Saturday, January 30, 2010

All but the center!

The lattice border is finished and the brown bands are done, too--I'm on the home stretch for the Ojo de Dios canvas!

The diamond banding of the lattice border was worked in satin stitches with DMC #5 perle cotton #310, just like the banding of the inner square. The weight of the perle cotton gives some depth to the basketweave for the off-white and brown bands.

I then completed the black zig-zag lines around those bands with black DMC cotton floss.

Next up will be the circles, the background for the center square and the Ojo or "Eye" itself--and I'm done!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A little more progress

I'm quite proud of myself: with not too much available stitching time, I've still managed to finish three-quarters of the lattice border!

I moved on to the first brown band, stitching the background in basketweave using DMC cotton floss #433.

When this area was finished, I got a little carried away and starting adding the black zig-zag lines to the previously-worked areas. Nifty! This canvas is shaping up exactly as I hoped it would!

I hope to get the outside borders done by the weekend, so I guess it's time to bring out the turbo-needles!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Moving inward

I made a little progress on the Ojo de Dios canvas over the weekend, moving inside the lattice border to give myself a little variety.

I'd initially thought to stitch the background of the bands with circles and zig-zag lines in a diagonal mosaic stitch. Using DMC floss #712, I started in on this section--and very soon ripped it out! I realized the diagonal mosaic stitch would prove to be too much of a distraction behind the stitch I'm planning to use for the circles, so I worked the background in basketweave instead.

On to the center square, where I worked the small off-white band in a series of oblong cross stitches: the first worked vertically, with another placed horizontally on top of it. The black border around these stitches was worked in DMC #5 perle cotton #301 in a satin stitch. Using the heavier thread made the oblong cross stitches "pop" and gave more depth to the center square.

Next I'll play a little "catch-up" with the lattice border and start in on the brown bands!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

From the outside in

I began stitching the Ojo de Dios canvas with the least inspiring part of the design: the outside border. Many years ago, when I was having another canvas framed into a Sudberry House bookend, a finisher gave me a valuable tip. While quality products, Sudberry House items were originally designed to showcase cross-stitch and embroidered pieces, worked on cloth much thinner than needlepoint canvas. To make it easier to insert the canvas inside the lip of the box, a needlepointer should try to keep the outside edge as low a profile as possible.

The outside edge of this canvas is four threads wide, so I worked the outer frame over two canvas threads with a slanted gobelin stitch using DMC #5 perle cotton #738. Then for the lower profile, I stitched the remaining two threads in basketweave with DMC floss in the same color. Interestingly, the twist inherent in the perle cotton makes it appear lighter in color than the surrounding floss.

I then moved inside to the lattice border, stitching the background in basketweave with DMC floss #738 and the lattice itself with DMC floss #310. A good start, but a long way to go yet!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

South of the border

My next project is an adaptation to needlepoint of several design elements I came across in researching Mexican art. At this point, I'm seeing the end product of this canvas as a lid insert for a black five-inch-square Sudberry box, which I fortunately found while raiding my stash last year.

At the center of this design is an "Ojo de Dios," or "God's Eye," a symbol of seeing and understanding the unknown and unknowable for the Huichol tribe of northwestern Mexico. It is formed by crossing two sticks, with the four points representing the elements of earth, air, fire and water.

When a child is born into the Huichol tribe, its father weaves the center "eye"with yarn to join the sticks, adding another "eye" for each subsequent year of the child's life. When the child reaches the age of five, the "Ojo de Dios" is complete. In the Huichol culture, it is thought that this symbol will bring health, prosperity and long life to the weaver as well as the person for whom it is being made.

In keeping with tribal simplicity, I'll be stitching this canvas exclusively with cotton floss and perle cotton, adding dimension and visual interest with my choice of stitches for the various sections of the design. Do come back and check my progress over the weekend!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another lighthouse finish

With the addition of trees, bushes and grass, White River lighthouse on Lake Michigan is finished!

For the trees, I was looking for a thread that would provide a low profile and a stitch that was non-directional. I chose Impressions #5061 in a Nobuko stitch, which offered just enough texture while keeping the background where it belonged.

The grass was stitched with two old favorites: Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves Dark" using a horizontal diagonal cashmere stitch.

Lastly, came the bushes at the base of the lighthouse. I was looking for a shade of green that complemented both the trees and grass, yet was variegated snough to provide some shading. I used two strands of Sheep's Silk "Camouflage," lining up the strands so the change in color was going in exact opposite directions, and made one wrap around the needle for the French knots.

My stitching progress is going slower these days, as I'm back in "paint-by-day, stitch-by-night" mode, but I can promise something entirely different in the next couple of days!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

All but the greenery

The White River, Michigan, lighthouse canvas is moving right along, now that I've finished the tower and keeper's house.

I've added windows and the caps on the buttresses, using DMC cotton floss. To imitate the look of limestone block, I worked the foundation with DMC floss #712 in a series of gobelin stitches over two threads, Scotch stitch and Scotch stitch variation.

The roof of the keeper's house is shingled, with the reddish-brown asphalt almost variegated with the sun shining on it in the photograph I'm working from. To duplicate this look, I chose Sheep's Silk "Rust Brown" for my roofing material. It's another color of Sheep's Silk which is more mottled than the usual over-dyed thread, and when worked in a gobelin stitch over two threads comes pretty close to the look of the actual roof.

Next up: trees, bushes and grass!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Color and scale

One common denominator of all my lighthouse ornament designs is sky. My choice of a blue shade for the sky depends on several factors. Where is the lighthouse located? Is the scene set on a sunny day or, in the case of one lighthouse--East Chop on Martha's Vineyard--is the sky foggy? Do I want to set a mood, as with the haunted Point Comfort?

Yet another consideration is the color of the lighthouse itself. To needle-blend the sky of the White River lighthouse, I chose DMC cotton floss #827 and #828 because it blended so well with the thread I'd chosen for the yellow Michigan bricks. I began with the darker shade--#827--at the top of the canvas using four plies. subsequently subtracting one ply of the darker shade and adding one ply of the lighter shade, until I reached four plies of #828 on the bottom right.

I then started auditioning a stitch to simulate brick, using DMC floss #738. Working with a building on such a small scale, every stitch I tried looked more like a block than a brick! I realized that a decorative stitch would only serve to gunk up the canvas. I gave up gracefully, stitching this area in basketweave, and consoling myself that the foundation would better lend itself to decorative stitches.

DMC #5 perle cotton was my choice in stitching the lantern room, since its weight gave this section more prominence against the sky as well as the tower itself. So far, so good--and I can now start shading and installing windows!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Heading to Lake Michigan

My first lighthouse design for 2010 is of the station at White River, on the western shore of Michigan, where at this time of year it's very white, indeed!

In the mid-1800s, a number of sawmills began cropping up at the mouth of White River, joining White Lake to Lake Michigan, to take advantage of the extensive forest in the area. Soon ships loaded with lumber for Chicago and Milwaukee amassed in the channel, and the frequency of wrecks grew. Congress appropriated funds for a white pyramidal tower to be constructed of wood on a short pier overlooking the channel. In 1872 William Robinson became its first keeper.

This first lighthouse proved insufficient to handle increasing ship traffic, so a second shore-based light station--shown here-- was built in 1875 with Keeper Robinson helping out in all phases of construction. The foundation was formed of native limestone blocks with walls constructed of yellow Michigan brick. Robinson and his wife Sarah moved into the new keeper's house attached to the tower, where they proceeded to raise 13 children!

Despite the presence of two lighthouses, shipwrecks still plagued the area and the Lighthouse Service blamed the nature of the light signature. Adjustments to the beacon were made in 1892, 1901, 1902 and 1912. After 47 years of faithful service, Keeper Robinson died in 1919 at the age of 87, the oldest active keeper in service at the time of his death. Yet it wasn't until five years later that the newer lighthouse and keeper's house first received electrical power.

The old pierhead lighthouse was replaced in 1930 by a skeletal steel structure and the newer lighthouse was decommissioned in 1960. Purchased in 1966 by Fruitland Township, it was reopened in 1970 as a maritime museum, where its Fresnel lens is still displayed today.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ticking off another project

The tall case clock canvas is finished! All that remained to be stitched were the wallpaper and the top of the clock, which I managed to squeeze in around other chores the end of this week.

The one area that caused me a bit of concern was stitching the brass finials on the top of the clock. I wanted them to stand out from the wallpaper and also try to make the balls in the center look somewhat rounded as they are in the original Simon Willard clock I was adapting. So I grabbed some doodle canvas and the Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221 to work out the right stitches.

Each finial was stitched in a three-stage process. The spike at the top is a vertical oblong cross stitch. The ball is stitched in a Smyrna cross variation, while the base is a single cross stitch.

I'm really pleased with the way this canvas turned out. It was a bit tricky keeping each element in its proper perspective, but by adjusting the types and weights of threads used, I think I've succeeded!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back in business!

My DH had to go out in all the snow on Monday, and on his way home called to see if I needed him to pick up anything. I'm sure he was thinking about a grocery store run but, no, I had another request: three skeins of DMC floss #712 from Barry at my LNS! And, sweetheart that he is, he got them!

I set to work finishing the wainscoting. My previous photo showed the shading I'd added in DMC floss #822, but now you can really see the difference outlining the molding made.

Then I returned to stitching wallpaper, and am happy to report that so far, I haven't had a nasty run-in with any dark threads from the clock case! When I finish the wallpaper, I can complete the top of the clock and call this project a wrap.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A snowy weekend, a lot of stitching

It started snowing here on Saturday, so I psyched myself for a weekend of cooking, laundry and stitching. I'd already started the wallpaper, so continued with that, adding DMC floss #644 for the darker areas. As luck would have it, just as Saturday was winding down, so was my DMC floss #712!

After using up the last smidgen I had, and filling in with the #644, I moved on to the floor boards. These were worked in DMC floss #436 in a gobelin stitch over two threads, ending the stitch and restarting at random to mimic where the boards butted together. Next I added the shading around the wainscoting, using tent stitches in DMC floss #822.

By that time, it was still snowing, so I cautiously began to stitch the clock--I figured if I took care starting and stopping threads, I wouldn't cause problems for myself down the road with wisps of darker thread poking up when I added the off-white floss later. I used DMC floss #3685 for the face, with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221 for the gold accents. With two plies of black floss, I added the markings at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock with a single cross stitch, then worked the hands in an oblong cross stitch. The banding on the clock cabinet was stitched with DMC floss #434, adding the Kreinik metallic for the corner trim.

On to the clock cabinet itself! For this I chose Sheep's Silk "Dark Chocolate," a silk/wool blend. Unlike other colors of Sheep's Silk, this one is more mottled than variegated, and as it comes out of the needle imitates the variation of color found in wood grain. The wool provides a loft, so the clock will be able to hold its own next to the perle cotton molding. And the silk element gives the sheen of well-oiled wood.

The snow kept falling and I kept stitching--by nightfall the clock was almost finished! I added the pull on the face using the Kreinik metallic in two cross stitches on top of one another, tacked down by a single horizontal stitch. The larger handle on the pulley enclosure was formed with an oblong cross stitch with a cross stitch centered on top of it.

Here's hoping I can plow my way out of here and get to my LNS for more floss soon!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Architectural elements: Moldings

The first sections I stitched on the tall case clock canvas were the moldings, which are really quite easy to execute in needlepoint with just a few simple stitches.

The thread I chose was DMC #5 perle cotton #712. I like using perle cotton for these architectural details: its slight twist gives the impression of wood grain while its thickness provides depth to the area being stitched.

The dentil crown molding was composed of a row of slanted gobelin stitches over two threads, followed by another row of the same stitch over three threads, ending with mosaic stitches for the dentils. The chair rail was worked in a slanted gobelin stitch over three threads, followed by a single row of tent stitches below.

The wainscoting was stitched in a slanted gobelin over two threads, taking care to miter the corners. The floorboard began with a single row of tent stitches, followed by slanted gobelin stitches over four threads.

I've started the wallpaper, using four plies of DMC cotton floss #712 to fill in the off-white areas. Already I think you can see that the perle cotton is doing its job to make the molding predominate over the wallpaper, which is as it should be!