Saturday, October 30, 2010

The eyes have it

The Molly O'Beagle canvas by Nenah Stone is finished!

By the time I completed stitching on the beagle, I had used six different shades of brown Burmilana thread. For some areas, I used two strands of one color; for other sections, I combined one strand of two different colors to needle-blend the shading.

I love the expressive eyes that Nenah painted. I first outlined them in the darkest brown, then filled in with white, black and a warmer brown with the whites of the eyes actually a pale yellow DMC floss.

I'd never stitched an animal this size before, and I found it to be quite challenging but rewarding. My thanks to Nenah for doing such a great job helping little Molly come to life! After the weekend, I'll start a new project--one with a human form!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getting nosey

I got a little carried away since my last post--I was so into my stitching, I didn't stop to take a picture!

Flashback to a couple of days ago, when I visited my LNS for threads for Molly O'Beagle herself. I had Felicity's Garden in the back of my mind as the thread I'd use: just the right weight, and the combination of silk and wool would give her coat a nice sheen. But there weren't enough browns in stock at the time, and Barry, the owner, suggested Burmilana, a wool/acrylic blend. This thread requires two strands on 18-count canvas, which turned out to work to my advantage.

I started stitching with the white Burmilana at the top of her head and worked down past her chin line. I added the nose, mouth and shading, and decided to work on the chest area awhile. I kept stitching, and stitching, and stitching--until the whole chest area was finished. I wanted to try out a little needle-blending on her shoulders, using one strand each of two different browns, so I stitched the shoulders. Then I decided, what the heck!--I might as well finish the shamrocks that overlapped the chest.

Oops! Time and then some to take a picture! I've started outlining Molly's head and will hopefully soon be finished with this canvas!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Growing shamrocks

There are three distinct areas in Nenah Stone's Molly O'Beagle canvas: the sky in the background; the dog in the center; and the shamrocks in the foreground. So in selecting a thread for the shamrocks, I needed something that would provide a higher profile as well as being green!

Rummaging through my stash, I pulled out two distinctly different threads that would meet my requirements: Petite Very Velvet and Silk & Ivory. When I held up the three shades of PVV to the canvas, they turned out to be too dark--I needed brighter greens. So the Silk & Ivory won!

I started working on the veins of the shamrocks first, using S & I "Honeydew" in tent stitch--a bit tight on 18-count canvas but still do-able. This helped define the segments of the shamrocks, making it easier to then work the rest of the plants in satin stitch with S & I "Kelly," the lighter shade, and "Emerald." To make the shamrocks stand out even further, I filled in the areas around them with DMC floss #911 in basketweave.

I'll continue working on the shamrocks but I'll avoid the areas which overlap the white on the dog's chest so as not to create problems for myself down the road!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A lot of blue sky

Finally!--I finished stitching the sky behind the beagle in Nenah Stone's canvas.

The dog is obviously the most important element in this design, so I wanted to keep the background subtle yet attractive. So--once again--I needle-blended, beginning at the top of the canvas with DMC floss #3755.

Using four plies of the floss, I worked down to the top of the dog's head in basketweave, staggering the bottom stitches randomly. I then added DMC floss #3255 into the mixture, using one ply combined with three plies of DMC floss #3755. I continued subtracting one ply of the darker shade and adding one of the lighter to the mix until I reached four plies of DMC floss #3255. At this point, DMC floss #3841 was worked into the formula. By the time I hit bottom, I was using one ply of DMC #3255 and three plies of DMC #3841.

The canvas is now actually about one-third stitched! I think I'll scour my stash for some shamrock threads next, so stay tuned.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A good day's work

Yesterday was a mixed-bag day, but a good one!

I began the day with a trip to my LNS, Town-Ho Needleworks, shopping list in hand as if I were going to the grocery store. I also brought along my little Leprechaun, who will be finished as a cylindrical ornament.

Greeting me at the LNS was Humpty Dumpty, finished as a stand-up! If you recall, I designed and stitched this little fellow for my neighbor's newest granddaughter, Amelia, who was born at the end of August. I'm thrilled with the way this gift was finished--the cording provides just the right amount of twinkle without going over the top!

I also scooped up a bunch of threads that I'll be using to stitch the beagle in my new Nenah Stone canvas--I needed an assortment of browns that just weren't forthcoming in my stash. Now that I've finished painting an order, I can go back to needle-blending the sky behind the beagle. And I need to finish stitching an ornament that I've been working on behind the scenes as the last Christmas present for this year. Busy days, busy people!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall's last hurrah

While I'm very slowly but surely needle-blending a sky behind the beagle in my new canvas, I wanted to share some photos of the last addition to my perennial garden. Have you ever seen a chrysanthemum this big before? I know I haven't!

It's name is "October Glory" and is a species of English chrysanthemum that I planted two years ago. Over the course of the summer, while the bunnies were happily nibbling on the aster next to it, "OG" just kept growing bigger, and bigger, and bigger. It squeezed out the Shasta daisies, spilled out over the phlox, and encroached on the plumbago. Just a week ago, it started to hint at the glorious peach of its blossoms and now, two-thirds of the way through October, is still popping new flowers daily. And yesterday, when these photos were taken, it had a visitor--a plump bumble bee in the middle of the second photo!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Always room for one more

Have you ever stopped to think how many painted needlepoint canvas designers there are? Probably as many as there are personal tastes and interests among stitchers! If you've ever looked on eBay under the category "hand painted needlepoint canvas," you'll find it resembles a remake of the classic Clint Eastwood movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But as my sainted Irish grandmother used to say, "One man's pie is another man's poison." Some may be attracted to modern designs with bright colors or trendy themes, whereas I prefer timeless pieces that are well-painted.

So when I visited the website of newcomer Nenah Stone was enchanted! Painting animals is not my forte, but it certainly is Nenah's. The expressions she achieves on her cats and dogs are amazing. Sensing a fellow dog lover here, I corresponded with Nenah to find out more about her source of inspiration and background. I wasn't at all surprised to learn that she volunteers at an animal shelter and donates a percentage of her sales to it. She's also a member of a pet therapy group which takes dogs to visit at nursing care facilities and hospitals. Add to this the fact that she comes from an artistic family and is a stitcher herself, the result is a line of beautifully executed animal canvases.

I sent Nenah a photo of our own Molly O'Beagle and asked her to see what she could do on canvas. I'm thrilled with her interpretation and look forward to stitching this canvas as my next project!

Friday, October 15, 2010

At the end of the rainbow

His shoes are on, the shamrocks are planted, and the little Leprechaun is finally finished!

I used the black Petite Very Velvet from his hat to work the shoes, adding little buckles in tent stitch with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V. The shamrocks were formed with mosaic and tent stitches using DMC floss #910.

Last, but not least, his pot of gold is a definite update from my original model--I used Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #02L, the holographic thread introduced at the beginning of this year. I was aiming for some surface relief to the face of the pot to give it a slightly hammered look and to maximize the twinkle of the holographic thread. So I combined stitches--slanted gobelin, cashmere, and tent stitches--in alternate rows over two threads. My Leprechaun is going to have a hard time hiding this pot of gold with all its sparkle!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A leg on

The good news is, I finally finished painting an order--now I can concentrate on the poor little Leprechaun, whose pants are only half-done!

The thread I chose for his knee britches is Rainbow Tweed, a four-ply strandable wool. It's the successor to Rainbow Gallery's Tweedie 18, a thread I absolutely loved for special effects which came in an assortment of beautiful colors. I'm using two plies of the Rainbow Tweed here in a vertical gobelin stitch over two canvas threads. It makes for a nice contrast in texture against the Trio silk/wool blend of his coat.

Time to get out the turbo needles, so I can wrap up this canvas and show this little guy in full sartorial splendor!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I haven't heard any complaints yet from the little Leprechaun over the speed, or lack thereof, with which I'm getting him dressed! Half a coat is better than no coat at all, right?

Before starting in on the coat itself, I outlined the arms with DMC floss #319 for more definition. I chose Trio "Shamrock"--an appropriate name, don't you think?--in Scotch stitches to give him a nice, warm quilted coat.

At the time I stitched my model, Brown Paper Packages had just introduced Silk & Ivory, a single-ply thread blending 50% wool and 50% silk. A great thread with a wonderful "hand," S & I is terrific in decorative stitches on 18-count canvas but packs a little tightly in basketweave. Brown Paper Packages subsequently introduced Trio, S & I's svelte sister, a strandable three-ply thread. The single ply I'm using here provides more than adequate coverage.

Before I could finish off the hem of his coat, I needed to work on his stockings. I was aiming for a woven look here, so I've combined two stitches--braided knitting and vertical gobelin stitches--in alternate rows two threads wide using four plies of white DMC floss. As soon as I finish his stockings, I can start giving the poor little guy some knee britches!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A beard and mutton chops

Hairy little fellow, isn't he? I achieved some major stash-busting in stitching the Leprechaun's hair, beard and sideburns (aka mutton chops), using two strands of DMC Medici wool "imported" from Texas days. One of the benefits of cleaning out my office/studio over the weekend was finding my "hair bag" of old Medici in various colors, and this reddish-brown seemed to be the perfect color for this canvas.

Before I could stitch the French knots for his sideburns, I needed to work the lapel area of his coat. Here I used Petite Very Velvet V623 in basketweave, and finished off the thread in my needle by working the belt on his coat in slanted gobelin stitches.

Another difference in thread choice between my original model and this new version of Leprechaun is the metallic thread I selected: Kreinik #12 tapestry braid. This size of metallic had just been introduced by Kreinik at the time I stitched the model and I hadn't yet tried it--but I'm ever so glad I finally did! The model had used Kreinik #16 medium braid--a little too thick for 18-count canvas, whereas the #8 fine braid was a little too thin. I think the #12 tapestry braid is the Goldilocks of metallic thread for 18-count--just right! I used the #009 in slanted gobelin stitches to trim his hat and the #002V in tent stitches for the hat buckle and in Smyrna crosses for the buttons on his lapel.

Now I can warm up this little fellow by stitching a coat for him!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Somebody's winking at me!

Cleaning my office/studio, plus painting an order, plus fighting a head cold equals not much stitching time! But I've started in on the little Leprechaun, beginning with his face so I have something cheerful to look at as I progress.

Even at this early stage, I've made some observations about the differences in the way I'm stitching this one versus the way I stitched my model several years ago. In that time, I've "plied down" in my use of cotton floss: using four plies now instead of six, making for a much smoother appearance.

Another switch-- next in my stitching order-- will be in my choice of thread for the Leprechaun's hat--black Petite Very Velvet. I don't think the petite version was even available when I stitched the model. I then used Fleur de Paris fine mesh velour, which was offered in a zillion gorgeous colors, but which has since been discontinued by the manufacturer.

With his little face now basically finished, I can move on to his hat and hair, including a fairly substantial beard!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A wee bit of whimsy

If you've been following the commodities market in the news lately, you know that the price of precious metals has been increasing significantly. The price of gold is on the rise, spurring a lot of folks to rummage through their old jewelry in search of hidden assets.

My office/studio has been the repository of several pieces of unused furniture since we moved to the Cape four years ago. The good news is this furniture is about to go to a new home; the bad news is I need to clean up my act! While rearranging things, I, too, came across a "hidden asset"--my little Leprechaun cylindrical design, and he's holding a pot of gold!

I stitched a model of the Leprechaun several years ago, but I've decided to rework him for someone else. It should prove to be an interesting experiment in how my stitching has progressed since the first little fellow came to life, so stay tuned!