Sunday, January 31, 2010

Liz's New Web Page: Bargello and Counted!!

Congratulating Liz Morrow on her new web page - this one is going to be very tempting! I wanted to show her off and share the great things she has and will have to offer needlepointers who want good things - tasteful and beautifully designed pieces, and easy-to-understand instructions to go with them - go take a look at LIZART Original Designs!

I chose to show three of her counted designs that I hadn't seen before - I'm not a "counted" person, but do like these!!

Of course her Bargello is unequaled - and there will lots of that for us to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beads and Plaid! AHA! (and coral reefs)

The big "AHA!" is because I found the piece I started long ago for an evening bag - a pretty jazzy one! ( I was looking for something else, and stumbled upon it ). The swatch with this plaid is on my Freebies blog - and only shows it worked with silk threads.

This one was begun after I discovered the joy of the "beaded solid" effect due to a happy accident. It's stitched with DMC floss - and colored, sparkly beads from Sundance in the colors of the plaid.

This is adapted from an upholstery fabric I saw in a magazine - so easy to work with one.

The warp was stitched with the cotton first, and then the weft was begun with the beads. This was several years ago, so I have no idea in which layer in the "sparkly stuff" bin they might be found. I do remember that the two gold stripes were worked with YLI Ribbon Floss in the Honey/Copper blend - one of my favorites. It has a bit of sparkle on its own.
BTW: If you click on "beads with needlepoint" - the label - I have 68 posts about using beads on this blog - enjoy and learn! I find it rather addictive.

Here, I'm showing the "tools" of starting the new project. My mentor and instructor in this thing suggested that I use a compass (had the audacity to ask if I owned one), as it would be useful in drawing a series of concentric circles to trace onto canvas to start the shaded water on the droplet. She graphed two sides and sent them to me - the graph looks like a water drop with a toothache, but it worked beautifully to make two different drawings.
Next, of course, I checked the supply of DMC floss to choose just the right colors for water in a coral reef. Have you ever really thought about the shades of blues and greens of the ocean? Beautiful!! Creating or being aware of art really opens the eyes to the beauty around us. As Emily Dikinson said, "To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else."
Finally, I settled on a choice of color for the fat droplet - I made two of these, and just elongated the sides of one of them to give me more room.

On the other, I made three vertical lines (dots on the weft) to insert clear beads later that will resemble bubbles. I'll use the smooth ones rather than the hexagonal, as I don't want glitter here - just bubbles.
I think at this point I may be practicing creative avoidance, as I'm terrified of beginning the surface enhancement (after stitching the backgrounds, of course) - the seaweed/branch coral /sea shells/starfish, etc. etc. - and sea fans made with Memory Thread and Satin Floss. Maybe even a tiny, colorful fish or two stitched on the surface with waste canvas. Oh My!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beads with Needlepoint (and a Plaid Egg)

I was working on the plaid egg last night, and was thinking that if I hadn't been stitching this to illustrate setting up and using a plaid pattern on an actual project, I would have incorporated beads into it. (my favorite thing).

A number of years ago - probably six or eight, I was fooling around with plaid again, and one day was bored with the heart I was working on, and decided to see what would happen if I used beads on the weft (as it is on the "dips" of the canvas weave) instead of thread.

What a surprise when the result had a spectacular resemblance to a surface beaded "solid." I had previously only used beads in tiny spaces - such as little round things or "jewels" on patterns, as they clumped up and were uneven on the surface. As I like to use beads as part of the needlepoint itself, this wasn't acceptable, and wasn't really very pleasant to work.

I was so excited that I never finished the little heart - but moved on to the next thing: Another heart in "gingham" in two colors and white. (didn't finish it either, but it's a great illustration.) By working beads into the fabric of the needlepoint this way, they become part of it, and the surface is smooth and uninterrupted, as beads placed on the warp "bumps" will stand up and wobble.

Of course more fun experiments happened - and one of my favorites was the hat inset I worked for Vikki Pinson (who is a fine milliner, as well as a world class finisher) with leopard spots. I used the Sundance black hex beads for glitter, and then just used the different pattern on the background - widely spaced - with beads that gleam softly rather than sparkle.

Incidentally, one uses size 14 beads (When using Sundance) on 18 mesh canvas, and size 11 on 13 mesh.

I have since made giraffe and zebra print napkin rings and bracelets with this technique - and also, several years ago, cuff bracelets with "lace" and flowers, with matching earrings. Lots of Possibilities here!!

"The World is so full of a Number of Things, I'm sure we should all be as Happy as Kings." (Robert Louis Stevenson, "A Child's Garden of Verses.")

ADDENDUM:There are napkin ring and bracelet patterns on Freebies, and my BEAD book is now in E-Book form on my web page, Elegant Whimsies, divided into two chapters.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Stitch by Any Other Name.........(in needlepoint)

I've been working on this one, and have now gone all the way to the bottom of the sea. I have to remind myself that it's just an experiment in developing a new idea, as I'm not totally happy with the abrupt change from medium values to dark, as I switched colors and ran out of room. I think it would have been a lovely transition if it were on a bigger space. Oh well. It will be covered up by sea fans, etc. anyway.

By running out of room, I mean that I had made two "ripples" with each change in the number of plies used - but only one when I started the last two shades, which were the teal/greenish.

I think the reason I was determined to do this shading on a diagonal, is that I was loving the photographs I saw taken by skuba divers when I was researching sea fans. Upon further study, I discovered that sea fans grow perpendicular to the current, so as to ensnare micro organisms for food. This could account for the angle of the light to dark of the water.
Before reaching the line of the sand, I made a stopping place of tent stitch, as I do not like the appearance of textured stitches that are placed against each other without it - they look incredibly messy. The upper "slope" of sand will be in basketweave, as it's an anchor for the sea fans and coral, so doesn't need the "outlining."

In the third photo, I'm showing how this stitch - whatever it's called (I made it up for this project, but I feel sure it's somewhere in a book or two with some grand sounding and complicated name) developed into something surprising that I could utilize to keep track of the progression of the shading.

Also - it demonstrates why a good knowledge of basketweave is essential. Coming DOWN the canvas from upper left to lower right on the WARP gives this appearance - a little sawtooth edge. Then, going back up - on the WEFT - it fills it in almost solid, so give a kind of watery ripple effect. I found that I had done two "ripples" or ridges each for the two aqua threads, but when I got to the darker greenish teal ones, I was running out of room - and in a hurry anyway - so only did one each. This accounts for the abrupt shading down to dark.

In the fourth picture, at the upper left, the arrow points to the first ridge in which I changed the ply count to 3 light, and 1 of the next shade to begin the blending and shading. The next arrow points to the WEFT - the dip - where one travels back UP the row. You can see how easily it fills it in.

On the lower right, the arrow points to the tent stitch separating the texture of the water from the intended Nobuko that will be the sand at the bottom of the sea.

The last photo shows the sand begun in Nobuko stitch, which makes it look much lighter than the sloping part - due to the light striking the long stitches and making them brighter, whereas in basketweave, in the same exact thread, they look darker and duller due to the light being broken up. It's amazing what one can do with just one kind of thread! The arrow on the left shows where I began the tent stitch outline of the circle, as it's necessary here to confine the Nobuko stitches neatly.

I think the next step here is to put it away for a little while, and start making some sketches to use to remind myself not to go totally nuts when beginning the coral/sea shells/sea fans/seaweed, etc. (and maybe a little brightly colored fish or two) I am prone to get excited and want to put all of it onto one poor little 4" ornament. One must develop patience.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shading with Thread (Needle Blending)

I have watched Anne Stradal (The Cape Stitcher) do this with rapt attention for quite some time, and finally, with her encouragement, decided to try it myself - and I will tell you, it's addictive! She does hers on skies behind the lighthouses, but mine are intended for underwater things - coral reefs, etc.

I've studied many under water photos, and decided that my water needed to shade from light down to dark, and on a diagonal instead of straight down, as on the skies. This is a background for some sea fans, branch coral, whatever it strikes me to include when I'm done.

I just pulled out a 4" circle I already had drawn - stitch counted for symmetry, of course, and started stitching basketweave at the upper right. I decided in a hurry that it would take too long, and I'm impatient at this point, as I want to do the first sea fan with Memory Thread.

So - I'm stitching over two stitches instead of making a single "tent" stitch, but in a basketweave format. This probably has a very grand name in a book somewhere, but I'm unaware of it - and I was actually rather pleased that it looks kind of ripply. Having pulled out a skein each of 597 and 598, I started - and was amazed at how the shading progresses. Awesome!.

I don't want to go in to the particulars about the needle blending (I've decided to name mine "thread shading.") as you can go to Anne's blog and look at hers - she explains it very clearly.
When I finished with the darker shade, I still had about half of the water area to fill, and decided to try adding even more - and get darker, but a little bit green. Hopefully, I have calculated (mentally) correctly, and will have room to end with the very dark greenish teal. I'll show it tomorrow if I get it finished.
The skein of 712 is for sand, which will be a background for some coral and maybe a tiny sea shell.
Incidentally, this is how an idea becomes a design sometimes. I've seen this in my head for several months, and finally decided it needs to be done. If it's a mess, I'll just throw it away, sulk for a while, and do something else.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Lighthouse on Lake Michigan (in needlepoint)

Anne Stradal (The Cape Stitcher) has a new lighthouse on her blog, which she'll begin stitching soon - so be sure to see it. These are always enlightening as well as very entertaining, and I look forward to them, myself. This pretty one is "White River" - located on Lake Michigan, and complete with history, as always.

Also, don't miss my article in the current Needlepoint Now about her and her work, and how she started designing the painted canvas - she wrote most of it for me, as she tells the story so well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

DMC Memory Thread and Satin Floss: New Colors!!

What a wonderful treat it was on a freezing and gloomy day to find a box full of gorgeous new threads- new colors in the Memory Thread (along with some old ones) and the new Satin Floss colors, which I have eagerly awaited!!

I'm enjoying the Satin Floss, as it has such a fine "high shine" in texture, and, as it is in the same colors as the cotton floss and pearl cotton, can be used so easily with those to make interesting effects in texture. Until these new colors were produced, however, they were limited to only about 24.

The new Memory Thread colors are really nice - and I'm quite motivated and inspired now to try them out on things like eggs and ornaments - seaweed maybe on a little underwater coral reef vignette. Hmmmm later.
ADDENDUM: It has just been called to my attention that DMC now has a really fine, informative, and fun blog - see it, written by "Emma Broidery" (is that not clever?!! LOL) HERE.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Truth about Gingham (via Needlepoint)

I saw this pretty fabric as a patch on a quilt somewhere on the internet, and thought it was interesting that it has one more element added to what we normally think of as "gingham checks," as it has yellow added to what we usually see as just one color plus white. (which makes a lighter shade of the color where it crosses the white) I decided to adapt it to needlepoint to show what an easy thing it is!
People have asked what is the difference between "gingham" and "plaid." Gingham originally came from a Malaysian/French word meaning "stripes." Later, it came to mean a cloth made of cotton that has been dyed before weaving instead of being printed with color patterns afterward or dyed after it's taken off the loom whether or not it has stripes
"Plaid" is derived from a Gaelic word meaning "sheep skin," which is logical, as the early fabrics in the region where the plaid was first found (Scottish Highlands) were wool. The word "tartan" is applied to numerous textile patterns consisting of stripes of varying widths and colors, crossed at right angles against a solid background - each forming a distinctive design. It is these patterns that have been adopted by individual Highland families as their own - and now, even different countries and states in the U.S.A. have their own tartans.
In this era, "plaid" is the name applied to the tartan patterns, so gingham is actually a woven plaid - a very simple form. The Rob Roy family tartan is a "giant" gingham check, as it is composed of two colors only, red and black, in large stripes of equal widths. In my mind, the term "gingham checks" means those pretty fabrics we used to wear ourselves as children - and I delighted in sewing dresses for my daughters with "baby gingham." The fabric was, again, just one color plus white, with a lighter shade of the color where it crossed white in the weave.
Anyway, on Freebies in a little while, I'll do a post on setting up this simple plaid, as it's a foundation for doing more elaborate plaids (tartans, to be correct), and you can see how very easy it is to do. Remember that there is more to creating plaids than just "setting them up." When using them for individual projects, the size and scale must be considered - one wouldn't want to make a large pillow border with tiny little checks!! Also, you can see how easy it is to just widen or make narrower a stripe, add another color or two, and create your own original pattern!!
ADDENDUM: I do have a book on this, available on my web page, Elegant Whimsies - and very soon to be an e-book you can download for yourself.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Needle Threading 101: How to Thread a Tapestry Needle

After so many years of threading tapestry needles with all kinds of threads, I take this action for granted, and it's one of those things I don't even think about - an automatic thing.

Anyway, I've had several people ask me about this lately - people who are brand new to needlepoint stitching - so I've posted a little tutorial on Freebies, Etc. - do go look if you have trouble with it. It's a simple thing.

As always, I do whatever is simple and effective - no waxing the ends, using Fray Chek or glue, nothing complicated. (and no fuzz in the mouth from licking the end of the thread as we used to do with sewing thread)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An Egg with Memory Thread! (DMC)

A fun surprise this morning - I received this picture from Liz Saylor at DMC. She found the egg, which I had discontinued for painting several years ago, on the web page at The French Knot in Fort Worth, and asked if she might use it - surprised me! I tried to talk her into using something else, but she insisted - and I am amazed at what she did with it.
It's worked with DMC Satin Floss and the Memory Thread, in a most imaginative way. Great stitching! The Satin Floss has a high shine, and is actually very easy to use, as when I use it, I double two plies for 18 mesh, (to make a 4 ply thread) and make a slip knot against the eye of the needle.
Anyway, she's taking it to market this coming weekend at Long Beach - and will show new Satin Floss colors and also the Memory Thread - which I need to try out myself. It adds some fabulous dimension to this design, I think.
Liz says for anyone who is attending this market, their fun and beautiful products (and my egg) can be seen in Booth #1754. I think she is handing out patterns for working it - charted things.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Plaid in Bittersweet!

I have had this ready for about two weeks, but had other things to do that I was very slow finishing. I have started some tutorials on the other blog (Freebies, Etc.) about creating plaid patterns, and also planning projects with it, as I'm working on putting my PLAID book into e-book form on my web page.

This is a very very simple plaid, in only orange and red - with elements of white to cool it down. My great grandmother, who lived in Missouri, used to send us a big box of bittersweet from her bushes around her house when I was a child - I loved it! Also, this might be called "pimiento."

Anyway, it's an example of how a simple plaid can be set up for a specific project. This was for a pad on a little footstool my aunt had in her house - hence the curved sides and top. I've been researching Scottish tartans, also, from a very old book I found among her things on this subject - very in depth and fascinating! I say "very old," because it was first published two years before I was born. That classifies it as OLD, but not yet antique. The copy I found was an edition published when I was in college - so it's still "old."

I stitched the Donaldson plaid several years ago for a tote bag, but now can't find it - it was in my favorite blues and greens. One interesting thing I learned is that there can be different color schemes for the individual tartans of different clans, but basically the Sett pattern, which is the area of design that is repeated to construct the Tartan, remains the same within a clan. That is, the pattern is distinctive for that family - but there are hunting plaids in different colors, etc., and now there are even plaids for U.S.A. states, and for Canada and other places.

I even found a Texas Bluebonnet tartan - which captures the kind of purplish blue and bit of magenta and white in these flowers - I want to do something with it, of course! Later.

By the way, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (one of my favorites besides Emily Dickensen and Ogden Nash) said "the principle that keeps one in everlasting ignorance, is contempt prior to investigation." I know some of my methods are different from what people are being taught now - such as using numbers for some reason to create plaid, or starting in the center and doing horizontals first. ( not a good practice, as it distorts the canvas)

Please feel free, with anything of mine, to try both methods and see which you enjoy, and which is easiest and most effective for you. I strive for simplicity via common sense - and most of my things are just that. If it's tedious and complicated, needlework doesn't fulfill it's purpose. A creative hobby should be pleasurable and relaxing.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Finished!! The Sunflower in Talavera

The Sunflower cross is finished, and although stitching against a deadline ceases to be entertaining, I thoroughly enjoyed this one - an example of the effects one can achieve with simple materials. Only DMC cotton floss, Kreinik metallic braid #12 in 018HL (navy), and several different Kreinik blending filaments were used.

I also used shiny brown Sundance beads in the center of the flower - the only Talavera piece I've used beads on except for one ornament a while back. (Usually not the best thing for this sort of pattern.) In this case, as the beads are shiny rather than sparkly, it's a great look to add interest to the big brown area. It's a subtle effect, whereas textured stitches here would have been too distracting.

The next photo shows three green areas (two different crosses) which include blending filament. I couldn't get a good shot of this, showing the nice, random sparkle, but I used the chartreuse BF #015 on both the lime green (DMC #3348) and the medium green areas. On the darker green, I used the same floss - the DMC #988, but with BF #009, which is dark green. It really makes a difference!
Also finished, as I alternated among four different pieces in this session, is the first of the little "mini-crosses" in the Talavera series. I've already explained most of this one in a previous post. The turqoise flowers really made it come to life!! Note how shiny the centers are, worked with DMC Satin Floss!

The response to these Talavera pieces has been wonderful - so for right now a few of them are up on my ebay store for auction. Later today, Inge will pick them up and take them to Dallas for finishing in preparation for their trip to the TNNA market, as Creative Needle will be producing them. What a great collaberation, after all these years - since 1972. Our minds work alike!!