Saturday, May 29, 2010

Possibilities of Plaid: A New Tartan

I usually create plaids by just fooling around with bands of color on scrap canvas - or by imitating plaids I see in magazines or on people at the supermarket.

This time I decided to see what I could do by dissecting a real, genuine, registered Tartan that's a little more complicated than my usual. I love green, so was truly "taken" by this one - called "Alpine Meadows."

The first thing to do is to determine how many colors it has, which is best accomplished by counting the solild-color elements. On this one, there are five. (not counting the white lines). The bright green seems the most predominant, but I was surprised upon further study, to see that actually, the main color is the low intensity green that isn't as noticeable as the dark and bright greens - low intensity does fade into the background in any situation!
Next, on scrap canvas, I played with determining the number of canvas threads that each element would occupy. This part isn't easy. One must remember that true plaid is a woven fabric, and even coarse muslin has about 120 threads per inch. I'm using 18 threads to the inch count canvas, so don't have the flexibility of choosing widths of stripes.

I never like using just one line of a color - in this case, white, - but if I had used two threads, the whole thing would be enormous, and not nearly as pretty. The top markings show the warp stripes set up (gotta love those Sharpie drawing pens in color) with a white line between each stripe. The next one shows the pink/green/gold element drawn without the white lines.

I determined that for the main greens, four threads looked much better than five, although the proportion of these on the real tartan is greater next to the very narrow stripes. Artistic license is necessary here - just trying to achieve the "look." The arrows on the right are pointing to my fun and games where I decided that I could make a bracelet and then a napkin ring.

I'll use the metallics, of course on these, and make them rather festive. This is one of those things, as I told someone yesterday, if it looks good, I'll take pictures. If not, I'll never mention it again.
Actually, I was quite surprised that the "setts" were right for this project, as this is a very busy tartan. The first thing to do, of course, is to stitch the warp stripes. It's a bit boring at first, but knowing it will be more exciting when the warp stripes are begun - I could do enough to get ready for the fun part.

The white line does a strange thing when crossing the warp and weft - but it's an interesting pattern, so I won't worry about it.

The arrow is pointing to where I could have stopped the warp stripes, leaving the center of the piece blank - for putting in a large initial or a monogram.

The motif as you see it here, including the dark green bands, is 2" square. The plaid could be extended across the top, and down the sides, leaving a center square blank of 2 3/4". The whole square I have set up on 18 mesh canvas is 6 1/2".

I've played with this tartan a lot, and found it would make a lovely checkbook cover, and even a little scissors fob or key ring - the square outlined by the dark green bands, and turned to make a diamond shape. Lots of things to do. Also, One could use larger mesh canvas and make a wonderful small pillow or pillow inset. I used to love stitching plaid footstool covers on 10 mesh canvas in wool. Gorgeous decorative accessories.

There will be more on this - I hope it gives you an idea of how you might adapt a tartan plaid of your own (I'm using U.S.A. terminology here). Once you know how to "dissect" them for adaptation to needlepoint, you'll look at them with a different eye -whether in books or on the internet.
This is the Millenium ribbon progressing toward finish!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Four Faces of 002 (Kreinik Metallic)

This was originally planned to be "three faces," considering the plain, the High Luster, and the new Holographic, but upon assembling the spools on my work table, I realized that the faces of the 002 have many more visual properties than just the three!

In this first photo, I'm showing the #12 braid and the 1/16" ribbon, which are the two I use most. From left to right, HL, Vintage, and plain. Each has it's own visual qualities and great for achieving different effects!

Then comes the new Holographic!! The picture is showing the blending filament on the left, the 1/16" ribbon in the center, and the #12 braid on the right. The braid isn't pretty as it looks on the spool, but unwound, it is absolutely beautiful, and has a quality and dimension that's quite different from the other "faces" of 002.

I found this true also of the 002V several years ago when I had a spool in my stash, and didn't care for it - then I tried it, and have been a great fan ever since, and use more of it than any of the others.

This is what they look like on my work table - but one should use them judiciously, and not try to cram too many different ones onto one small piece, as this is "overkill" and ruins the overall effect of a design. Gaining some experience in working with each will give you an idea of what you want to use where. It's good to have choices!! Once again - consider that all of these are the 002 in different forms and finishes.!!

Next, check out how beautifully the Holographic colors work with the Memory Thread (Color Infusions). When this metallic first "came out," I was gratified to see that two reds were included - both the "Christmas" red, and the darker one I like to use for different dramatic effects. These too are available in ribbon, braid (all 4 sizes), and blending filament.

There are two pinks also, but the darker one - what I call "fuschia" or "hot pink" doesn't blend well with the Memory Thread, so it went back to its box.

The "chartreuse" green is one of my very favorites - and see how nicely it blends with the M.T.! The orange will be wonderful with other M.T. for fallish looking things, as there are, in that line, soft browns, tan, olive green, etc. Lots of possibilities for new designs!

To see a really really beautiful and appropriate use of the Holographic metallic, go see Liz Morrow's gorgeous new bargello piece! In this case, the work shows the intrinsic qualities of the thread as it enhances the design - works well together! This picture looks a lot better on Liz's blog than it does on mine. She also showed, in earlier posts, the ribbons in progress.

I forgot to mention that the Holographic braid is much much softer than the High Luster version of the Kreinik metallics. As much as I like the HL versions, they are a bit stiff.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Commercial for Me and an Ornament Finished!

I had such a lovely time playing in the coral reefs on my computer screen when I was creating the ornaments, that I really had no intention of doing anything commercial with them - hoping via my Needlepoint Now article this issue to motivate people to just try it on their own.

However, I've had an enormous and unexpected response from these, requests from individuals and shops alike - so went ahead and wrote up the detailed and complete instructions for three of them (Whew! not my favorite thing to do), and have this offered as a downloadable E-Pattern.

They are also available in a trio set drawn onto the canvas with the water and sand painted - same set of instructions, and still a lot of room for personal creativity. You can see these on Elegant Whimsies, my web page..

The ornament with the DMC Memory Thread and Kreinik Holographic metallic ribbon (inspired by Sharon B's "cloud filling" on her TAST stitch last week on Pin Tangle) is also finished, as it didn't take very long to do. It's a simple thing with few threads. I used YLI Ribbon Floss for the white background, as I like using it with long stitches too, as it looks like two different white fibers!

This ornament certainly glitters, and will show up well against the dark green of a fir Christmas tree. I refused for many many years to design Christmas ornaments, as we had nothing to make them sparkle - now we have an abundance. I prefer this sort of thing to pictorial ornaments, as they show up better, I think, in their bright and shining simplicity.

There is also simplicity in the expense of the project! It only required two spools of Kreinik metallic ribbon (red and gold), DMC Memory Thread one spool, and YLI white Ribbon Floss - one spool.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beautiful Threads!! (and the Ornament Continues)

First - good news! I remember while working on the Coral Reef ornaments, and using threads from the stash I had bought from Sharon B. of Pin Tangle, that I was hoping she would soon show more of her gorgeous hand dyed threads on the ArtFire store - and now she has.

I waited, of course, until I had bought what I wanted (I used restraint) before calling attention to it, as I saw it on her blog post yesterday. For anyone who doesn't follow this blog - it is delightful, informative, and inspirational for any of the fiber arts.

I'm especially enjoying the packages of threads as they are, as it's like having a stash of exotic and;/or useful and beautiful threads to choose from for my needlepoint projects that aren't like most of what's available in the shops. Also, there are built in color schemes in some of them. Do go take a look at Pin Tangle, and click on the link to Sharons Artfire store.

Next, the ornament: I had to take the big bright button off after all, as it was even more obnoxious after two days of not looking at it than it was when hid it from myself. I simply substituted a simple "woven" grid with #8 Holographic braid (Kreinik, of course). Then made a bit more progress on other parts. It's almost finished - and I'll do this as ideas occur for the last few small areas.

It's amazing how bright/white the YLI Ribbon floss (or any thread) looks when worked with long stitches, so the light strikes more surface. The background, the light being broken up by basketweave stitches, looks darker and duller, but what I needed to best display the look of the Memory Thread and metallic. I started a new one yesterday - another of my "traditional ornament shapes."

I decided it would be a good idea to make it red, but using the needle blending, starting with DMC floss #321. However, the stitch I'm using - my version of T-stitch - is letting some background show through, so I'm in process of ripping out and using a different stitch.

Basketweave would be too flat and dull looking for the surface. I could have painted the canvas red first, but was too lazy to do so. More on this another time, unless I decide to abort the mission and do something else.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another Memory Thread Motif and Holographic Ribbon

This one started as a sketch on a scanned copy of the ornament before I started stitching it. I find it the easiest way to figure out some of these things.
One thing I know is that I should have drawn the entire ornament on an even count instead of odd - that is, an even number of stitches wide, which is determined by how I start at the top. It would have made these Memory Thread motifs fit better on top of the stitching, as I had to work in the spaces between stitches and not on the stitch itself..

Anyway, the fact that it isn't perfect is fine - it just shows that it was made by hand and not by a machine. For this one, the little top stitches with the Kreinik Holographic ribbon were made horizontally instead of vertically, as in the cloud filling.

In the study of Fine Arts in the studio, one learns to never force a medium to do something not inherent in its' nature, but to use it to best advantage, for its own qualities and to convey an effect desired by the artist. Using needlepoint threads falls into this category, and I'm tempted, myself, to try to force the Memory thread to do things for which it really isn't suited, just because it's fun for playing.

On this ornament, I've used it to achieve a wonderful effect I couldn't possibly get with anything else - it's raised above the surface of the stitching, and is simple and smooth - and was easily manipulated, once I figured out how to handle it most effectively. The color is also very nice for this ornament.

As for the Kreinik Holographic Ribbon - WOW! The best way I can describe it is that it has a refractory quality rather than reflective. That is, it appears that the light of the spectrum is broken up by the surface rather than the gleam/sparkle/shine/glitter that one usually sees on a metallic thread - Kreinik included.

It's an amazing look, and I wanted to use it in such a way that it shows this quality. I'm using the 1/16" ribbon for the horizontal bands, and also for the round "button" thing at the bottom. This may have to be removed, as I'm not sure I like it - it's very very bright, but I'll put it away in a drawer for a day or two - and then finish the other areas and see what I think.

I may do the same thing, but use the braid instead of the ribbon, as braid doesn't lie flat, and has a delightful "spun" texture on the surface.

The Holographic braid didn't excite me when seen on the spool, but when I threaded my needle with a strand - it came to life, and is really beautiful. I'm waiting for the #12 braid to arrive, as the #8 is small, and would take forever for this stitch - and probably not be as effective.

It's the same stitch I made up for the sea urchin - the raised spider web on 8 spokes, but going counter clock-wise back over two and forward under one. A rather interesting effect.

ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention that I used DMC floss and Kreinik Holographic Blending Filament on the red knob at the bottom of the ornament. The BF has the same qualities as the ribbon and the braid.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kreinik Holographic and DMC Memory Thread: a Great Combo for an Ornament!!

When trying out - or using any thread at any time - there should be a definite reason for it, beyond just being the right color or because it's lying on the table.

The new Holographic thread by Kreinik has an amazing quality, and it took me a while to find just the right project for experimenting. (now the ideas are flooding into my head). It actually appears to have "lights" within it, so must be used to show off this characteristic for the advantage of the piece as well as the thread. I also wanted to find other uses for the Memory Thread by DMC beyond just creating coral.

The thing that prompted this idea was a TAST project of Sharon B's, which she calls "cloud filling." (this is from week 10, Tuesday May 4, on PINTANGLE) Anne Stradal has also used this Cloud Filling on her blog - but she sees it as flowers growing on a trellis - a charming effect!! (The Cape Stitcher)

The ornament is from my e-pattern collection of Traditional Ornaments, and I'll build it a little bit at a time, as my preconceived ideas usually fall flat and require some ripping out and re-arranging. I'm using here the red Holographic 1/16" ribbon, and outlined it first, as always, to make sure the edges are neat and not jagged.

I wasn't happy with the first thread I used for background, as it was too white - but in retrospect, what I should have used was the DMC white #3865, which isn't "white white." This would have been combined with blending filament 032. What I've used here is YLI ribbon floss.

To begin the "cloud filling," I first made a tracing of the area, and penciled in where I needed to put the little loops of metallic ribbon. This allowed me to place the loops by referring to the drawing.

I like the ribbon here rather than braid, as it lies flat and really adds a dimension via the holographic glow. The loops must be made LOOSE, so the Memory Thread will go beneath it easily. I find using a size 18 tapestry needle to hold them off the surface while making the next stitch is a good idea - keeps them from being pulled tightly. Each loop is two stitches.

When all of the loops are in place, one may then start "weaving" in the Memory Thread. (I have a tutorial posted for using Memory Thread on my Freebies, etc. blog.)

On this piece, I came up from the back, and then going from left to right, just wove the M.T. over and under, creating the beginning of the lattice effect. I used a #18 tapestry needle to lift the loops so it would be easy to poke the M.T. underneath. Then, at the right side, the M.T. goes back down from front to back of the ornament. (this is explained in detail in the tutorial). EASY!!

Incidentally - the needle showing here is just to hold the M.T. back out of the way - and for lifting the loops, etc. The M.T. is entirely manipulated with the fingers - not in a threaded needle, which would be rather impossible.

In this detail, the arrow at top left shows where the M.T. is brought from back to front - and top right shows where it goes back down. The arrow at the bottom right shows where the M.T. will be poked back down from front to back. I think you can see in this close-up the remarkable qualities of these two threads - lots of fun to play with.

The ornament will be worked a little bit at a time, but will work as a whole when I'm finished (hopefully) - and not as a several separate parts that don't coordinate. This is where individual creativity comes in - and I encourage everyone to try it!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Millenium Ribbon: It's Looking like Plaid!

This is now beginning to be quite entertaining, as it's beginning to actually look like tartan. At this point I always want to stitch a little bit farther for a few more minutes to see what will happen next. As the weft threads travel horizontally across the vertical bands of stitcihing, it takes on a new life.

I've never had any desire to paint plaid onto canvas, as it's impossible to do a true one that way, unless it's a very simple thing with very very few colors (such as gingham checks) - everywhere two colors cross each other, a new color is created. I would say "theoretically," as a needlepoint plaid is on coarse fabric - the mono canvas.

In this example, it's 18 stitches to the inch, so where two colors cross, it shows little dots, which are easily discernible, but nevertheless interesting. A pattern that resembles a plaid can be painted - but not a true, woven one. I suppose it could be done, but what a lot of time and trouble!!!

If you look at this example, you can see where the green crosses the yellow, a "yellow green" would be formed. Where green crosses white, a lighter green shows. On a woven fabric plaid with warp and weft, the thread count is normally so high that it does register visually as another color.

This is the principle upon which the Impressionist painter Georges Seurat based his Pointillism paintings - as the eye automatically assimilates the areas of tiny dots of pure color into the color the artist intended. My goodness, that must have been slow. La Grande Jatte is enormous!! (his most famous work)

Now that this "Millenium Ribbon" tartan is taking shape, I'm wanting to work on it more, and start setting up yet another of the ribbons. I could make these narrower by decreasing the counts - as beginning with the tiniest elements - the lines. Those could be reduced to one thread only, but would not have nearly the impact they do as two lines. On this pattern, they would show up, as the white, yellow, and green are light and bright agains the blue. This is a consideration! Back to the drawing board for a while.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Fantasy: The Water Droplet Finished!

I really didn't think I could create another one, but this one I enjoyed as much as the others! A lot more experience in handling the Memory Thread, and, as always, a creative experience in choosing the threads. It still takes a bit of nerve to begin "painting with my needle" on a bare, stitched background - in this case, sand and sea water on a coral reef.

After placing the "main elements" - the seaweed (DMC Satin Floss), the Coral, and the first urchin, it was time to proceed with filling in the usual delightful clutter on the sand.

First, of course, the blue star fish, as I'm still enchanted with this. Then, just a dumping out of random samples in my stash - and leftovers - to choose a few that are compatible with the emerging color scheme.

Again, I seem to do best on this with no pre-conceived "color scheme." Just adding one thing at a time does the job, and then it's easy to see what else is required. One must consider, of course, in these color choices, the texture of the threads. They should enhance and complement each other. Too much sparkle or too much shine wouldn't be pretty as a whole.

I did use another of Sharon B's threads on the blue star fish, (which was worked with a fly stitch plus two spokes in the normal ribbed spider web stitch) because it also had the little bit of iridescent sparkle, but wasn't fuzzy - a smoother fiber. Lest this sound confusing, I've always seen "raised" or "ribbed" spider web worked on an even number of spokes - normally 8. However, for a star fish, 5 were required. This "5" format, being an odd number, is what we use to make silk ribbon roses, just weaving the ribbon over and under going around the foundation spokes.

The last photo is a detail of the sandy bottom of the coral reef - it needed some green, so I started with another sea urchin, but this time with Sea Grass by Thread Gatherer, which is smooth and small in diameter, so I was able to make a tiny one.

I'm enchanted with the form this method of stitching "spider rib" takes - it looks rather like a snail shell, which isn't what I had imagined. Hmmmm. Maybe I'd better get ready by working another "blank" water droplet.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

DMC Memory Thread: Creating "Coral"

I had already stitched a "blank" when I ran out of steam and out of time when I was creating the Coral Reef series - which is the feature of my article in the new issue of Needlepoint Now. I just received my advance copy, and Elizabeth B. has a way of making my little projects look better on paper than "in person."

Anyway - that, combined with some new underwater pictures I found, motivated me to dig in the stash for this one, dump out threads, and get started on a new piece. The background is worked in Nobuko stitch with DMC floss - a blue in two shades that aren't too far apart in value, and done with "needle blending" (Anne Stradal taught me). You can see the divisions marked on the side on the canvas - they're about 11 threads each. The sand is worked in horizontal diagonal cashmere stitch.

I have put up a tutorial on the method of using the DMC Memory thread on Freebies, Etc., as it took me a while to work it out, myself - trial and error. (mostly error and frustration in the beginning, but being determined, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong - so now it's rather easy!)This coral was created as the result of a picture I saw that had really gorgeous, bright colors - and the yellow is was exactly the color of the Memory Thread in my stash - as well as the peach for accents. The "polyps" are French Knots made with a variegated pearl cotton by DMC.

I always place the main elements first - usually a coral, a spray of seaweed, and a "critter." Then I can work around these, adding one thing and one color at a time, as any pre-conceived plan with color choices never seems to work.

As for the creature in this one, I had the bright idea, after studying pictures of sea urchins, to do a different kind of woven "spider web." Instead of the "ribbed" version, where one goes back over one and forward under two, I decided after looking at this beautiful thread, to try making the thread stay on top of the ribs - going back over two and forward under one. Doing this is going counter clock-wise instead of the usual clock-wise motion.

The thread was in one of Sharon B.'s gorgeous hand dyed hanks, (Pintangle) and actually has some very fine, variegated color metallic spun through it - about the weight of blending filament. Normally I wouldn't use metallics on these, but this seemed to fit. The texture seems to be a wool/silk combo from the feel of it, and it has a ropy twist, which makes an interesting surface.

I'm anxious to try this one with something smoother and see what it looks like. I figure that someone else has probably also developed this stitch - and it probably has a long, elaborate name, but this is how these things come to be. More on this one as it progresses.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Penguin Celebrates Independence!

Anne Stradal has painted and stitched a penguin in honor of Cinco de Mayo, which we take very seriously in my part of town. (Austin) Independence of Mexico from France.

She has just finished this one, and as always, her simplicity in choices of stitches and the great combinations of thread textures, work together to create a charming ornament.

If you haven't already seen this one, be sure and visit The Cape Stitcher. Anne's penguins have more personality than any I've ever seen!

Pedro, now two days post "Cinco," looks like he's still tired but happy from exhausting celebrations.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Setting Up the Plaid (Millenium Ribbon)

In the very beginning of setting up a plaid on needlepoint canvas from an already existing one, the colors, of course, have to be counted and considered.

On a tartan with more than about three colors, it isn't quite as easy as it seems - it's common to miss one. The case here was that I didn't notice at first that there is a green stripe on the vertical set up, and a yellow on the horizontal. Irregular plaid!

This scan is very pale, so it's not easy to see - but it's just my doodling with the stripes to ascertain the widths of each relevant to the others. I do this on leftover scrap canvas with my drawing pen. The smallest elements - the ones that look like single lines - translate best when stitched as two threads on needlepoint canvas, so one must start there. Then, but just playing a bit, and comparing visual percentages of the widths, one can finally come up with a reasonable facsimile.
In the olden days (a few years ago) before I found colored Sharpie drawing pens, this set up would have been rather confusing to stitch. The colors, of course, aren't true - but they certainly help.

I drew the top and right side margins, (arrow on the left) and then changed my mind, as I wanted to include what was on the ribbon at top and bottom - the yellow and blue lines. The coloring in of the spaces gives me all the guidance I need for the stitching.

This piece came out to be 2 1/2" high. I would love to have had it narrower, as a ribbon, but I'm thinking of other uses for a band this wide. Anyway, it's a new format to play with , so at present it doesn't matter.
Beginning the stitching - as always, the warp is stitched FIRST in skipped basketweave, as that is the strength of the mono canvas, as well as the way the plaid is woven on a loom. I like to stitch about this far, and then do a bit across the weft to see the plaid begin to emerge.

I'm showing the section of the actual ribbon that you can see here with stitches on it so far. You might notice that the green has changed in this last photo. What I had already stitched didn't show up, as the green was too dark, and too close in value to the blue. I switched to one that I had discarded in the beginning as too bright - but it works fine here!!
It's at this point that I get really anxious to see how it will look with just a little bit more, or one more stripe worked - so it never gets boring. The only boring part might be in the beginning when setting up the initial verticals - but that doesn't last long! I'm already figuring out how to maybe make this narrower and do a set of Tartan napkin rings. Or put it on a small diamond shaped ornament with some glitzy stuff in it for a key ring. Lots of possibilities here!!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Plaid/Tartan: A New Idea for a Project!

As I say often, some of my best ideas originate when looking at the beautiful blogs of the textile artists - art quilters especially.

Allison Aller was showing some crazy quilt blocks she's finished, and one had a "Millenium Ribbon" on it, which was a gift from a friend. As it is tartan, I had to ask for more information, and was told that her friend (link to this is on the blog) purchased it in Scotland in 1999.

Allie graciously sent me a close-up picture of it. I spent some time on the internet looking for "millenium" ribbons, but this is the only one I found - and it came from a store in Insch, Aberdeen. It's stated on that web page that it has been registered, as tartans must, to be "official."

Anyway, as always, I had to go cruising to find other tartan ribbons, as I didn't know they existed - and found buried treasure!! I found the Royal Stewart tartan in ribbon form, and also the "dress tartan," which substitutes a white background for the red - but is otherwise the same.

Incidentally, I discovered that the spelling for this tartan is STEWART, and not STUART, as I had always thought. The reason is that Mary Queen of Scots, who was raised in France, spelled her name as "Stuart," as there is no W in the French language.
When Queen Elizabeth adopted it as her official tartan, the English version of the name was used. Very interesting trivia. I'm showing the Buchanan tartan here just because I like it - and have always wanted to do something with it.
The Anderson tartan is my own, but it has seven colors, and is so complicated that I've never used it - it would be rug sized to include all the elements in needlepoint. I've already started playing around a bit on canvas with the Millenium tartan/plaid, and will do a few others as well. I'll show from beginning to end how to do this.
I've already discovered that in order to get in all the elements in their proper proportions, the ribbon will be 2 1/2" wide - so to my surprise, that's perfect for a picture frame or for a pillow to frame a monogram or initial!! I'm using the term "tartan" here because that is correct - although in this country only we use the word "plaid." This is explained in a previous post I did after some research into terminology. Just do a "search" at the top right (type in "plaid.")
Stay tuned for a How-To as it goes along. I never would have figured out doing these strips on my own, as the individual setts make it confusing.