Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Coral Reefs are Finished!

I forgot until this morning that these things needed the metallic hangers stitched! Here they are with Kreinik metallic ribbon - 1/1/6" - worked several different ways on each one, as it's very versatile. I used some silver, as well as my favorite 002V.

This seems a bit redundant, as I've already shown these things with the "important" things stitched, but as the tops really finish them off, I wanted to show them again completed.

There is a new round one being worked, that will have lots of seaweed, sea grasses, and a fish - and some beads, as bubbles ascending to the surface. I didn't have time to get it finished for my deadline, but that's the way I seem to work - the best ideas at the last minute or beyond.

On the second one, I removed the seaweed I already had, as it didn't show up at all, and I wanted it to shine - so used DMC Satin Floss in the great buttonhole stitch I found on Sharon B's blog (with her permission I am using it.)

There are, of course, things I'm still not happy with - but they are only ornaments, after all, so I won't remove my errors or point them out. I'll just know to do it differently next time! Learning and experimenting is what this is about.

I have certainly enjoyed, also, researching the sea grasses and corals - fascinating!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

DMC History of Needlework and Threads!!

I haven't taken time this morning to find a beautiful picture to show with this, but one really should not miss the post Emma Broidery has made on her blog about the in depth history of needlepoint and X-stitch, as well as the total history of the DMC corporation. Well done, entertaining, and fascinating! Do go see her blog here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Scallop Shell! (another day, another dive)

Timing can be amazing! Carol-Anne Conway, whose beautiful blog I've been reading for a very long time (Threads Across the Web) sent me an e-mail a few days ago about seeing a dark blue starfish when she was fortunate to dive on the Great Barrier Reef - so sent me a page of images of this wonderful creature, just when I needed something different for this new water drop.

These starfish are blues ranging from lapis lazuli to ultramarine to cobalt! What a wonderful color to have to add to a needlepoint coral reef!

The first photo is of the ornament with the waste canvas in place and the scallop shell almost finished. Another learning experience - just be sure, if you try it, that the canvas is dampened well, and pull out each thread separately - not two threads together as they are in the weave, but single threads. Using needle nose pliers, this is still a bit of a chore when using it on needlepoint canvas - but worth the effort.
This time, after the first fiasco using the wrong thread, I used DMC pearl cotton for the white, and Satin Floss for the ribbing - and it worked fairly well. I think I'll have to practice some more, and try out different threads in the future. There was another way I could have stitched the scallop shell, but didn't think of it until I was too far along - and too tired to start over. (time counts for something here).

Next - the beautiful blue starfish was added, using DMC pearl cotton in the raised spider web with five spokes - made with a beginning fly stitch.

This time the coral is purple - with DMC Memory Thread. The buttonhole stitch sea weed (at least I think that's what it is) was made with Watercolours by Caron.

I added the jumble of coral on the bottom with the usual whatever I had on hand in the right color and texture - and the seaweed is made with Sea Grass from The Thread Gatherer, as are some of the little urchins and polyps lying on the sand.

The stitch used on the sea weed behind the shell is one I found on Pintangle, as Sharon B. is showing her collection of wonderful buttonhole stitches - these from her band sampler.

The section with the buttonhole stitches is from December 2005, and the combinations are amazing. I asked her where she found them, and she said she just made them up. I have been seeing sea weed and all kinds of things just looking at a few. It's worth a trip downunder on the internet to see and study them. She presents a new one quite often.

I'm a bit waterlogged in the head now from swimming in the coral reef - and have a NN dealine looming, so will drink tea, relax, and maybe "think" a little bit before resuming stitching. In plain words, I'm tired and burned out. Brain dead.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fish Among the Coral

If my granddaughters (Julia and Grace visiting) hadn't caught me doing this, and considered it quite hilarious, I would not be showing it. My finely honed drawing skills, due to modern technology, starting with my first color copy machine several years ago, have definitely deteriorated due to lack of use.

I have been reduced to doing this: I was looking at coral reef fish, intending to attempt adding some to my little underwater scenes via waste canvas, and found some beauties on an aquarium web site. So out came the tracing paper and black felt tip pen, and I traced them directly from the computer screen - great shots of some fine looking fish. At this point, Julia walked by, and whooped for Grace to come see what Granny is doing. I believe her exact words were "Granny is cheating."

Anyway, I like the shape of these two, so took my tracings to my copy machine and reduced them in size drastically, as they will go on small ornaments.

I wanted to use one of the water droplets, but couldn't get the fish small enough without losing a lot of detail that needs to be there - so opted for a round one. The little dots you see are for the addition of clear beads, which should appear as ascending bubblesfrom the sea floor.
The little fish is a kind of hybrid between the two tracings, but as it's only 1 1/4" long, it will do nicely, I think.

The background - water and sand - are completed on the next droplet, so I'll probably attempt the scallop shell again, but with some major adjustments - like just about everything, including the threads used and the color. Soon I need to deal with the "metal" tops of these, as I want them to appear as ornaments.
Kreinik metallic braid is certainly in the near future. I have also considered doing another version of some of these, using the Kreinik metallics for some sparkle. The #4 braid would make lovely sea fans, due to the canvas would show through if I simply do basketweave on the fan over waste canvas..

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Diving Again in the Coral Reef

I'm going to have to put these down, I think, for a few days, as I'm getting a bit tired of them - and seeing little French knot polyps in my sleep.

I finished the blue water drop, and am fairly pleased with it.
My favorite critter on this one is the little yellow urchin, which turned orange around the edges (lower right) when I got to the end, as I was using one of Sharon B's overdyed threads. What a wonderful accident!!
I used several of Sharon's threads on this ornament, as I can pull out wonderful combinations in overdyes and textures from one hank - and can combine them into one thread. The little "furry" dark pink urchins are one of these, as it shaded from this color to much lighter and to almost orange.
The turquoise is two tiny threads in two different fibers, which is very effective. I believe she is out of these hand dyed threads right now, but did say that she might do more in another few months, so don't miss her blog at Pintangle!

My fine internet friend and co-conspirator up on Cape Cod looks at these for me, and is able to see what's missing - and in this case it was the bit of turquoise and bright green, which jazzed it up. It's good to have someone whose artistic eye I trust, and who isn't tired of looking at them.

The second rain drop, with the sea fan, isn't what I wanted exactly, and the more I add, the worse it gets. So I'll leave it alone now - as I'm not about to tear out what I don't like and start over. I'll get it out again tomorrow and look at it - but I do think I might have to go ahead and take off that orange star fish. It's too big. However, if it's going to destroy the little polyps around it, I'll just have to leave it.

I won't point out what else I don't like here or my mistakes/errors in judgment.

I had considered using Satin floss for the seaweed, but didn't want to overpower the fan, and used Thread Gatherer's "Sea Grass." How appropriate the name!! (also the color) I'm going to leave this project alone for a day or two, and then finish one more I'm working on.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Church Needlepoint: A New Cushion

This project has been brewing for several months, and finally today, my good friend Louann Temple, with whom I've worked for a number of needlepoint pieces for the Church of the Good Shepherd here in Austin, brought me a wonderful picture for our new collaboration. I thought it might be of interest to many to see exactly how we go about designing church pieces from the very beginning - which usually begins with the selection of a theme or motif.

It's a practice when ecclesiastical needlepoint is done, to cover the cost by offering pieces as memorials for families or individuals to donate. (I will be donating the canvas for this one.) My son had asked me a while back, after we lost our Madeline, if I had plans for a memorial for her - and coincidentally, Louann called me and said there is a bench that needs a new cushion - one behind the altar.

I was really really pleased at the timing! I told her our pet name for Madeline when she was a baby was "Angel Baby" - or to me, "Granny's angel" (when she wasn't being naughty), so she immediately thought of this beautiful carving behind and above the altar - just under the window.

The next step is to measure the cushion that's on the bench now, and then I'll start making sketches and deciding on the placement of the angel and how to best incorporate the gorgeous gold carvings. I do know that I'll include, somewhere, "Psalms 91:11" - which for many years has been one of my very favorites. "He hath given His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." I remember my mother explaining my own guardian angel to me when I was a small child, and also the beautiful song from Hansel and Gretel - the operetta. I'll also write "Philippians 1:3" in a corner.

Anyway, I will make posts as this progresses to show what might be done by anyone for their own church.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Memory Thread and Waste Canvas: A Sea Fan

This evening I am really feeling great about the accomplishment of making what actually looks like a little sea fan!! It's a very small swatch of stitching, but I labored industriously to achieve it, as I had failed before to get the effect I wanted with waste canvas.

This time, I started with a sketch on tracing paper of where I wanted the sea fan to be on the ornament (but didn't photograph that). This is just the first tracing of the shape.

The next step was to trace the shape onto the waste canvas, and then baste it onto the water drop where I wanted it to be.

I outlined the fan with pink Satin floss to make the edges neater, although in real life, sea fan edges are lacy and raggedy. I chose pink because I saw one in an underwater photo that was gorgeous!! It did have pink edges, and looked like lace.
The body of the fan is worked with skipped basketweave in pearl cotton.
If I were to do it again, I might use Satin floss instead - but this is acceptable. A chenille needle is necessary to make the stitching easier - as working through a stitched piece of needlepoint can be a bit "tough."

Next was to remove the waste canvas. It's sized with a water soluble glue, so needs to be slightly moistened - maybe just a shot from a steam iron, but I used a damp paper towel, and the threads were super easy to pull out with the help of needle nose pliers. Before I dampened them, they wouldn't budge.

As I said, I'm delighted with the effect of the sea fan being on the surface of the work - it wouldn't have been as effective if stitched along with the background as part of it. I looks like it's lying on top, which is what I wanted.

Next, and last, is the veining with DMC Memory thread - again from an underwater photo I'm very fond of. Two fly stitches and an extra "stitch." I used a #18 tapestry needle to make holes for poking the thread wrapped wire back and forth to make the stitches. It's easier to go from front to back, for some reason, than going from back to front. Oh well.
I'm going to put this away for a day or two and work some more backgrounds to embellish with sea critters, as this project has been very entertaining. One needs something different sometimes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Joy of the Unpainted Canvas

I think before I continue working on the next three I have prepared with the sea water stitched, I'll at least make a sketch on paper first to place the main elements.

This actually has been enjoyable, but I've made mistakes, errors in judgment, etc. that have cost me a lot of time. I've simply put them away for a few days, and then taken them back out, and usually can see what needs to be added or substracted.

I spent the most part of one evening picking out the stitches from the scallop shell fiasco - my normal would have been to just put it away in a drawer for a few years, and then toss it. I had too much time already invested, and also wanted to see what I could make of it.

I've stitched on this ornament a little bit at a time, as when it sees daylight again after a day or two in a drawer, I can usually immediately see what else needs to be added.

It was fun going through my stash to see what was there in a compatible color - I found the gorgeous hand dyed threads I purchased from Sharon Boggon (Pintangle) a while back when she had them in her Artfire store, and used one of the overdyes as fat little French Knot critters on the sea floor - the ones that shade from light orange to pink. A lovely effect and a different texture to blend with the other ones. The seaweed on the left is also one of hers - a chenille thread.

The second ornament, the water drop, is almost finished - but I think still lacking something. I found this kind of pink/orange coral colored thread, and think it might work to liven it up a bit. I had already added the purple Sea Grass (from Thread Gatherer) in little French knots - an effect I like, but it still needs a bit more color, I think.

The waste canvas idea will work - I'm sure of it. The next attempt will be a sea fan on the next ornament, which is the one with the rounded sea water via concentric circles. I've already traced the shape, and drawn the sea fan (not illustrated yet), so will put it on waste canvas tomorrow and start stitching. Surely it will succeed this time!!

I usually really enjoy working on the bare canvas - like stitching plaid - as it's like painting with my needle on an unpainted surface. However, in this case, I do need to have some kind of plan sketched on paper before beginning to stitch, at least for placing the coral and the main sea weed. Adding the things on the ocean floor has been fun - again, like painting with my needle.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Diving in the Coral Reef with Memory Thread

As I said when showing my brilliant idea with the waste canvas - it would disappear if it didn't work. At least I know WHY it didn't work, so shall do it again, (later) having learned what NOT to do.

The main mistake I made was substituting a thread I didn't think would work well anyway, as I couldn't find what I wanted in the stash drawer.

I've worked on this one yesterday and today, and it looks rather fine to me right now. However, I'm awfully tired of looking at it, so will put it away for a day or two before deciding what else to do. I'll ruin it if I continue today, and I have several others almost ready to embellish.

This looks a lot better in person, as I wasn't watching the placement for taking a picture, and the shine of the Satin Floss on the fly stitch sea weed looks much much lighter and brighter than it actually is. The Memory Thread fly stitch (isn't that clever?!!) coral is actually the focal point of this ornament.

As for the Memory Thread, this was incredibly easy, having already practiced on the other one, and I found that if I use a size 16 tapestry needle to make the little hole for poking through the wire, it is very simple The little French Knot polyps are made with DMC Satin Floss - two very tight wraps.

Next, the Star Fish!! I used the Sea Grass by The Thread Gatherer for this, and the width, softness, and matte finish of it was wonderful for creating another little sea critter.

You can see in the detail how it looks up close. I made a five point "raised spider web," but didn't go all the way to the ends of the spokes - so it looks more like a star. To make the five point base, a simple fly stitch is made, and then two spokes placed to make the star.

When weaving the web, this thread is delightful, as it is flat, and with care, it lies nicely between the spokes.
The other little raised web on the left is made on 8 spokes, as I wanted it to be solid, and hopefully resemble a Sea Urchin. BTW, the sand on this ornament is worked in my version of "T-Stitch."

The research via photographs of these things is an incredible learning experience - I had no idea that the shapes and colors are absolutely endless, and I have to guard against getting too carried away on one piece - adding too much "stuff." I'll just have to get a lot of backgrounds stitched so I can go on playing!!
The next one is showing progress on the concentric circle drawing that Anne suggested - and it's almost into the last step of the blending - ready for a fine, big Sea Fan, I hope.
The last photo is from an AHA! moment, when I realized there is a lot going on underwater, and that I could use my favorite Nobuko stitch - which is a lot faster than doing basketweave. The arrow points to the first color change, and I'm please with this choice, as there are "notches" where the next layer fits in, instead of a straight line. It's also a welcome bit of variety in the look.

Another bad mistake I made on the first ornamant was that the ripple of the stitch was too thick to be able to make neat, tidy stitches on the waste canvas. It was a battle I didn't win. Nobuko is nice and flat.

I realize that this post is very long - one could drink the whole pot of coffee while reading it - or just move on to somewhere else easier to get through. After this one, I'll try hard to do each one as I progress on it - not daily, but often.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Little Red Lighthouse

If you haven't already been following Anne Stradal's latest lighthouse, do go take a look at it. This one has a really interesting history, and, as always, I am amazed at her very orderly use of decorative stitches - and on such small pieces that she does.

Visit The Cape Stitcher (currently under snow, I think)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Remembering Madeline

Granny's angel would have been 15 today, and I'm still, even though it's more painful today than a year ago, feeling so very grateful for having had her in my life for 13 wonderful and happy years, during which she was healthy, bright, and beautiful, and a joy to her family.

She was my first grandchild, and I decided quickly that this is what we have children for - to provide us with this kind of great, unconditional love.

She helped me set up the blog that I eventually renamed "Possibilities, Etc." as she was intensely interested in fairies at the time, so we used "Fairy Crafts."

She was my little apprentice and my bestest buddy, and so much like me, I think it worried her parents. When I was designing the pew markers for her church, Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin, I told her that one day in the far future, the white ones would be used at her wedding. She said, "Oh no, Granny. I'm going to be an archaeologist and go dig at Jackson Hole." My kind of girl - my avocation besides Marine Biology, so I would have been right there - with knitting and needlepoint in front of the camp fire.

As the first grandchild, it was her privilege to name me, so I was named "Granny," with her father's coaching. Several years later, we were watching an episode of Beverly Hillbillies - her dad's favorite as a teenager, and she was looking very intently at an exchange between Jethro and Granny. Then I told her that was where I got my name. She looked at me, and said "Whose idea was THAT?"!!! I did tell her that the Queen of England is also "Granny."

The needlepoint canvas is one I drew and intended to stitch, but as her sister, Julia, was "on the way" I waited for her - and then never got either one of them worked.

Anyway, as I stated last year, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." (a scripture quote that I can never remember where to find.)

ADDENDUM: After the lovely offer to stitch this piece for me, I need to explain that we lost her on Memorial Day weekend of 2008 in a freak accident on a four-wheeler. I have this piece, along with Julia's in my collection of Madeline things - her paintings and other treasures. She left me her two bags of knitting and needlepoint threads in her will, and I had written my will, leaving her the molds we made when we did pottery together, and all the glazes, etc.. She is the child of two lawyers - so of course she had a will at age 13.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Waste Canvas for Needlepoint (A Scallop Shell)

It's time to add a few more major pattern elements, and my idea from the beginning was to add one nice scallop shell.

The first step was to make a tracing of what I'd already done - the coral and the sea urchn, along with the line of the sand. Then, I sketched with a pencil, to make sure of the size, shape, and placement I wanted.

Then I traced, stitch by stitch, onto a piece of scrap canvas, the outline of the shell so it would be symmetric. The arrows are pointing to places I didn't like, so made adjustments when I put it onto the waste canvas.
This is a project that is building a little bit at a time from a pre-conceived "picture" in my head - and I have to be careful not to treat each element as a separate thing, as the "whole" has to work together or become an "eye shattering mess."

Next was to dot the shape onto the waste canvas. I used the Sharpie extra fine permanent marker in blue, as I didn't want black to show through and distract me.

About the waste canvas: This is a penelope canvas that is a double stranded even weave with no discernable warp or weft, although it does have them. With the penelope, as it was used in the late 19th century, (called "Berlin work.") and even into the 1980's, was mainly for stitching backgrounds around preworked centers and in continental stitch. The penelope holds this stitch well, as it has the double strands, but it's still unattractive with the resulting horizontal ridges. Also, the little intersections could be split, and petit point was made for finer detail in the design.

I first saw waste canvas in about 1985, as it was a thing for counted cross stitchers. They were using it to stitch little motifs from charts onto T-shirts, Sweat shirts, etc. - even little blankets and such. It's very very thin and flimsy, as it's sized only with water soluble glue, and can be easily pulled out when the work is finished, leaving the stitches in place.

Many years ago, I helped a customer put a set of Mah Jong tiles (three to each corner) onto a velveteen card table cover. On 18 mesh canvas, even, they would have been too thick to finish by sewing them on - so we pinned the canvas onto the velveteen - she stitched it, and then with pliers and some very bad words, we pulled the canvas threads out, one by one, and Voila'!!! The effect was stunning!

Remembering this is what led me to decide to raise this shell above the surface of the needlepoint background for more effect. I hope it works! If it doesn't, you won't hear about it again. We shall see.

The last photo shows the waste basted into place and ready to stitch. At this point, I switched to a chenille needle (#22), as it requires the sharp point to go through the fabric of the needlepoint background.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Growing Coral with Memory Thread (DMC)

I have been terrified of starting this thing - but took the big plunge (not a pun, please) and started out with the Memory Thread to create branch coral. I have felt, since I first saw this thread - new for DMC - that I could do more with it than simply embellish a surface with tacked down coils. I do intend to do that soon, though, on some traditional Christmas ornaments, and looking forward especially to the effects of gold and silver.
Anyway, back to diving and watching the coral reef develop.I have studied many many photographs, and started "seeing" classic embroidery stitches in and among the growths around the reefs. Enchanting - the shapes and colors are almost endless.

My first thought with the Memory Thread (and I'll still do it) was to make the foundation of the sea fans with it - but then started seeing fern stitch and buttonhole stitch in various coral formations, so felt that was perfect for this first piece. The color is #6150 Orange.

The ladies at DMC were gracious in sending me their instructions for using Memory Thread - which involves making a bit of a hole in the work for inserting the thread. It's actually very soft thread wrapped copper wire - and will not go through the eye of a needle.

Although usually all the work with it is done on the surface, I was determined to do this Fern Stitch to make coral - so had a bit of a struggle at first. I made the holes with the large #20 tapestry needle - the eye - and then pushed the end of the thread through the hole, starting from back to front. All it takes to anchor it, is to bend a little bit on the back, and it won't go anywhere.
I had to come up from back to front, and push enough of the ravel through the hole to pull it on through with my fingernails - and then go back down by doing the same thing. I won't begin to say it was easy, but as I felt my way along, I figured it out - and do like the effect very much.
I have always used a nail clipper for cutting threads, as it's much easier and neater than scissors - and it was especially good for cutting the Memory Thread.
I had to snip off the end occassionally, when the ravel was too much, but some ravel is what enabled me to pull the wire through the stitched canvas.
The little sea critter is made with Thread Gatherer's new Sea Grass -(Peach Essence) and It's wonderful. It's so soft that I couldn't make a sea urchin or whatever much bigger - but I do like the effect and the way it handles. I have other things planned with it also in this series.
I'll work on the other pieces - the water drops - simultaneously, and add colors and elements as they occur to me. I still have the Kreinik metallics and Sharon B's beautiful hand dyed threads I bought from her Artfire Store (Pintangle is her blog).

Another T-Stitch

I thought I might share this version of T-stitch, as it's the only one I've ever seen or used - until recently. It's a great stitch where just a little bit of texture is needed, but not overwhelming. I do these in two colors when drawing, simply to illustrate the "traveling."
The green horizontal is worked first, from right to left, and then the blue back across from left to right. It's extremely easy to visualize while stitching - the blue stitch is made from lower right to upper left, into the "green" stitch, and it forms the "T"
ADDENDUM: I just had an AHA! moment - that Sea Grass will be gorgeous used in T-Stitch! - great texture, I'm sure. If you haven't already looked at Thread Gatherer's web site for the Sea Grass colors - do go there.
BACK TO T-STITCH: I've been using this version of the stitch for about 12 years, and was unaware of another one by the same name. After looking at the ANG version, I can see the "T" clearly - but it creates an "open canvas" background, which is interesting. Maybe we should call them "T-Stich Open and Closed," as mine covers the canvas. I see other possibilities with the ANG version, so have to go play with it a while.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Sea Grass: A New Thread and Coral Reefs (Choosing Colors)

I just received this Sea Grass last week - a new thread by Thread Gatherer that is absolutely "delicious." It is 100% cotton, and looks like tiny little raffia, but very soft. I'm really anxious to work with it and see what possibilities for special effects it has.

The timing is great - not only because of the name, but this new project I'm working on needs all the help it can get, and the colors and texture of this fiber are very interesting.

I've begun to research plant life growing in the ocean, and am amazed at the diversity - and the colors!. Unbelievable life under water, and especially around the coral reefs. I"ve studied the critters, but never the plants - as I thought it was all just lumped together as "sea weed." A whole new course of study!!! Anyway, I have two of the water droplets ready to embellish, so hope to get started on that tomorrow.
I finished the round one, including the sand - I used Nobuko on the bottom part, as it really needed some texture on which to place a few shells.

A sea fan or two will grow out of the banked up sand on the left, (DMC Memory Thread) so I worked it in basketweave. You can see the difference in the way the light hits the surface of the floss - I used 712 on both areas.

The "needle shaded" blue tear drop will be next - I haven't really decided definitely the colors for the underwater scenery, as there are lots more choices - including the DMC Satin floss I intend to use - these are just kind of getting me started.

The sand under the water on the slender water drop is stitched in T-Stitch. I'm seeing a lot of this stitch worked differently from the way I learned a number of years ago - mine is over two stitches, so covers the canvas - an effect I prefer.

The last photo is the fat water droplet with the concentric circles (Anne's suggestion) drawn to mark the boundaries for the needle blending.

My first attempt on this piece was to be clever and do a textured stitch on the water, as I see on photographs taken by divers that there is a lot going on down there - but it looked absolutely AWFUL, so I took it out. I think I was just trying to get it done in a hurry so I could move on to the fun stuff. Oh well. Patience. More in a day or two.