Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

As 2011 winds down, I wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year! Thanks for stopping by to follow my explorations in needlepoint--I appreciate your comments and personal messages cheering me on!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mission accomplished

Just in time for a new year, Mission San Gabriel Arcangel is finished!

The strip of grass below the stairs was worked in a slanted gobelin stitch with one ply of Wildflowers "Jade." Using the same thread but with two plies, the grassy area in the foreground was worked in a diagonal horizontal cashmere stitch.

I didn't have quite the right shade of thread that I wanted for the trunks of the palm trees, so I decided to make my own thread! I combined three shades of Burmilana--one ply each of 3504H, 3729T and 3506--and worked the trunks in a vertical slanted gobelin stitch. While I'd normally use two plies of Burmilana for basketweave, three plies make the trunks stand out nicely from the buildings behind them.

The shrubs were worked in different green threads and stitches to make them look more realistic. The shrub on the far left was worked in long stitches using one ply of Impressions "Moss." The darkest green shrubs were stitched in French knots with Impressions #5060, while the middle shrub was worked in more French knots with Sheep's Silk "Moss Green." The shrub on the far right was worked in a satin stitch with Impressions "Moss"--no French knots here, so I wouldn't give my framer fits when trying to place a matte around the border.

The fronds of the palm trees used--believe it or not--two different dyelots of Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves Dark." I first worked the darker shade with one ply in long stitches, then added long stitches and stem stitches with the lighter shade on top to give the fronds some dimension.

I'm happy with the way this project turned out, and hope the graduate of the Mission high school who asked me to work up this design is, too!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All but the foliage

The buildings are finished on the Mission San Gabriel canvas!

When I completed stitching the roof and facade of the building on the left, I popped in the window using DMC floss #3799 for the frame and DMC floss #318 for the panes.

The top of the lamp post was worked in satin and tent stitches with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V and filled in with DMC floss #745. To make the pole and base look metallic, I used Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #100HL--despite its "high lustre" designation, this thread doesn't have the glitter of other white Kreinik metallics. The base was worked in satin and tent stitches, with the pole worked in stem stitches.

I added a sidewalk in slanted gobelin stitches with DMC floss #644. All that remain to be stitched are the trees, grass and shrubs, which I hope to finish in a few days.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Up on the rooftop

How appropriate--I've finished the roof of the building on the right just in time for Christmas Eve!

With the same white DMC #5 perle cotton I'd used on the bellwall, I filled in the facade of this building with more Nobuko stitches. The window alcove was stitched in basketweave with DMC cotton floss #415.

For the roof, I used a thread new to me: Weeks Dye Works pearl #5 "Molasses." The variation in color is very subtle in this thread, making the slanted gobelin stitches appear weathered and more realistic than if I'd used a solid colored thread.

As you can see, I've started raising the roof on the building to the left. Since this building is set back slightly from the bellwall, I'm stitching the facade in basketweave with DMC floss #415 to make it recede.

It's time now for me to get in high gear in the baking department, but I wanted to take the opportunity to wish all of you the most wonderful of holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bells are ringing

This time of year, it's hard to get as much stitching in as we'd like, but I did manage to finish the bellwall for Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.

Using the same white DMC #5 perle cotton that I had on the top, I worked the base of the bellwall in a Nobuko stitch. I've used this stitch before on other missions, as I think it mimics the undulations of stucco well. The steps were worked in a row of slanted gobelin stitches and a row of tent stitches.

The cross, bells and grille for the door were all stitched with DMC cotton floss #3799--it's not as harsh as black and gives kind of a weathered look. The bells are a combination of satin and tent stitches. The area behind the grille was worked in tent stitches with DMC floss #317.

I'll move on to the wall at the right, as I'm anxious to try a new thread for the roofs that I picked up at my LNS yesterday!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Focusing on the sky

I began work on the San Gabriel Arcangel mission canvas with the sky--not a particularly large area compared to some of my other mission designs, but large enough to add a little visual interest by needle-blending.

Starting at the top of the canvas, with four plies of DMC cotton floss #3755, I worked seven rows deep of basketweave across the sky, staggering the bottom stitches randomly. The next blend of floss--three plies of DMC floss #3755 and one ply of DMC floss #3325--ends at the top of the brown roof on the right and extends across the canvas.
I continued to subtract one ply of DMC floss #3755 and add one ply of DMC floss #3325 until I had reached the top of the brown roof on the left, using one ply of the former and three plies of the latter.

The top of the bellwall has been worked in slanted gobelin stitches with white DMC #5 perle cotton, with the ledges worked in DMC #5 perle cotton #415 in tent stitch. I'll wait to stitch the bells after I've finished the rest of the wall.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A mission to stitch

I frequently receive requests from folks to adapt their favorite lighthouses to needlepoint, but I rarely get an inquiry about a California mission. A couple of months ago, a stitcher contacted me about Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. She had graduated from the high school located on the mission grounds, and to date had been unable to locate a canvas that would help her capture some happy memories. A few false starts and a couple of magazine deadlines later, I'm adding this ninth design to my Missions of California series!

Father Junipero Serra, known as the "Father of California Missions," commissioned two priests to explore the area near the San Gabriel River. They founded the fourth mission in the chain in 1771 in present-day Montebello. The area proved ideal for farming and raising of livestock. In the early 1800s, vineyards were introduced, with grape-growing and wine-making continuing to the present day.

One of the most distinctive features of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel is its bellwall, or campanario, which unlike other missions is located at the back of the church instead of the front. My stitching friend and I agreed that this would be the focal point of the design, highlighting the mission's six bells of varying sizes.

Do come back and check on my progress as I bring this canvas to life!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cecil steps out!

One more dapper gentleman joins the Savile Row series--Cecil is finally finished!

Cecil is the first in the series to sport a bow tie, which I wanted to appear as 3-D as possible. Using Vineyard Silk Classic "Berry," I first satin-stitched each of the three sections of the tie--but in the wrong direction! For the left and center portions, I turned the canvas 90 degrees and kept the canvas in the upright position for the right side. I then went back and satin-stitched each section again so the stitches for the left side and knot are slanted from bottom left to top right, with the right side slanted in the opposite direction. Padding the stitches in this way gives the tie a nice high profile against his pink shirt.

His pocket handkerchief was worked in a diagonal mosaic stitch with DMC floss #3865, a creamy white which blends better with his sweater. His belt buckle was worked in stem stitches with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001L. At my local fabric store, I found some antique silver buttons for his coat.

I see a trip to the framer's in my future, so Nigel, Liam, Oliver and Cecil can hang out together!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

'Tis the season....

....when I find myself wearing too many hats at one time! DH keeps mentioning decorating the house for the holidays, and I keep giving him a dirty look.

But Cecil is on the home stretch now, thankfully. His trousers have been added, using Trio "Caviar" in alternating rows of slanted gobelin stitch over two canvas threads and tent stitches. His pale pink shirt--yes, pink! I couldn't resist!--was stitched in basketweave with three plies of DMC cotton floss #818, with a vertical row of slanted gobelin stitches over three canvas threads for the placket.

On a recent trip to my LNS, I found the perfect thread for his scarf: Watercolours "Cinnabar." It's a slightly variegated thread , in just the right weight so the scarf stands out against the adjacent sweater and coat. I've worked it in a Nobuko stitch, with looped turkey work for the fringe. The shadow between the drape and longer expanse of the scarf was worked in tent stitches with DMC floss #3685.

Let's see: I still need to stitch the tie, pocket handkerchief, and belt buckle, but I need to find a minute to shop for buttons before working the buckle. Let it never be said that Cecil's wardrobe isn't totally coordinated!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Well coated

Cecil is a lot warmer, now that his coat is finished!

After working all the Scotch stitches with Felicity's Garden "Granite," I added frames of tent stitches with Trio "Burgundy" for the windowpane pattern. I'm happy with the way the coat sets off the sweater.

Next up: some trousers and a shirt!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A sweater for Cecil

It's amazing how much stitching you can accomplish riding in a car for three hours!

On the trip to Boston's airport the other day, I started work on Cecil's sweater, using Sheep's Silk "Ivory." The edging along the V neck was worked in oblong cross stitches over two canvas threads, while the ribbing along the hem was done in a Kalem stitch.

The body of the sweater was stitched in braided knitting alternating with a vertical row of tent stitches. To make sure the "cables" ended uniformly along the ribbing, I turned the canvas 90 degrees to begin each row of braided knitting.

A few more hours of stitching back home finished the sweater, so I treated myself by completing the Scotch stitches in Felicity's Garden "Granite" on the right side of the coat.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Reinventing the wheel AND a blog birthday

Sometimes, the best-laid plans go awry. Such was the case with Cecil's coat, with a windowpane pattern. The windowpane is usually woven into a tweed, which is what I was aiming for. In the photo at left, you can see where I'd started stitching the right-hand side of the coat with the skip-tent technique. Every other canvas thread was stitched with Trio "Natural," with Trio "Black" to follow. Well, the black followed--and created a concentric circle pattern which was definitely NOT what I was expecting. I didn't bother to take a photo--I hate to see grown people cry--or cringe!

While probably more suitable for the coat of a snake-oil salesman, you may actually see this concentric circle pattern eventually on another garment--it's totally neat, but more Carnaby Street than Savile Row--and also for something like a dressing gown or fancy vest.

What to do? Why, paint another canvas, of course! The photo on the right is my second--and final--attempt. I've worked it in a Scotch stitch with Felicity's Garden "Granite," which will later be framed with tent stitches.

I actually started stitching both canvases with the black lapels, belt, pocket flap and buttonholes. No, I'm not totally crazy--I'm familiar enough with black Petite Very Velvet to know its occasional quirks. I've found that approximately one out of four cards of this thread will produce copious fuzz. I tried a little the first time and that was the case, so I kept stitching all the black and, when I was finished, gave the whole canvas a good brushing. Goodbye, black flecks--which would have loved lodging themselves in the soft threads of Trio "Natural" that I used the first time for the top of the sweater vest.

Having pretty much depleted my stash of Trio "Natural," I'll need to switch to another thread to work the sweater, which abuts the coat and must be finished before I can go back to the windowpane pattern.

A Blog Birthday

Tomorrow will mark the beginning of the fourth year of The Cape Stitcher. I'll be on the road early, taking No. 1 son to the airport for his trip back to Kansas--sigh. So I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have visited from time to time, watching my progress in stitching painted canvases. If you enjoy reading about my explorations in needlepoint half as much as I do pursuing them, my time is well spent!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another man in my life

The Savile Row series began as an exercise in duplicating patterns and fabrics using simple needlepoint stitches. So far I've stitched tweed coats, sweaters imitating Argyle, Aran and fair isle patterns, and a hounds-tooth waistcoat.

The fourth entry in the series is Cecil, another dapper gent who's a bit more of a dandy than his friends. Cecil is dressed in a sweater vest or jumper, as folks across the pond would call it, with a bow tie and a windowpane-patterned coat.

Do come back and check my progress as I bring Cecil to life!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Just in time for Thanksgiving!

As holiday season approaches, one's work schedule often gets knocked into a cocked hat, but I'm happy to report Oliver is ready for Thanksgiving!

To finish his fair isle sweater, I needed to choose a red thread that was neither too bright nor too somber. The winner was Trio "Bordeaux," what I'd call a cherry red, which brightened the sweater considerably.

I'd toyed with the idea of adding a small figural design to his tie and handkerchief, but after finishing the sweater realized that would make the whole piece too busy. I stitched these two areas in a solid lighter cherry red--DMC Satin Floss S326--providing a little bit of pattern by working them in a diagonal mosaic stitch. The canvas was turned 90 degrees to work the knot, then returned to the upright position to stitch the longer expanse of the tie and the handkerchief. I find using two strands of the satin floss doubled in the needle gives me better control of this shiny but somewhat slippery thread.

As a final touch, I sewed on some silver filigree buttons--pretty nifty, don't you think? Oliver is now ready to party, and joins me in wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

More stitch guide news

Several people have contacted me, asking about the availability of canvases in the Savile Row series. Since these canvases are partially line-drawn and partially painted, I decided stitch guides would be helpful to accompany them. This is especially true for Liam, whose Aran sweater would benefit from a diagram showing stitch placement.

The good news is, Sue Dulle ( has stepped up to the plate to create some stitch guides for me! She did such a fabulous job on the guide for the ring-bearer pillow, I knew she could work out some diagrams for me with one hand tied behind her back.

Liam's guide is already finished, and Nigel's is in the works. There will be a guide for Oliver, too, as soon as I've finished stitching him--I'm almost there, I promise! And one more dapper gentleman will make up the quartet that I hope to have framed together in time for my first trunk show of 2012!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A little here, a little there

Oliver continues to warm up a little at a time! I finally finished the "Classic Navy" Trio part of the skip-tent stitch for his coat, but will need to add the white for the canvas threads I'd previously skipped.

I've also made some progress on his fair isle sweater, although it's slow going since all of the stitching is in basketweave. I'm using Impressions #1072 for the light gray background, the same white and navy Trio that forms the tweed in the coat, and Felicity's Garden "Granite" for the darker gray.

Those of you waiting anxiously for the tie will, unfortunately, have to wait a bit longer. I need to choose just the right shade of red for the sweater first, since his tie needs to be color-coordinated with the rest of his wardrobe. I will, however, try to stitch a little faster over the weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Moving right along

I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave in to the temptation of working on Oliver's sweater!

I first trimmed his coat at the pocket and buttonholes with Petite Very Velvet. Then it was time for his pin-striped trousers, worked in Vineyard Silk Classic "Pewter" in vertical rows of slanted gobelin stitch over two threads and alternating with single rows of tent stitch.

Next I stitched his shirt, using four strands of white DMC cotton floss in basketweave two threads wide. To keep the navy pin-stripes from overpowering the shirt, I plied down to two strands of DMC floss #823 to work the stem stitches.

The ribbing at the collar and hem of his sweater was worked in a Kalem stitch using Impressions #1072. I'll be using this thread to fill in the background of the sweater in basketweave before I start to add the colors in the fair isle pattern.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Slow going

I've been dividing my time between two gentlemen lately: painting Nigel by day and stitching Oliver by night. Poor Oliver has definitely pulled the short straw, but I decided to show my progress on his coat so you wouldn't think I'd been slacking off!

The right side of the coat is finished, now that the white Trio has been added to the "Classic Navy" in the skip-tent stitch. You can see from the left side of the coat, where a little white has been stitched, how adding the white thread brightens the tweed immensely.

I think the coat will make a nice frame for the fair isle sweater, which is the focal point of this design. I'll try to be very good and get some more details done before starting in on the sweater. This afternoon is the monthly meeting of our local needlework group, so I'm hoping to get some serious stitching done!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A coat for Oliver

I'm back in a paint-by-day, stitch-by-night mode these days, but preliminary work on Oliver has actually gone quite quickly.

For this canvas, I decided to change my usual order of stitching, working on Oliver's coat first. The Chesterfield coat has traditional velvet lapels, worked in Petite Very Velvet V642 in basketweave.

The body of the coat is being worked in a skip-tent stitch technique with Trio "Classic Navy" and "White." I've tent-stitched every other canvas thread using the navy, and filled in previously skipped threads with the white around the area of Oliver's pocket handkerchief.

So far, so good! I'll work a little more on the coat before moving on to the trousers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Exploring another pattern

Another dapper gentleman has joined the Savile Row series--introducing Oliver!

Like his friend Nigel, of Argyle sweater fame, Oliver is a city gent who sports a sweater in a fair isle pattern. This design consists of bands of brightly colored alternating horizontal motifs, made popular in the 1930s and '40s by the Duke of Windsor. The eldest son of King George V of England, he was crowned King Edward VIII in 1936 but abdicated the throne a year later to marry the woman he loved.

The Duke of Windsor was THE arbiter of men's fashion during his lifetime: whenever he wore a new style at a public event, clothing manufacturers would scramble to bring the item to market. His appearance in a fair isle sweater single-handedly created a resurgence among the Scottish weavers who had created the pattern. The duke also popularized the color red, which previously had been frowned upon in men's clothing.

Do come back and check my progress in dressing Oliver for success!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fashionably warm

Liam, the country gentleman, is ready for a walk in the woods or a stroll to the stables!

When I finished stitching his tweed coat, I moved on to the trousers. For this area, I used a thread new to me: Annabelle's Playhouse, which is made of 100% worsted wool. It's manufactured by Rosebud's Studio, which also produces Felicity's Garden, but the two threads are as different as night and day.

Annabelle's Playhouse is a heavy thread--too thick for basketweave on 18 ct. canvas but fine for 13 ct. canvas. It will work, however, for decorative stitches on 18 ct. canvas, especially if you switch to a larger needle as I did. Worked in a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads, Annabelle's Playhouse provided a nice heathery effect for the trousers.

The pocket handkerchief was worked in tent-stitch stripes with DMC floss #991 and 434 to highlight the green and rust shades in Liam's scarf. I added fringe to the ends of the scarf with some looped turkey work using Sheep's Silk "Acorn Woods." With the addition of a button for his coat, Liam is good to go!

What an interesting study in textures this project was! I have one more gentleman in this series to develop before moving on to something completely different, so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tailoring the coat: Part II

With the lapels of Liam's coat finished, I continued work on the body of the coat using one strand of Felicity's Garden "Truffle" in a skip-tent stitch. I then went back to the stitches previously skipped and filled them in with FG "Snow"--the same thread I'd used for the sweater.

The right side of the coat is finished; the left side is a little shy of half-done. The combination of the two colors has produced a soft oatmeal tweed, just what I was hoping for!

With this much completed, I was able to go back to add trim using a medium brown Petite Very Velvet that picks up one of the brown shades in the scarf. The lapel was edged in tent stitch; the breast pocket and buttonhole were worked in a slanted gobelin stitch.

Still on my "to-do" list: finish the left side of the coat, stitch the pocket handkerchief and give Liam some trousers!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tailoring the coat

For Liam's coat, I wanted to get away from the "city" look, with lapels stitched in a solid velour thread to imitate velvet. The thread needed to be light in color to contrast with his scarf, but not so light that it looked boring. Rummaging through my stash, I couldn't find one thread that quite fit the bill, so I tried out combining threads on doodle canvas to achieve the look I was aiming for.

The resulting lapels, while appearing to be a solid color, are actually worked in two threads--Felicity's Garden "Truffle" and "Birdbath Gray." I began with "Truffle," working a skip-tent stitch over every other canvas thread--I've already worked some of the body of the coat this way. I then added the "Birdbath Gray" to the canvas threads I'd previously skipped in the lapels. I've just created the exact color I want without having to buy a new thread!

Heading back to the body of the coat, I'll continue with the skip-tent technique to create a more tweedy-looking fabric, this time using another thread entirely.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bundling up

I started work on the ribbing of the sweater but, as it happens to all of us from time to time, I got distracted! A new thread for Liam's scarf had arrived in the mail, "imported" from Thistle Needleworks in Connecticut as my own LNS doesn't carry it.

I saw this thread online at The Thread Gatherer's website, and for once my computer monitor didn't deceive me--it was just what I was looking for. It's Sheep's Silk "Acorn Woods," a 50/50 silk-wool blend, with a close succession of colors in the overdye that makes it ideal for small areas like Liam's scarf.

I worked the scarf in a diagonal oblong cross stitch with one strand--making two passes of the needle to form the cross actually doubles the thickness of the thread and makes for a weightier appearance. The canvas was turned 90 degrees to work the top drape of the scarf. I'm really pleased with my choice--I think it frames the sweater nicely!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Knit one, purl one

Before I started charting the design for Liam's Aran sweater on graph paper, I dug out the sweater I knitted for DH--oh, about a million years ago!--for some inspiration. I was reminded that there's no set pattern for these sweaters--each is a little different in the combination of vertical panels that the knitter chooses.

I began with a center honeycomb pattern of oblong cross stitches using Felicity's Garden "Snow" and then filled in the background with tent stitches. On either side of the center panel I added a row of braided knitting to simulate cables. Through trial and error, I found that the braided knitting shows up better when flanked by a single row of tent stitches.

Next to the "cables" I added a column of Kalem stitches, followed by another row of braided knitting. Then it was back to the honeycomb pattern to finish the body of the sweater. I'll go back later and finish the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater with more Kalem stitches.

Was it difficult to stitch? No! All of the stitches used were quite simple to execute--the only tricky part was hitting on the right combination of stitches to achieve the desired effect. Did it take some time to stitch? Yes--but I think the effort was worth it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A mystery project?

No, this isn't a mystery project--it's the line drawing for the next dapper gentleman in the Savile Row series! I'm finding it quite fascinating to explore replicating various fabrics and patterns in needlepoint. This time I'll attempt an Aran pattern, more commonly known as an Irish fisherman knit sweater.

Meet Liam (Gaelic for William), whose wardrobe I'll be working on. I envision him as a country gentleman dressed for warmth as much as style: he sports a scarf as well as his highly patterned sweater. Because the sweater is cream-colored, I'm working it first, but not until I had done a lot of figuring on graph paper!

My choice of thread for the sweater is Felicity's Garden "Snow," a misnomer unless you think of the "white stuff" that fell a couple of days ago. It's a rather thin 50/50 silk-wool blend that should give enough definition to the stitches in the Aran pattern without competing in weight with the coat and scarf next to it. So far I've established the pattern for the center panel--a series of oblong cross stitches over two threads in a diamond-like trellis to mimic a honeycomb design.

I've a long way to go yet, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A spook-tacular finish

Stitching time for me has been limited lately, but I've finally finished the Seguin Island lighthouse!

Since my last post, I resumed work on the buildings adjacent to the tower, giving the small one a roof of DMC floss #355 in slanted gobelin stitches and adding bricks of Sheep's Silk "Lingonberry" in oblong cross stitches with the canvas turned 90 degrees. More slanted gobelin stitches in DMC #5 perle cotton #644 created the foundation, while DMC #5 perle cotton #414 in tent stitches formed the railing in front of the door.

The grass was worked with two strands of green Burmilana in a diagonal mosaic stitch. Rocks in the foreground were added in tent and satin stitches with DMC floss #645, 646 and 647. I stitched over those areas where tall grass had been painted on the canvas, adding this detail last in random long stitches with one strand of Sheep's Silk "Dark Moss."

Coincidence or Supernatural Intervention?
In 1985, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse and loaded a boat with furniture from the keeper's house for transport to the mainland. The night after this task was completed, the officer in charge was awakened by the sight of a man in oilskins standing by the officer's bed. "Don't take the furniture--please, leave my house alone!" was the apparition's clearly stated message. The following day, as the boat loaded with furniture was being lowered into the water, an accident occurred that sank the boat with all its cargo.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A sturdy tower

Since my last post, I've finished needle-blending the sky behind the Seguin Island lighthouse.

I'd ended with four strands of DMC floss #3752, so I began adding DMC floss #3753 to the mix, adding one strand of the lighter color and subtracting one strand of the darker color in each section of basketweave worked. Since DMC floss #3753 is the lightest shade in this Wedgwood blue family, I then began adding white. By the time I reached the top of the canvas (remember I've turned the canvas upside-down), I was working with two strands of DMC floss #3753 and two strands of white floss.

On to the lighthouse, where there's a little artistic license in play. The top of the lighthouse is actually all black, but if I'd stitched the base of the lantern room in black, the gallery around it would have disappeared. So I first stitched the base with DMC floss #3799 in tent stitches, then worked the rest of the black areas with DMC #5 perle cotton #310 in tent stitches, with the dome itself worked in satin stitch. Now the base of the lantern room appears to be in shadow, and adds some depth to the top of the lighthouse as well.

The First Order Fresnel lens was worked in tent and Scotch stitch variation with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #221.

The Happy Ghost
Not all tales of supernatural activities at the Seguin Island lighthouse are sad or threatening! At some point in the lighthouse's history, a young girl died on the island and was buried close to the lighthouse grounds. Keepers' logs chronicle sightings of a young girl, laughing and waving to them, as she ran up and down the lighthouse stairs--yet no children were living on the island at the time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another foggy sky

First up in stitching the Seguin Island lighthouse canvas were the granite blocks of the tower. These were worked with white DMC #5 perle cotton, with a row of slanted gobelin stitches over two threads under the lantern room and a Scotch stitch variation three threads high and four threads wide for the blocks themselves.

Since Seguin Island is one of the foggiest spots in the world, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to needle-blend a foggy sky! I'm using a Wedgwood blue color family of DMC floss here, unlike the "true blues" I normally use for a sunny sky.

Turning my canvas upside-down, I began at the horizon with the water. This was worked with three strands of DMC floss #931 in a horizontal interlocking gobelin stitch to give the subtle indication of movement in a very small area.

I then started needle-blending the sky with four strands of DMC floss #932, working basketweave over approximately seven canvas rows deep and staggering the bottom stitches to avoid creating a horizontal line. For my next threadful, I used three strands of DMC floss #932 and one strand of DMC floss #3752. I added one more strand of the lighter color and subtracted one strand of the darker color as I moved along, ending as you see it here with a full four strands of DMC floss #3752.

Now for the spooky story of the day!
In the late 1800s, a lighthouse keeper brought his bride to the island, where she became despondent because of the isolation. To cheer her up, he ordered a piano to be delivered to the keeper's house--no mean feat, since it had to be hauled a quarter mile up to the house over steep terrain. The bride required sheet music, but only one song had arrived with the piano. So she played that one song, over and over, much to the keeper's chagrin.

He ordered more sheet music, but when it arrived she ignored it in favor of the original song.
Finally driven into a mad rage, the keeper took an axe to the piano, his bride and himself. But to this day, it's said the faint tinkling of piano music can be heard across the waters surrounding the island.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sailing into Halloween

There are less than two weeks now until Halloween--what better time for another lighthouse design, especially if the lighthouse is haunted!

This is Seguin Island lighthouse, located north of Portland, Maine, at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Its name comes from seguin or "turtle," the word used by early Native Americans to describe the shape of the island. The first light station on the island was a wooden structure commissioned by George Washington in 1795. Taken out by a storm in 1820, it was replaced by a stone tower.

The third lighthouse, which is pictured here, was built in 1857 on the highest point of the island using granite blocks and stands 53-feet tall. It was fitted with a First Order Fresnel lens, the only one of its kind in Maine as well as the only one located north of Rhode Island. From its vantage point of 180 feet above sea level, the fixed white light of the lens can be seen from 18 miles away. At nine feet high, the lens was tall enough for a keeper to go completely inside it to light it.

The island has the distinction of being one of the foggiest places in the world. The Lighthouse Board installed a new steam-driven fog whistle in 1873 that sounds an eight-second blast every minute and is one of the most powerful fog signals available. In 1907 the location set a state record for fogginess--2,374 hours, representing approximately 31 percent of the year.

While still an active aid to navigation, the property was transferred by the Coast Guard in 1998 under the Maine Lights Program to the Friends of Seguin Island Lighthouse. Since that time, caretakers from this group live on the island every summer, restoring the keeper's house and other outbuildings.

With a lighthouse presence on the island for more than 200 years, it's not surprising that tales of strange sounds, ghostly apparitions and more-than-coincidental events have evolved. I'll be weaving in some stories of the supernatural as I stitch Seguin Island lighthouse as my next project!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ready to hit the courts!

I'll try very hard not to strain my arm patting myself on the back this morning, but I've actually reached all of my goals for the week--including finishing Reggie!

I completed the body of the coat in mosaic stitches with DMC #5 perle cotton #800 and ended with a hem of slanted gobelin stitches over three threads. With the navy perle cotton, I added pocket trim in slanted gobelin stitches over two threads.

The tennis racquet insignia was worked in tent stitches with DMC cotton floss #823. The final touch was to add tent stitches in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001 for the zipper.

I've got an idea for another dapper gentleman, which I'll let simmer on the back burner until I've had a chance to visit my LNS for some threads!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Starting in on the jacket

The primary focus of this design is Reggie's tennis sweater, and I wanted the jacket to enhance rather than detract from it. So to make his "tennis whites" pop, I switched to different colors for the jacket.

I'm using DMC #5 perle cotton #800 (light blue) and #823 (navy) for the jacket. While the thread is 100% cotton, it has a sheen that mimics the look of a polyester windbreaker. For added textural interest, I worked the collar in a diagonal mosaic stitch, turning the canvas 90 degrees as necessary to maintain the proper orientation of the stitch.

For the body of the jacket, I decided on a mosaic stitch for more textural interest. The size of the stitch also made it easy to compensate around the tennis racquet insignia. The placket was worked in a slanted gobelin stitch over three threads.

It's a busy week here: I have some painting to finish as well as a column to wrap up for Needlepoint Now. But I hope to finish work on Reggie by the end of the week!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thread snafu

I suspected there was a problem with the white Trio I was using for the tennis sweater at the time the last photo was taken. Trio is a silk/wool blend, and at first I thought it was a trick of the light playing off the silk that made certain parts of the sweater look a different color. After all, the two partial and one unopened skein I was using were purchased at the same time, stored together, and all of the same dye lot.

So I forged ahead and finished the body of the sweater, and the discrepancy in color really jumped out at me. This photo, believe it or not, is the pick of the litter of many! But I wanted to show the full pattern, and I see other areas in the canvas which need subtle changes when I paint a master. So I'm sticking with the canvas as is for now--it won't be the first time I've stitched a model twice! I still think Trio is a fine thread--I've used it often in the past with no problems whatsoever. I'll just need to use a better light source in future and be more observant as I stitch merrily along.

I finished the hem of the sweater with stripes of red, white and navy vertical oblong cross stitches and Kalem stitch for the banding. I worked Reggie's shorts in alternating rows of vertical slanted gobelin and tent stitches using white DMC floss. I think I might have preferred DMC floss #3685, which has a slight yellow cast, but I didn't have any in my stash. I'd better purchase some for the second time around!

I then filled in the neckline with three plies of DMC floss #3733 in basketweave--I wanted Reggie to look like he had a tan! I'm not sure if it looks more like he has a sunburn, so will reconsider this area, too, when I stitch a second version.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Establishing a pattern

One of my goals in stitching the Reggie canvas was to replicate the look of a traditional tennis sweater. I don't play tennis--in my first and only attempt at the game, I whacked the poor little ball clear out of the court as if it were a baseball. But I did own one of these sweaters, as they were quite popular way back when.

The pattern is basically a series of alternating cables and panels. Working with one strand of white Trio, I combined three stitches--Kalem, tent and braided knitting--to achieve this effect.

I tried using a Kalem stitch on the neckline, but soon found that Kalem stitched in a V just looked wrong. So I switched to vertical oblong cross stitches, adding Trio "Burgundy" and "Classic Navy" for the red and blue stripes. I'll add the bottom stripes and the rest of the hem when I've finished with all the white of the sweater.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tennis, anyone?

In case you couldn't tell, I've been having a lot of fun lately replicating fabrics and clothing patterns in needlepoint. So much fun, in fact, that I've come up with a new model in the "Savile Row" series. Here's Reggie, an aspirant to the Wimbledon tennis title!

The challenge here will be to stitch a traditional tennis sweater for Reggie that looks as realistic as possible. I'll also need to choose wisely in my stitch selection for his warm-up jacket.

You may not have a tennis player in your family, but you might possibly have another sweater canvas in your stash that needs some help to be ready in time for Christmas. The stitches I use for Reggie's sweater may provide some inspiration, so do stay tuned!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Stepping out in style

Nigel is fully clothed and accessorized!

When I finished work on his Argyle sweater, I stitched his trousers with Vineyard Silk Classic "Toasted Almond" and "Bark." To give the effect of pin-striped trousers, I worked rows of vertical slanted gobelin stitches over two threads, alternating them with a vertical row of tent stitches.

His tie and pocket handkerchief needed to be small in scale, so I decided on a simple stripe pattern that incorporates the colors in the rest of his wardrobe. To give these accessories some sheen to contrast with the fabrics adjacent to them, I used DMC Satin Floss S800 (light blue), S434 (copper) and S898 (dark brown) in diagonal tent stitches. I turned the canvas 90 degrees to stitch the knot, as the pattern here realistically goes in the opposite direction from the longer expanse of the tie.

I toyed with stitching the buttons for the jacket, but didn't like any of the samples I came up with. So off to the local fabric store I went, which luckily had just what I was looking for. I sewed them on with two plies of DMC floss. Nigel is now ready for a night on the town!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Warmer now!

Nigel's tweed jacket is all finished! I was surprised to find I'd used very little thread for the skip-tent stitches in Felicity's Garden "Truffle" and "Fawn." A 40-yard skein seems to go a long way!

I still need to decide how to work the buttons: with real buttons sewn on, as I did for Neville, or to stitch them.

To reward myself, I resumed work on the sweater. All the "Sky Blue" diamonds have been stitched and I'm close to finishing the "Blueberry" diamonds, too.

So now the plan of attack is to finish the sweater and give poor Nigel some trousers!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Half a coat is better than none

At least Nigel's left side is a lot warmer now!

I started work on the body of Nigel's tweed jacket, using two shades of Felicity's Garden--"Truffle" used in the sweater and "Fawn."

The tweed look is achieved with a skip-tent stitch, in which you work rows of tent stitches on every other canvas thread with one color, then come back and fill in the missed stitches with the other color. In the top left of the photo, I've begun stitching the "Truffle" in diagonal rows on the warp (vertical) threads of the canvas. The completed jacket on the right shows the weft (horizontal) canvas threads stitched with the "Fawn."

I then went back with the Petite Very Velvet used on the lapels to work the top of the pocket and button holes in slanted gobelin stitch. I'll continue work on the jacket in the evenings while I paint again by day!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Skipping around

I started filling in the diamonds of the sweater, using Felicity's Garden "Sky Blue" and "Blueberry." Because Felicity's Garden is a heathery-looking thread, it gives the sweater the soft look of real Shetland wool. I added a few diagonal lines of the pattern using Felicity's Garden "Brown Raccoon."

I was making good progress on Nigel's Argyle sweater when it occurred to me that I had several other areas with a lot of brown in them yet to stitch. So, for now, I've left the sweater half-done and moved on!

Instead I worked on Nigel's jacket lapels, using Petite Very Velvet V648 in basketweave. So far, so good.

There's still a lot of jacket left to stitch, so I'll try to keep my needle away from the sweater and concentrate on getting at least half of the coat done!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Working from the neck down

Work on the "Nigel" canvas began with his shirt, a tone-on-tone stripe pattern. Using three plies of DMC floss #827, I stitched rows of basketweave four threads wide alternating with a single row of stem stitch. The shadow was worked in tent stitch with DMC floss #813.

For Nigel's sweater, I used Felicity's Garden "Truffle," a light-weight silk/wool blend. The ribbing at the collar and hem were worked in Kalem stitch, while the rest of the tan background was stitched in basketweave.

With this much accomplished, I can now start filling in the blue diamonds of his Argyle sweater. At least Nigel is a little warmer now!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Neville's little brother

Those of you who subscribe to Needlepoint Now magazine, and who have received your copy of the September/October 2011 issue, may have already met "Neville." He's the faceless but dapper model of my "Savile Row" design that I used to show how easy it can be to replicate fabrics and patterns in needlepoint.

Neville was so much fun to stitch, I decided to work up another design highlighting traditional menswear fashions.
Unlike Neville, however, who measured in at 11 inches square, his little brother--Nigel--is only five inches square and fits in the top of a Sudberry House "Betsy" box. I can't think of a more stylish way to organize all that loose pocket change spilling over the top of a man's dresser!

Nigel is a combination of a stitch-painted canvas and a line drawing: a lot of the pattern will be stitched into the open areas. I'm looking forward to stitching this project and hope you'll stop by to check on my progress!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tucked away for safe-keeping

With all the surrounding foliage in place, the Port Pontchartrain lighthouse is finished.

Since my last post, I worked on the wall behind the lighthouse using two shades of brown Burmilana. The top, bottom and vertical members were worked with two strands in a slanted gobelin stitch. To make the wall bricks less prominent than the bricks at the base of the lighthouse, I used only one strand of Burmilana in a diagonal oblong cross stitch with the canvas turned 90 degrees.

The grass was worked in a diagonal mosaic stitch with Sheep's Silk "Green Leaves Dark." The bushes to the left of the base were worked in Sheep's Silk "Dark Moss" in a diagonal vertical cashmere stitch.

For the tree on the right, I used Impressions #5060 in a diagonal oblong cross stitch with the canvas in an upright orientation. I wanted just a little dimension for the vines growing on either side of the tower. One strand and one wrap of Impressions "Moss" gave me just the tiny little French knots I was looking for.

I'm pleased with the way the various shades of green blend with the blue of the sky. It may be shaped like a dumbbell, but I think Port Pontchartrain is still an attractive lighthouse!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A little experimenting

You've heard the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? When it came to stitching the sky for the Port Pontchartrain lighthouse, I just couldn't leave well enough alone!

The photo I used to adapt the lighthouse to needlepoint showed a stunning sky--one I thought would be fun to try to duplicate. At the top was an intense blue, which highlighted the oxidized roof perfectly. The darker blue quickly transitioned to a medium blue, which stayed fairly constant in value until it lightened at the horizon.

I also wanted this lighthouse to really stand out against the sky, and had already helped it along by stitching it in DMC #5 perle cotton. To accentuate its profile even more, I decided to "ply down" the floss in the basketweave background from four plies to three.

So I started at the top of the canvas with DMC floss #3755, working my way down to half-way through the railing under the lantern room. Then I started adding in DMC floss #3325 in rows five threads deep. Most of the center section of sky was worked with two plies of DMC floss #3325 and one ply of DMC floss #3841. By the time I reached the horizon, I was using a full three plies of DMC floss #3841.

I found that three plies covered the painted canvas adequately--I'd duplicated the look of the photo pretty closely and the lighthouse definitely does "pop"!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Working on the tower

With so much white in the tower of the Port Pontchartrain lighthouse, I began stitching it first before attacking the sky.

The brick tower is painted white, giving it more of a stucco appearance. So for the main part of the tower, I used a Nobuko stitch worked in DMC #5 perle cotton. The windows of the lantern room, gallery around it, and shading were stitched with DMC #5 perle cotton #415. The window is a cashmere stitch using DMC floss #413.

The brick base of the tower is not painted, so I used DMC #5 perle cotton #436 in an oblong cross stitch over two threads, turning my canvas 90 degrees. For the roof, I used a full six plies of DMC floss #927 in a satin stitch so its profile would match that of the areas done in perle cotton.

Next up: stitching the sky!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The oddest lighthouse yet

Adapting lighthouses to needlepoint has been as much of a hobby as it has been a business for me in the last 15 years. With today's entry, I've reached my personal goal of developing a representative for each of the 31 states in the U.S. which have lighthouses. If there were a contest, Louisiana's representative, Port Pontchartrain, would easily win as the most oddly-shaped lighthouse I've ever adapted. But as I researched the lighthouses of this state, I was more impressed by the fact that this one was among a handful to survive Hurricane Katrina in 2005 than I was by its shape.

In the early 1800s, Alexander Milne, a young gardener at a Scottish castle, was ordered to cut his hair and don a powdered wig, the fashion of the day. Instead he emigrated to the U.S., settling in New Orleans where he became a successful businessman and land-owner. On one parcel of land along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, he developed Milneburg, a resort town which became so popular in summer months that a railroad was built to connect it to the French Quarter.

The crude light built by the railroad as a navigational aid was replaced by an octagonal wooden tower in 1837. It, too, was abandoned when a replacement brick tower was completed in 1855. Reportedly this lighthouse was the only one on the Gulf Coast to retain its keeper during the Civil War.

It wasn't until 1880 that Port Pontchartrain lighthouse took on the dumbbell shape we see today. To accommodate a new lantern room, the top of the original tower was expanded with additional brickwork and its height raised by seven feet. When the Levee Board began reclaiming the lakefront in the early 1930s, much of Milneburg was destroyed. But the lighthouse was a survivor: it served as office space when the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park was developed in 1939.

Once considered the south's largest thrill park, its popularity was eclipsed by others and forced to close in 1984. It wasn't until 1991 that the land was acquired from the Levee District by the University of New Orleans as part of a Research and Technology park. Today the lighthouse, which was once located 2,100 feet offshore, now stands on dry ground.

It will be a bit of a challenge to stitch this lighthouse, making it look as attractive as I can while retaining the authenticity of its appearance, but I'll give it my best shot!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Another lighthouse finish

With the few details at its base completed, Sand Island lighthouse is finished!

You may recall that for the little glimpses of water at the horizon, I used DMC floss #322 in a horizontal interlocking gobelin stitch. For the water in the foreground, I switched to DMC floss #312--one shade darker--to give the canvas a little more depth. This area is worked in a diagonal cashmere stitch which gives the illusion of movement to the water.

The granite blocks which stabilize the eroding island were worked in a satin stitch using DMC floss #647 and 648. Lastly, I added the pilings with DMC #5 perle cotton #310 in tent stitches.

Wishing everyone a happy Labor Day weekend!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Building the tower

Those of you who followed my stitching on the Baltimore row/alley house may be having a case of deja vue right now--don't those bricks in the Sand Island lighthouse tower look familiar?

I used the same thread and stitch for both projects: Sheep's Silk "Lingonberry" in an oblong cross stitch over two threads, with the canvas turned 90 degrees. The oblong cross stitch creates a higher profile than the normal brick stitch, making the tower stand out more from the basketweave background.

The lantern room was worked in DMC #5 perle cotton #310 in tent, satin and slanted gobelin stitches. The brown trim below the lantern room and at the bottom of the tower was tent stitched with DMC #5 perle cotton #801. I framed the windows with DMC #5 perle cotton #644, using the same thread in a slanted gobelin stitch for the base. The windows were filled in with DMC cotton floss #317.

I honestly don't know what the pole is that projects from the gallery below the lantern room--it was in every photo of the lighthouse that I worked from, so I decided to include it. This was stitched with two plies of DMC floss #310 over the previously worked background. I worked the water behind the lighthouse in a horizontal interlocking gobelin stitch with DMC floss #322.

There's not a lot of stitching left on this piece, so I hope to finish up by the weekend!