Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Totally cuckoo

Finally! I finished stitching the little gingerbread Cuckoo Clock by Gail Hendrix--and it took much longer than I thought! I underestimated the time involved in all those color changes. I'm very familiar with stitching small projects, but most of them have involved color blocks--a section of sky, or trees, or a building. This was fun, though, and worth the time and effort.

As you can see, I personalized the base with my initials and the date, as I think this little 3-D ornament will be a gift. I've only personalized something once, many years ago, when I stitched my own "Joy to the World" as a pillow for an alumnae auction at my college. If and when I do another one of these gingerbread pieces for myself, I'll be sure to make good use of the space allotted!

Onward and upward to another project!

Monday, April 27, 2009

A wonderful weekend!

Some weekends are definitely superior to others! Here on the Cape, the weather was glorious, with near-record high temperatures ideal for getting some yardwork done and cleaning out my perennial garden. In the evenings, I had a new canvas to work on. And I have to admit, I haven't worked on anything quite so cheerful since I stitched my own Petunia Penguin!

My current project is the Gingerbread Cuckoo Clock by Gail Hendrix of Squiggee Designs. It's a tiny thing, only a couple of inches tall, but chock-full of detail and brimming with color. Since it's stitch-painted, it's a piece of cake to stitch. I don't remember ever using this much metallic thread per-square-inch before! I'm using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid in #002 and #032, red Petite Very Velvet to give the trim a little dimension, and the rest an assortment of DMC cotton floss.

Despite being a small project, the canvas actually takes a little longer to stitch because of the many color changes throughout. When I'm finished with the main part, I'll add my initials and the year to the base--a nice touch that Gail designed in to let the stitcher personalize the canvas.

I'm painting by day and stitching by night again, so it will take a couple more evenings before this little gem is finished--I'll post another photo then!

Friday, April 24, 2009

More pillow talk

In between projects, I had a little time to stitch on the Kyrgz pillow design. Now a little more than half done, I've actually finished with one of the colors of Silk & Ivory -"Taupe." And with the addition of the "Peanut Butter" in the top left motif, all of the colors which will appear in the pillow have been introduced.

While I go back and resume stitching in "basic black," do go visit Sue Dulle's blog ( to see her wonderful finish of my Thomas Jefferson cylindrical ornament. "TJ" is a real cutie, from the top of his tricorn hat to the tip of his patent leather shoes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another lighthouse finished

Sanibel Island lighthouse is complete! The trees were stitched with one strand of Impressions #5061 in a vertical diagonal cashmere stitch. The grass was worked with two strands of Wildflowers "Jade" in diagonal mosaic stitch, and the bushes in front of the house are French knots in Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves."

For the sand, I wanted a stitch that mimicked the rivulets that occur when waves wash up onto the shore. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for in a book, so I grabbed a doodle canvas and some DMC #5 perle cotton and started to experiment. The stitch I've used here is best described as a series of three gobelin stitches over three canvas threads, with the next set of gobelin stitches worked directly over the first set. I'm sure there's a name for this stitch somewhere, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll call it the "sand and snow stitch," as I think it would work equally well to create realistic snow drifts.

Lastly, I re-inserted the cross braces for the lighthouse tower's skeleton supports, once again using two strands of DMC satin floss doubled over in the needle. I tacked these stitches several times on the back of the canvas to prevent any slippage down the road. I can now add this little model to my stockpile of canvases ready to go to the finisher!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fit for habitation

The house at the base of Sanibel Island lighthouse is now finished, using DMC cotton floss in a combination of basketweave and gobelin stitches, with one lone mosaic stitch in the center of the chimney!

For the steel supports of the cylindrical lighthouse tower, I wanted to use a thread that had a little sheen to it without actually using a metallic thread. I chose a thread new to me--DMC satin floss. A friend had suggested doubling two plies in the needle to produce the four plies I needed, and this technique worked like a charm! The satin floss behaved beautifully and produced the look I was hoping for, without slipping and sliding around as rayon thread is often apt to do.

I'll add the cross braces of the supports when I'm finished stitching the rest of the canvas, but now I need to turn my attention to the natural elements of trees, grass, bushes and sand!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Back to Sanibel Island

I decided to stitch the sky for Sanibel Island lighthouse in basketweave, using a needle-blending technique with DMC cotton floss, as any other stitch would prove too troublesome to compensate around the lighthouse's steel supports. Starting at the top of the canvas (photo 1), I stitched several rows of DMC #826, using four plies of thread and staggering the bottom row every other stitch. My formula for needle-blending was:

Row 2 - 3 plies DMC #826, 1 ply DMC #813
Row 3 - 2 plies DMC #826, 2 plies DMC #813
Row 4 - 1 ply DMC #826, 3 plies DMC #813
Row 5 - 4 plies DMC #813 (photo 2)
Row 6 - 3 plies DMC #813, 1 ply DMC #827
Row 7 - 2 plies DMC #813, 2 plies DMC #827
Row 8 - 1 ply DMC #813, 3 plies DMC #827
Row 9 - 4 plies DMC #827 (photo 3)
Row 10 - 3 plies DMC #827, 1 ply DMC #828
Row 11 - 2 plies DMC #827, 2 plies DMC #828 (photo 4)

You'll notice that I've stitched over the cross braces of the steel supports which I had so carefully stitch-painted! I also stitched the cylindrical tower of the lighthouse in gobelin stitches, using DMC #300 floss, to give it a more substantial appearance. When the rest of the canvas is stitched, I'll go back and lay straight stitches in an X pattern to re-insert the cross braces. I have my charted design to work from in positioning the stitches, but someone wishing to stitch the lighthouse this way may find it easier to make a copy of the canvas before beginning work to have a future reference for stitch placement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A limitless sky

After my last post, in which I introduced my new Sanibel Island, Florida, lighthouse ornament design, I received a question from Pierrette Pattyn. She asked what my ideal lighthouse would be, if I could control all the elements of the design. Her question really got me thinking, and prompted me to go back into my file of lighthouse photos to review what I had done.

What struck me most was the way in which I had approached stitching skies. Probably my favorite is the one I did for the Portland Head, Maine, lighthouse as an insert for a Sudberry House pencil box (top left). I stitched this sky in basketweave over a solid blue canvas using four shades of blue DMC cotton floss. Starting at the top with the darkest shade of blue, I "built in" clouds, varying the cloud layers by alternating light and dark shades of blue from the same family.

I was able to use this technique again in stitching the New London Ledge lighthouse in my home state of Connecticut (top right). Because this canvas was designed for a Sudberry House bookend, I had more room to play around with the sky. For the Bass Harbor Head, Maine, bookend insert (bottom left), I used four different shades of blue DMC floss but layered the shades randomly in basketweave, with the darkest shade at the top graduating to the lightest shade at the horizon.

And, just to keep myself humble, I've posted a photo of a "lighthouse ornament gone wrong"--Heceta Head lighthouse in Oregon (bottom right). The lighthouse itself is accurately represented, but my choice of stitch--jacquard--in a solid shade of DMC floss is a prime example of messing up a canvas by using a decorative stitch that isn't the slightest bit realistic! My only excuse for over-engineering this canvas is that I did it in 2002, and I've learned a heck of a lot since then!

Now I'll go back to needle-blending the Sanibel Island lighthouse sky, so you can have something to look at in my next post!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A different kind of lighthouse

While I was sharing some of my Easter-themed designs last week, behind the scenes I was painting lighthouse ornament canvases like a crazy lady! Sixteen canvases in one week is by no means my personal best, but one of the lighthouses needed to be adapted first and was of a type I'd not attempted before.

According to one of my reference books, lighthouses are categorized by shape, design, and foundation. They can be conical, cylindrical, octagonal, square or pyramidal. Some can be eclectic in design or distinctly Victorian in their abundance of "gingerbread" trim. Then there are the reef, caisson and screwpile lighthouses, so named for the various ways their foundations are secured at their locations. But a style known as an iron skeletal lighthouse, which falls in the latter category, is a bit of a nightmare for a stitch-painter to design.

Sanibel Island lighthouse, shown here, is located in a string of barrier islands along the southwestern coast of Florida. The engineers who constructed the lighthouse in 1884 showed great forethought in choosing the skeletal design, as this region is buffeted by tremendous hurricanes. After one such hurricane in 1947, the keeper's dwelling in front of the tower was left standing in a foot of water due to beach erosion.

The Coast Guard transferred custody of the property to the City of Sanibel in 2008. City employees now live in the two dwellings at the base of the tower rent-free in exchange for helping to maintain the property.

Now I have model No. 79 to stitch, and hope you'll follow my progress!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Consider the lilies

Happy Easter, everyone!

The background of this egg--"Lily"--was stitched in basketweave with DMC cotton floss and a Smyrna cross trellis pattern using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid. The background for the cross was stitched with Fleur de Paris fine mesh velour, which has since been discontinued by the manufacturer. Outlining the cross is a gobelin stitch of Kreinik #16 braid.

The flowers and leaves were also stitched with DMC floss in a combination of long stitches and French knots.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Interpreting a painted canvas

You find a painted canvas and fall in love. You get it home and stare at it, thinking "Now what the heck do I do?" The good news: you really can't make a mistake--it's all a matter of interpretation! A case in point--my "In the Garden" egg.

The first photo is of the stitch-painted canvas.

The second photo is my model, which follows the original design. The third photo is courtesy of Pierrette Pattyn, who provided her version for the Guest Gallery on my website.

In stitching her version, Pierrette chose to eliminate the bunny, adding glorious flowers instead in silk ribbon embroidery. Then she added the bird and bee charms to make it her own.

The morale of the story: go with the flow in stitching a painted canvas--your interpretation may be better than the original!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Getting ready for Easter

Lambs are a symbol of Easter, right? But not these little dudettes! This week I'll be featuring some of my Easter designs--the traditional, as well as a bit off-the-wall like this one.

I love the sentiment expressed in this design--I'm the little lamb second from the right! It was stitched completely in DMC cotton floss and perle cotton, with gobelin stitches, Nobuko, French knots, a few satin stitches and basketweave. Simple to stitch, but wild with color!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dressing angel hair

Having finally procured the threads I needed to finish the back of my Heart Angel, I was able to finish her wings and skirt.

Her hair was finished in a four-step process, using a single strand of Silk & Ivory. First I worked the crown in long stitches; the strands pulled to the center were then stitched in braided knitting. The waves below these strands were again worked in long stitches, with the cascade of curls finally added with French knots.

With both front and back now done, I'll have to decide whether she'll be finished as an ornament, like my little For the Cure guardian angels, or as a tree-topper/stand-up, the way Sue Dulle finished her guardian angel canvas.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Another finish--no fooling!

This has been a pretty productive week so far! In finishing this ornament, I've met another 2009 resolution--to stitch a memento of one son's graduation before the other one completes his degree!

The university name and eagle mascot were stitched with Petite Very Velvet #V622--a shade of green actually closer to the little bead hanger at the top of the ornament, but which my scanner for some reason loves to turn a muddy brown. This was as close as I could come to the actual shade after some tweaking.

The graduation year was stitched in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V and the snowflakes were worked in long stitches using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #101.

Thanks, Gail Hendrix, for helping me make my son's next Christmas a little merrier!