Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Cape Stitcher has a birthday

You've heard the saying many times: "My, how time flies when you're having fun!" A year ago today, The Cape Stitcher made its debut in blogdom. Pierre the Penguin and I offer many thanks to all of you who have visited, occasionally as well as regularly, to follow my projects in progress!

In reading the blogs of other folks, I've noticed two things different about this one. First, I don't have a "blogroll" listing the contributions of others who are equally passionate about needlepoint. My response to frequent queries about this absence is simple: I don't want to take the risk of leaving someone out and hurting anyone's feelings!

I also don't have a "completed projects" list--I sure wish I were computer-savvy enough to add this, and perhaps in time I'll catch on! So, in the meantime, I scrolled through the 167 posts of the previous year and compiled a list of everything I've stitched--and finished--since Nov. 29, 2008.

My own designs: 10 lighthouses (bringing the total number to 86); four "Eggs for All Seasons;" three mini-socks; three angels; and one Penguin. Then there's the crazy- quilt box-lid insert, the Halloween door-hanger "Dreamgirls," and the model for a Lobsterman stand-up. I adapted two original pieces of artwork for needlepoint: my father's pen-and-ink drawing of Central Park, which launched the blog, and a Kyrgyz pillow from a textile fragment.

Collaboration: An underwater scene, with fish designs provided by Judy Harper.

Canvases designed by others: Mindy's "Country Christmas" pillow and a Zellig tile design by Jan Fitzpatrick. I stitched the models for two designs by Gail Hendrix--"Nippon Textures" and the "Sweet Tooth" gingerbread house--as well as three more of her ornament canvases for myself.

I counted them all and discovered I'd finished 34 projects in one year. Gee, guess I'm not a slacker after all--and I sure do love to needlepoint!

New meaning to "vegetation"!

With the addition of greenery, the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse is now finished!

The grass was worked in a diagonal horizontal cashmere stitch using one strand of Impressions "Emerald," an over-dyed thread that provided built-in shading at the base of the lighthouse. The fronds of the palm tree on the left were formed by a satin stitch with one strand of Wildflowers "Moss."

I had the leaves of the trees on the right to stitch as well as the bushes in the foreground, and I wanted to use French knots for each while still keeping the trees in the distance. I chose a thinner silk/wool blend thread--Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves"--and stitched the trees in a single strand with one wrap. By working a French knot over each canvas thread, the Sheep's Silk became compacted and each knot less pronounced.

On to the bushes--and a veritable vegetable soup! On the left, I used a single strand and one wrap of Silk & Ivory "Spinach"; on the right, I chose Silk & Ivory "Broccoli." Using a thicker silk/wool blend and stitching over every other canvas intersection produced plumper and more distinct French knots suitable for a foreground.

Tomorrow--a celebration!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A very red lighthouse!

One of the things I was thankful for yesterday was the fact that my eyes are better than I thought! I grabbed the wrong glasses--for distance, not close-up--on the way out the door for a two-hour trip to Boston. But somehow I managed to make some progress on the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse anyway.

The lantern room and railing below it were stitched with black DMC #5 perle cotton to set these areas off a bit from the background. The railing supports were worked in a satin stitch with DMC floss #644. The bright red tower itself was stitched with DMC floss #817 in basketweave. The tiny window is a single cross stitch in DMC floss #317; the same thread was used in a diagonal vertical cross stitch for the panes of the larger window. Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #202HL in tent stitch was used for the beacon.

I also added the tree trunks: in DMC #5 perle cotton #801 for the palm tree on the left, and DMC #5 perle cotton #938 on the right. More perle cotton--#842--was used for the path at the base of the tower.

At this point, only the greenery remains to be stitched, but I see a lot of French knots in my future!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The sky's my limit!

For stitching, that is, before Thanksgiving Day! I'll spend almost four hours in the car tomorrow, up to Boston and back to share a holiday meal with No. 2 son, a victim of "Black Friday" who couldn't make it home for the traditional feast.

I just finished needle-blending the sky for the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse. Believe me--needle-blending is not something you want to attempt in a car. All those plies of DMC cotton floss, in different shades, floating around and likely to get mixed up--it's not a palatable thought! So I picked out my color family and started in with DMC floss #3755, in four plies, from the top of the canvas to the black railing below the lantern room. I then used the following "recipe," in intervals of six threads deep, to reach the horizon line:

Row 2: DMC #3755-3 plies; DMC #3325-1 ply
Row 3: DMC #3755 - 2 plies; DMC #3325-2 plies
Row 4: DMC#3755-1 ply; DMC #3325-3 plies
Row 5: DMC #3325-4 plies
Row 6: DMC #3325 - 3 plies; DMC #3841 - 1 ply
Row 7: DMC #3325 -2 plies; DMC #3841 - 2 plies
Row 8: DMC #3325 - 1 ply; DMC #3841 - 3 plies
Row 9: DMC #3841 - 4 plies

I've pulled threads for the lighthouse and some of the scenery, which I'll be able to work on in the car fairly easily. So next time, hopefully, I'll have some progress to share!

Meanwhile, I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

By Jupiter!

Thinking ahead to my next trunk show in March 2010 at Needle Nicely in Vero Beach, Florida, I've decided to adapt the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse as my next project.

The site for the lighthouse was originally surveyed by Robert E. Lee; a design was submitted in the mid-1850s by Lt. George Meade of the Bureau of Topographical Engineers. Ironically, these two men would meet less than 10 years later as commanders of opposing armies at the Battle of Gettysburg, with then-General Meade emerging as victor.

Construction of the lighthouse under Meade's supervision did not go smoothly. An uprising of members of the Seminole tribe halted work until 1858. The Jupiter Inlet then silted over, causing stagnant water to accumulate around the site and creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. "Jupiter Fever," a cross between malaria and yellow fever, ensued and brought about a considerable loss of lives.

Finally in 1860, the tower reached its height of 125 feet and a first-order Fresnel lens, with a characteristic flashing white light visible from 25 miles away, was lit. The light was extinguished little more than a year later when raiding Confederate soldiers stole the lens and hid it in a nearby creek. It was reinstated in 1866.

Various restoration projects at the lighthouse occurred in subsequent years, but it wasn't until 1999-2000 that a major renovation took place. Excavating the hill upon which the lighthouse stood, an incongruous 46-foot elevation in an otherwise-flat terrain, workers uncovered shells and pottery fragments. Archeologists later determined the artifacts were remains of a Native American colony dating to circa 700 A.D.

A grant made possible by the economic stimulus package was designated just this year for the lighthouse and surrounding land, and will be used for lighthouse maintenance and habitat restoration. So the bright red tower will once again undergo a facelift!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting ready for Turkey Day

If you're anything like me, you're wondering whatever happened to August?! There are only four days left until Thanksgiving, and--scarier still--one month and three days until Christmas!

To get myself in the holiday mood, I dug out my "Autumn Glow" egg, a crazy quilt design featuring colors and motifs of the season. The "backbone" of this egg is a wonderful thread--"Autumn Bouquet" Sheep's Silk by The Thread Gatherer, one of my favorite silk/wool blends. It forms the basis for the segments at one, four and seven o'clock.

The rest of the egg was stitched in DMC cotton floss, Kreinik #12 tapestry braid, and Petite Very Velvet--all in basically simple stitches that, by virtue of the colors chosen, still pack a punch!

Very little stitching for me today! I'm off to wash and iron my kitchen curtains!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Three down, ? to go

This pink and green version of my "Gretchen" egg is all finished and ready to join the two pastel mini-socks for next year's dining room Christmas decorations!

It took very little time to stitch the one remaining ribbon--the center horizontal one--to wrap up this project. I used the DMC floss #503 which already formed its edge and DMC floss #3733 in mosaic stitches surrounding Scotch stitches in DMC floss #819.

Am I "hooked" on mosaic stitches? Not really, although I seem to have done quite a few of them lately! But the mosaic stitch is such a tidy way to work areas covering an even number of stitches, and can form interesting patterns in combination with other stitches. I've used it to form hearts, flowers, checks, plaids, wreaths and Christmas trees. It's a stitch that's easily mastered and looks good using any number of different threads.

At some point, I'll probably stitch another egg-shaped ornament to add to this collection, but I'd like to include ornaments in different shapes as well. Hmmm....I'll have to think about that one!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another day, another ribbon

I finished framing the Scotch stitches in the window-pane check ribbons, using DMC floss #3731. The egg is starting to take on a more contemporary look, but that's okay with me. I like to mix different styles, and when you're dealing with Christmas ornaments, almost anything goes!

I moved on to the plaid vertical ribbon, using the same pinks from the floral ribbon but reversing the positioning of colors. The darker pink is on the inside of the plaid, highlighted by Kreinik #12 tapestry braid, with the lighter pink forming the edges of the ribbon. The green in the plaid is DMC floss #3816, one value darker than the green in the window-pane check and two values lighter than the edge of the center horizontal ribbon.

One more ribbon to go, and I'll have myself another ornament!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stitching woven ribbons

There's no hard-and-fast rule to stitching a woven ribbons design: I'm sure everyone has his/her own way of doing it. I always begin with the background--in this case, some green Fleur de Paris fine mesh velour I had in my stash. Unfortunately, this thread is no longer manufactured, but Petite Very Velvet works just as well.

My next step is to stitch the edges of the ribbons. The "window pane" check ribbon was worked in DMC floss #504 in a gobelin stitch over three threads; the vertical plaid ribbon was edged in DMC #5 perle cotton #818 with the same gobelin stitch. To add a little "bling" to the middle horizontal ribbon, I first stitched a single row of Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V, then added DMC floss #503 in a gobelin stitch over two threads.

Now to the floral ribbon that's been completed. I first stitched the edge in DMC floss #3354, then filled in the background with mosaic stitches using DMC floss #818. The "flowers" were also worked in mosaic stitch with DMC floss # 3354 and #3733, with the centers filled in with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #009 in Smyrna crosses.

I moved on to the framed Scotch stitch that makes up the window-pane check--I'll fill in the framework next. This particular design has what I call a "built-in" stitch guide: while the design could be worked entirely in tent stitches and look just fine, the pre-determined stitch count lends itself to decorative stitches that add a little interest to the finished product.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In the spirit of Christmas Future

Yes, I DO tend to think ahead. And yes, when I get what I think is a bright idea, I'm like a puppy with a bone.

I was so pleased with the way my pastel mini-socks turned out recently, I decided to try my hand at an egg-shaped ornament to go with them to decorate my dining room--for Christmas 2010! I decided to re-do the "Gretchen" egg (right) in pinks and greens, adding a bit of "bling" just for Christmas. The final product won't be all pink and mint green--I'll need to choose different shades from color families in my stash to make the woven ribbons more interesting.

A stitching buddy in Wisconsin asked me recently if I would "walk through" my stitching of an egg, and this seemed to be the ideal opportunity. So here goes!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Final touches on the Zellig tile

With only the center section to go, it took very little time to finish stitching Jan Fitzpatrick's Zellig tile design!

The third and lightest shade of red in the "arrows" and center medallion were stitched with DMC floss #304; the "starburst" was worked with DMC floss #823. With the exception of the brown inner framework, stitched in basketweave, all of the design was executed with mosaic stitches to imitate the look of a mosaic tile.

It's my personal opinion that one of the tests of a good design is its ability to transcend the boundaries of color choices--Jan's design does just that. I chose bold colors, whereas the definitive version Jan is stitching has a much more delicate color palette. Each version works, depending on your taste and color scheme, and the classic lines of the design would fit in well with virtually any decorating style.

Thanks, Jan, for the opportunity to stitch this one--it was great fun! Now I can sit back and watch Jan's interpretation at

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the home stretch

With the addition of DMC floss #434 in basketweave for the brown inner framework, the design of the Zellig tile is really coming to life!

I also finished the ivory background, using mosaic stitches with a little bit of compensating. I then added the "arrow" motif at 2, 4, 8 and 10 o'clock with DMC floss #815.

Only two more colors to go! I'll use the lightest shade of red for the remaining "arrows" and the center section, and navy for the "starburst." I should be able to wrap up this project tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More Zellig tile progress

I've finished the gold framework and filled in the remaining sections of deep red and medium blue-- now this piece definitely looks like a tile!

To treat myself, I added the "floating triangles," using DMC floss #322 in mosaic stitch. Four colors are now finished; five more colors, including the ivory background that's almost completed, remain.

Next up: the inner brown framework! I'll need to deviate from mosaic stitches in this area. Because of the number of threads I allotted, one half of the design would actually look like basketweave if I were to compensate mosaic stitches, so I've decided to give up gracefully and do basketweave stitches throughout. Would you believe micro-mosaic?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Working clockwise

Stitching merrily away with the gold floss, I finished the framework of the third quadrant on the Zellig tile design.

After filling in the deep red and medium blue sections in this area, it was time to celebrate with a new thread for the background: DMC floss #822, an ivory shade. To remain consistent with mosaic stitches, it was necessary to move the blue "floating triangles" over and down one thread before stitching the background.

Once I finish the gold framework, it will be decision time on how to stitch the brown inner framework.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A bit more color

As usual--for me, anyway--I'm dangling a carrot in front of the horse as I stitch away on the Zellig tile design by Jan Fitzpatrick.

When I finished stitching a little more of the framework, I treated myself by adding another color: DMC floss #311, the middle value of the three blues I'll be using in this piece.

No more color for me, though, until I finish another quadrant of the gold framework! But even at this point, it's starting to get exciting--it actually is beginning to look like a tile.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Establishing a framework

My version of Jan Fitzpatrick's Zellig tile is very different from hers in terms of color: Jan's palette looks like a breath of spring, with soft greens and tans on a marbled canvas, whereas I'm using the jewel tones of an oriental rug.

I started stitching the framework using DMC floss #729--what I'd call an "old gold." To imitate the look of a mosaic tile, both Jan and I are using mosaic stitches as much as possible, and so far, so good!

When I finished up the first skein of gold floss, I treated myself to filling in a little--DMC floss #814, a deep burgundy which will be the darkest shade of red out of three. And I'm happy to report that so far, anyway, all the mosaic stitches are lining up nicely!

Do go visit Jan's blog ( to see how dramatically different a design can look in another colorway.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

From mini-sock to Moroccan tile

My little sock was finished in practically no time at all! I followed through with the floral motif, using DMC floss #962 and #3716 for the pink centers. The only real decision involved how to stitch the square at the very center: mosaic stitch or French knots? I concluded French knots might be a little "fussy"--and I am not a "fussy" person--so stayed with the mosaic stitch. I'm happy with the result--the colors remind me a bit of coffee and French vanilla ice cream, my favorites!

Having practiced my mosaic stitches, I can move on to my next project: a Zellig mosaic tile adapted for needlepoint by Jan Fitzpatrick, who has done extensive research into Moroccan culture and crafts after living there for several years. Jan's rugs are magnificent--do go visit her at She's currently showing the pattern for the Zellig tile in the colorway she'll be using for her version.

When I first approached Jan for her permission to blog-stitch this piece, I thought I would rotate it one-quarter turn to make a Christmas ornament for myself. Then I read Jan's post about her using as many mosaic stitches as possible to mimic the look of a real mosaic tile, and I realized I wouldn't be able to do that with a diamond shape. I found the perfect home for the finished piece--a Sudberry House "Laura's box" in a mahogany finish--so will work the project as Jan originally intended but in colors very different from hers.

Being the painted canvas person that I am, I had to mark the canvas first! This took a fair amount of counting, and I may need to adjust the positioning of smaller elements as I stitch, but I'm basically good to go. As you can see, the canvas is marked, not a full paint job--it's just for me and I'd much rather spend the time stitching!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sock it to me again!

I tend to play "What if?" a lot when I'm working on a new design. When I finished the two versions of the "Victoria" mini-sock. a thought occurred to me: the pastel sample was in the exact same shades as some Christmas ornaments I'd purchased in our Texas days. Gee, if I had enough ornaments in that color scheme, I could re-do the decorations for the dining room! After three years of the same sugared fruit, I was ready for a change. It's too late for this year, obviously--I'll need a lot of ornaments to pull off this new decorating scheme--but if I start now, I'll have a leg up on next Christmas!

I loved the "lace" effect on the cuff of the darker "Victoria" sock, as well as the taupe Petite Very Velvet I'd used for the background of the pastel version. So why not combine the two? I "borrowed" the diamond motif of my "Harlequin" mini-sock and the mosaic-stitch floral motif from the center of my "In the Pink" Egg for All Seasons. Voila! A new mini-sock design which, as you can see, I wasted no time in stitching.

The cuff was worked with DMC #5 perle cotton #712, with a framework composed of tent stitches, diagonal vertical crosses and Smyrna crosses. Inside the diamonds I repeated the same color with DMC floss in compensated mosaic stitches, and have started to add the leaves--again in mosaic stitches, with DMC floss #501 and 503. Outlining the diamonds is Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V.

As you can see, this canvas is working up quickly! I hope to be able to show you the finished product later this week.