Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wildflowers in Silk Ribbon

It's strange what falls out of old files when I'm looking for something I did years and years ago. This scan of a photograph dates back about 12 years to when I was busy "interpreting" nature with silk ribbon embroidery.

I had been painting accessories for the National Wildflower Research Center (Lady Bird Johnson's finest achievement), and had hundreds of photos I had taken during different seasons. Great pictures to work from when designing needlepoint.

Anyway, this egg is gone - I have no idea what happened to it, but I apparently photographed the canvas before it went to the finisher. The bluebonnets have the little touches of magenta that one sees on the flower - did you know that bluebonnets are actually quite purple? I had no idea, and I'm a native, until I started mixing paint, using real flowers to get the color right. Incredible! They look so blue en masse out in the field. The little red flowers are Drummond's Phlox, which the Wildflower Center had planted in a bed full of bluebonnets - and the yellow ones are Huisache Daisies.

This was a fun exercise in silk ribbon, as I remember, so think I might try it again. It's already starting to get hot here, but we've had enough rain that the wildflowers out there should be glorious this year. They don't last long, but it's an incredible sight out in the fields. Bluebonnets bloom along with the Indian Paintbrush, (which I never did in silk ribbon). As River Silks hadn't been "invented" yet, on this egg I used Thread Gatherer overdyed ribbon for the foliage, and YLI ribbon for the flowers.

While things are still blooming in the early spring - do go outside and walk and really SEE the leaves and flowers, and think how you might do them on needlepoint in Silk Ribbon!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Jeweled Palm for the Day

I found this picture while going through a file on "jeweled" things - both flora and fauna. It's from another of my phases - or "binges" - that I periodically go through. This one was prompted by an ad in an Antiques Magazine for some very old and very beautiful jewelry of the tropical genre, including a parrot and this palm tree.

As I remember, the brooch was enameled, with peridots on the leaves and topaz on the trunk. I stitched a number of these things - fish, etc., but didn't do any of the shells. I think that's what I shall do next, and probably offer some outline drawing on Freebies Etc. for peope to design their own ornaments with shells and fish. Small, bright and beautiful, and the imagination can soar.

Anyway, what a perfectly appropriate day to be showing a palm tree!! It's Palm Sunday.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fabric Strips for Knitting - A Very Creative Medium!

I'm always distressed to hear people say they tried to knit and didn't like it -- bored with scarves, etc. (Of course scarves are boring.) This is right up there with losing potential needlepointers due to their being told they have to begin with very complicated stitches all over the canvas with lots of toys and tools and expensive threads.

I'm also of the opinion that people don't like knitting because someone has resurrected those dreadful straight needles that I hoped were banished forever by the mid 80's. They make the neck and shoulders hurt, and many stitches are dropped. One may knit back and forth on circular needles in comfort and with ease, and never drop a stitch. The weight of the work stays in the lap.

I've been knitting since I learned to read, as I taught myself from the little green Coats & Clark book purchased at Woolworth's in the 40's. It is perhaps the most creative of the fiber arts for me, and I've never tired of it. My children treasure still the sweaters and tattered afghans I made for them when they were young. Yarns and patterns and styles and techniques are endless, and there are so many things to make, it would take a long lifetime to do it all..

But that isn't the topic here. One of my very favorite of knitting phases has been the fabric strip knitting, which I believe is of interest again. I was introduced to this in about 1987 in Tallahassee, and have periodically enjoyed it again. The look of it is what I call "Raggedy Chic" - as it's not shabby chic, nor is it "country" or "rustic." Maybe the "Lodge Look" would do. It's actually rather sophisticated - and the little threads from the cut edges (ALWAYS cut on the straight of the fabric, not on the diagonal) give it an informal appearance.

I'm showing in the second and third photos, the fabric and then the resulting tote bag. That was a learning experience - as I was determined to practice my intarsia skills and also to do this thing with gussets, and all in one piece - Thank Heaven for asymmetric graph paper for knitting patterns!

The two pieces with circular elements were another experiment - worked out, again, on the knitting graph paper. Knit stitches are wider than they are tall, so it's a different method of drawing a circle, which I'll explain in a tutorial on Freebies, Etc. when I get it together.
This is going to involve digging deep into the back of my filing cabinet to find the patterns I wrote when doing this the last time - about four years ago.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Beads for Bubbles

I had to put this away and not look at it for a while, as I wasn't content with the end result - it seemed too cluttered. However, I must remind myself, that the ocean floor and territory between sand and the surface has so much more going on than we see in a clean and orderly fish bowl - I had been looking at Anne's wonderful project and forgot that part of it. (She has now posted the finished fish bowl)

We must remind ourselves of environmental protection, as it would be a shame to lose this glorious "clutter" in the sea. I was astonished at the beautiful colors and at the variety of marine life, although I've studied it for many years. I hadn't really looked at the coral reefs closely.

I was correct in my original comment about making the spaces for the beads, representing bubbles, equidistant when I marked them. I would have put stitches to fill some of them in, but as I had worked the needle blending, it would have been a lot of trouble to figure out what to put where. The next best thing was to go ahead and put both sizes Sundance #250 clear beads, and stagger the placement - random.

With this project finished, I'm not sure what to do next - all out of ideas. Anyway, I have painting to do to keep me busy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gorgonian Coral and Fish

As the coral and the fish are the two main elements - I'll show them first, as they're what I build the rest of the picture around. I'm getting quite an education here, as I cruise the internet looking at images of these beautiful things.

I could only get an "interpretation" of the gorgonian, but this is great art, of course, so one may take liberties. Julia has already informed me that either the coral is a dwarf, or the fish has surpassed the whale shark in size, as these corals grow to be quite large. Oh well. I do like the way the Memory Thread makes coral. The little red polyps are made with Caron Waterlilies in "Chili."

I've used a lot of Thread Gatherer's "Sea Grass" on these ornaments - not because of the name, but because, coincidentally, they are perfect for the effects I want. This green is actually the color "Sea." Again, here I've used Sharon Boggon's variation of a herringbone stitch for grass, which was difficult for me, as I'd practiced on the crazy quilt pieces making nice, regular, symmetric herringbone stitches.

Next, the cobalt blue starfish was added - I had to have another one of these! This one is made with DMC Satin Floss. It's amazing how the addition of each element of the pattern makes it come more alive!

The third photo shows the additions beginning of the little critters and things lying around in the sand. I used an overdyed thread for the little orange thing, as well as for the French Knot critters in yellow and orange. These are what I call the "generic" marine creatures. I always take a look through my picture files before doing this, as I get images imprinted in my mind that makes it easier to come up with arrangements and shapes - and colors. Again, Sea Grass is used for the lime green things.
It isn't finished, but almost - I get tired visually at this point, and have to put it away, as the tendency is to overdo the "decoration" and clutter it.
The sea weed is another variation of herringbone stitch, and is made with DMC Satin floss. On the far left, the little plant was made with perle cotton in chain stitch. (I saw this in an underwater picture, and couldn't resist).
The beads will be the last thing to add - and I did get the size 11, so I can have a bit of variation in size on the bubbles.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Marine Life in Needlepoint

While looking at the pictures I have saved of the coral reefs, it suddenly dawned on me why the aquarium gravel we used to put in our fish bowls was invented. The area around some of the corals on the ocean floor looks just like it - this along with watching Anne doing the freshwater version of life underwater. It was looking at her "gravel" that made me realize it.

(If you haven't been watching this develop, do go look at The Cape Stitcher.)

Meanwhile, working on my saltwater version, I decided to be clever last night and create a gorgonian in needlepoint. At this point, I had decided that, again, Memory Thread was the perfect coral, and that the little red extended polyps it needed, as in a picture I have saved, would be best done with crossed chain stitches and a red French Knot. I got this far, and realized it was a mess - so spent some time taking them out, as I had already made the chain stitches almost to the bottom.
A friend mentioned to me that Memory Thread is not for stitching - just for surface embellishment. However, I have enjoyed "making stitches" with it in a limited amount - It is an absolute necessity for interpreting coral, and a few fly stitches and fern stitches are simple to do.
I had to make holes in the work with a large tapestry needle for pushing and pulling the thread wrapped wire through - but it can be done, and I rather enjoy it as a new twist in creativity. More on this later, as I intend to make little red French Knots all along the branches - without the chain stitches.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Fish is Swimming

The fish is finished and free of the waste canvas. Having to use a chenille needle for this exercise has left my fingers sore - it's not an easy task pushing a needle through the stitched background with the waste canvas on top of it, and I also tend to forget that the tip is very sharp, as opposed to the tapestry needle we normally use for needlepoint.

I also had to use the needle nose pliers when the needle didn't want to pull through easily. The effect, however, is worth it. The stitches look rather rough, but it will smooth out nicely when gently steam pressed.

I left the top fin without it's spines, as I wanted to use a long stitch for emphasis, adding them after the waste canvas was removed. That worked well, so I wish I'd left the lower fin to do that way too, as the Satin floss really shines on the stitches. A learning experience for next time. I'll probably put this away for a day or two, and then look at it with a fresh eye that isn't tired.
By stitching this pattern element on waste canvas, I made it kind of float on top of the background instead of being part of it - very effective!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stitching a Fish on Waste Canvas

I think I burned out - or just ran out of steam for the last two days, and haven't achieved much except to stitch a bit on the next coral reef ornament - this time with the fish!

I finished the background and sand, and prepared to put my litfle fish onto waste canvas. I still like the look of the design element on top of the background stitches instead of being part of it.

Originally, I had drawn the fish facing the other way, so had to trace it and "mirror image" it. On using the waste canvas, one can position an element of the pattern in any direction, due to being able to move the canvas around. I didn't really consider another position for the fish until I looked at the fresh water version being worked at The Cape Stitcher's place. She has just now started this one, so do watch the progress if you haven't already found it!

We've had great fun discussing the various services we held when our children were small and we were dealing with a fish departed from this life. She says she held a number of Naval burials, while my boys preferred fertilizing the rose garden. (they didn't know this). I held "burials at sea" when I could get away with it. Anyway - do go look at hers, as her fish have more personality than mine does.

Working on waste canvas over needlepoint is not a swift process, and I wouldn't do it on a large area, but for the effect, it's worth the effort. I'm using DMC Satin Floss on this one, and it seems to be fine. We'll see when the waste canvas comes out!

In the beginning, I was so enchanted by the colors on the salt water fish I've studied, that I had pulled out several to use on this one little critter - but then realized that it's so small, it would just lose itself among the French Knots I will add later lying around in the sand - too much would ruin it.

About Satin Floss: I've been using DMC Satin Floss since it first came out - there wasn't even a store in Austin who had it, so I had to buy some directly from the company. I think it's available now in most LNS's - and well worth using. It replaces their old rayon floss, which was crinkly and difficult.

The Satin floss is slippery, but no worse than any other brand rayon thread, and is more versatile, as it is plied. The colors, and they add new ones often, are gorgeous!! and of course totally compatible with the DMC pearl cotton and floss - as they are the same.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Nobuko Stitch and More Coral Reef Fantasy

First - I'm announcing that I finally finished Chapter II of PAINT YOUR OWN CANVAS! - so it's ready and available on my web page, Elegant Whimsies, along with Chapter I.

I'm working on another coral reef ornament - a bit different, in that I had the bright idea, after looking at many photographs taken by divers, that it needed some bubbles ascending from the ocean floor. Of course the logical thing to do is to use the Sundance #250 clear beads - the round ones, not the hexagonal.

My error in judgment was to not consider that the bubbles should have been placed at random distances apart, and not every weft stitch vertically in a line - you can see where I marked them, and have left them bare in the basketweave for later addition.

Also, I should use both sizes - the #14, and @11, as in this case, the two sizes would be more effective. Oh well. Another learning experience - for next time.

The first photo shows the five divisions I marked with a blue Sharpie drawing pen for needle blending the water. (Concentric circles were used as a pattern)

The 6th space at the bottom is there because I knew I would cover it with sand, which is marked with the light brown/gold pen. The stitching is finished through four layers, and now ready for the darkest shade - which will be 4 plies of the darker blue - only used two shades of blue on this.

Ordinarily, when using a textured stitch on an area, I would outline it first to make the edges look neat rather than messy and jagged - but in this case, the basketweave water does that job for me. Anyway, the sand doesn't need to be smooth.

I'm using Nobuko stitch, as it isn't directional, nor is it "busy" enough to interfere with embellishment on top in the form of all kinds of sea critters that live on and around a coral reef.

I was curious about the name "Nobuko," and decided to do a bit of research. It's a Japanese feminine name, meaning "girl of faith." The word also stands for truth and f idelity - a lovely name for a little girl who will hopefully grow into a woman with these characteristics.
This is a wonderful stitch, and I use it often for many things, where only a bit of subtle texture is needed. I'm showing it in two colors, simply to illustrate the "traveling" - as it begins on the right, working horizontally, and then returns (the blue row) horizontally from left back to right. Very easy.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Inspiration in Nature! A Beautiful Blog

I've been looking at Carol-Anne Conway's blog regularly for quite some time, (Threads Across the Web) although I don't do embroidery. - It's great to have these images of beautiful and well-executed work in my head. I look at more of the diverse fiber arts than I do needlepoint, as being a designer, I find so much visual stimulation in those - and learn a lot, even though I do a different sort of work.

Incidentally, Carol-Anne has posted a picture of the beautiful Japanese embroidery she's just finished - cords and a tassel. Go see it here.

This morning, as I was "cruising" blogs, I decided to look at another of hers she has listed on her profile: Wilbur's World. These are some of the most beautiful photographs I've seen in a while - and I went way back a year or two (and there are more) and thoroughly enjoyed myself - and realized I've been smiling! She presents them in a very charming way.

Do go look at this if you haven't seen it before - a great way to start or finish the day! As a designer, I look at nature for inspiration, as the colors and forms not only imprint in my brainwires, but I feel a joy in looking at it from all angles in all seasons. (even underwater)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Paint Your Own Canvas: a commercial

I'm very pleased to announce that I finally got out of my creative avoidance mode that I've been in for over a year, and finished what I'll call "Chapter I" of the revision of this book.

I was astonished, as really going over it page by page, that it was rather behind, and had quite a few typos in it - as I wrote it a couple of years before I got a computer or a digital camera. Materials have been expanded, but technique is the same.

I thought that by offering the book as an E-Book, it would be easier for everyone, including me - and much less expensive. I was able to put a lot more color into it that I couldn't do if having to take it to a printer.

The decision to cut it into two chapters came when I realized it was getting way too long to comfortably download - so this one deals with detailed descriptions and pictures of the "tools" and materials used in hand painting canvases - and how to use and care for them. Also included are pros and cons of oils vs. acrylics for painting, as well as some of my favorite color mixtures.

Also, there are pictures of some of my canvases illustrating interesting design sources I like to use. I'll start on Chapter II tomorrow, and hope to have it finished before the weekend is over. This will deal with the actual process from drawing a pattern to getting it onto canvas and painting it.

The E-book is available on my web page Elegant Whimsies under "E-Booklets" (or something to that effect).