Saturday, May 30, 2009

Color Inspiration and Silk Ribbon Embroidery

The first blog I ever saw a few years ago was that of an art quilter - I was looking for crazy quilts, and found what has occupied my mind since. I actually spend more time looking at these than I do on needlepoint blogs - as the inspiration and images are so wonderful.

Color schemes are particularly good on some of them, as Allison Aller's quilts - I have an entire file folder full of blocks from her quilts - with her permission, and I suspect, high amusement. She also graciously supplied me with a block to use in my very first article for Needlepoint Now, which was on adaptation and inspiration for needlepoint.

In analyzing this first picture as a color theorist, I know why the little touches of yellow and orange work so well - but it doesn't matter knowing the WHY - what matters is that it works. Allie's color sense is superb. This is the kind of thing I take to the LNS to choose silks or whatever I feel like working with (or can afford).

In the next one, the touches of blue against the orange, and the wisp of green on the right are perfect for accents. Incidentally, the butterflies are from another art quilter from Houston - Debra Spincic - who is going to have an Etsy store to sell these beauties. She makes them on her embroidery machine, and they are exquisite - the link to her is on Allison's blog, Allie's in Stitches.

The other Art Crazy Quilt/Embroidery blog I look at every morning without fail, is PINTANGLE - Sharon B.s beautiful and informative blog. So much great instruction and inspiration even for a needlepointer! She is going to start a Cyber class for Silk Ribbon Embroidery on June 18, which I wish I could find time to do (might do it anyway).

My very first experience with that was about 12 years ago when I was wanting to replace a book on Crazy Quilting - and the quilt shop sold me Judith Baker Montano's book, "Crazy Quilt Odyssey," which was full of SR - stitches and instructions. I was hooked, although I'd never seen it before, and immediately began to apply it to needlepoint. (I now own five of her books)

Sharon's work is without equal - so do go take a look if you're interested in learning, and learning it right. I call SRE my "instant gratification."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Moroccan Rugs

For an evening's entertainment, go over to Jan Fitzpatrick's blog, where she has a link to a fabulous site with a slide show of the women of a co-op in the Atlas, where the rugs are woven - the ones she adapts to needlepoint. They are breathtaking!!
Background information is also fascinating, and really causes one to appreciate even more the art of both the women who create these beautiful things, and Jan's work that she does from the images.

Choosing Colors for Needlepoint Projects

My daughter's latest catalog from J. Crew just arrived - and it's full of not only beatiful things to wear, but COLOR Schemes! I have a large file folder full of just such things I've collected over the years, as they are a great source for putting together a scheme.

Most of these publications, along with great magazines, (My favorites are Veranda and House Beautiful) have art directors, who are very good at putting pages together to be the most eye catching and effective - so of course using these to inspire us in our needlepoint color selections is great.

The first picture is simply a dress fabric against a lovely, soft green background - very pretty!

Next is a stack of blouses in bright pastels and neutrals. Notice that the colors are all at about the same intensity, (brightness or dullness) which makes them work well together.

To illustrate taking a color scheme from such a display, I cut off a part of this, into just a swatch of soft, bright pastels. Usually, when I feel my stash needs "refurbishing," I will take something like this to the LNS - or just get out my DMC color swatch card - and match them up for future reference.

Next is a stack of jerseys at a rather lower intensity, and lighter in value.

The next one is a stack of colors - the same bright pastels of early summer - but brighter than the first ones!
The last picture is my choice of the colors - may be for a wild, new bargello thing.

Anyway, this is a really fine and simple way to put together color schemes without wearing yourself out worrying about the color wheel. I taught color theory for many years - and it's great for mixing paint, and for understanding why colors will or won't work together - but for pulling threads for a new project, this is my favorite method - let somebody else do it.

Don't overlook catalogs that have fine bath towels and colorful sheets, etc. - great sources!! Even ads for drapery and upholstery fabrics.

I think one of my favorite color schemes that I used for several years, was an ad for sheets and towels in "Caribbean Colors." I had those tacked up on my painting lamp, and created sea shells, even other critters in these colors, as well as bargello projects for spring and on patchwork.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Church Pew Markers: the rest of the story

I finally sat down today and drew the missing pew marker onto canvas - the one that replaces one that was left on an airplane. It occurred to me that some of you might like to see the process, as it's a lovely idea for a church, and one could do it easily with a bit of "know-how." I've shown this piece before, but not the process of the canvas preparation.

It finally occurred to me why I've dragged my feet so about re-doing it. Monday was the anniversary of the loss of my little granddaughter, Madeline, and I couldn't look at it without the overwhelming sadness.

Several years ago, when I began painting them, I wanted her to be proud some day of the work her Granny did for her church (Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin) - so explained the white ones and the red ones: White for weddings, confirmations, etc., and red ones for Memorial Services. I told her that one day the white ones would be used at her wedding. She looked me square in the eye (at age 9 or 10) and said, "Granny, I'm not going to get married. I'm going to be an archaeologist and go dig at Jackson Hole." LOL. I would have been right beside her.

Anyway, I had to make a tracing of this finished one, as I had discarded the pattern - it wasn't easy, as trying to get the curves right from an already stitched piece was difficult - and also the counted elements. What you are seeing is the new canvas being drawn by placing the tracing under it.

That gorgeous gold tassel is something our wonderful finisher-without-equal Vikki Pinson here in Austin added - and she also put probably BB's in each end to weight them so that they would hang properly over the end of the pews.

The shepherd's crook hangs to the outside, and the cross is on the inside. The cross was stitched in simple basketweave in Kreinik metallic gold - so it wouldn't snag on anything, or be damaged by little children playing with it during services.
The third picture has arrows pointing to a framework of two stitches wide - worked just in a satin stitch - for emphasis and to separate the mosaic stitch background from the basketweave around the crook. It's difficult to see in the picture because of the color, but it's a stepping stone frame.

You can see a fragment of the cross here - it's upside down so that it will hang properly on the inside of the pew. I had suggested this sort of project to St. David's, as I love doing Celtic knotwork and leeks - but I forgot that their pews are rounded at the top, not flat as at Good Shepherd.

I'm showing the backside of this one to illustrate that each one is a "memorial" gift to the church from someone. The canvas is put together with the threads, and is purchased by whomever wants to stitch it and leave it as a memorial. (Vikki embroiders the message on the backs with her machine.) By doing it this way, it defrays the cost of the project from the church.

Anyway, I thought this might inspire some of you who have expressed an interest in doing needlepoint for your churches.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ethnic Weaves and Embroideries (for needlepoint!)

While I've been entertaining my self putting beads on little cacti, Anne Stradal and Jan Fitzpatrick have busied themselves once again by adapting woven and embroidered classics from far off exotic places high in the mountains.

I'm showing the original pieces they each worked from, but you'll have to go see on their individual sites the elegant and timeless needlepoint they've created with these as inspiration.

They also share with us how they go about the "adaptation" thing. You'll find Anne's work, as the embroidered swatch at the top, at The Cape Stitcher - and Jan's is located at Thread Medley. On Jan's, don't miss her other feature that explains the method of Adaptation more fully.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cactus and Beads!!

I have two of these very small pieces - the other is a delightful prickly pear, which I'll get to tomorrow. From Sundance Designs, they are only 2 1/2" square, and absolutely charming for one who likes cactus.

They would not be suitable for decorative stitches, but do need something for a little zing, so what would be better than beads?? (in moderation on these) Also, I'll use the DMC Satin Floss for the flowers, as that will be great texture against the Petite Very Velvet I'll use on the cactus itself.
I decided that the background would be too busy with beads, so am using instead, my own version of "dotted swiss." This is simply basketweave, but where I marked the dots, I'll make an X so that a little bump will show - a very subtle way of adding texture without overwhelming the little canvas.

In the third picture, the work is progressing, with the background ready to go around the left side. I always just skip where the purple band is, and keep going to have a good continuity and no gaps in the surface.

On the left side where the arrow is, you can see the last stitch to be made in that row - a warp stitch (little bump.) The lower arrow points to the weft row that will then be started and go all the way back up the left side. This way, there will be no gaps or ridges in the basketweave where it meets itself - second nature once you understand it.

The color of the light green Very Velvet is absolutely perfect, I think - as it looks exactly like a cactus in the rock garden across the street. I chose the VV, as that is actually the surface texture of these cacti. Not exacty velvet, but matte - no shine like cotton or silk would produce.

I'll put beads on the dark green stripes, so left the weft stitches bare when I worked them. The purple fret is also done this way for insertion of clear beads, so as not to be too distracting. More on this tomorrow.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Amoeba with Background (Needlepoint Basketweave)

This pink shape certainly looks like one of the pond scum critters I used to study under the microscope in college, except for the color. My prof always said I had the prettiest journal in the class, as we had to draw what we saw for record keeping. (I did stick to the pen and ink, with no color.)

Anyway, the shape was devised to illustrate the places people seem to have trouble with.

It might seem strange to go to so much trouble for just the seam allowance/background of an ornament, but forming good habits makes it easier to stitch effectively and produce smooth, nice surfaces in your projects. It actually becomes second nature, once you've learned properly. Also, I see people going to great trouble to make sure of a nice surface on their work - like separating the plies of silk and putting them back together, and using laying tools and frames - so it only makes sense to form the habit of stitching proper basketweave also, as this is a contributing factor.

The lower arrow shows the last stitch on that row before having to start at the upper curve, as it's actually on a warp row - only 3 stitches, but this continuity is important.

Then the stitching is continued until you hit the dark outline. The arrow points to this place, and you can see by enlarging the picture that it is a weft row.

The next picture simply shows the stitches continuing in order around the shape. NEVER turn the canvas upside down and begin stitching the little "V" shape - it will leave an ugly place in the work either as a groove or a ridge where it meets the stitches already done. This is a very bad habit, even for a small piece.
The V is filled in here - and the upper arrow on the left shows where the last stitch in the background is made on this row, as it meets the outline. The lower arrow demonstrates that there is a short row just above this that has to be dealt with before going back up on the log weft row. In the interest of time, I won't show this completed - it is only an exercise for demonstration. Just continue around the shape, and again where the arrows are, consider where to stop and start for continuity of stitching. The right side continues all the way around the curves, and the arrow on the bottom shows the first stitch that will join the two sides - a weft row.

I found this picture in a file of a piece I stitched that Tish Watkins painted - used it as a beginner exercise in an article in NN last year. It clearly shows the rose sections outlined before the decorative stitches were made, and the edges are very neat and defined. Also no confusion or ragged edges against the background, which is rather busy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Shaped Basketweave Background!

And now the second installment of stitching basketweave background around irregularly shaped ornaments! (or purse appliques or even fun shaped pillows). At the top, you can see where the weft is the next row of stitching, as the warp extended down across the outline. Stitching will begin again there and continue around on the left.

Meanwhile, the arrow on the right indicates where the next row is begun. The space between the two areas of stitching will be filled in - as you can see by enlarging the picture the direction of the warp threads from lower right to upper left.

This is actually very very little trouble, and becomes second nature when you know proper basketweave - and although this is just a little ornament, and the seam allowance isn't going to show that much, it gives one satisfaction to know the surface is smooth and pretty and well done.
The second picture shows the stitching going all the way around the outline, almost to the bottom, where attention must be paid to where the stitches meet. NEVER turn the piece upside down at this point and stitch until the areas meet - there will be an ugly groove or ridge, and it isn't necessary.. Next, I have stopped on the left where the arrow points - the stitch is the last one I can make on that side.

The stitching will be continued on the right side down to where you see the arrow - study it closely, and you will see that the warp row here extends all the way up to the left side outline, and will be a smooth joining of the rows of stitches.

The last little bit of background left to do is shown in the next picture, with the arrow indicating where to start the row.

Now it's finished - and I've begun to wonder what it is - maybe a ghost? An octopus? I could draw most anything inside and make something of it, except that I have painting to do and this is classified as "creative avoidance." Next time, the pink one - it's more complex!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Basketweave Background for Shaped Ornaments

I can't possibly stitch an ornament to demonstrate this, as time is a factor - so am just showing it with a shaped outline, as the process can be easily demonstrated this way.

I'm using two outline forms that I used to use for teaching beginners - back when we taught basketweave as the basic for fine stitching. People had to learn to stitch outlines within a design, and also odd shapes, as they needed to learn the concept of the outline stitch and having all the "tent stitches" going the same way on the canvas.

Another way I use outlines also is to enclose an irregular shape within a design on a painted canvas when it is to be stitched with textured stitches and adjacent to another area, to eliminate ragged and unattractive edges. It makes the stitching sooo much easier! Also - on any ornament, as on my circles with bargello. Leaves no doubt as to where to begin and end "fancy" stitches.
The second pictures is horribly blurry, but I had already started stitching the background before I unloaded it from the camera - but you can see where I marked three threads out wherever I could when the stitches were on the straight vertical or horizontal. After that, it's a matter of "connecting the dots" to draw the outline for the background.

As I've said, a really competent finisher doesn't need more than about two extra rows. Many designers don't add this, and I've seen stitchers and shop owners perplexed when part of the design was lost in the finishing - so I've made a point for many years of drawing the outline around the piece myself. I like the three rows, as with the light padding in the finishing, it leaves a slight bit of color around the design - kind of like a mat liner when framing a picture.

The next picture illustrates how to find where to start this basketweave background.

If you've learned properly, you will already know that one stitches UP on the weft (horizontals) and DOWN on the warp (the little bumps). This is vital to a really nice stitched surface - and also is a great way to understand where to start and stop.

The piece of paper is at a 45 degree angle, so that one can see whether the first row of stitches is warp or weft. In this case, you can clearly see (click to enlarge the picture) that the row just under the paper is WARP, so the first stitches on the curve will be on the weft where the arrow is pointing.

On the next picture, the stitching is begun, and the arrow at the top shows the weft threads where I'll start again after going down the right side. The lower arrow points to where the next thread will begin the stitches, as it's not a straight line from that curve up to where I stopped the stitching. This way, stitching up the weft will happen with no breaks - and again, the surface will be smooth.

This second shape is a bit more complicated - and will illustrate some common mistakes people make in stitching odd areas, like the "V" at the top. This one is at the "dot" stage, and then the dots will be connected for the background outline. The arrows point to mistakes I made, which I will dot out with white acrylic - or just make the adjustment with my needle and thread when I get there.

This is a choice we make when stitching - and is part of the art. We need to be able to judge whether a stitch is right to make the curve look pretty, or should not be done.

This is also a plus for the well painted canvas, that there seem to be too few of these days. The choices of where to place a stitch shouldn't be difficult. On the last picture, the arrows point to where the next threads will be started.

More about stitching in the next post - this is enough of my "pontificating" for one day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Anne's New Masterpiece is Framed!

Anne Stradal is showing that wonderful black and white piece she did on her first stitching blog post - it has a really great story behind it, so if you missed it, scroll back to the beginning and watch the progress. I learned a lot by watching from beginning to end..
It's back from the framer now, and a piece to be proud of. See it at The Cape Stitcher.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Art of the Background for Shaped Ornaments

I'll have to do this in two or three installments, as it could get rather lengthy - I intend to show step by step later how to effectively and easily stitch a basketweave background around a shaped ornament. I am seeing people really apparently struggling with it, and making it more difficult than it is.

A really competent finisher can do amazing things with the shaped ornament - I was mentored in this by Vikki Pinson here in Austin, who is fantastic at the art of fine finishing. I had no idea that one could actually have an intricately shaped piece finished without a wide band of background. She finished this cross for me in 1997, and was the first thing I did that was shaped and not on a rectangle.Notice that the background is very narrow - and is a dark purple, which contrasts beautifully with the colors on the cross.

There are two reasons for stitching background on shaped ornaments - one is to provide a seam allowance for the finisher, in which case a bit of it is going to show around the edges. I like to capitalize on this effect and make it a really nice color for edging. Ordinarily, two or three rows of stitching is enough.

I prefer my ornaments very lightly padded with a stiff back - rather than little stuffed pillow looking things, which are awkward and usually puckered around the edges. These look clumsy hanging on a tree or anywhere. For this reason, I add enough background color to show so that nothing is lost from the ornament itself. It's like a framework of color to further enhance the ornament itself.

This is a picture of Gail Hendrix's blowfish when I was adding the background - just illustrating the enhancing green, and the fact that the outline is added in three rows all the way around. (since it's stitch painted.)

The "jeweled" fish is my own design - an old one from my antique jewelry adaptation phase. Notice the dark green outline - it follows the shape of the fish closely, and showed up well on the finished piece as a colorful and enhancing outline on the edge. By doing this "background," no stitches from the fish itself were lost, and the shape was maintained.

The original piece of jewelry was red and green - so I changed it to blue, as I didn't want it to look like "Christmas."

The other reason for stitching background around an ornament is to give it a bit of added dimension - as sky or water or just a color to enhance the design itself.

The palm tree and parrot could have been stitched with less background and more nearly the shape of the design, but I wanted the color and definition a bit larger.

Again, here is the jewelry from which I adapted the parrot.

The starfish could have been left with only the darker green background, but I wanted the "sea water" also around it for more color. I'll add another chapter to this in a day or two, and deal with the actual stitching how-to of proper basketweave around a shape. It's actually quite simple if you've been taught correctly.

Meanwhile, also check out the other blog (Freebies, etc.), as I have some small crosses there I found that were drawn years ago for individual personal prayer cushions. People have been asking for patterns and ideas for these lately.
ADDENDUM: While looking through my bead files a little while ago, I found this small starfish ornament I made for Vikki several years ago. I can see where I painted out the outline I had originally made for the background, as she said she only needed a few rows for finishing.

You can see how intricate the outline is, and how effective it is to leave the ornament in it's actual shape. It finished quite well as a starfish with hardly any background showing. (This one was done with my technique which makes it look beaded solid.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Patchwork Progress: A Variety of Threads

The patchwork background stitching is finished, and only lacks the surface enhancement and definition of the Memory Thread (DMC). I won't have time to take a picture when this is done, as it has to be shipped yesterday!!

The surface texture effects are amazing - even among just the cotton threads, which include Pearl cotton, floss, and the Variations Peal cotton. Then the shine of the rayon (Satin Floss) really shows up beautifully.

I was careful, in this case, to place the stitches so there were no "ragged" edges so that the Memory Thread could be added smoothly. This shows up well on the pink triangles of Satin mosaic stitch where it ends against the orange "V."

In this photo, the M. thread isn't tacked down, but I wanted to show the wonderful definition it will give when outlining the V's. The burnt orange color really shows up well, whereas I think it would have been lost if I had used the original idea to do the same color in cotton floss for the backgrounds.

For those of you who aren't aware, DMC has a wonderful web page for browsing and shopping in case you can't find what you need at your LNS.