Friday, February 27, 2009

Sliding in on a banana peel

There are only two more days left in February!--my, how time flies when you're having fun! I was asked to adapt my guardian angel design for an ornament to support the American Heart Association, and have just squeaked in under the line.

This little Heart angel is wearing a red dress of Petite Very Velvet, trimmed with Kreinik #8 fine braid. I stitched her halo in basketweave using Kreinik #12 braid, so why did I switch to #8 for the dress? I have found that the nap of Petite Very Velvet plumps up as it's stitched, making the tapestry braid a bit of a tight fit. The fine braid, on the other hand, slides in nicely and performs a more-than-adequate job of making the Smyrna crosses sit up at attention.

Her hair was styled in long stitches using "Coffee Bean" Silk & Ivory, and the sleeves and hem of the dress were stitched with "Bright White" Vineyard Silk. I've started stitching a back for her, but will have to make an end-run to my LNS since I've run out of Petite Very Velvet!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Winging their way home

My little guardian angel ornaments arrived yesterday from the finisher, Stitchery Square in Camden, Maine, and--as usual--I'm so pleased! I wanted to show off such fine finishing before I head to the post office to mail the angels to their new owners.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras

Translated from the French, Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday, the last fling before the 40 days of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday. What better time to visit New Orleans, the hub of Mardi Gras activities!

The ancient Romans began the tradition, with a celebration of Lupercalia. And the first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States was actually held in Mobile, Alabama.

But in the late 1700s, New Orleans began to affix its mark on the celebration while still under French rule. The French king gave the territory away to his Spanish cousin, whose representatives nixed the pagan festivities. But along came the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and by 1823 the new governor permitted masked balls and street masking was again legal by 1827. In 1872, the official Mardi Gras colors were selected: purple (for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power).

So today, in the spirit of the Mardi Gras, I'm beaming myself from Orleans, Massachusetts, to New Orleans, Louisiana, to revisit my doorway--one of my favorites from the Doorways to the Past Series.

For those who are interested, this piece was stitched almost completely with DMC perle cotton and floss. The hanging ferns and greenery in the potted geraniums were stitched with Caron Impressions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Introducing Abigail

Shortly after I began stitching my two little For the Cure guardian angels, I received an SOS e-mail from Sue Dulle, a fellow designer in Kansas City. She, too, had a close friend about to undergo surgery for breast cancer, and she wanted to stitch an angel to provide her friend with some moral support. Thankfully having only one angel to stitch, Sue wanted to take her gift one step further, and asked me to design a back for the angel as well.

Sue's skillful fingers created Abigail, shown here pretty in pink Silk & Ivory, with her hair styled in bullion stitches. I was even more impressed that Sue did the finishing herself (for more details on how she went about this, visit her blog at Lined with pink fabric, Abigail can be used as a tree-topper or as a stand-up.

As a token of thanks, Sue has generously donated a stitch guide for Abigail. A contribution from the sale of this canvas with stitch guide will be made to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation. Thanks, Sue, for helping to make a difference!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Biloxi's light still shines

The Biloxi lighthouse is pristine again, using DMC floss for the body of the iron-clad structure in basketweave stitch. In fact, except for the trees and the grass, the entire canvas is stitched in DMC floss.

For the trees, I once again chose Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves," but this time in a diagonal cashmere stitched vertically. I used this thread before for the St. Marks lighthouse, in a Nobuko stitch, and once again it came through with instant shading as well as texture. The grass is stitched in Wildflowers "Jade" in a diagonal mosaic, using two strands. This thread is over-dyed and could lend itself to streaking in a diagonal stitch. But it's also a bit on the thin side, so if you pull two threads from the skein going in opposite directions, you'll have more than adequate coverage on 18 ct. canvas and eliminate streaking at the same time. The over-dye blends into itself and gives a more even appearance.

Next up: a visit from a designer colleague.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mississippi's lonely lighthouse

The Biloxi lighthouse, authorized by legislation sponsored by Representative Jefferson Davis in 1847 and completed in 1848, was at one time among more than 10 lighthouses that guided navigation along the coastline of Mississippi. In its lifetime, it has survived numerous tropical storms and hurricanes, the most devastating of which was Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

The Biloxi light incurred serious damage to its interior brick lining; other lighthouses were less fortunate. A replica of the Ship Island lighthouse was totally destroyed, and the Round Island lighthouse, destroyed by Hurricane Georges in 1998 and under reconstruction, was wiped out a second time. Today the Biloxi light has the dubious distinction of being the last standing lighthouse in the state. Since the morning after Katrina hit, an American flag has been draped over the railing which surrounds the lantern room as a symbol of the city's determination to rebuild.

I had received a request to review my explanation of the needle-blending technique that I used in creating both the sky and water for my St. Marks, Florida, lighthouse canvas. Since the Biloxi canvas has plenty of sky to work with, I determined it was a prime candidate for needle-blending. This time, however, the stitch I'll be using is Nobuko and I'll be working from the top of the canvas downward.

For the darkest shade of blue, I chose DMC floss #334, followed in succession toward the horizon by #3755 and #3325. The first photo is of the darkest shade of floss alone, using four strands. I then stitched three rows each in the following floss/strand combinations:

A) #334 - 3 strands/ #3755 - 1 strand
B) #334 - 2 strands/ #3755 - 2 strands
C) #334 - 1 strand/ #3755 - 3 strands
D) #3755 - 4 strands
E) #3755 - 3 strands/ #3325 - 1 strand
F) #3755 - 2 strands/ #3325 - 2 strands

The second photo, taken after I completed section (B), shows very little shading--this is a subtle process! The third photo was taken after I completed section (D)--a bit of difference is peeking through. By the time I reached the horizon at the end of section (F) in the fourth photo, you can really see the difference.

Needle-blending is a simple technique, really--one that produces a more realistic-looking sky using less expensive threads and which avoids the tendency toward streaking commonly found when stitching with over-dyed threads.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The reflective heart

My first heart design is finally finished, after several Valentine cards, a box of chocolate turtles, a bouquet of flowers from my Webmaster (No. 1 son), and the flu. When the going gets tough, the tough keep stitching!

I followed through on my last plan, adding Scotch stitches in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid 061 to the squares inside the diamonds, and am happy with the results. The hearts really have disappeared considerably. When you catch the heart image, it's as a reflection of the one above it, and that's about it. But that doesn't bother me--I rather like the subtlety. I'll leave the more ostentatious representations to Hallmark.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The heart of the matter

When I first showed the drawing of this heart filigree egg, I really was clueless as to how to proceed stitching it. So I put it on the back burner and concentrated on the "Hot Date" design.

After a trip to my LNS for some white Petite Very Velvet thread, I started stitching the heart shapes in basketweave, adding some Kreinik #12 tapestry braid in 002V to outline them as I went along. The strangest thing happened: the hearts themselves began to disappear within the larger elongated ovals. And the diamond shapes between the ovals became more pronounced--and definitely too plain.

Just last night I decided these diamonds needed a little more bling, and added the little squares. The center of the squares will be stitched with the same Kreinik braid -061- I've already used within the ovals and then outlined with the gold braid. I've started at the top filling in behind the squares with The Thread Gatherer's ""Sheep's Silk" in "Ruby Red."

Clueless no longer, I'd better get back to stitching!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A marriage made in Sherwood Forest

I admit it--I'm a card-carrying, certified Anglophile! I love practically anything English, and have a house full of various collections to prove it. Pink and white transferware, toby mugs, horse brasses--you name it, I've got it. How many people do you know who can name all six wives of Henry VIII in order? I can!

So it should come as no surprise that quite a few of my cylindrical ornaments are of English origin: Henry VIII himself, King Arthur, the Beefeater, the Yeoman Warder, a London Bobby, Sherlock Holmes and--in the spotlight today--Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marian. Looking for a good movie to rent for Valentine's Day? My pick would be Robin and Marian, starring the late Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery--great stuff to stitch by!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Instant gratification

This little egg--"Hot Date"--took practically no time to stitch. I filled in the little diamond intersections with white DMC floss, and then contemplated what thread and stitch to use for the hearts themselves.

Now I don't consider this design to be my "magnum opus, " a piece of great beauty to be passed down from generation to generation. It's just a fun little piece, guaranteed to provide a bright spot of color on an otherwise bleak winter day. I was looking for the needlepoint equivalent of "one-stop shopping"--and hit on "one-step stitching."

I wanted each heart to have a slightly padded look, so rummaged in my stash of Silk & Ivory and pulled six different colors: Red Hot, Pink Cow, Cotton Candy, Big Orange, Shrinking Violet and Purple Cow. Each heart was then worked in a long stitch, which not only covered the canvas well but also provided a satiny, padded effect. I could have first stitched each heart with floss in basketweave, and then chosen another thinner thread to work in long stitches over the floss. But in needlepoint, just as in life, you need to pick your battles carefully--and I chose the easy way out!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fooling around, Part 2

When I came up with my lovely little design the other day, and said to myself, "Where do I go now?" I came up with another design. An entirely different design! One more contemporary and definitely more colorful. It may be reactionary--every time I look out the window, I see white, white, more white and a little bit of brown.

While Design #1 is simmering on the back burner, and possibly awaiting a trip to the LNS for suitable threads, I started stitching this heart pattern, which should definitely satisfy anyone looking for a riot of color! I've used Kreinik #12 tapestry braid in antique gold to outline the hearts, and now get to play with all those yummy colors.

I call this one "Hot Date"!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just fooling around

I got some work done yesterday and thought I'd treat myself to a little down-time, playing with heart shapes and working up a design. This is the result!

It's in the shape of one of my "Eggs for All Seasons," and sports what I thought turned out to be a neat filigree pattern. What am I going to do with it next? Beats me!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


For some strange reason, the minute you turn the page of the calendar to February, you see hearts. I was reminded of a piece I did several years ago for a Valentine exchange in which I participated for a needlepoint discussion list.

It's a simple pattern: hearts conjoined in rows. Admittedly, I had to purchase the cream Sheep's Silk for the background, since I wasn't sure if I had enough of a neutral thread to carry through the piece. The rest, however, was bits and scraps of other threads--Sheep's Silk, Silk & Ivory, and Kreinik metallic--in pastels of pink, green, lavendar, blue and three overdyes.

How to decide what heart gets what color or what particular thread if it's overdyed? I often use the Knight's move in chess to determine location. Decide on one thread for a section, then for your next section, move two spaces over and one space down--or one space over and two spaces down. It will invariably give you a great random pattern for both color and texture.

For the inside of the hearts, I chose stitches that appealed to me and also fit well within the given area. As I recall, I used Nobuko, diagonal Scotch, Milanese, diagonal cashmere, framed Scotch, framed diagonal Scotch, and Jacquard stitches. But there are tons of other stitches you could use just as easily. I basically used the Knight's move in placing the stitch patterns as well as the colors. The background was done in basketweave.

If you're not into Valentines, consider using a square, diamond, circle or even oval in this way to
create a pattern and then use up your stash filling it in. For smaller design areas, it could be used for a box lid insert; for larger areas, a pillow like mine.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

An angelic finish

The little guardian angels are finally finished--overskirts have been stitched, bouquets filled with French knot flowers, and fringe added to their shawls.

I'd always planned on keeping the fringe looped, rather than cut, and therefore needed to insure the lengths of the loops would be uniform. My favorite tool for this is one of DH's collar stays. If you work from the bottom tip of the shawl upward, the collar stay serves two purposes. It not only keeps each loop the same length, but also keeps the previously worked loop out of the way of the next stitch being knotted.

Tomorrow the angels will be sent to the finisher, where they'll be lightly padded, backed with velveteen, and receive cording on the side seams.