiful little canvas, I had instant recall of my father, when I was a small child of not quite four years old, introducing me to the wonders of the things that lived in the sea. He had just joined the Navy, and was training to go away with the Pacific Invasion Fleet (WWII), so we were at Ft. Pierce, Fla. - just a small village so long ago.

I remember clearly the day he picked up a little blowfish out of the water to show me how it puffed up its tiny self to frighten off an enemy, or to be too big to swallow.

Anyway, besides that, this little ornament has such personality and lovely color, I begged to stitch it as a model for her. My first thought was to pull out shiny/sparkling fibers, but that was too much, and I opted for simple #5 perle cotton with a bit of YLI Ribbon floss for the yellow and the spots under the pearls. Basketweave is all this piece would allow, as she needs no more adornment than those gorgeous pearls attached to her. Besides the beauty of the pearls, I had just finished research on the symbolism and history of pearls when I started stitching this ornament, so am even more enchanted with the decoration. Pearls were the first recognized gem many centuries ago, and have represented the moon, as well as purity and perfection - and also other desirable feminine traits. Besides - they are sooooo pretty!!! This little fish is so small, I'll have it finished in no time, and will add 3 rows of stitching around it for finishing - most likely in a "Caribbean blue" color, as that will also serve as an outline around the fish.

Next on my agenda is to get the instructions and charts finished for my "Blue Sugar Egg" that I have just finished. (this is the part I don't like doing - it resembles "work.") Then it will be available at my web store as an e-pattern to download and print.
Anne Stradal of The Cape Stitcher has finished the wonderful ornament with my beloved St. Marks lighthouse on it - she had "challenged" me to a stitch off, but I knew she would do a better and more imaginative job of it, so I just watched her - and fantasized about being there once again. The weather is cold enough right now that the 'gators are hibernating and will stay put so one can safely get out of the car and walk. Do go visit her blog and see it (as well as a charming little guardian angel ornament she is doing as a special gift for a friend who needs it.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Four Faces of Bargello

Pattern, Color, Texture, and Focus: It occurred to me as I was working out these 4-way novelty pieces, that there are things we didn't have long ago when bargello was popular that really add a new dimension to the needlework.
Color we had in the beautiful Persian wools we used, but we had to rely on that and pattern alone for the surface interest - no variation in texture at all.

Variations in pattern only, and changes of color, held our attention, until Dorothy Kaestner's four-way Bargello began introducing conventionalized floral motifs, providing a focus.

Now, with the fun novelty threads available, the new dimension of surface texture may be considered. The yellow egg looks rather like swirled lemon icing, as I used several different shades of yellow in different fibers - from matte of the cotton floss to the very shiny YLI Ribbon Floss. In just turning it a bit, the light strkes these different surfaces in a most interesting way. The basketweave around the flower is the same thread (YLI Ribbon Floss) as the bargello at the top of the egg, but the light is broken up by basketweave, so that the long bargello stitches are light and shiny, and the center of the egg is darker with more texture. The beads on both eggs are like a bit of sugar sprinkles.
I get a bit obsessive playing with a new idea - and decided to make a round ornament the same diameter as the widest part of the egg, intending to use yet different colors later for new things. (and maybe different motifs in the centers)

Incidentally, the pink and green "spun sugar" egg is now available as an e-pattern on my web page.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quilt Patterns and Tiles: Coasters

Oh how wonderful - look at what Jan Fitzpatrick (Thread Medley) has done now with her beautiful coaster patterns - the very ones you have seen on her blog. She has the patterns for sale for us now on her web page - go see her HERE.
I have looked at her stitch guides, and they are simple and easy to understand and to work from - a high compliment from someone who refuses to work from charts until now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Geishas: Dressed and Coiffed!

Anne Stradal has finished stitching the "Nippon Textures" canvas by Gail Hendrix - and has done a beatiful job of it. Go visit her blog HERE, and read the fascinating research she has done on Geisha hair-dos.

Anne has challenged me to a "stitch-off" on her St. Marks lighthouse she painted for me (My old "stomping grounds in north Florida). I'm afraid she will make me look second rate now, but I will try it - and look forward to watching her.

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Eye-Candy Art from Kimberly

It's rare that I find needlepoint designs by other people that I really want badly to stitch - just a few - and I never take classes. However, this lady has really made me want to take a class or two with her, as her work is different - gorgeous! Whimsical yet sophisticated, and different from anything I've done. She doesn't design needlepoint commercially at this time in her life, due to an active family still at home - but is doing some absolutely wonderful cards and jewelry shown on two sites. (links to these are on her brand new blog)

Kimberly Smith is here in Austin, and works at the LNS helping people with their projects and threads, designing, and teaching classes on her wonderful pieces. After receiving her Christmas card, I told her I sat and looked at it and planned what stitches I would use on it if she painted it onto needlepoint canvas - but I didn't succeed there. Oh well.

Anyway - do go look at her blog, which is a brand new endeavor. I intend to look at it along with others I enjoy every morning to start the day with my coffee - and to keep hoping she will put some of these on canvas in the near future. You can find her HERE.
I highly recommend a browse through her studio, ART FIRE, which you can see on the side bar of her blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Showing off my Sam

Sometimes a mother just has to show off a bit - My multi-talented youngest son, Sam, is now making hunting bows and arrows, and has taken it to the level of an art form. We go on expeditions together to the "fancy wood" stores, and it is absolutely amazing what he can do with it. These pictures are of a bow he brought over to show me yesterday, that is a work of art - with five different kinds of wood in it - BEAUTIFUL thing it is. He has made videos you can see by clicking HERE. - these also show "how to make an arrow" as well as pictures of a beautiful bow he made for his little daughter, Grace.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gail's Irises

Gail Hendrix has met the challenge some of us threw at her, and is now blog stitching one of her new designs - a beautifully drawn and painted canvas with three irises swirling and dancing inside a circle.

She has also included a mini-tutorial for basketweave, and has explained why she uses (and prefers) simple fibers. Do go visit her at Squiggee Designs. A short while ago, she insisted she couldn't stitch, and that painting was her only thing. She is a fast study, I think, or didn't want to admit how much she knows.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Bargello as Art

I enjoyed bargello in the 70's, as it was popular then - but never really got "hooked" on it, as I was a painted canvas designer, and my stitching preferences were there also, with representational components rather than abstract. I did study and admire the old classic books by Elsa Williams and Dorothy Kaestner (4-way), and was fascinated with the patterns and color changes involved. Several years ago, I dug out those old books, but only to do a few small ornaments - most of which I have presented on "Freebies, etc."

It was when I received my advance copy of Needlepoint Now and saw Liz Morrow's gorgeous work on the cover that I went in search of her blog, (Jan Fitzpatrick of Thread Medley helped me with this) and found the most astonishingly beautiful bargello one can imagine! She literally uses this medium as an art form, and "paints" with her needle and thread what look like landscapes, as well as the traditional abstract patterns - and even these are different from the "norm."
These works could be classified, I think, as "Art Bargello."!! The stitch is in its true form, but with pattern and color arranged to evoke the feeling of the landscape where she lives and vacations.

Anyway, to see these things for yourself, go visit Lizart and see them in a lovely slide show she has presented, along with instructions how to enlarge each for closer study and enjoyment. There are other posts there also of her stitching, which is really quite beautiful and well done - I'm spending a lot of time there myself!! It's always a treat to find something really gorgeous that I've not seen before.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Update: The First Bargello Egg

I have now posted the pattern chart on the other blog - Freebies, etc. - for this egg.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Tutorial for Cotton Thread (the Bargello Egg)

During the 1970's, we worked Bargello usually on 14 mesh canvas with a full three-ply strand of Persian wool, and enjoyed making large items fast - like chair seats and bench covers. It was enjoyable too, in that it was "painting" on bare white canvas, and was very simple to do once the initial pattern was set up.

Now, with 18 mesh canvas availalbe, and lots of pretty novelty threads, it's quite entertaining to make smaller pieces that get no "wear" - like ornaments. I have, for several years, off and on played with these things, mostly interested in combining different surface textures for effect in the threads. I was looking at this egg this morning, and realized I had used nothing more than cotton threads - three different kinds - and a few synthetics.

I chose to use the cotton mainly because I like the effects, such as the ropy twist of the #3 Perle cotton used in upright stitches, with the floss making nice, smooth, flat stitches where I wanted color, but no texture.
The background for the flower is worked in basketweave with #5 perle cotton. I didn't want to use silk here, as silk, being an animal fiber, would have been slightly ivory, and would have appeared dirty against all that white Ribbon Floss. Cotton is white as it grows, and the animal fibers never bleach to total white. Also, I like, again, the texure of the slight "ropy" twist of the perle cotton on this piece - although I rarely use it for basketweave, preferring the look of floss.. You can see the effects in the close-up, as well as the pretty white Kreinik #032 ribbon.

Using the stranded floss is quite easy, although I have seen people struggle with it a bit, as the little plies want to come loose in the stitching. I solved this one many years ago, in annoyance, by simply making a slip knot up against the eye of the needle - and it doesn't go anywhere. I use a lot of cotton floss, as it lookes almost like silk and is much less expensive.

Anyway, to use floss this way, simply remove the little tags and open out the entire skein (be sure to remove all cats from the room first). Then put the two ends together, and fold the skein two more times. You will have a "string" about 38" long. Cut the loops at each end. If you are going to do basketweave on 18 mesh canvas, simply remove 2 plies, double this, (to make 4) and put the loop through the eye of your tapestry needle.

This might seem a bit long, but the cotton is sturdy, and doesn't fray and wear like wool or silk does. If you are doing basketweave on 13 mesh - or Bargello upright stitches on 18 mesh, you would remove 3 plies, double them, and thread the needle. (then you can put the remaining 3 plies together for the next "needle full") Pull the slip knot tightly up against the eye, and it will give you no difficulty going through the canvas. You will find that every little ply stays absolutely even and flat as you stitch - delightful!!
I'm using more and more cotton floss as I have made a point of trying to use what's in my stash, and have used up much of the silk. For the sake of economy, I am loving reverting to simple DMC or Anchor stranded cotton for these little ornaments. For larger, traditional and elegant pieces - I would, of course, return to using silk for both beauty, and for durability with wear.

More Geishas on Canvas!

Wonderful way to start the year for my morning coffee wake-up browse. Anne Stradal has just sent me a note that she is starting to stitch the Nippon Textures canvas from Gail Hendrix. (see this in my earlielr post from a few days ago) She explains a bit of the how and why she will do it on her blog this morning, along with a bit of history behind the style of the art that is adapted here - so do go take a look. (The Cape Stitcher)

Anne does make the comment that she very rarely stitches on other people's canvases,, as she is a designer, and busy with her own models. I have felt the same way for many years, but find myself working on hers and Gail's myself, as they are delightful and so beautifully painted. - and Anne is also currently stitching my "Nellies Imari." There is a lot to be said for a well painted canvas!! It will be interesting, as always, watching what threads and stitches she chooses - and why - as Anne is conservative in her canvas enhancement, depending on the artists's own work for the beauty of the piece. Gail has told me she is also looking forward to this experience!!