Monday, February 21, 2011

Judy is very ill.

Judy is in Hospital and very ill. More details will be posted here or at her main website..

My name is Steve Watkins and I am a friend and long time webmaster for Judy. Her family has asked me to help out with the internet aspects of Judy's life. I have limited access to these blogs and may not be able to update this post. We will try to keep this blog updated but due to our limited access that may become a problem.

I do have unlimited access to her main website and will be able to post updates on her condition there, if this blog becomes unavailable to us. Please check both places for information.
For people with outstanding orders please contact me at and I will do the best I can to help you...

Steve Watkins

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Decorating the Topiary (with Kreinik)

Looking back on the blog posts here, I see that I've been playing with this thing since December 24! I'm still playing, but it's beginning to be interesting now.

An experiment, it is - but I'm learning the variables of working with the Kreinik on it as I embellish. Be sure to go to Freebies, etc. to see the new metallic "Hot Wire" that Kreinik now has - a new thing. I found it just when I needed it for embellishment trials here.

Anyway - back to the decorating. For the lower swag, I used #12 Holographic 002, and it's quite showy in the "heavy chain" I found at PINTANGLE in Sharon B's stitch dictionary.

Incidentally, I don't remember if I've shown this picture before or not - the arrows are pointing to my mistakes in not stitch counting symmetrically on these two swags. They are supposed to look horizontal when the tree is made into a cone, but they should have been perfectly centered - like the bottom. So far, I've hidden this effect with a generic sillk ribbon flower.

Also, I was able, since stitch drawing that bottom swag symmetrically, I was able to do the chain stitch without tent stitching the line first - much easier, and of course less time consuming.

I realize I seem to be jumping around a bit here, but this is how I've developed it so far - just a little at a time to try out special effects.

The Feather Stitch put down first makes a great background - pretty but understated - for whatever decides to come next. This, too, is on Pintangle in the Stitch Dictionary.

I made this bottom shot with a bit of sunlight on it, as it was suppose to show the Holographic heavy chain - it's beautiful in person. The Feather Stitches Kreinik 002 #4 braid) were deliberately made to be irregular, but basically as perpindicular as possible to the chain so that they will be positioned correctly when the tree is made into a cone.

Recently, I saw somewhere a charming little ornament frame made with twisted DMC Memory Thread - so had to try it with the Kreinik metallic. It was more difficult to twist, due to the texture of the metallic covering, but I did find a splendid use for it - little candly canes! Here is a picture of a short length of it twisted as cording - you can see this on the other blog, as well as a candy cane (peppermint) made of three cords.
This is how it looks at the top now - I'll let it rest for a day or two.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Festival of Needles

This is something I haven't participated in, myself, but looking at PINTANGLE this morning, I saw that Sharon B. has a great post on it, and includes a link to a Stitchin' Fingers site by Carole Anne about it that she recommends highly. Do go see!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Remembering Madeline

She would have been 16 today, and oh what plans we had for when she could drive a car! I won't dwell on what would have been or might have been - like digging for fossils at Jackson Hole, and taking our needlwork with us - but will continue to be grateful for the 13 years of bright and beautiful memories she gave me to carry in my heart.
The little rocking chair is the first thing I painted for her so long ago - she wasn't even walking yet. Her daddy bought the unpainted chair, and Granny decorated it. I took this picture with her Pooh, as she wouldn't stay still enough for me to get a shot with her sitting in it. Lots of smiles back then.
At this point, I am thinking about and grateful for the wonderful kind of life she had. The colors and gaiety of the rocking chair have the feeling! Madeline had the important things, and for that we are all eternally grateful. Along with beauty and intelligence, she had parents who loved her dearly, and loved and liked each other - and a little sister whom she alternately adored and detested.
She had kind of kooky (me) but very highly productive grandparents with whom I spent a lot of wonderful time - an added bonus. The other grandmother was a curator at the Kimball Museum in Ft. Worth, and the grandfather taught Russian history and civilization (and language) at TCU.
There were lots of aunts and uncles, too, who thought she was wonderful, and who added to her life significantly - things like kayaking, growing fields of lavendar and making soap, and enjoying fine science fiction.
She was blessed with material things also, and parents who were wise enough not to let her be spoiled and obnoxious.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Painting Monet - More Buried Treasure

I found more photographs while dumping out ancient files - these were dated 1996, so were taken long before I had either a digital camera or a computer. There are even shadows at the top right of this one, as I had taken it outdoors for good light.

I painted this for myself (copyright thing, etc. so I never marketed it), just to see if I could do it. It isn't the prettiest canvas I ever painted, but I will say it was the greatest challenge, the most difficult, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - and achieved what I wanted to do.

Being always mindful of painting to make the stitching easy and relaxing, I wanted to anchor the lily pads as they float on the water, but yet give the water depth and show the reflection of the trees.
The lilies and their pads appear very colorful, but if you look at the close-up, you can see that there are actually very few colors, and those are painted simply for easy stitching.

The colors used are just "generic" enough that one could choose any of several ranges of the hues used. One would not have to stick absolutely to the color on the canvas.

The second detail shows the reflected trees with the lily pads floating on the surface of the water. This was the most difficult effect I've ever worked out. The trees had to be easy to stitch - but still kind of fuzzy like a reflection.

The water is smeared looking only because I was going to do it myself, and just wanted to cover the canvas. If it were a commercial canvas, I would have smoothed out the paint so it would look nicer in a shop. There was a second canvas - a pink one - that disappeared.

Monet painted these water lily pieces in several different colors - even green. This flower pot was inspired by one of the green paintings.

When I was first back in Austin, I still wasn't painting needlepoint canvases again yet, but started doing decorative accessories for Breed and Co. here and also the National Wildflower Research Center (Now Lady Bird's Research Center).

For Breed's I did a series of French Impressionist pots, including the saucers, which could be lids for enclosing a gift or candies or something of that nature. I used those little cheap bottles of acrylic paint - the Folk Art or Apple, made by Plaid Enterprises - great paint. It doesn't require a sealer, and I have pots that I painted many years ago that have been outside with plants in them - and they still look fresh.

These were really fun, and very fast to produce, as they were done almost totally with natural sponges, and just smeared onto the pot. The little lilies were put there quickly with a worn out paint brush - just brush strokes.

The next pot is from the painting of "Monet's Roses." It was extremely simple - done all with a wet sponge except for the little roses. Those are just dabbed on with an old soft brush.

Then another water lilies design adapted to a terra cotta flower pot. These are just the simple clay pots you can get at your garden center. Incidentally, if you want to try this yourself, do NOT use the tube acrylics, as they dry with a plastic finish, and water will seep through the walls of the pot and cause blisters and paint peeling off. The bottled paint seems to breathe with the clay, so gives no trouble. Enough is enough for tonight. It's time for tea and a good movie.

This last pot, I'm ashamed to say, is a mystery, as I cannot remember who the painter was. I'm inclined to say it's from Cezanne, as his style with the outlined fruit says so. However, Van Gogh's style also shows in the blue pitcher and flowers. Oh well. The arrow is pointing to a place that is a white paint mark - not something shiny.

Oops! One more. This last one is one of my very favorites of the Van Gogh paintings - his "Flowering Almond Branch."

Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning/Practicing/Creating Needlepoint on Simple Shapes

I'm still working on the conical topiary trees, and also on the Bavarian lace - but as a lot of background is required, and both pieces are green, I have to take a break.

This subject is a result of two things: First, I have been cruising around on the internet looking at painted canvases, and cannot believe some of the things I see. There are pieces that are so simple that anyone could put them onto canvas, and at rather outrageous prices, I think.

As a designer of painted canvas for so many years, I do know why fine HP Canvases are very expensive - but people need to know that they can do their own simpler small pieces if they are shown how. I used to love teaching this. Actually, most of them don't even need to be painted!

The houndstooth check piece is one I did while experimenting with effects with mosaic stitch - and making my own houndstooth larger from the simple little count I developed for it. No paint required here, but just the symmetric outline of the heart drawn onto the canvas. I usually don't paint my ornaments of this sort- it's just not necessary.

Naturally, getting out these patterns (showing on the side bar as e-patterns to buy and download yourself) sent me spinning off in yet another direction: I thought of painting a bare canvas drawn in a shape- probably a circle or a heart - and doing some "scant coverage" things on it, after painting/smearing with a natural sponge in an abstract pattern..

I had to go dig out my collection of sponges from my pottery making for this, so the rest of the story waits (for success or failure). Liz Morrow is who told me about this technique.

If it emerges as I "see" it in my head, it will be great. If not, Oh Well. I normally do not like scant coverage, but in this case it has some possibilies. Now I'm off to find a movie to watch and more green stitching on the tree, and then some lace drawing.

I'm showing here several of my "cookie cutter" ornaments - something I developed a number of years ago when I was experimenting with different fibers, stitches, and techniques, and tired of wasting time and canvas with just scraps. At least this way, I had something I could finish and use later - and they are small, bright, and entertaining, and they don't take long to stitch. A great relief in among larger projects.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bavarian Lace in Needlepoint (hopefully)

Embarking on a new quest for knowledge, and I'm afraid gone a bit too far, as usual.

When I first decided to do the "ethnic" dolls in their national costumes, I noticed the beautiful lace insets on the aprons and sleeves of the German dirndl.

To back up a bit, I began replicating lace many years ago in needlepoint, but my facination was the Irish crocheted lace, as I had crocheted many pieces of it myself, so understood the construction. I especially enjoyed doing "filet lace," as you can see here in the top two pieces, in which a netting is worked with fillers in the "bump" stitches to create a pattern.

Bavarian lace is a bobbin lace, constructed down flat on a pillow, which produces a netting that is flled in with various patterns, but lies flat rather than having the "bobbles." I was amazed at the variation of the netting in the different regional laces, and that of different countries, and wanted to be careful not to make it look like the crocheted lace in my needlepoint things.

One of them has the same netting as filet lace, and others range from six to eight sided openings. So - my first chore has been to figure out how to replicate this fine netting on needlepoint canvas, which is an even weave scrim, and then to fill in a simple pattern - without making it look like crocheted lace.

I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who know a lot more about this lace thing than I do, as the construction of real lace has not been one of my studies over the years.

Anyway, what I finally devised as a netting has four pointers to show a fast and easy way to draw it onto canvas without having to count - or even to think, in this situation. That was a total struggle in the beginning, and I made some pretty awful mistakes with it. The canvas that looks like ladders is to show the quickest way to do this without having to count anything.

Next was the task of filling in a pattern of some sort to see if I could stitch it.

This is drawn with the light blue Sharpie drawing pen, as I intended to stitch it in white with a dark green "fabric" showing through. I like the second one best, as it shows "netting," which is the most difficult part of developing this thing. I have to keep reminding myself that's it's only to be a little band of lace on a small apron, but I enjoy the designing process and figuring it out. Oh well.

There are several mistakes here, as I was trying out different things - and the pointer shows where I decided I could make a scalloped edging by leaving out the two little stitches in that space.

Now I need to design an actual pattern to use, and although I never design on graph paper, I decided it would be easiest on this to have something on paper for doodling.

I enlarged the drawing on canvas, (150%) printed out several paper copies, and that will be my practice page. Canvas is on the left, paper copy is on the right.

ADDENDUM: I used DMC cotton floss # 3865, which I like very much, as it isn't so bright white as the Blanc, and it lies nice and flat. The background is Vineyard Silk - "Holly" as I remember. (lost the tag) I tried perle cotton for the lace, but it was pretty awful looking for this due to the twist.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Music and Ballet Continue!

For any who have missed some of these delightful renditions of the characters from The Nutcracker Suite ballet - be sure to look at Anne Stradal's blog, The Cape Stitcher, often, as her little dancers are the best that have been done. They have amazing movement and personality as well as excellent choices of stitches to enhance them.

This is a picture of the Sugar Plum Fairy, who is my own personal favorite, as is her music. She is completed, and the stitching is shown step by step in the blog posts.

Today is the beginning of "Chocolate," which should be most entertaining - a duo of characters dancing, dressed in costumes with more than a hint of the Spanish influence. If you aren't already following, this one will be great entertainment.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another Site for Great Images and Color!

Before I get excited again and can't remember the name of the artist and the quilt - this is Laura Wasilowski of Illinois at the Houston Quilt Show, where she says she was a "woman packing iron." The quilt is named "Pressing Matters."

I found the site by total accident, and have spent several hours over a few days looking at things - there is a blog as well as a delightful web page.

This is an art quilt technique in which the fabric patches are cut and then fused onto a background, rather than sewn as they usually are. Then stitching embellishments follow.
Laura's graphics are delightful and colorful, and the text had me LOL in several places - especially the part about the Chicago School of Fusing. Her style ranges from whimsical to rather sophisticated and abstract.
Be sure to click on all of the "departments" on the front page of the web page - the "stitch-u-structions" is equally delightful and informative. It has a ten commandments for art quilters, which tells me we need one for needlepointers as well. (right now, I don't remember if this is on the blog or somewhere on the web page.)

The second picture is one of her large quilts from the "Housing Department." Equally wonderful are the Produce Section and Landscapes and Nature.
I won't attempt to show any more, as I could go on for several more pages about this wonderful version of needlework, which is a new one to me. Oh where have I been??
This lady dyes her own fabrics, I forgot to mention, and has them for sale, as well as threads. Anyway, do go see her web page at Art Fabrik and enjoy it. See also her blog, as there is a link to it on the web page.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Joy of Simple Things - Fun Stitches and Techniques

I was checking again today on Mary Agnes' blog from Needle Nicely, (click here to see) and was happy to see what she's done with a simple, but effective stitch (Hungarian criss-cross, one of my very favorites) to make a bright, easy, effective piece of needlepoint stitchery
Mary Agnes is a shop owner and teacher (In Vero Beach, Florida) - so it's very gratifying to see someone who strays "out of the norm" and gets very creative for herself and encourages her clientele also.

Needlepoint is supposed to be fun. I had become bored with my topiary trees, but after seeing this and it's potential, I'm back at the drawing board and into the stash and decorating more trees, etc. - it's fun and relaxing, and these little projects are great for decompression from more tedious and serious things sometimes. It's also a great way to use up stash threads, and to learn and practice new stitches and techniques.

As it's time to get started for the next season, I have put purchase buttons for some of my e-pattern eggs and hearts - two on this blog, and two on the Freebies, etc. front page. Quick, easy, creative!!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Great Thread Information!!

Be sure to go see Mary Corbet's wonderful, informative blog as soon as possible, as she has just started a great series of posts involving the effect of the "Z-twist and S-twist" threads on our stitches. Click on the "continue reading" to see the whole thing as of now.
While I already was aware of the twist in the Perle Cotton (and who isn't?) I really hadn't thought of the effect it has on things like stem and outline stitch and even French knots!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Learning Experience (a Big Mess)

New things never quite end up the way I had imagined. I wanted to use some of the stitches on this tree from Sharon B's stitch dictionary, which you can find on PINTANGLE, so chose as a base for the "tinsel" her heavy chain stitch. (You can find this dictionary on the list on the right side of her blog.)

The arrow points to an error I made when I decided not to stitch paint that line, centering it - it is quite off center and looks very strange. However, a few well placed silk ribbon flowers and a few French knots should disguise it, as I will NOT be ripping out anything here.

I switched to a chenille needle for the chain stitch, and found it quite easy and very effective, as it's fat and stands up well off the surface of the canvas. I didn't have the Kreinik braid I wanted to use in my stash, so used the 002V 1/16" ribbon, which has a lovely color and sheen. The lower arrow points to the place where I stitched in the mark for the next swag and failed to center it either. I'll have to make do with silk ribbon flowers here as well.

It's amazing how the curved lines become straight ones when the canvas is folded around to make the cone! The arrow points to a dip which is only there because of the way I'm holding the piece - it's just kind of crumpled and held in my left hand while I took the picture.

The lower arrows show where I extended the stitches down through the sawtooth gaps in order to continue the Nobuko stitches correctly, and as they are "blended," it will be even better. Again, the line looks wavy because of the way I'm holding it.

I redrew the line that was light blue, and made it totally centered for better appearance. The arrow at the bottom points to the center mark I had made when I drew the lower curve. You can see how far off center my blue line was - YUK!

Anyway, back to the stitching, a good movie, and hopefully some more inspiration. I do have something else working that I'll show on Freebies hopefully tomorrow.