Saturday, February 27, 2010

A customized clown

My little "Rainbow Clown" design got a make-over last night to make it more suitable as a gift for a new baby girl!

I've also pulled threads for this project--a light pink for the background, with two darker shades of pink, two shades of turquoise, a lavender and an apple green.

What did I use as inspiration for these colors? The Neiman Marcus home furnishings spring collection!

I'll be able to work on the background tonight while watching the Olympic medal winners in figure skating and ice dancing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tenu Filo Magnum Texitur Opus

For those of you uninitiated into the mysteries of Latin, the above phrase translates as "Of so fine a thread, a great handiwork is woven." It's also the motto of the DMC Corporation, whose history and contribution to stitchers throughout the last two centuries are chronicled in the latest post to the company's Makes for a terrific read and the photos are great, too--do go check it out!

It's a girl!

I got the word just yesterday from my next-door neighbor: her second grandchild, due in June, is a girl! I had stitched a "First Noel" mini-sock for the first granddaughter two years ago and looked forward to another baby canvas. But I'd waited, knowing the mother-to-be was big on gender-specific colors. I now have my mandate: this project is going to be big on pink!

I'll be painting my "Rainbow Clown" canvas (left) to make it more feminine and to personalize it with the baby's initials in the balls the clown is juggling and "2010" at the bottom. Hopefully I'll get the canvas painted tonight so I can show a modified version tomorrow!

Back to painting for my next trunk show!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Another floral finale

With the addition of the floral elements, the tulip egg by Lee is finally completed!

The little blue flowers--which I chose to think of as forget-me-nots, since I have a profusion of them in my perennial garden--were worked in a Smyrna cross variation with DMC floss #826. The centers were stitched in straight Smyrna crosses with DMC floss #445.

In stitching the tulip itself, I didn't want to lose the beautiful shading of the original canvas but I also wanted to add a little dimension by accentuating some of the petals. I used four shades of a pink DMC family, starting with the lightest and next-darkest shades in tent stitch. I then added the next-lightest and darkest shades in a satin stitch to give some prominence to the petals.

I have plenty of time to get these little eggs finished as an Easter gift to a friend. As I return to painting penguins, I'll contemplate my next project!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Slow going!

I feel a bit like I'm running in place with this Lee canvas, but I have managed to finish the leaves since my last post.

Like the pansy egg, companion to this canvas, I've stitched the leaves in two shades of green Petite Very Velvet. I love the look, and the texture the PVV gives, while perhaps not noticeable in this photo, is just wonderful.

Back to painting penguins! But if I'm a very good girl, I might be able to start working on the flowers for this canvas tonight!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic stitching

For some time now, my days have been consumed with canvas painting. So my downtime for stitching comes only at night and time for designing something new has come not at all! I do get a bit distracted by ice skating and ice dancing in the winter Olympics, so I needed a stitching project that didn't require a whole lot of concentration on my part.

I chose another Lee egg from my stash to work on--a companion to the little pansy egg. So far only the background has been worked, in DMC cotton floss #369 in basketweave.

Not much to report, but it's a start!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rx for "pain" in painted canvas

I'll never forget the day when my oldest son came home from school with his first long-term class assignment. His eyes were glazed, his face was ashen, and his palms were sweaty: in six weeks, his full-blown report on the Boston Tea Party was due!

I calmly suggested he approach this report as if he were eating a hamburger: if he took small bites and chewed slowly, he wouldn't choke. One bite each for research, notecards, bibliography, and outline, with the final mouthful writing the report itself.

What do writing reports and eating hamburgers have to do with needlepoint? A lot! I've seen the same glazed look on the faces of many newcomers to needlepoint, who've fallen in love with a painted canvas, plunked down their hard-earned money to purchase it, and then wondered what the heck they should do next. My advice? Keep it simple--both in threads and stitches selected--and break the stitching down into piece-parts to keep from choking!

The canvas I selected from my stash to illustrate my point is a Lee egg, a pretty design that has two important things going for it: it's small, so it won't take a millenium to finish it, and it's stitch-painted, so you won't spend more time wondering where one color begins and the next ends than you do in actual stitching. In the first photo, I've chosen DMC cotton floss to basketweave the background.

Flash forward to the second photo, where I pulled two shades of Petite Very Velvet from my stash to work the stems and leaves. The PVV provides a higher profile against the background and also offers contrasting texture. For the "faces" of the pansies, I again used DMC floss, in tent stitches and a Smyrna cross variation in the center.

The last photo shows the completed egg, with the petals of the pansies worked in DMC floss in a satin stitch, turning the canvas a quarter-turn as needed to stitch the petals in the direction in which they're growing.

A complicated canvas? No. Fancy threads? Not really. And except for keeping the satin stitches as smooth as possible, the stitching involved plain old tent stitches and basketweave. The value of a pleasing finished canvas, accomplished in a relatively short time without undue strain on the budget, and with a sense of accomplishment that makes you want to stitch another one? Priceless!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jeffrey's Hooked!

The Little Red Lighthouse is finished, providing a nice spot of color this morning as little snowflakes fall gently on our part of the Cape.

The trees were a bit tricky to execute on this canvas: I was looking for a bit of texture without overwhelming the fence surrounding the lighthouse. I also was looking for a slightly lighter shade of green to maintain the hazy look at the horizon. Wildflowers "Evergreen," a hand-dyed cotton thread, was in my stash and just the color I was looking for.
Two strands of this thread are recommended for 18-count canvas, but after a very few diagonal vertical oblong cross stitches, it was obviously too heavy. One strand was just right!

Wildflowers "Moss" was also in my stash, a good color for the grass. I was aiming for a heavier, "clumpy" look--after all, the grass needed to hold its own against the perle cotton of the fencing and lighthouse foundation. Here two strands of Wildflowers worked well in a diagonal cashmere stitch. With the addition of the small fence in tent stitches, again using black DMC #5 perle cotton, Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse was completed!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A cheery, cherry-red tower

The tower of Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse is now completed--a cheery color for a cold winter day and very appropriate for Valentine's Day soon approaching!

The supports under the railing were worked in a satin stitch with DMC floss #666, with shading provided by DMC floss #321. The rest of the tower was stitched in basketweave. The windows were filled in with tent stitches with DMC floss #645.

All that remains are the trees in the background, the grass and the short fence in the foreground, which I hope to finish in the next couple of days.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Topped. grounded and surrounded!

The lantern room of the Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse is now complete, with the roof worked in DMC floss #310 in a satin stitch. The base of the lantern room was worked in a Scotch stitch variation with white DMC floss. Two Kreinik #12 tapestry braids were also used: #002 for the beacon and #025 for the railing.

I then moved to the tower foundation, using DMC #5 perle cotton #644. The cap was worked in a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads, with the rest of the foundation in a Nobuko stitch.

I'm planning on using floss for the red of the lighthouse and wanted the fence which surrounds it more substantial to give the illusion of depth. So I worked this area with black DMC #5 perle cotton in tent stitch for the narrower slats and a vertical gobelin stitch over two threads for the wider slats.

Next up: a lot of red thread!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The sky above, the water below

I began stitching Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse with the sky, needle-blending again! The photos I've been working from show a somewhat hazy sky, typical of what you'd find in a big city, so I selected lighter values within a blue family of DMC floss to convey this look.

Turning the canvas upside down and beginning at the horizon, I used two plies each of DMC floss #3756 and #775 in basketweave, staggering the bottom row every other thread. The recipe for the rest of the sky is as follows:

Row 2: One ply DMC #3756, three plies DMC #775
Row 3: Four plies DMC #775
Row 4: Three plies DMC #775, one ply DMC #3841
Row 5: Two plies DMC #775, two plies DMC #3841
Row 6: One ply DMC #775, three plies DMC #3841
Row 7: Four plies DMC #3841
Row 8: Three plies DMC #3841, one ply DMC #3325
Row 9: Two plies DMC #3841, two plies DMC #3325
Row 10: One ply DMC #3841, three plies DMC #3325
Row 11: Four plies DMC #3325

Moving on to the water, I used DMC floss #3755 and #334 in a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads, which gave an indication of movement within a very small canvas space. The darker shade of blue at the shoreline also provided the illusion of depth to the water.

When incorporating six different values of a blue family in one canvas, a DMC color card is an invaluable reference, as the ascending values aren't numbered in a predictable numerical sequence.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A little red lighthouse

Thanks to a tip from blog-reader Edy, this armchair traveler is on the road again to the Big Apple, to stitch a lighthouse nestled under the George Washington Bridge in New York City.

Unlike most other lighthouses, what is today known as Jeffrey's Hook began life in another state. Built in 1880 in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, it had become obsolete by 1917 and was dismantled.

Since the days when Native Americans plied the Hudson River, the section called Jeffrey's Hook had always been well-traveled. Increased traffic between upstate cities like Albany to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean saw a rise in shipwrecks in this area, prompting the placement of a red pole jutting out over the river to warn of danger. In 1889, two lanterns were added to the pole to aid navigation. In 1896, the City of New York acquired much of the land surrounding this warning marker and the area became known as Fort Washington Park.

The dismantled New Jersey lighthouse made its big move across the Hudson to Jeffrey's Hook in 1921 and for ten years was an important navigational aid. When the George Washington Bridge was erected in 1931, however, its brighter lights again made poor Jeffrey's Hook lighthouse obsolete and it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard. Fated for the auction block, the lighthouse was saved in large part by the publication in 1942 of a book entitled The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge authored by Hildegarde Swift. It was a saga of a happy little lighthouse, overshadowed by the gigantic bridge constructed over it, which comes to realize even an old lighthouse has an important role to play. Children and grown-ups alike fell in love with the book, writing letters and raising money to save the lighthouse from obscurity.

In 1961, the City of New York received the lighthouse as a gift from the Coast Guard and the station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It was mostly ignored until 1986, when on the occasion of its 65th anniversary, it was feted to a huge party in celebration of a $200,000 renovation. Each year in September, a festival is held at the lighthouse, capped by a reading of Swift's book by various celebrities.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Closing the "Eye"

Over the weekend, I was able to finish the Ojo de Dios canvas, culminating with the "Eye" itself.

I first worked the circles, using DMC #5 perle cotton #738 and 938, in a Leviathan variation stitch. This stitch provided the higher-profile look I was aiming for.

The center background was worked in a Nobuko stitch with five plies of DMC cotton floss #310--I added one more ply than I'd previously used elsewhere for better coverage. I'd been toying with the color I'd be using in this area, so I hadn't painted the canvas. I can still see a couple of spots where the unpainted canvas shows through, and I'll need to fix those areas before the piece goes to the finisher.

On to the four points of earth, air, fire and water created by the crossed sticks that form the base of the Ojo de Dios: these were worked in a slanted gobelin stitch over three threads with DMC floss #433, the same thread as the background in the brown bands.

The last step was to weave DMC #5 perle cotton for the "Eye" itself, starting at the bottom with a long stitch and hooking the thread over itself at each point of the diamond. After working with neutrals and earth tones for the last week and a half, I think my next project will have a little more color!