Monday, August 31, 2009

The case of the disappearing angel fish

The good news is, the seahorse is finished! The bad news is, I've started the angel fish!

When I finished stitching the seahorse, I added the bit of seaweed his tail is wrapped around using Petite Very Velvet V623. So far, so good. I finished stitching the background surrounding the angel fish, and happily dumped a bunch of skeins of DMC cotton floss on the table to figure out what I'd need.

Judy Harper's original painting canvas of the angel fish was executed in beautiful shades of primarily blues and greens, which I loved and hoped to duplicate. For every three shades of aqua I chose, I had to discard two because they were too close to the background blended floss. Finally I had my selection and started to stitch the different segments of the fish in their respective colors. Before my eyes, the little angel fish gradually began to disappear!

What I hadn't taken into account was just how vibrant the orange DMC #5 perle cotton was that I'd used to define the ridges on the seahorse. One fish now packed a punch; the other was wishy-washy, despite using colors that were far from timid. Solution: finish stitching the rest of the angel fish, then go back and outline it with perle cotton to make it, too, stand out.

I haven't yet decided which color to select for the outlining, but it will hopefully be in place by the next time I post so the poor angel fish can re-emerge from the deep!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Making a small splash

I should probably preface this post by explaining some of my premises behind this "Judy/Anne" collaboration. I always envisioned this as a playful, fantasy piece: that, I believe, was the spirit with which Judy designed the fish in the first place. And while Judy and I were both intrigued by the possibility of the jacquard stitch as a water background, I never would have considered it for a more traditional, representational canvas. After all, these little fish aren't exactly illustrations for a marine biology texbook!

That being said, let's move on to the progress I've made so far! Having stitched away on the water to the point where the seahorse was surrounded, I decided to treat myself by working on the little fellow himself. Not being that familiar with the anatomy of an actual seahorse, I did some googling to determine what they looked like--I know, researching again! Some of the facts I came up with at the National Geographic website were fascinating!

Seahorses are among the very few animals in the world that are monogamous and mate for life. Better yet, the males are the ones who actually carry newborns to term! The 35 known species range in length from one-half to 14 inches, have no teeth or stomach, and a digestive process so swift that they must eat constantly. Their daily diet consists of various forms of plankton and as many as 3,000 brine shrimp. And, surprisingly, there are yellow seahorses, as well as lime green and pink ones! So my decision to carry out Judy's original color scheme in the drawing of a yellow fish with orange markings turned out to be not as fanciful as I thought.

The main body of this seahorse was stitched in DMC cotton floss #725. To create the ridges that are so prominent on the body, I chose DMC #5 perle cotton #900. The perle cotton has a twist and a slightly rougher appearance which contrasts nicely against the smoother floss.

This little fellow has a ways to go yet! And when I finish stitching the seahorse, I'll continue working on the water around the angel fish. I'm just grateful that aquamarine is one of my favorite colors, otherwise I'd be drowning in background at this point!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Treading water

As I was marking out the jacquard pattern on the canvas for the "Judy/Anne" collaboration, DH happened to walk by. He watched me for several seconds, then casually remarked, "Do you really need to do that?" "No," I replied, "as long as you don't mind listening to me swear a lot!"

Marking the canvas proved to be extremely helpful, given the irregular outline of Judy Harper's seahorse in particular. When I actually started to stitch the background, compensating around the seahorse was a piece of cake!

Now for the threads I used! Maybe I should change the name of my blog to The Frugal Stitcher, because what I've essentially created is the most inexpensive overdye imaginable. I combined two plies of DMC floss #3848 (left) and two plies of DMC #518 (right) to produce an entirely different color that's not exactly solid but exactly the shade I was aiming for. Not that DMC Corporation doesn't have enough shades of blue--I counted close to 70 on its color card--but I couldn't find just the right single color I had in mind. When using this combination in the section stitched over two threads, it appears lighter; in every other row of "framing" stitches, it appears darker.

And, just to add a little contrast to this blend as well as some sparkle, I stitched the remaining "framing" row with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #006. This blue metallic thread brought out the "blue" in the over-two stitches, but accented the "green" in the framing stitches--neat, huh?

As you can see, I have a lot more water to stitch before thinking about what colors to choose for the fishes themselves!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Swimming with the fishes

There's trouble brewing when two designers start to play the "what if" game!

As I was stitching the background of my previous project, "Dreamgirls," using a jacquard stitch in three colors with DMC cotton floss, it turned out both designer Judy Harper and I were considering another use for this stitch: a water background. There was only one way to find out for sure if the stitch would work--stitch it! Judy had the designs for the fishes; I had an idea for a canvas. So we've decided to collaborate on this next project, with Judy providing the fish designs and me cooking up the stitches!

Judy sent me scans of what turned out to be boatloads of fishes! I chose these three, and then "stitch-traced" them onto scrap canvas. When we were both satisfied that I could do justice to her drawings, I arranged a pleasing grouping within a seven-inch square and transferred the designs to the final canvas as a line drawing. I goofed a little in the original placement of the angel fish, but fixed the problem and am now ready to move ahead.

As was the case with "Dreamgirls," I will first draw the jacquard background onto the canvas--I want to sit back and stitch, not count endlessly! I've also decided on the threads for the background: Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #006 and a "needle-blending" of DMC cotton floss #518 and #3848--two strands of each. I've already done a "test run" using these two colors, and am very happy with the watery blue-green they create.

I'll get a fair amount of background under my belt before deciding on the colors for the fishes themselves, so for a while all you'll see is water, water everywhere!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


"Dreamgirls" is all stitched and ready for the finisher!

I made a trip to my LNS for the remaining Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032 that I needed to finish the "lead singer," and was gratified when Barry, the shop owner, applauded my choice of background stitch and colors.

The border was stitched in a combination of black Petite Very Velvet--two rows of gobelin stitch over two threads--intersected by Scotch stitches in the three shades of DMC cotton floss.

The eyes of the ghosts were worked in Smyrna crosses and the mouths in satin stitch, both using DMC floss, while DMC floss #415 provided the outline of the "lead singer." The microphone was worked in a Scotch stitch variation with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001 and the stand in the black Petite Very Velvet.

Around the perimeter of the design area is a row of gobelin stitches over two threads in the predominant DMC floss #946. This will provide a seam allowance for the finisher, as I plan to have the door hanger lightly padded like a mini-pillow, backed with black velveteen, and surrounded by orange seam cording and hanger.

NC Pat had suggested I include a sound button inside the hanger, and was kind enough to do some research into possibilities. The only real option either one of us found was a button playing spooky ghost sounds--not exactly the "soul" music I was looking for, so I've decided to forego the "special effects." My neighbor will just have to use her imagination!

On Monday, I have a ton of completed pieces to send to the finisher, including this project, and hopefully "Dreamgirls" will return in time for my neighbors' Halloween housewarming!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Well, nuts! My cone of Kreinik metallic thread is giving up the ghost! (Pardon the pun--couldn't resist!)

For those of you not familiar with cones of Kreinik thread, a cone is roughly the equivalent of five spools. That's a lot of thread! But Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032 is one of my favorite threads, so I use it a lot. When I realized I was starting to run out, I concentrated my stitching on the left ghost, so I could at least continue working on the background until I get to my LNS for more thread.

I also have a lot of painting to do, so in the meantime, I'll finish up as much background as possible and work on the top border. And at some point, these little ghosts need eyes and mouths, too, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Adding the sizzle

I've done some more basketweave on the ghosts, enough so that I treated myself to filling in the alternating colors in the jacquard pattern of the background. I'd made some progress with the DMC cotton floss #552 (purple), and started adding the black floss every other line of tent stitches outlining the predominant DMC #946 (orange).

If you look back at my first post with the background painted a solid orange, you can definitely see a difference comparing the two photos. In this case, the choice of stitch, as well as the colors used to execute it, creates a design element of its own. The white of the Kreinik metallic braid used for the ghosts appears whiter and brighter; the tri-colored jacquard stitch grounds the ghosts yet creates an electricity of its own. On another canvas, the background would look ridiculous, but for Halloween, a time when grown people do things they'd never do any other time of the year, it's perfectly acceptable!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Starting off on the right foot

When a friend of mine saw the painted canvas of "Dreamgirls," she remarked that the orange background was definitely "different." She undoubtedly knew that orange is my least favorite color. When I painted "A Chorus Line," another Halloween design, I gave it a lime green background because I loved the look of that shade with black and white. Two shop owners asked me to custom paint several with an orange background--a "more traditional Halloween color" was their explanation. So for this canvas, I'm bowing to tradition, but with a twist!

I never planned to stitch a solid orange background for this canvas. It needed a background with an "edge" to make the ghosts pop and a stitch that proportionately would fit the ghostly stars. I decided on a jacquard stitch, with orange as the predominant color, accented by black and purple. (Purple is DH's least favorite color, so I have to sneak it in when I can!)

But I'm also a true painted canvas person, who wants everything in place before I stab the canvas with my needle--I don't want to count as I go along, only to find somewhere down the canvas that I've miscounted and have to rip out. So I drew in the intersecting lines for the jacquard stitch, and now I can sit back and stitch in a relaxed fashion. I've started the basketweave stitching of the ghosts with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032--the basketweave will provide the most "twinkle." And I've started filling in the orange with DMC cotton floss #946. When I've made a little more progress, I'll start filling in the tent stitches surrounding the orange sections.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Halloween housewarming

In June, our neighbors across the street began the arduous task of transforming their erstwhile vacation home into a year-round residence. Every morning at seven o'clock, the contractors begin their concert on hammer and power tools, punctuated by the occasional hum of the building supply delivery truck's diesel engine and the clang of the dumpster exchange. It's certainly a different way for us to start our day, but even more so for our neighbors, who are living in the house during the renovation!

DH and I are old hands at this process, having lived through three remodels while living in the house under siege, so we can feel this couple's pain! In a recent conversation, the wife revealed that Halloween is her most favorite holiday; the husband remarked that, with any luck, construction would be completed by October and they intended to repay the neighbors' hospitality with a Halloween party. Hmmm....I could sense the inpiration for a Halloween design coming on which would make the perfect housewarming gift!

The result shown here is "Dreamgirls," a totally silly take-off on my equally wacko "A Chorus Line" design from a couple of years ago. For my next project, I'll be stitching "Dreamgirls" as a door hanger, adding song as well as dance to my collection of Halloween designs!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All decorated for Christmas!

The stitching is complete, the buttons attached, and Mindy's Country Christmas canvas is ready for the finisher!

I had kept a photo of the canvas taken before I removed the buttons for stitching, and I used this to remind me where each one should be placed. To attach the buttons, I chose four strands of DMC floss in colors which most closely matched the area of the buttons where the holes were located.

I'll try to match the velveteen surrounding the canvas as closely as possible to the camel color of the background, which I think should make the black border really stand out.

This canvas was so much fun to stitch! Not only was it beautifully stitch-painted, it also had enough color changes and pattern variations to keep the stitching moving along. Many thanks to Mindy, for allowing me to blog-stitch this project and for designing it in the first place!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

On the home stretch

I'm down to the fourth corner and last two center squares on Mindy's Country Christmas canvas!

In the two center row squares I've just completed, a new color is introduced: Silk & Ivory "Aquamarine." I would have preferred to use Trio, but didn't have any in this color, and the S & I was a perfect match to the painted canvas. I tightened my tension a bit and I really don't see much difference between the S & I and the red Trio next to it.

In the diamond on the left square, I've repeated the diagonal mosaic stitch I'd used in the red diamond in the bottom right corner. The diamond on the center square was filled with a framed Scotch stitch. For the two squares remaining to be stitched, I plan to use a framed Scotch stitch on the left and a regular Scotch stitch in the green square next to it.

When I'm finished stitching the entire canvas, I'll need to work a row of gobelin stitches over two threads around the perimeter to satisfy my finisher's requirement for a seam allowance. Then I can start sewing on buttons!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rounding another corner

I've been working exclusively on Mindy's Country Christmas, and I think this time you may actually be able to see progress!

I've "hit bottom" and rounded the corner on the right side of the border. I also went on a Peanut Butter binge and stitched most of the tan inner background.

Two more squares were finished and another started. The X on the square at center right was stitched in basketweave. I've also started preliminary stitching on the center square.

The square in the bottom right corner required a little more thinking and counting! I wanted to use a textured stitch in the large red diamond area, but a little different from the mosaic and Scotch stitches I'd used previously --they'll have their chance to shine again in the four remaining squares. Eyeballing the red area, I mentally traced the stitching path and realized that a diagonal mosaic stitch would work perfectly--a complete pattern without any compensating stitches that would have looked awkward. The center triangle of the center left square is exactly the same size, so three guesses what stitch I'll be using there?!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A little here, a little there

I've now finished a little more than half of the matte black border using the Petite Very Velvet and have caught up with stitching the shooting stars. Doesn't the PVV make those stars pop?!

The checkerboard outer border is finished on the top and right sides and about half-way down the left side.

The white outlines of the center row of squares have been stitched with the white Trio, and I added the red corners to the square on the right. These were worked with "Bordeaux" Trio in a framed mosaic stitch: they're five stitches across, and I didn't want to risk a Scotch stitch over five threads on a pillow.

It probably doesn't look like a lot of progress, but it's progress nevertheless! A storm came through here last night and cleared out the humidity, so stitching should be a little more pleasant in the coming days!