Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stitching the Sunflower State

Of the three postcards designed by Denise DeRusha that I'm stitching for my son, I think Kansas may be my favorite! The Connecticut and Texas postcards have arched banners, whereas Kansas has a swirling one which I find very graceful. And the little sunflower peeping over the top of the banner is charming!

While stitching on the other two postcards was fairly straight-forward, Kansas poses a few challenges: I have never stitched a tornado before! I also need to decide how to stitch the lower background in the center, incorporating some of the shading that's painted on the canvas while compensating around the shafts of wheat in the lower left corner.

So I began stitching this canvas as I did the other two: beginning with the banner in navy Petite Very Velvet and a framework of slanted gobelin stitches over two threads, filled with a diagonal mosaic stitch. I lightened the letters on the banner a little, using DMC floss #402, the darkest shade of peach that I'd used for the background of the Texas postcard.

A good start! But I'm back in "paint-by-day, stitch-by-night" mode, so it may be a while before I actually have to deal with that tornado!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two down, one to go

The Texas postcard now joins Connecticut in the "finished" column! Here are a few observations I made as I completed stitching the center section.

When I added the bluebonnet leaves in satin stitch in the bottom right corner, I knew my approach to the green shaded bottom section was on target: see how the darkest green floss to the left of the star balances nicely with the leaves?

I struggled with the Lone Star, thinking originally that I'd work it in a textured stitch to make it stand out from the background. I ripped out my initial choice--diagonal oblong cross--frankly, because it looked horrid! Then I remembered a problem I'd had last year on an "underwater" project in which my little angel fish disappeared into the vibrant background. The solution to re-establishing the fishy's identity had been to outline it--so I first outlined the star in the darker shade of floss, and in so doing, made it stand out front and center!

I did a little research on the internet to help me choose just the right shades of floss to stitch the armadillo, the official small mammal of Texas. To my surprise, I learned that female armadillos always bear litters of quadruplets--either all male or all female!

I know--I'm a bit of a research freak!--but in looking at photos of bluebonnets to pick the right shade of blue, I realized that there's a little white tip on the flower clusters. So I started stitching with white French knots, then adding the light blue and finally the predominant darker blue.

On to Kansas, to complete my set of three Denise DeRusha postcards!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Needle-blending with a twist

Moving right along! I've continued my "due-diligence" stitching of basketweave around the perimeter of the design area and filled in the diagonal mosaic pattern in the frame. I then popped in the date and the horseshoes in the bottom corners.

While I was working on these areas, I kept toying with ideas on how to handle the bottom background of the center section. Denise DeRusha's painted canvas is shaded, with the darkest green to the left of the star fading to a light green on the right where it meets the peach section. Checking my DMC color card, I luckily found three values of gray-green floss that would work well in the bottom section: DMC floss #522, 523 and 524.

To the left of the star, I used four plies of DMC floss #522. I then turned my canvas upside down, working the section between the star first in four plies of DMC floss #523, then blending in one ply of DMC floss #524 with three plies of #523. I started the largest section of background with this 3-1 combination, subtracting one ply of darker thread and adding one ply of lighter, until I had reached the peach area using four plies of DMC floss #524.

Working the green section this way, I maintained the "spirit" of the original shading without adhering strictly to the colors painted on the individual canvas threads. I like the look, and will keep it in mind for future use! Back to work, so I can finish this second postcard over the weekend!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Looking just peachy!

When I finished the banner on the Texas postcard, I had two choices: stitch three rows of border around the entire design area, to give my framer some flexibility in placing a matte, or do a little work on the center section. The winner is obvious!

You can see from the photo of Denise DeRusha's painted canvas in my previous post that the top of the center section is already shaded with different intensities of peach. I decided to approach this a different way: by needle-blending! Luckily there were two shades of peach DMC floss--#3856 and #402--close enough in value. I started directly under the banner with four plies of DMC #3856, subtracting one ply of the lighter shade and adding one ply of the darker every five rows or so, until I reached the bottom using four plies of DMC #402. Stitching this area in basketweave made it easier to compensate around the bluebonnet on the right.

When I finish playing "catch-up" with the border around the outside, I'll resume working on the frame of diagonal mosaic stitch.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Moving to Texas

I'll never forget the summer of '98 when we moved to Texas: it was marked by 57 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures! Thankfully, it's a lot cooler here on the Cape as I begin stitching Denise DeRusha's Texas postcard!

Despite time out for a Father's Day celebration, I've made some progress. I'm continuing with the thread choices made for the Connecticut postcard: navy Petite Very Velvet for the banner and DMC floss #920 for the border. When I started filling in the letters on the banner, I opted to tone down the bright yellow, using DMC floss #729, so the colors of all three postcards will blend together when the project is finished.

Back to stitching--I've got a long way to go!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

One down, two to go

The Connecticut postcard is finished! It's a good thing I'm stitching these designs by Denise DeRusha for myself, and not as a stitch guide--there were so many small details in the central scene that I lost track of how many different colors of floss I used!

I used a lot of basketweave, primarily because the areas were small. I would have loved to use French knots for the autumn foliage, for instance, but that would have overpowered the factory buildings in front of the foliage. I did use some textured stitches where I could--in the brown factory building, for instance, as well as the factory roofs, foundations and windows.

I easily recognized the different elements representative of the state: the foliage, the factories, the ship and even the stylized mountain laurel flowers in the bottom corners. But the hamburger frankly had me stymied! It took a lot of digging on the internet before I came up with an answer: the hamburger was introduced in 1900 in New Haven! A customer to Louis' Lunch wagon asked for a quick yet hot lunch, and Louis happened to have some ground beef on hand. He formed a patty, grilled it, and placed it between two slices of white bread, cutting the sandwich on the diagonal. Now 110 years later, and in a brick-and-mortar shop, Louis' Lunch still serves hamburgers this way!

On to the Texas postcard!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Establishing a game plan

Before I started stitching my three postcards designed by Denise DeRusha, I needed to figure out how I could best portray the canvases as a set. I plan to frame them, stacking one above the other in chronological order, based on when my son lived in each state. If you look back to my last post, you'll see that the banners and borders are the same for two states, but different for the one that will be displayed first--not a good plan visually! So I opted to make the banners and borders the same for all three.

I stitched the banner first in basketweave using navy Petite Very Velvet. To make a frame around the central scene of the postcard, I worked a gobelin stitch over two threads with DMC cotton floss #920. I then filled in the space between the rows with a diagonal mosaic stitch, since it's easy to compensate around the numbers at the bottom--the year in which Connecticut ratified the U. S. Constitution. Around the outside edge, I stitched three threads wide in basketweave to provide my framer with some "wiggle room" in placing a matte over the canvases.

I've started filling in the letters with DMC floss #3752 in basketweave. When I'm finished, I can start work on the heart of the matter--the central scene of the postcard!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Postcards from home

Last week marked a very proud moment for me: our oldest son began a wonderful new job in his chosen career of emergency management! I wanted to stitch something to commemorate this milestone in his life, but what?

To the rescue came Denise DeRusha, a fellow designer and friend from my Texas days, with whom I had the pleasure of volunteering when her oldest son and my youngest were buddies at the local intermediate school. Denise has a series of postcards representing every state in the U.S., as well as a number of foreign countries, that I had long admired. I'd been looking for the perfect opportunity to stitch some of these canvases, and with my son starting his new job, that chance fell into my lap!

To view the complete postcard series, visit

I've chosen three canvases: Connecticut, his birth state; Texas, his "adopted" state; and Kansas, his new home. I'll be working these up as a set which I'll have framed for him to hang in his new apartment. Thanks to Denise, who has graciously given me permission to blog-stitch these canvases--this proud mother's way of saying "You've come a long way, Baby!"

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The French knot marathon

I've reached the Goat Island lighthouse finish line after running a French knot marathon.

Since my last post, I added a beacon--Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002HL--and a little signal light--Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032--in spring stitches. These are simply oblong cross stitches which are tacked down horizontally with tent stitches.

The shading was stitched with DMC floss #415, while the windows were worked with DMC floss #318, and the door with DMC floss #414, in satin stitches. Using DMC floss #312, I worked the water in a diagonal horizontal cashmere stitch, which gives the look of movement in a very small area.

On to the rocks at the water's edge, which were worked in satin stitches with DMC floss #647. The small grassy area was filled in with a diagonal mosaic stitch using Impressions "Emerald."

For the dense vegetation in the foreground, I chose two silk/wool blend threads: Impressions #5011 for the lighter shade of green and Felicity's Garden "Evergreen" for the darker shade. I worked this whole area in French knots, with one strand of thread and two wraps of the needle. Every so often I switched from lighter to darker thread to provide shading. I'm really happy with the depth that the French knots have given to the canvas!

I'll be back at the beginning of the week with a new project, stitching a canvas that--for a change--isn't one of my own designs!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raising the roofs

I'm back in the "paint-by-day, stitch-by-night" mode, but I have made a little progress on the Goat Island lighthouse.

Since the surfaces of the lighthouse tower and attached building are basically smooth, I stitched these areas in basketweave with white DMC floss.

The lantern room of the tower was worked in a combination of tent, satin and gobelin stitches over two threads, using DMC #5 perle cotton #310. The weight of the perle cotton makes this area stand out from the basketweave of the sky.

The roof of the attached building was worked in slanted gobelin stitches over two threads with DMC floss #817. This little red roof really makes the canvas start to come to life! When I finish stitching the tower, I can start adding lights, windows and doors. Now back to painting!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tranquil skies

I began stitching the Goat Island lighthouse canvas with the sky, needle-blending once again. There are actually very few families of blue in DMC cotton floss that will produce a seamless, needle-blended sky--the "fair weather" sky here was created with DMC floss #3755, 3325 and 3841.

Starting at the top, using four plies of DMC floss #3755, I stitched a random basketweave across the canvas, ending at the first lines marked on each side of the canvas. For each section, I subtracted one ply of the darker shade and added one ply of the lighter. By the time I reached the horizon, I was using two plies each of DMC floss #3325 and 3841.

If I had wanted a "stormy" or "cloudy" sky, I would have chosen DMC floss #932, 3752 and 3753 and used the same formula. Using these same shades of floss in reverse order would create a foggy sky! Isn't it interesting how a little manipulation of color choices of floss can create an entirely different look for a sky?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A trip to Goat Island

This armchair traveler is heading north today to Maine--specifically Cape Porpoise, which legend says was given its name in 1614 by Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame), after he saw a school of porpoises swimming in the area. I'll be stitching Goat Island lighthouse, near the entrance to Cape Porpoise harbor, a new design requested by a blog reader in California!

There are conflicting accounts as to when the original 20-foot Goat Island lighthouse was first lit--one source says 1822, another 1833. There is agreement, however, that the present 25-foot brick tower pictured here became operational in 1859 as an aid to navigation in what once was a busy fishing center.

In 1990, Goat Island lighthouse had the distinction of being the last lighthouse in Maine and the next-to-last station in the United States to be automated. Its beacon, flashing white every six seconds, can be seen over a range of 12 nautical miles.

During the presidency of George H. W. Bush, Goat Island was selected by the Secret Service as an air-sea command center, as it provided an excellent vantage point for surveillance of the president's Walker's Point estate in nearby Kennebunkport.

As always, my posts will be written as a "virtual stitch guide," offering suggestions for threads and stitches to the person requesting the design, who has indicated she'd like to stitch along with me--what fun!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A study in silver threads

As I was finishing up the stitching on my little friend's mini-sock, it occurred to me that this project has turned into a study in Kreinik silver metallic threads!

The cuff was stitched with Vineyard Silk Classic "Bright White" in basketweave--the sheen of the silk thread is much more obvious in person than in the photo For the name and the date in the lower left corner, I chose an old stand-by: Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001. It still provides "bling" and shows up well against a white background.

I'm happy with the effect the combination of silver threads has produced on this project. At some point, I'd like to experiment with combining gold threads as well. But for my next project, a lighthouse is calling to me!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Twinkle, twinkle, little thread.... I wish you wouldn't shred!

For the fourth and final ribbon in this mini-sock, the vertical band in the center and far left, I decided to give the Kreinik 1/16" holographic ribbon a try. It had much more of a gleam on the spool than the Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001L, and I was hoping for even more "bling."

I began with the ribbon edges, working slanted gobelin stitches over two threads. Just to be on the safe side, I cut lengths of thread much shorter than I normally do. But it didn't take long before I realized the end of my thread was shredding--I mean REALLY shredding.

Before any of you out there reading this start hopping up and down advising me to use Fray-Check or whatever it's called, let me add that I don't own such a product. My rule of thumb is simple: if a thread shreds, is so slippery that it won't stay where it belongs, or otherwise creates hassles that interfere with my pleasure in stitching, I don't use it. Life's too short!

So after filling in the background on these bands with DMC floss #809, my medium blue, in basketweave, I went back to the Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001L to work the snowflakes in tent stitch. This braid shreds a little, too--more so than other #12 tapestry braids--but didn't leave shards of silver all over my kitchen table as it produced the "holographic" look I was aiming for.

In my next post, I'll be speaking "off the cuff"!