Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ghost #1 reviews his hand

Half of the border is done on "The Gamblers," so I was able to concentrate on getting the center ghost stitched.

His "body" was worked in basketweave with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032. Tent stitches in DMC floss #415 produced his eyelids and arm shading. His eyeshade was worked in tent stitches of black Petite Very Velvet and slanted gobelin stitches over two threads in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #008HL for the visor.

The cards he's holding were stitched with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221 and DMC floss #666, the same threads I used to stitch the cards in the top corners of the border. Now that this little guy is in place, I can start working on the orange background!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bordering on the other-worldly

I'm fairly predictable when it comes to starting a canvas: if it has a border, I usually begin stitching there. Likewise, if there's a lot of one color involved, I tend to put as much of that behind me before tackling "juicier" areas!

I'm stitching "The Gamblers" as a door-hanger, and already know how I'll have it finished-- backed with black velveteen. I think of a border as a frame for a smaller scene, so I wanted this area to have a slightly higher profile.

The inside and outside perimeters of the border have been worked with black Petite Very Velvet in a slanted gobelin stitch, over either two or three threads. The inside background used four plies of white DMC cotton floss in a diagonal mosaic stitch to add a little texture. I then started to fill in the symbols for the playing card suits with the same PVV in basketweave.

There's also a fair amount of orange background to be worked in the center section, but I'll need to do a little "ghostly" stitching before I can start this area!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shaking the sillies out

Passing a glorious display of jewel-toned chrysanthemums outside our local market earlier this week, it suddenly hit me: fall is fast approaching! Time for another Halloween design!

I chewed on an idea all the way home and, having dutifully stashed away my groceries, sat down to sketch. DH sailed through the kitchen and I showed him my crude drawing--he laughed. A good sign! I then transferred my idea to graph paper, and having slept on the count for the border, painted the design you see here the next day. "The Gamblers" was born!

These little poker-playing ghosts join their singing and dancing counterparts of "A Chorus Line" and last year's "Dreamgirls," and offer me my once-a-year opportunity to let my imagination go wild and be slightly ridiculous! I'll be stitching this canvas as a door-hanger, so drop in to watch my progress!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An angelic finish

The model for Judy Harper's July guardian angel is finished, and what a fun project it was! One of the things which made it particularly appealing to me was its use of my favorite colors: blue, green and hot pink.

Heading into the home stretch, I gave the little angel a bolero jacket using Vineyard Silk Classic "Celestial"--appropriate for an angel, don't you think? The jacket was trimmed in a gobelin stitch at the front edges and cuffs, and filled in with a framed mosaic stitch. I chose this shade of blue. which matches the darkest blue of the water, to tie the top and bottom of the canvas together.

Last of all, the water lilies themselves! I chose four values of DMC floss--from darkest to lightest, #335, 899, 776 and 818--to shade the petals. I began with the darkest value in the center petals, stitching over the stamens, which I added later on top of the stitching using three plies of DMC floss #743. Using either satin or long stitches, I worked outward with the lighter values of pink floss. The veins of the lightest petals were worked with two plies of the darkest pink on top of the previously-stitched areas.

Hopefully I've come close to achieving the look of Monet's garden at Giverny for this little angel, who will now wing her way back to Judy for finishing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Of wings and lily pads

Just for fun and variety, I wanted to stitch the wings of Judy Harper's July angel a little differently. You may recall the December angel's wings were worked in a Nobuko stitch with Kreinik gold metallic--fine for a winter angel, but a little heavy for a summer angel.

This time I was aiming for a "sculptured" look. I first tent-stitched the lines of the wings drawn on the canvas with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032. Then I filled in between the metallic stitches with white DMC #5 perle cotton in satin stitches. I had first tried floss for the filler stitches, but the floss didn't provide the sheen and "loft" I was looking for. The perle cotton, being a tad heavier and with a slight twist that is light-reflective, was the better choice here.

Heading back into the water, I then worked the lily pads in three shades of Petite Very Velvet--V622, 623, and 624. I first worked the veins in the medium green in tent stitches for the top and middle lily pads, filling around the veins in basketweave with the lightest green. For the lily pad at the bottom, I used the darkest green for the veins with the medium green around them. I was pleased to see that adding the lily pads enhanced the look of depth to the water.

I'm on the home stretch now--only the angel's bolero and lilies themselves remain to be stitched!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From neckline to hemline

There are a lot of values of blue in the dress Judy Harper's July angel is now sporting!

From the neckline to the water line, the dress was needle-blended using four plies of DMC floss #3755, 3325, 3841 and 775 in staggered basketweave. That was the easy part!--I'd used this "recipe" any number of times to create skies for lighthouses.

The water, however, was a trickier matter! There was no single blue/green color family in DMC floss that would give the smooth gradation I was looking for in the water--I would have to needle-blend this area, too! Working from the top down, I began with a combination of two plies ofDMC floss #3755, the darkest color in the "sky" area, and two plies of green DMC floss #992.

The two plies of green floss remained constant as the water gradually darkened using DMC floss #334 and #322. I gradually dropped the green floss out of the equation and used solid blue, ending at the bottom with a blend of DMC floss #322 and #312. All this stitching, of course, was only done after a lot of trial-and-error experimentation on doodle canvas!

It's time for this little angel to earn her wings, so I'll be working on that area next!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Taking it from the top

Just like the December angel, I began working Judy Harper's July angel canvas from the halo down!

The outside of the halo and radii were worked in tent stitches, then filled in with satin stitches using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V. Then I moved to the face and neck, working these areas in basketweave with four plies of DMC floss #948. I stitched over the eyebrows which had been painted in and skipped the eyelids, nose and mouth. The eyelids and nose were added with DMC floss #754 and the mouth with DMC floss #760. Two plies of DMC floss #898 in straight stitches were stitched over the previously-worked areas for the eyebrows.

For the hair, I chose Silk & Ivory "Chocolate," dividing it into four sections. The bottom sections were worked in satin stitches slanted away from the face, while the top sections are slanted down to either side from the crown.

Per Judy's request, I reworked the top of the bodice to make it less prominent. The same gold Kreinik thread was used here in tent and Smyrna cross stitches to surround the Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #061 "rubies," the birthstone for July.

Now for the dress itself! I've begun needle-blending with four plies of DMC floss #3755, working five horizontal rows of basketweave. I then began subtracting one ply of #3755 and adding one ply of #3325 for each section. When this photo was taken, I had just finished a section with four plies of #3325.

I've a long way to go before finishing the background of the dress, so I'd better get back to work!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Needlepoint a la Monet

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from designer Judy Harper.

"I want my new angel to have the look of Monet's garden at Giverny--do you think needle-blending could achieve that?" she asked.

Painting with oils on canvas is one thing; painting on canvas with threads is another. I thought about it awhile and finally told her that needle-blending could possibly be one solution.

"Good," she responded, "I'm sending you the July angel! And while you're at it, would you change the halo to the one like the December angel, get rid of the earrings, and fix the top of the dress?"

So here's little July, sans earrings but with a brand-new halo, which accounts for the white paint on the canvas you can see covering the original design. I'll make a slight revision to the top of the dress later, but first I need to stitch a face so I have someone watching over me as I work!

Judy herself is furiously working on two "ethnic" angels, and you can follow her progress at http://fairy-crafts.blogspot.com.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

December in bloom

With the addition of a lot of blossoms, the model for Judy Harper's December angel is finished!

I had already outlined the narcissus petals with Vineyard Silk Classic "Evening Haze," so filled them in with VSC "Bright White" in satin stitches. The outside of the "trumpets" were also worked in satin stitches with VSC "Creme Brulee." More VSC--"Citron" for the inside of the trumpets and "Dandelion" for the edges--were stitched in basketweave. The stamens were added in straight stitches with two strands of "Moss" Wildflowers on top of the previously worked centers.

For the narcissus leaves, I used Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves Dark" and Impressions #5011 in a combination of stem, gobelin and long stitches.

The holly was stitched in basketweave using two shades of green Fleur de Paris fine mesh velour that I had in my stash. This thread was discontinued by the manufacturer some time ago, but is equivalent in weight and texture to Petite Very Velvet. The blue-green thread contrasts nicely against the yellow-green of the narcissus leaves. I finally added holly berries with DMC floss #816 in French knots.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A shawl for December

Little December angel is warmer now that her shawl has been stitched! And Judy Harper's design is looking a lot more dramatic with the addition of darker threads that contrast with the white narcissus petals at the bottom.

Choosing threads for the shawl was easy, but deciding on a stitch for this area was not. A good portion of the shawl is next to the wings, which were worked in Nobuko stitch. I decided that butting another decorative stitch next to the wings would be overkill, and used basketweave instead.

The edge of the shawl was stitched with burgundy Petite Very Velvet, with a single row of tent stitches on either side in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #080HL. The metallic thread here provides a tiny bit more bling as well as emphasizing the higher profile of the PVV . The rest of the shawl was stitched with DMC floss #902, the darkest value in the color family used to needle-blend the dress.

With the top of the angel completed, I can now move on to the flowers and holly!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dressing an angel

When I was thinking through how to stitch this December angel, I checked with designer Judy Harper on possible color combinations for the angel's clothing. Judy explained that she saw this design as a guardian angel for the month, not as a Christmas angel per se. and would actually prefer I not use traditional red-and-green Christmas colors. I came up with three color schemes, all of which Judy approved, and she finally said "YOU pick!"

With all of my threads assembled, I then needed to figure out how to make the top of the dress lighter in color, so as to be more flattering to the face, while making the lower part of the dress darker to emphasize the white narcissus petals. The solution: needle-blending!

In my last post, I had already begun stitching the top of the dress in basketweave with DMC floss #778. Following the progression of lighter to darker in the same color family, I used DMC floss #3727 and #316, finally using four plies of DMC #3726 from the top of the highest narcissus to the bottom of the skirt.

Before I could finish stitching the darker background, I needed to outline the flower petals to avoid pesky threads working their way to the top of the canvas while I stitched the white flowers. For the outline I used Vineyard Silk Classic "Evening Haze."

I then added the jeweled belt with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V in tent stitches and the blue zircons with #014 braid in Smyrna crosses. Next I'll be heading back to the top of the angel to work the shawl!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not just a pretty face

Whenever I stitch a canvas of a human--or heavenly--form, I like to work the face first so I have something smiling back at me as I progress with the rest of the canvas. In the case of Judy Harper's December angel, with her hands gracefully posed in prayer, I hope she's thinking good thoughts so I don't goof this one up!

The face was worked in backetweave with four plies of DMC floss #948, stitching over the eyebrows painted on the canvas and skipping over the eyelids, nose, mouth and throat shading. I then added the mouth in tent stitches with DMC floss #3354 and the other areas with DMC floss #754. The eyebrows were then added on top of the stitched area, using two plies of DMC floss #898 in a single horizontal line over three threads. The hands were also stitched in basketweave with DMC floss #948.

For the halo, I first outlined the circumference and worked the radii in tent stitches, then filled in with satin stitches using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V. The same metallic thread was used for the wings in a Nobuko stitch.

Judy was very specific about how I was not to stitch the hair: no French knots or bullions, please! Using Silk & Ivory "Coffee Bean," I mentally divided the hair into four sections, first working the sides in a satin stitch, directing the angle of stitches away from the face. The crown was also worked in satin stitches around the hair ornament. Finally I added the ornament itself in tent stitches, using Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V and #014 for the blue zircons, the birthstone for December.

Now for a hint of color! I moved to the dress, outlining the neckband with the gold Kreinik metallic and filling in with either mosaic or Scotch variation stitches using DMC floss #778. With the same color floss, I began basketweaving the bodice of the dress. The staggered bottom horizontal row you see here is deliberate--I'll be needle-blending again!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A heavenly opportunity

I've been doing a lot of canvas painting lately, which doesn't leave a great deal of time to design something new or--even worse!--provide me with something to stitch in the evenings. And, as the members of my family will be quick to corroborate, for me a day without stitching is like a morning without orange juice!

Along came my heavenly opportunity! The incredibly talented designer Judy Harper has recently started work on a series of monthly "Guardian Angels"--lovely canvases which should nicely fill the void of decent angel designs in needlepoint. Up to her eyeballs and elbows in drawing paper and paint. she wrote to ask if I could help her out by "test-driving" an angel. She was looking for a model to demonstrate how a judicious use of simple stitches and threads could create a finished product pleasing to the beginning and advanced stitcher alike.

To "sweeten the pot," she offered me the angel for December--my birth month--and gave me free rein in choosing the colors! How could I possibly say "no"? To see the evolution of Judy's angel designs over the years, visit her blog at www.fairy-crafts.blogspot.com. And to see how I approach stitching this angel, come back and visit soon!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ready to go!

The three postcards, designed by Denise DeRusha and stitched for our son by yours truly, are back from the framer and ready to be mailed out!

As any of you who've tried to photograph a piece framed with glass know, it's a tricky proposition! To avoid a reflection, we propped the frame against a living room chair at an angle. The result is a little dark, but you get the general idea!

I think the framer did a great job--just hope the recipient likes it!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fenwick Island lighthouse finished!

Once the tower was stitched, the rest of the Fenwick Island lighthouse canvas was a quick finish!

The sidewalk was worked in DMC #5 perle cotton #3072 in a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads. The grass peeking through the bottom of the fence is Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves Dark" in single tent stitches.

At sunrise, the trees in the background would appear quite dark and fairly indistinct. So I used one strand of Impressions #5061 in a diagonal vertical oblong cross stitch for this area. I think it contrasts nicely with the diagonal cashmere stitch used on the tower.

When I finished this canvas, DH--the instigator of the sky at sunrise--gave it his full approval. He already has an idea for my next lighthouse canvas, but I told him if I work out the details of the lighthouse itself, he'll have to draw the background!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Building the tower

When I begin stitching a lighthouse with a white tower, I usually do at least part of the tower itself before starting on the sky in the background. Let's just say that, in the case of the Fenwick Island lighthouse, I got a little carried away with the sunrise concept for the sky! So with that in place, the next order of business was to work on the tower.

I wanted a good contrast between lighthouse and background, as well as a stitch which hinted at the brick construction of the tower. So I chose a horizontal diagonal cashmere stitch in white DMC floss. The lantern room, stairs, and gallery below were stitched with black DMC #5 perle cotton to add some visual weight to these areas. Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #02 in a spring stitch formed the beacon.

The fence was worked in a combination of tent and slanted gobelin stitches over two threads with white DMC #5 perle cotton, and the stairs to the doorway were worked in a Scotch stitch variation with DMC #5 perle cotton #642.

Shading around the window, doorway and fence, as well as the little outbuilding peeking through the fence at bottom left, was worked in tent stitches with DMC floss #415, while the window and door itself used DMC floss #413.

I've worked up the "recipe" for the sky at sunrise as a word document which I'll be happy to share, at no charge, to anyone with a canvas of his/her own which might benefit from a sky with "special effects"--no need to re-invent the wheel!