Thursday, April 29, 2010

In for a penny, in for a pound

Two factors influenced my decision on how to stitch the water for the Presque Isle North Pierhead lighthouse. The reflection of the moon on the water appears only on the left side, in single lines, making the use of a decorative stitch to indicate movement next to impossible to compensate. Whatever stitch I used for the left side would have to be the same on the right, and in addition provide the illusion of depth to the water. My solution: to needle-blend the water, just as I had for the sky, and solve both problems at the same time!

I began at the horizon with four plies of DMC floss #312, one of the values in the sky at the very top of the canvas. I then subtracted one ply of DMC #312 and added one ply of DMC #311 as I worked my way down to the bottom of the canvas, ending with four plies of DMC #311.

The reflection of the moon on the water was added in tent stitches with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032. All that remains to be stitched is the pier itself, which I should be able to complete by the end of the week!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To the lighthouse

I've stitched the Presque Isle North Pierhead lighthouse itself, maintaining the illusion of nighttime in my choice of thread color.

To make it stand out from the sky, which was stitched with DMC cotton floss, I used DMC #5 perle cotton for the lighthouse: black in tent and satin stitches for the roof of the lantern room and #762 for the white bands, which don't appear really white at night. No decorative stitches were suitable for the bands, as the surface of the lighthouse is a smooth cast-iron, so I worked these areas in basketweave.

The door was worked in a satin stitch, outlined with DMC floss #415, and the windows completed with DMC floss #413 in a Scotch stitch or variation. I chose DMC #5 perle cotton #642 for the foundation, using a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads.

With a few tent stitches in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #003, the lantern was lit--and I love the way it twinkles in the night sky!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Looking at the lighthouse in a different light

Every so often, a little variety is a good thing. Only three times have I stitched a lighthouse canvas in which the sky wasn't sunny. East Chop on Martha's Vineyard was portrayed in fog; Point Lookout in Maryland was deliberately gloomy in keeping with its haunted history; and Grand Haven in Michigan was shown at night to accentuate its illuminated boardwalk.

For the Presque Isle North Pierhead lighthouse, I decided to take advantage of the expanse of sky and water by setting the scene at night. And, unlike Grand Haven's sky, this one is needle-blended.

Turning my canvas upside down, I began at the horizon with DMC floss #3755 and #334--two plies of each. For each layer of basketweave, I subtracted one ply of the lighter shade and added one ply of the darker shade, moving on to DMC floss #322 and #312 as I completed four plies of each value. By the time I reached the top of the canvas, I used two plies each of the last two values.

Lest there be any doubt about this being a night sky, I then added a full moon, using DMC floss #746. The presence of the moon will enable me to add some reflections when I begin stitching the water. Altering the time of day in the design provided a welcome change from all that endless sunshine without compromising the integrity of the lighthouse itself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Along the shores of Lake Erie

This armchair traveler is headed for Erie, Pennsylvania, to visit one of three active lighthouses in the state. A sand bar along the Lake Erie shoreline forms a peninsula, dubbed Presque Isle, or "almost an island," by French explorers and traders, which has given this lighthouse its name.

Presque Isle North Pierhead lighthouse, completed in 1857, was not the first station to serve navigation in this region. In 1818, Erie Land lighthouse was constructed on a bluff overlooking Erie Harbor, and a beacon was placed on a pier at the harbor entrance in 1830. A storm in 1855, however, caused a ship to crash into the tower and destroy the beacon.

The design of the 1857 lighthouse, pictured here with its distinctive black band, is unique among U.S. lighthouses surviving today. The two-story, cast-iron structure, built at a cost of slightly over $5,000, was fitted with a fourth-order Fresnel lens displaying a fixed red light.

The lighthouse was relocated to its present site in 1940. In 1955, a modern flashing red light replaced its original lens, which is now on display at the Erie Maritime Museum.

There's a lot of sky and water to work on here, so I'd better get stitching!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

As far as I can go--for now

Little Humpty Dumpty is finished--just shy of popping in some initials when my neighbor's new granddaughter is born at the end of August.

I decided to work the tulips with DMC floss #891, the same coral as his mouth, instead of the yellow as I'd originally painted the canvas. The coral provides an additional spot of color against the wall and ties the top and bottom of the design together. The tulip leaves were worked with tent and straight stitches with two strands of Wildflowers "Evergreen."

The centers of the tall flowers on the left used the same DMC floss #444 as the pants, but were pretty much covered over by the French knot petals worked with DMC floss #826. This shade of blue is the intermediate value between the darkest shade of the sky and Humpty's jacket. The leaves for these flowers, again in tent and straight stitches, were worked with two strands of Wildflowers "Moss." I like the effect created by mixing yellow-greens and blue-greens together in a canvas, since it mimics the variety of greens found in nature.

The "2010" was stitched with the same Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221 as Humpty's buttons and belt buckle, and I'll use this again on the bottom left when the new parents decide what the baby's initials will be. The grass was worked in a diagonal mosaic stitch--providing a little texture but easy to compensate around numbers and letters--with one strand of Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves Dark."

Why did I stop work on the grass where I did? Based on the alphabet I'll be using, I figured the worst-case scenario would be if the new baby were named "Wendy Marie," for instance--M and W being the widest letters in the alphabet. So I counted over 19 threads from the left, allowing for my margin, and put a tiny dot where the outside of the last letter would fall. I know, I know--stitch painters are always counting!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A firm foundation

Humpty Dumpty is well-anchored now that his wall is finished! As I mentioned in my previous post, the bricks were worked in a cashmere stitch in Sheep's Silk "Lingonberry" and the capstone and mortar in DMC #5 perle cotton #644.

So far only one little vine is growing along the wall, worked in tent and satin stitches with one strand of Trio "Shamrock." Staring at the flowers as I finished stitching the wall, I decided I should change the color of the three tulips--too much yellow going on here! I'll make my final decision after I've stitched the leaves of all the flowers and started planting some grass.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Great Wall of Humpty

Humpty Dumpty is finally a well-dressed egg! His pants were worked with DMC cotton floss #444 in a vertical slanted gobelin stitch over two threads. Using black Petite Very Velvet, I stitched his belt in braided knitting and his shoes in a satin stitch. Lastly I added the belt buckle, a Smyrna cross variation, using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221.

Now to the wall! For the capstone and grout lines, I wanted a thread that looked somewhat rough. I dug DMC #5 perle cotton #644 out of my stash and began with a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads for the capstone. I'll start filling in the grout lines with tent stitches when I've finished stitching more bricks.

The choice of a thread for the bricks was easy: ever since stitching "Joy to the World" for ANG's Needle Pointers magazine 10 years ago, my favorite thread for bricks has been Sheep's Silk "Lingonberry." The color is just right, and the spacing of the variegation in the thread as it plays out of the needle makes each brick look slightly different from the one next to it. I started working the courses with one strand in a cashmere stitch, and will start adding the vines and flowers when I'm a little further along in my brick laying!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Heading for the hills

Humpty Dumpty is now sitting beneath a needle-blended sky! Beginning at the top of the canvas, using four plies of DMC cotton floss #827, I then followed the following recipe:

Second row: DMC floss #827 - three plies; DMC floss #828 - one ply
Third row: DMC floss #827 - two plies; DMC floss #828 - two plies
Fourth Row: DMC floss #827 - one ply; DMC floss #828 - three plies

I then headed to the hills behind him. I knew I needed some non-directional stitches that maintained a low profile for these areas as well as some thinner threads. I like to use silk/wool blends for natural elements--to me, anyway, they look softer--so I rummaged in my stash and found three different shades of Impressions, probably the thinnest silk/wool blend thread I own.

For the distant hill on the left, I used Impressions #5061 in a Nobuko stitch. On the right, the distant hill was worked with Impressions #083 in a diagonal vertical oblong cross stitch. Both of these stitches produce a low profile so the background stays in the background. (You might remember the last time I used the diagonal vertical oblong cross stitch was on the shawl in the Shaker clock canvas--amazing the difference in the look of a stitch when you use such varying threads!)

For the nearest hill, I used Impressions #065 in a diagonal horizontal cashmere stitch to give this area a slightly higher profile without fighting Humpty in the foreground. I like the look created by mixing three different greens--they blend nicely with the sky and look more realistic.

I think it's high time poor Humpty put some pants on, so I'll be working on that area next.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A well-coddled egg

I'm being watched! Since Humpty Dumpty's face is so prominent in this canvas, I decided to stitch it first so he'd be smiling back at me as I worked on other areas.

His "shell" and hands were stitched in basketweave with DMC cotton floss #543, his eyes in DMC #825, and mouth in DMC #891. His nose and cheeks were first padded with tent stitches and then satin-stitched with DMC floss #894.

His jacket--color-coordinated, of course, to match his eyes-- was worked in framed mosaic stitch, with a gobelin stitch over three threads for the placket and over two threads for the cuffs. His crisp white DMC floss collar, in gobelin stitch over three threads, was set off by an apple green tie. I used DMC satin floss #S471, one of 24 new colors introduced for 2010 to join the original 36 colors, in a combination of Scotch stitches and with gobelin stitches over three threads for the tails.

Just to add a little sparkle to his jacket, I added rows of buttons using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221 in Smyrna crosses.

Next up: the sky!

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Look, Mama, no pink!"

Over the weekend, my next-door neighbor, whose daughter is expecting a baby girl in June, shared more good news with me: her daughter-in-law is expecting a first child in August--and it's a girl, too!

If you recall, I modified my "Rainbow Clown" canvas for her daughter's baby gift, making it over-the-top pink in keeping with the new mother's wishes. My neighbor's son and DIL, however, want absolutely no part of anything remotely gender-specific--least of all pink!--so yours truly had to go back to the drawing board for another baby present.

Here's little Humpty Dumpty, sitting securely on his wall, looking happy and intact! Nestled in the grass is the year 2010, with plenty of room on the left to add the baby's initials later on.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Shawl and all

When I was researching Shaker communities and lifestyles before designing the clock canvas, I came across a fascinating tidbit. Not only did they seek perfection in everything they produced themselves, the Shakers also admired objects of beauty and fine quality constructed by others of "the world."

During the latter part of the 1800s, many Shaker communities in the Northeast sent representatives down South to purchase finely-crafted silk shawls for Shaker "sisters" to wear inside the dormitories for additional warmth. What surprised me most was what the sisters did with these shawls: they tie-dyed them!

So when I rummaged through my stash for an appropriate thread to stitch the shawl, I remembered one I'd tried before for a sky, but had discarded because it was too variegated and unrealistic for that purpose--but just perfect for my shawl! Using Vineyard Silk Tone on Tone "Atlantic," I auditioned a number of stitches on doodle canvas and decided that a diagonal vertical oblong cross stitch worked over two threads high would be the right scale for the shawl. I added some looped turkey work for the fringe to add to the 3-D effect.

I guess sometimes it pays to purchase a thread you fall in love with, even if you don't know what you'll use it for--sooner or later, the perfect occasion presents itself!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Winding up the clock

Working diligently on the background, I cleared the center of the canvas so I could start stitching the clock!

The original clock upon which mine is based was constructed of cherry, so I rummaged through my stash and found a thread just the right color: Sheep's Silk "Camel," a silk/wool blend that appears more "mottled" than "overdyed." The subtlety of its variegation makes it ideal for imitating the grain in wood. The rounded top was worked in a satin stitch, with the rest of the case in either tent or slanted gobelin stitches.

The inside of the clock case was stitched with the same thread as the chair: Impressions #1112. But for the clock, I used only one strand in basketweave--over a canvas already painted dark brown--so the inside recedes and the case dominates. Visually, there's a big difference between one strand or two, isn't there?

The face of the clock was tent-stitched in DMC floss, using white, #318 for the circle around the dial, and black for the hands. I had originally painted in all 12 hour positions, but when I went to stitch them they were positioned just too close together to look right. I finally gave up gracefully and indicated only the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions.

The pendulum was stitched with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V. The drop was worked in tent stitches, while the weight was worked in a satin stitch first in one direction, then in another with the canvas turned 90 degrees to pad this area and make it look rounder.

All that remains to be stitched is the shawl on the left, which I hope to finish by the end of the week!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Slight change of plan

I changed my mind about my plan of attack for the Shaker clock canvas: trying to be very, very good, I worked on more background across the top so I could stitch the wooden peg rail.

This peg rail is painted, so I needed a thread with a matte look. I often use #5 perle cotton to stitch wood, but this time the twist in the perle cotton produced too much of a sheen. From the depths of my stash, I produced the perfect thread which I distinctly remember buying 10 years ago!

Matte 18 is unfortunately no longer made by Rainbow Gallery--why, I haven't a clue. I used slanted gobelin stitches for the rail itself, and then scratched my head over what to do for the pegs. These are painted over a single thread, and the dilemma was how to produce a round peg from a somewhat square thread! Duh!--French knots, of course! You may need to enlarge the photo to see them more clearly, but the way they turned out, it really looks like the chair is hanging from the pegs!

Now--on to the clock!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sitting down on the job

I've started the background on the Shaker wall clock canvas using DMC white cotton floss in basketweave. Boring? Not really--basketweave doesn't bore me, and since the walls in Shaker dormitories were usually a smooth, white finish, this seemed to be the best choice of stitch.

I've extended the stitching a few rows beyond the border of the design area to accommodate framing later. While the margin line does show through, it will disappear under the lip of the matte once the piece is framed.

Now on to the chair! Shakers were among the very first in America to produce chairs for sale on a large scale: the earliest Shaker chairs offered to "the world" were produced at the New Lebanon, New York, community in 1789. Always striving for a perfect product, they selected hardwoods like cherry and maple for construction, not only for their durability but also from a practical standpoint--these woods were indigenous to the area.

My chair was constructed of Impressions #1112 in a combination of tent and gobelin stitches. I first practiced on doodle canvas with one strand and soon realized I wouldn't sit on a chair that flimsy! I then tried two strands--much better! Since it's a silk/wool blend, Impressions offers the sheen of silk to imitate the look of well-oiled wood and the loft of wool to make the stitches stand out from the background. I then added a "rush" seat of DMC #5 perle cotton #436 in a mosaic stitch.

I'll continue stitching the background so I can treat myself to working on the clock itself!