Thursday, September 30, 2010

A New Silk Ribbon Rose (from Downunder)

While cruising around on my morning "visits," I went to PINTANGLE as always, and found directions to a delightful tutorial from Queensland. This blog has been on my "list" for some time, but I haven't gone there daily, so would have missed it.

Shirley, of Shirleys Twisted Threads is a delightful and talented lady, whose text I enjoy as much as her projects and pictures. This new kind of silk ribbon rose is her own invention, and she offers it as a tribute to Sharon Boggon, who has inspired us and taught so many of us so much.

I will have to go to Sharon's stitch dictionary and brush up a bit on my stitches, as this one involves a sort of "twisted chain stitch" that I don't remember how to do right now. It's actually simple, but I'm rusty at some of this. I especially enjoy doing surface embellishment on top of stitched needlepoint, and silk ribbon embroidery is almost "instant gratification."

Anyway, you can get the traveling directions to the tutorial by going to Pintangle, or go directly to STITCHIN' FINGERS to see it. It's delightful, and well worth the time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Angels Among Us

I believe there are angels among us - but of course not sporting wings and a halo. (These things did not appear in art until the Renaissance)

Someone (a good friend, of course) suggested that my two little angels other than the birthday girls had an "ethnic" look about them, and prodded me with two more requests - A Swedish angel first.

I had to look up "Swedish National Dress," and found one that was created in the late 19th century (I'll check my date on that) by a woman who wanted an identifying costume. It's blue and yellow, of course, as is the Swedish National Flag.

The white flowers are daisies, but I had to conventionalize them here, as the figure is small, and they wouldn't stitch well except in silk ribbon. I made them into little six petaled flowers to be worked in Smyrna cross "bumps."

The next one speaks for itself as to origin, and I really enjoyed the designing of it. My goal was to not make it trite, which was a challenging task! I do hope I'll get to see it stitched.

The lace on the bottom of the apron is shown as little blue squares, indicating where to put Smyrna crosses as "bumps" (in white, of course) representing the beautiful Irish crocheted lace. The Irish were the ones who started replicating lace long ago with crochet!

I've been so fascinated with dreaming up costumes for these things that I may decide to make them a little larger than the 7 3/4" and leave off the halo and wings - just standing dolls of some sort.

I will probaby travel to Mexico next, in my thoughts, as there are regional traditional costumes there that are breathtaking with their embroidery.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Embellishment on Needlepoint: A Different Sort!

Embellishing on the surface of stitched needlepoint has been an interesting exercise and experiment for me for the last few years, but mine have been the art crazy quilt format - in which I was also able to try out different stitches and threads that were new to me, as well as practicing such techniques as silk ribbon embroidery and other embroidery stitches.

I was delighted to see Anne Stradal (The Cape Stitcher) straying from her norm lately, and doing adaptations of Sailor's Valentines. I was unfamiliar with these, so also enjoyed her history behind them, as well as imaginative use of threads and sea shells.

Be sure to go watch this develop, as she is now starting the third one, which looks like a wonderful thing in the making! The photo is just showing the beginning of #3, so be sure to see it progress.

Next, I found this delightful tutorial by way of Sharon B's PINTANGLE - the painted button tutorial by "Older Rose," in which she shows how to prepare and paint buttons.

She also has a site for selling her beautiful work, and I'm thinking what wonderful things to either paint for yourself for canvas embellishment, or you could buy them already painted. This is worth spending some time looking!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stitches and Threads!

While looking through some of my favorite blogs yesterday, I visited Rachel in the U.K. at Virtuosew Adventures, and saw this wonderful band sampler of stitches and threads.
She suggests trying out new stitches to see how they look - as well as using different threads to see how they perform, and how the appearance of stitches is changed. Also, by doing it in bands, it's easier to determine for what purpose a stitch might be used on other projects.
I like the idea of this format for a needlepoint practice piece, learning and developing, as the time and materials aren't wasted - it's a lovely thing, and could be used as a pillow inset, a purse - depending on size, etc. Lots of uses besides the ornament shapes and crazy quilts I've been using, but am so tired of. (Besides, ornaments should sparkle.)
Do go look at this, and, as she changes posts often, you might have to scroll down one or two posts to see it. It's all worth a look!! This sort of thing is wonderful for both beginners and experienced stitchers - we should all still be learning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

For "Beginners" - What to stitch first??

First another comment on choosing a canvas: I found another example of what used to be a great beginner piece - and still would be when properly drawn and painted. That is, it needs to be symmetric and stitch painted!

This one is cute, but the little dots are lopsided, as is the bug itself - and the antennae are crooked and would be confusing to stitch for a beginner. A pattern this small would not be attractive stitched as it is.

About having that much background - I wouldn't put that much on a beginner piece and expect anyone to do it in basketweave. This is where a bit of texture might be introduced. A simple stitch such as T-stitch (the way I do it that covers the canvas) because it's not overwhelming, and because it would make the background work up faster. A diagonal stitch would be awful in this case!! So would mosaic stitch, as it's square, and would not be attractive butted up against the round contours of the bug.

I used to teach on a ladybug, myself, long ago, as it has the elements I needed to show how to stitch on a curve, and also the antennae going in two different directions. This is a thing that is difficult for people to get used to - making ALL of the tent stitches going in the same direction, as the tendency is to want to point them in the opposite direction here. As I've said before, the sawtooth effect is just a characteristic of needlepoint.

This is also a good design for demonstrating how to find where to start the basketweave, as it's different from just starting in the upper right corner (lower left for left handers). As for where to start, this picture is from my tutorial on stitching background around irregular shapes, so you can see the rest of it on Freebies, etc. (I think that's where it is).

Anyway, a piece of paper may be placed on the EXACT diagonal of the canvas, and moved toward the curve - you can see clearly where the first stitches will be. I still have to do this on some of my elaborate designs, such as the leaves on the Celadon I'm stitching right now. It can be confusing!

The leopard spots also show the advantage of stitching them first before background, as a lot of shaping trial and error is going on here, even though I painted them carefully. They are not solid only because I left the gaps to insert beads - this was intended for the top of a hat Vikki wanted to make.

Although it wasn't the subject of the tutorial, this series also shows, as in this picture, the advantage of stitching DESIGN before background. If one does background first, there is danger of misshaping a part of the curves.

I learned this the hard way long ago. I was doing a little cherry on a keyring for a friend, as it was her name - I worked the background first, but when I stitched the cherry, it looked like it had a wart on the side. It looked fine until the background was stitched around it.

The next photo is a detail of the Celadon piece I'm working on for my son - on the lower corner I noticed the date on it is 1996. Oh dear. No wonder he keeps asking me about it. He bought me the bowl from which I adapted it. The arrows are simply pointing to elements of the pattern than needed to be shaped before background was stitched around them.

In looking at the corresponding squiggle on the left side, I can see where I should have added one more brown stitch, as it appears to have a lump on it, but eliminating these few stitches in the shaping would have made it too flat on that side. Too late now, and the work is 15" diameter, so maybe nobody will notice if I don't point it out.

This is for framing for his office, and I don't think a bunch of lawyers will be too concerned with it. I did stitch in the coin in Kreinik metallic braid (002V) BEFORE outlining it, because the braid might otherwise have pulled at the DMC floss stitches of the outline if I had done that first. In this case it was O.K., as the coin is stitch painted.

In doing all that outlining first, I was able to shape the elements more easily - as the leaf the arrow shows. I like a good balance in stitching between outlining and background (or pattern vs background). Background can get boring - so working something a bit more challenging and then taking a break with working background around it is good.

The last photo is a canvas I designed in the mid 80's, and had begun to stitch, but had to put it down for other things. At that time, there still were no novelty threads, and using textured stitches was rare.

On looking at it again, I want to re-paint it, but smaller, on 18 mesh canvas, and use just a little bit of texture. Too much would ruin it, but that background is rather daunting to think of doing in basketweave. I'm thinking maybe just simple T-stitch, and needle blending at the bottom where it shades to blue and purple.

The veins of the sea fan show the "design before background" principle. However, at this point, instead of plain old basketweave, I think the fan could stand some subtle sparkle and a tiny bit of texture - I'll have to think about that.

This canvas really has possibilities for using different thread effects and a few decorative stitches here and there. Hmmmm. I'll get right on it as soon as I have time.

Hopefully you can see at this point that stitching the painted canvas needn't be frightening - one learns gradually, after mastering the basic basketweave, to introduce a few well placed and carefully thought out decorative stitches. You can look through books and try out a few that look interesting, but there is simply NO need to master dozens of them, just to be able to use long, fancy names and show skills that aren't necessary and make the work tedious rather than relaxing and enjoyable - it just isn't required, and it makes a goopy mess if overdone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Order of Stitching! (Background and Beads)

I've had a bit of trouble thinking about "beginner" things to discuss, and just now realized that even the simple techniques of using beads with needlepoint and replicating fabrics does require a good knowledge of and familiarity with basketweave!

Way back a long time ago, I became fascinated with trying to replicate fabrics in needlepoint, as I was doing a lot of Traditional American quilt patterns on canvas, and wanted to dress up the patches that didn't have "printed" designs on them.

One of my very favorites was dotted swiss, which I had worn a lot as a small child. (My mother loved it.) I still use this from time to time for things like the background of this little cactus, and the blue part of the "beginner" flower in a previous post.

This little barrel cactus canvas (from Sundance) was posted previously (about two years ago) for showing basketweave and outlining properly executed, but I noticed that I also used "dotted swiss" on the background so it wouldn't be so plain. I didn't want to use a textured stitch that would distract from the central design - but it needed something. You can see where I marked little blue dots on the canvas to indicate where to put the "dotted" in the Swiss.

The basketweave around them HAS to be worked first, or they will kind of sink and not stand up so high so as to show up. After doing the background around the dots, simply make an X over the blank tent stitch where you've left the canvas intersection bare. If you make the dots on the intersection where the WARP thread is on top, as a little"bump," it will stand up high and show up well.
The backside of the little stocking is another example of using basketweave correctly - I usually advocate "design before background" (unless the thread is fuzzy), but have always preferred to stitch the background before the name on a stocking cuff. Several reasons - one is that the fibers from the name, if stitched first, can rub off on the white stitches and make it look "smeared."

This shows the back of one, where I simply carried the thread, doing diagonal work, across underneath where the name is drawn - you can see where I started working the name. It has beads on it, so the blue "Nina" was stitched as I do for inserting beads - basketweave on every other row, using the weft stitches, and leaving the warp bare for the beads. One thing seems to lead to another!

On this front view of the Nina sock, you can see strings of beads with "jewels." I never place the beads clumped up together on a straight line, but leave the warp thread between them. It "reads" well as a straight line of sparkle! In this case, I put Kreinik 002V braid between the beads as part of a chain of jewelry. You can see also that there are beads as well as a tent stitch in the "jewels."

By the way, when placing beads on needlepoint, never place them end to end - especially the faceted ones, as they don't quite fit the space and can look rather strange. The faceted beads aren't perfectly round like the little smooth ones, and appear more like tiny bugle beads - so are too long to be putting end to end. This is just one of the little things one learns with experience and trial and error.
The white patch of Petite Very Velvet is on my December crazy quilt heart - and shows straight lines of clear faceted beads. In this case, as they are on the diagonal, I simply marked lines where I wanted the beads and then worked basketweave around them.
Notice that the beads are NOT placed end to end, as they would have butted against each other and made the lines crooked. They read just as well with the little space between them, as they are lying sideways..

This close-up of one of the coral reef ornaments shows the lines of beads going from the sand up to the top of the sea. The little round, clear beads with the one stitch separating them look just like bubbles, I think. However, I had decided that next time I do this, I'll make the vertical line more irregular with spaces. I used both sizes (#11 and #14) clear beads #250 for this for more "bubble" effect

Next time I'll show where and why to stitch design before background and vice versa. As you can see, one can really start working some amazing but simple effects without having to resort to covering every space on a painted canvas with texured stitches.
This would be overwhelming to a beginner, as one simply cannot just go look in a lot of books and choose stitches at random. This needs to be introduced gradually. After all - we do this for enjoyment and relaxation and to create something fun/beautiful/useful - whatever - for ourselves and our friends and loved ones.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Needlepoint for Beginners: Basketweave

Actually, I'm wondering what constitutes a "beginner." There are total beginners who have never stitched with needle and thread on canvas at all - and then there are those who have done lots and lots of counted work, but never a painted canvas. I am amazed that people are afraid of it, but if all they've seen is the "goopy" messes so many people make, it's understandable. Fortunately, it's not required

I would say that either one needs to start with the very basic foundation stitch of needlepoint - basketweave! This is a greatly misunderstood stitch, but it's the one that teaches us how to regulate the tension of our work, and also to fill in parts of a painted canvas where it's more appropriate than textured stitches. It's repetitive motion is also very soothing.

Basketweave is called that because of the way it looks on the back - like a simple woven basket. It's another name for "diagonal tent" stitch, as opposed to the horizontal tent stitch, which is called "continental." An aside is that continental should never be used on mono canvas, as it makes a flimsy fabric, and has ugly horizontal ridges - it also distorts the canvas, and actually serves no purpose. and it's BORING.

This stitch was used by Victorian ladies (and my grandmother) on penelope canvas with pre-worked design. The double stranding made it possible to split 10 mesh canvas into 20 threads per inch for fine pattern.

The second picture shows the look of the basketweave on the right, and continental on the left - you can clearly see the difference. I took these pictures from a post of two years ago - lots of posts under "beginner needlelpoint" if you click on the label. I didn't have time today to do fine new swatches.

Another reason to begin with basketweave is that you get a "feel" for what is called "traveling" - the direction of making stitches properly for the most attractive effect as well as as, again, the repetitive motion that is soothing to us. I have seen some rather poor instructions for this in some of the more poplar books of stitches, although the stitches themselves are great!

There is one book that is supposedly one of the best that actually states that "basketweave can't be done in small spaces." This isn't true. See my little candy corn to dispel that myth.

It also says to come up in the center hole and go down outside when making Algerian eye - common sense would tell anyone this is not a good way to "travel." BUT the stitch collection is superb, once a person has learned technique.

The next picture of the candy corn is the little first medallion on the napkin ring finished - I can remember beginning students being upset by the strange shapes and the "sawtooth" edges on diagonals, but this is a characteristic of needlepoint, and is fine.

Note that the candy corn is stitch painted and perfectly symmetric. Think what a mess this would be if it weren't!!

I chose Petite Very Velvet for the candy, and surrounded it with black YLI Ribbon Floss in Shimmer Blend. I also used ribbon floss for the gold, as I didn't like the idea or the look of metallic braid here. This is YLI Honey/Copper Shimmer Blend. Great stuff!! The edging is my favorite long-armed cross stitch, which is superb for this - as well as for belts, as it rolls over easily and makes finishing simple as well as making an attractive edge.

This is where a nice repertoire of stitches is handy - not too many, as that gets confusing. One should use decorative stitches judiciously and for effect and not over-do it just the the sake of using them. These are things you can glean as you go along - see them on other people's work and ask questions. Just looking through a book when you haven't a clue what you're looking for, as a beginner, won't help. This should come gradually with experience and some good tutoring!

That's enough for now - too much pontificating here and not enough pictures. I'm off to stitch for a while.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Choosing a "Beginner" Canvas

I've been thinking for the past few months about doing extensive tutorials on selecting canvases to stitch, (and then how to begin stitching) as I've seen so many beginners who wanted badly to learn needlepoint, but then purchased a really poorly drawn and painted one that wasn't appropriate for a beginner anyway. This is very discouraging, and many lose out on what could have been a wonderful and relaxing hobby.

When I was teaching many years ago, I painted my own beginner pieces that served well for children and adults alike - as they consisted of a few nice, clear flat areas of pleasing and colorful design, were small enough to not be overwhelming, and carefully drawn for ease in seeing where to put the next stitch.

Also included would be elements needed for teaching techniques, such as outlining, veins in leaves or butterfly antennae going in opposite directions on the canvas, and irregular curved shapes. Sadly, the canvases on the market now lack this sort of thing, and pieces labeled "beginner" are pretty bad in many cases.

I actually saw one that was a dragonfly - beautiful picture, but entirely too many lines on it, hardly any flat spaces, and on close inspection, the lines were so badly drawn that some of them were down in the grooves between the threads. The background was beautifully shaded, but very very difficult for a beginner - or even some experienced stitchers!

The first illustration is a little canvas I stitched that was designed and painted by a young friend of mine who had great potential as a designer - and did have some lovely "beginner" pieces in her line. I redrew it, as the original needed some help - I was tutoring her on drawing and painting. The second picture is the same flower, but stitched by the artist herself before she learned that the outside of the circle should have been outlined first to contain the decorative stitches and avoid the jagged/raggedy edges. More on that later.

The background on the first one was stiched AFTER the leaves were first outlined so that it would meet the pattern neatly without making a mess.

I think the poorly painted canvases are a lot responsible for designs being smothered with "goop," as people don't quite know what to do with this problem, or where to start and stop, so just start adding layers and layers of threads and too many decorative stitches, which creates an eye shattering mess..

Next is another of the beginner flowers in the series - a charming canvas. Below it is the designer's stitched piece, so you can see the difference just a symmetric drawing makes, as on the first version.

The arrows are pointing to places that are jagged due to it's needing to be outlined first. Messy and unattractive!! More on this in another day or two - and then we'll begin learning to stitch!

Actually, I like her thread colors better than mine on this design. I'm hoping this lady will decide to resume marketing canvases again, as she does have talent and a lot to offer!

Last on this entry is the egg - it's a bright and pretty design, but the outline of the egg is not only drawn with a harsh, black line that will most likely show through the thread, but it is totally lopsided and asymmetric.

It takes very little effort to stitch count a symmetric egg onto canvas, and it it finishes so beautifully, it's worth the effort. I think this is also a problem with the shop owners, in that they see a pretty design when buying, but don't really look closely to see how well or poorly the drawing and painting is done - so learn to really LOOK at a canvas before you purchase it.This you will understand after you begin stitching!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It's Ornament Time!

It's time to think of new ornaments, and also time to learn and practice new stitches and techniques! For this reason, I've reached into my own e-booklets of ornament shapes to get ready.

I had already made two with backgrounds of needle blending (a red one and a pink one) so I'd have something to practice Sharon Boggon's Tuesday stitches on, plus a few things I'd like to do with DMC Memory Thread. I stitch these backgrounds while watching something interesting on TV or watching a movie, as I like to keep my hands busy, and want something that requires no thought.

I started drawing the basic ornament shapes several years ago so as not to waste time, canvas, and threads on just scraps - but ending the experiment activity with something useful and (hopefully) pretty.

The first picture is an ornament I showed here not too long ago, as I was working with Memory thread, and also the new Kreinik Holographic metallics. Sharon B. had posted that wonderful "cloud filling" on her TAST thing on PINTANGLE, so all I had to do was copy one of my own shapes to decorate. (This one was taken from my booklet of "Traditional Ornament Shapes.")
The second picture is also a re-run, and shows some basic shapes I drew long ago for learning and playing with new stitches and techniques. These have all been put to use, which is much better than wasting effort on scraps.
Now - a commercial for me. While I do have these on my web page as e-books, I've also put them now in an Etsy shop, with which I've entertained myself setting up for the last two days. I am an idiot with these things, so it's a major triumph to get it done. You can see them HERE.
I've also been working for the last few days, after thinking about it for a few weeks, on tutorials for beginners at painted canvas stitching. The first consideration, of course, is choosing an appropriate canvas - a simple and well painted one. I'll hopefully be ready to start this by tomorrow or the next day. Don't give up on me yet - I've been slow due to hot weather being disagreeable and a lot a chaos going on. This too shall pass.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Christmas Stocking Cuff (again)

I found this picture buried in the Christmas stocking cuff file, and it occurred to me that there is still time to do stocking cuffs before the finishing deadlines.

I really like the idea of the cuffs rather than stitching a full stocking anyway, as they make a prettier, and not quite so busy, accessory hanging over the fireplace in a group for a family.

This one was a custom piece I painted long ago as an addition to some already existing cuffs I had - in the William Morris/Art Nouveau look. I was short one in the collection, so had to draw a new one that would coordinate.

This cuff is very cheerful and festive in color, and would be soooo pretty with some sparkle and shine on it - not overdone, but enough to make a statement. Since I am a.k.a. "Granny" in this family, that might look nice on it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sparkling Tartan/Plaid for a Napkin Ring

First showing the napkin ring "finished" - but not yet professionally done. I simply steam pressed it and put it together with masking tape to see how it would look. ("Haste is the enemy of perfection.")

Also, my fine white napkins are packed in a box somewhere, so I had to resort to a paper towel - the ultimate tacky, so my mother would say.

This napkin ring began life as Alpine Meadows tartan, a gorgeous green one I chose a while back to illustrate adapting an actual tartan to needlepoint. It has relatively few colors and rather small setts, which makes it quite versatile for this use.

To repeat my "disclaimer" - I checked with the Scottish National Registry, and while it's illegal to sell "patterns" made from these tartans, it's O.K. to adapt them for one's own personal use. Anyway, setting up a pattern for use requres knowing for what it will be used - size and shape of project, canvas mesh size, many different factors. It makes a difference in the number of threads used for the width of each stripe.

The first "stitching" picture shows how it looks barely begun. You can see where I marked the stripes with colored Sharpie pens for guidance. The arrow is showing where I cheated and turned the canvas upside down to continue the red stripe instead of ending off and beginning again at the top. This is not good practice, but on this small piece, it did no harm.

The second photo shows the weft stripes started - and this is where it becomes very entertaining and hard to put down, as the pattern begins to emerge. On this fun piece, I chose to use Kreinik metallics for the gold, red, and white stripes, substituting the red for the pink on the original tartan. 032, of course, provides the sparkling touch of white!

Last - the napkin ring almost finished. There are instructions for drawing the basic size and shape for these things on my Freebies, etc. blog under "napkin rings" - as well as a bracelet. You could also do belts this way, maybe from your own family tartan, as it's the same width as a needlepoint belt - and what fun for the Holiday Season!!