Monday, August 31, 2009

Water and Coral Reefs in Needlepoint!

Once upon a very long time ago - when I first started designing hand painted canvas - we had nothing more than Persian wool and cotton floss to work with. I absolutely refused during those years to do any Christmas ornaments, as these things should sparkle and shine.

They were actually kind of ugly, in my opinion, as little fat pillow things that were perfectly flat in texture. No decorative stitches or metallics or anything of that nature.

In about 1980, counted cross-stitch started becoming very popular. I didn't enjoy it, myself, but I did enjoy finding the Balger blending filament (now Kreinik) and decided one day in 1985 to do a needlepoint ornament with it. I chose a chart of a peach, and put it onto canvas. It was then stitched with DMC floss and the blending filament - and voila! I had an ornament that sparkled.

However, about the same time I designed this pillow (the canvas now very old and grungy and never finished) it never occurred to me to also spice it up a bit by using the blending filament, so I intended to just use the cotton floss.

I had been watching recently Anne Stradal's "needle blending" of the skies over her light houses, and started thinking about doing that with water, as the Great Barrier Reef and it's flora and fauna absolutely fascinate me.

Then someone asked me about blending filament, and the light came on. Also, Anne is now doing a piece with water and fish on it - so the subject of seaweed, etc. came up. I spent a lot of time yesterday researching sea fans, and got quite an education on yet another aspect of Marine biology! Those things are gorgeous - so now my next project is to design some things with sea fans on them and to make them sparkle in a very subtle way with the Kreinik blending filament. I'm excited! (hope I can pull it off). I'm thinking how much more interesting this fish canvas would be with the modern wonders we have now.

The design was adapted from a silk pillow I purchased from a woman in south Florida many years ago. She would dive with her camera off the coral reefs down there, taking pictures - and then paint them onto silk. WOW!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beads and Cotton Thread for Painted Canvas

I never thought I would say I'm tired of beads - but tonight I am. When a deadline for finishing a project approaches, it's kind of not fun any more. However, I recover quickly from this malady.

Showing pictures of this canvas has been a "before, during, and after" thing, as I want to demonstrate what a great effect it is to just use clear beads instead of a lot of textured stitches (which would clutter up the design anyway), and just plain fine cotton floss - DMC.

In this shot you can see the flower fairly well filled in, but the leaf and some of the surrounding squares are not finished - just filled with skipped basketweave. So far, it is behaving like I wanted it to, with the beaded pattern area standing out from the very plain background.
In the close-up, where the top arrow points, you can see the great contrast of the white DMC perle cotton against the beaded peony. I used the perle instead of floss here, as I wanted a different texture from the floss of the background, but not as textured as the beads. It's an element of the design itself - and not background, as is the dark dark green. The lower arrow points to a great effect achieved by using the beads on the veining of the flower, but leaving the base and the outline plain with floss only.

Remember as you look at this, that the ONLY beads I used throughout are the clear ones (Sundance #250). I did use green beads on that one line around the border and for the little green spots on the tiny tiles in the background of the canvas.

The next picture shows a great area of the peony beaded "solid" as well as the leaf across the top.

This canvas, in the Art Nouveau style (from Mindy) is beautiful in pattern and color, and would have been fine stitched in just basketweave all over. However, I felt it needed a bit of excitement both in the stitching and for the look - so I used beads. They shine more than they sparkle, so it looks good, and not overwhelming.

The little squares on the background of the canvas also now have beads on them in a regular, geometric placement - very subtle.

The last picture is another close-up showing the effect of the beading of the flower and the leaf across the top of it. I think on this one you can see the difference in the white of the flower and the white of the perle cotton around it. The paint on the peony is just slightly "off white," so I used DMC floss #3865, which is not ivory as the 712, but is different from the white white of the perle cotton. It makes a lovely and noticeable contrast.

Tomorrow I'll get back to the Oriental jewel toned piece of Mindy's, and am looking forward to the change of colors! After watching Anne working on the water around the fishes, I've had underwater images on the brain all day when my mind needs to be elsewhere.

I am a great lover of the undersea flora and fauna, and pictures of sea fans have been running around in my head. I can see them now - with Kreinik blending filament for a bit of sparkle. More on that later, along with an ancient canvas I've had for almost 25 years.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Design Collaboration Beginning! (Sea Critters)

I love this internet and the people I meet and chat with! Anne Stradal and I have spent some fun time plotting and planning on her latest project, which involves some patterns I had in old file folders from several years ago.

She had mentioned wanting to do water in the same way she did the background on her wonderful ghostly trio.This canvas is so funny I laugh when I see it, and can almost hear them singing "We've Got Personality." The background sizzles!

Anyway, about the fish and seahorse. I really like the way she stitch paints everything, and simply sent her the outline drawings I use for these designs - she did her thing with them, re-arranged them and stitch drew them onto canvas.

From here, she'll decide what colors to use that will look wonderful against the planned background. The threads are already chosen for this part, so go watch the whole project develop at she stitches it. It's always a surprise! You'll find Anne at The Cape Stitcher.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Beautiful Threads: Choosing Color Schemes

I ordered these beautiful threads not too long ago from Sharon B. in Australia (Pintangle).

It seems her latest fun/creative endeavor is hand dying hanks of threads - silks, cottons, and wool, and putting them into skeins. She is showing them in packages of coordinating colors, but reminded me that consistent dyelots are virtually impossible, as they are dyed a bit at a time.

She showed on a post on August 13, the total process - and it's a fascinating thing to see. Do go take a look HERE.

I already have my eye on another package, and am told she'll have even more in a few days - so I feel I need to go ahead and order what I want before it's gone. (These may be seen on her Art Fire Store.) Also, when this phase of creativity is over, she will move on to something else - I wish I had a tenth of her energy! I wonder if the woman ever sleeps. Her blog is one I check every morning, as I get so much creative inspiration from it.

Anyway, this is one way I really enjoy putting colors together for projects - and sometimes just invent projects so I can use yummy threads! An entire scheme could be taken from the second from the top perle cotton skein, as it's variations include several beauties!

I like to just dump out the stash of silks and cottons and see what's there that would go along. This package of five skeins is beautifully coordinated as to variations in dark to light shades, and in consistent intensities - makes it easier! Another factor with this package is that several different fibers are represented, which allows for interest in textures.

ADDENDUM: OOPS! I am a computer dummy, and can't get the link I gave for the dyeing process to come up - but the one here is beautiful, as it's showing her band sampler stitches done in these threads, and you can just click on "Search" on the side bar and type in "dyeing threads" - all kinds of places come up to see!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stitching with Beads!!

First, a quick look at progress on the Mindy canvas I'm enhancing with beads. Starting on the Peony, you can see in this shot (click to enlarge) the basketweave stitched in cotton floss on alternate rows on the warp (the "bump" threads). I also apply the beads the same way - inserting them as though stitching basketweave on the weft threads, which are a little "dip" on the canvas. The arrow at the top points to this.

The lower arrow is showing that the dark pink of the veins on the petals is stitched also just on the warp bump - and then the beads inserted where the weft threads are left. This doesn't work out evenly, but still looks great when the other beads are applied around it. It isn't noticeable that beads aren't on every other stitch.

Lately I've received e-mails with questions about the way I do the beading on painted canvas, and am told that many instructors are using a lot of things like beeswax and tapestry needles, etc., and that beading seems slow and tedious, and involves a lot of tools and toys.

My method is totally simple and a lot faster to accomplish than many of the decorative stitches. It's based completely on experience of trial and error over the last 12 years, and mostly just plain common sense. If it were slow, tedious, and difficult, I wouldn't do it. Needlepoint is for relaxation.

So first the needles: I use ONLY the traditional, original long, skinny beading needle. I used to get them at a local craft store, but can't find them any more, so order mine from Bead Buddies (link is on the side bar).

Tapestry needles are short, which makes "snagging" a bead out of the container more difficult than grabbing it with the point of the extremely sharp beading needle. There is also the factor of the tapestry needle having the blunt tip, which makes it difficult to grab a bead. Also, the eye of the tapestry needle is larger than the eye of the beading needle, so some of the beads won't go over it without breaking or forcing it. Not so with the beading needle, which has a tiny little eye.

The Sundance beads that I use exclusively for my work are uniform in size throughout the vial, and I never have to throw one away because it won't fit over the eye of the needle. The "tools and equipment" I use for my bead projects are very elementary and simple, and only involve the needles, the needle threader, a prescription medicine bottle cap, and the beads.

A word about the wire needle threader. This one came with the needles, but I normally use one I get from Colleen's store (link on the side bar to The Needle Works here in Austin). These are available in a little package of two threaders, and they last five times as long as the one pictured. I couldn't find mine, as they are buried in the heap of rubble I call my work table.

Threading the needle is easy with the wire threader, but must be done one ply at a time as illustrated. I learned a very long time ago that the cotton floss is wonderful for applying the beads, as it comes in so many colors, whereas beading thread doesn't.

There is also the factor that I can use the same thread to apply the beads as I used on the background - as this canvas is stitched totally in cotton floss. On other canvases, where I use silk or another fiber, I can still match the color in floss for the application of the beads.

Also, the cotton floss is used 2-ply for this, and with the technique of anchoring the beads by splitting the plies around it, the beads don't wobble and will nestle down nicely into the surface "fabric" of the needlepoint.

I do have a book I did on this subject several years ago - and have now revised a lot and added more projects and color pictures. It's available both as a book and as E-books on my web page. Lots of fun, very easy, and very addictive.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jan's New Rug

If you haven't been over to Thread Medley in a while to watch Jan Fitzpatrick adapt Berber rugs to needlepoint, do go look at her latest one. It's magnificent, and fascinating in the way she goes about the stitching and design adaptation. Every time I think she couldn't get any better, she does!!

Be sure, if you've missed the beginning of this rug, to go back to earlier posts and catch up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to the Beads and Mindy!

Enough of the pirates and back to the beads. Working again on Mindy's Art Nouveau canvas - a change of color, which is refreshing after stitching on the brightly colored one.

I took some "before" pictures before continuing with this one. The first photo just shows what it looks like without the beads, and not much stitching on the floral motif, which is the focal point of this design.

The cotton floss is really pretty on this - soft and with just enough sheen. The next picture is a close-up of the little "tiles" that are inserted among the larger, plain ones. I thought they needed a bit of zing to make them show up well, but not overpower or distract from the rest of the canvas. I used the green beads that are also in the border, but the "red" ones are the clear Sundance #250's that I've used throughout the rest of the canvas. They are applied with the same red floss I used on the flower center. Again, I didn't want distracting sparkle from the beads, but a bit of subtle interest. to liven it up.
The white bumps are smyrna crosses made with DMC perle cotton #5.

The last picture is showing the fun part - definite progress. The interesting thing here is that the very very slight difference in the two greens still shows up well, using the same clear beads.

The stem of the flower is a darker green than the leaf - which is lighter and with more yellow in it. I was almost afraid the difference wouldn't show up well, but it does. If you click to enlarge, you can see the difference in the two greens below the beaded area, where I've only put in the basketweave (skipped).

I do like the effect of using the "ropy" perle cotton in white to emphasize the outlining. The very dark green is the same one as the one line border, and it will have no beads as it is background here.

Incidentally, I've had a lot of questions lately about textured stitches to use for backgrounds. Background is just that - ground that stays in the back, or should, to let the main focal part of the design show up well. I won't use beads on these areas of dark green on this canvas, as I want them them to recede and stay behind the flower.

Using textured stitches on backgrounds is usually not a great idea, unless it's something neutral and small like T-stitch, as it gets really messy looking as it gets next to patterned areas, and also distracts from the design itself. I especially dislike seeing diagonal stitches as a background, as it just draws the eye to all that directional stitching and away from the central motif.

So much for that this evening - now to go work on the first one, which is the beautiful thing with jewel tone colors. Again, it is so refreshing to have these three canvases by the same designer to work on, as they are very similar, but yet so different in color, etc.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Another Pirate (and friends)

I had to ask Anne Stradal (ABS Designs) if she had a pirate in her line, sporting a Jolly Roger of course. She did, but only has a group picture right now, as these guys are off to a trunk show somewhere.

I was thinking about the fearsome "Black Beard," but this nutcracker pirate has a red beard. These are cylindrical ("rollie") ornaments, and the detail on them is rather wonderful. She can get so much into such a tiny space!

Look closely at the little skull and crossbones on the pirate's hat, and also note that he has a "peg leg." I was gratified to see that Anne recognizes piracy as a valid profession.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Jolly Roger: Great Trivia!!

While painting today, my mind was wandering a bit (normal for me these days), and I started to think about the name "Jolly Roger," so had to go do a bit of research on it.
I had noticed that there are different versions of this on the pirate flags, such as the crossed swords on the flag associated with the Pirates of the Caribbean. Also, had remembered seeing a red bandana with polka dots on the Hook Wreck Henry's sign - the one that says "Surrender the Booty." (The Dockside Cafe owned by my Charlie's friend Jason Walker from High School in Tallahassee).

It seems that in the 15th century or thereabout, great sailing and trading vessels were on the high seas, and as a matter of national pride and pride in the ships, they began displaying flags with certain patterns and colors, some of which then became the national flags of the nations of their origins.
Of course pirate ships started plundering these ships, and developed their own flags - mainly as a way to terrorize and intimidate the ships into submission without much of a fight. The first ones were red , signifying blood, and then came the black ones, indicating death to all who don't surrender.
The term "Jolly Roger" is thought to be derived from the French "jolie rouge" (pretty red) or from the word "rogue," which describes a vagabond beggar or thief. Another thought is that it is a derivation of the English colloquialism "Old Roger" which was an English slang term for the Devil.
Different pirate related emblems are thought to have been used by different famous pirates for identification of their ships, as "Calico Jack," a fearsome guy who roamed the Caribbean, used the crossed swords under the skull instead of the bones. This one was used in the movies "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Anyway, the histories I found were quite interesting and rather amusing - so try it yourself if you like! As for me - the images and stories I found have almost motivated me to design some more skull type things to thrill ghoulish little grandsons. I also have a grown-up type son, who is a successful and dignified (most of the time) attorney, who still loves pirates and Halloween. He might like a pillow of this sort on his throne in his den at home. (in front of the TV)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Halloween Stuff in Needlepoint

If you haven't looked at Freebies, Etc. lately, go over and see my latest madness - napkin rings for a spooky table setting. My grandsons approve.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Adapting Art and Taking Liberties: A Celtic Cross

About twelve years ago, I became very involved with Celtic knotwork and crosses and other symbolism (Leeks) while doing work for St. David's Episcopal Church here in Austin. Fascinating study, it is!!

Plotting out the knotwork of the encircled crosses of Wales on needlepoint canvas appealed to my mathematical mind, and also my love of ancient history, as these things go way back to the 6th century (St. David's time) and before. Some even show definite signs of Viking influence as the cultures overlapped.

This one is the standing cross at the parish church of St. Brynach (a contemporary of St. David's) at Nevern in Wales, and includes the top part of the base. For some reason, I had to paint it green, and add some garnets for color. (taking liberties in my adaptation)

I've done this one also, just the round top part, as a tree ornament in the same colors. Also, have stitched it years ago for a newphew-in-law who is of Welsh descent, but made it in more "stonelike" colors.

Here is a photograph of the stone carving, so you can see both sides of it - the one on the right is the view I used for my needlepoint.

For a fascinating history and series of gorgeous pictures of both the cross and the church, go to this site and browse. It's always good to know the background of a piece of art rendered in needlepoint - makes it more enjoyable!!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Beads on the Painted Canvas: Continuing with Mindy

I haven't had time to work on this as much as I'd like to, but did get a few more beads added and some background.

I had a bit of trouble finding a pink to use on the background around the flowers on the left, and tried everything I could find in my stash, plus buying more at the LNS to see if I could get something that would look right and also coordinate with the light pink on the flower tips. Couldn't find it.

Then it occurred to me, after I kept bringing home exactly the same pink I already had, that when I used the beads on the flower, it would change the look of the floss enough to work fine. You can see where the arrow points that there is a definitely different look!
Also had the same problem with the green. The one I had originally bought looked too bright in intensity compared to the other colors, and again, I went out two or three times, and brought home the same color # - even after consulting the color card. (that will teach me next time to take in a plastic bag what I already have so I can compare. ) Anyway, I went ahead and used the green, and as basketweave makes a color look lower intensity due to the light break-up on the surface, it's perfect.
I also decided to try, in a different area to compare, using plain cotton floss for the white repeating pattern to see if I liked it better than the Kreinik 032, but I didn't. It was entirely too flat looking. The little bit of sparkle in this braid seems to be subdued when the stitching around it is finished. It's great, and the sparkle seems necessary for continuity of the overall look when also using the beads.
Again, it's really amazing how these clear beads look the color of the background on which they are placed, just by applying them with the same color floss. At this point, as gorgeous as the colors are, I'm needing a rest from them, and will go back to the first one I started, which is Art Nouveau in style, and in soft, earth tones for a change. Having the three to "rotate" (as Pat of Needleartnut says) really helps me not get tired of the project as a whole - and keeps me busy.