Sunday, January 30, 2011

A sweet treat

The Chocolate canvas is--finally!--finished, and my virtual journey to the Land of Sweets is over.

The "comb" in the ballerina's hair was stitched with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #005. Her hair was worked with two strands of Burmilana in a satin stitch, with a single tent stitch providing her "curl." Her eyes and mouth used two plies of DMC floss in a single cross stitch.

The tutu, frankly, gave me fits! I fell in love with a caramel-colored Flair at my LNS, and used up almost half a card auditioning stitches. I ultimately chose a horizontal diagonal cashmere stitch, which gave me the "layered" look I was aiming for.

The brim on her partner's hat was stitched in black Petite Very Velvet with braided knitting for a little additional texture and profile. His "ruffled" sleeves were created with DMC floss #898 in a diagonal mosaic stitch, and his tights were stitched in basketweave with milk chocolate brown Petite Very Velvet. The result: a yummy stitched confection with a Spanish flair!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Slow but steady progress

Paint by day, stitch by night: that's been the modus operandi around here for the better part of the month! It's not terribly conducive to blog progress, but Chocolate continues to evolve slowly but steadily.

I finished stitching the background with DMC floss Ecru and Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002. Using a "white chocolate" background dictated that I darken the skin tones of the dancers so their arms and legs wouldn't disappear. I used DMC floss #3774 for the ballerina and DMC floss #950 for her partner.

On to the costumes! I used black Petite Very Velvet for the ballerina's bodice and her partner's hat and tunic--a dash of dark chocolate here! Alternating with the rows of PVV, I added Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #2122 in tent stitches for a little bit of bling. There's still more costuming to do, so I'll see how much progress I can make in the next couple of evenings!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Nibbling away

I've started in on the background for the Chocolate canvas. For the look of white chocolate, I'm using DMC cotton floss Ecru in basketweave. The criss-crossing lines of sparkle which create the diamond pattern are provided by Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002.

You'll notice that when I stitch the gold lines running from top right to bottom left, my canvas is positioned upright. For the lines traveling from top left to bottom right, however, I turn the canvas 90 degrees, as I don't want the customary saw-tooth look of stitches in that direction detracting from my central characters.

I've got a lot of painting to do these days, so my stitching time is limited, but I'll continue to plug away at the background before starting in on the dancers themselves.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A craving for Chocolate

Tenth in the series based on The Nutcracker ballet is Chocolate, which joins Coffee and Tea as another divertissement in Act II. It's performed by two dancers dressed in Spanish-style costumes, moving gracefully to very sprightly music.

My color scheme for this design is based on white, milk and dark chocolate. I've already painted the diamonds in the background to accentuate the crossed lines of the dancers' arms and legs.

I need to add some texture and sparkle to give their costumes the appropriate Spanish flair, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A sugary finish

I wanted the Sugar Plum Fairy's tutu to look "frothy," and when I visited my LNS , I found a Petite Sparkle Rays which exactly matched the bodice color--Vineyard Silk Classic "Provence." But what stitch to use?

After much experimentation on doodle canvas, I came up with a simple cross stitch over two threads. This seemed to provide the bouncy, airy look I was aiming for. And because the stitch was over two threads, it displayed more of the "sparkle" inherent in the thread.

Then it was time for the flowers, which I began working in tent stitches of DMC floss #561 for the leaves. The masses of flowers in her hair and trimming the tutu were stitched in French knots with DMC floss #3688, a value of pink a shade darker than that used for the background.

With her ballet slippers added in satin stitch using DMC floss #818, the little Sugar Plum Fairy is ready for her solo!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A tutu to go

I finished stitching the background for the Sugar Plum Fairy using DMC floss #3689 and Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V. I then added the ballerina's hair in satin stitch with Burmilana and her facial features with two plies of DMC floss in a single cross stitch.

On to her costume! I had visited my LNS to find just the right threads for this canvas, and fell in love with Vineyard Silk Classics "Provence"--the most beautiful shade of blue/lavender. The bodice of her costume was stitched in alternating vertical rows of tent stitch and slanted gobelin stitch.

I then outlined this area in tent stitch with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #2094HL--a variegated metallic thread that the Kreinik folks call "Heather." I need to add flowers to her hair, fill in the tutu, and give my little dancer some ballet slippers, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In my mind's eye

As I've designed this series of ornaments based on The Nutcracker ballet, the little figures painted on canvas and my choice of threads with which to stitch them have been influenced greatly by my own memories of both watching and participating in the ballet. Take the Sugar Plum Fairy, for instance: I've always "seen" her in my mind's eye as a lithe confection of pinks and lavenders.

So for the background of this canvas, I chose DMC floss #3689--a rosy pink--stitched in basketweave. To break up the solid pink as well as providing some movement and twinkle to this area, I added diagonal lines of Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002V. I had originally thought to stitch the metallic thread to form little diamond shapes, but quickly changed my mind as such a busy pattern would have distracted from the petite central figure.

Her flesh tones were added with DMC floss #948--just pale enough to keep her arms and legs from disappearing against the pink background.

I'll continue working on the background, leaving the fun part--stitching her costume--for later!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Visions of sugar plums

Enter the prima ballerina of The Nutcracker ballet--the Sugar Plum Fairy! She rules over the Land of Sweets, to which Clara and her nutcracker-turned-prince travel in Act II.

Composer Peter Tchaikovsky traveled extensively in the months preceding the debut of The Nutcracker in 1891, making a guest appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City before continuing on to Paris. It was in the French capitol that he first heard a new instrument--the celesta--that had been introduced there in 1886.

This keyboard instrument, which resembles an upright piano in appearance but has the tinkling sound of a harpsichord, intrigued Tchaikovsky. He was able to transport a celesta to Moscow, without the knowledge of his rival composer Rimsky-Korsakov, and made the instrument's distinctive sound the focal point of the music for the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

I've posed my ballerina en pointe, extended in an arabesque, and intend to stitch her so she looks as sweet as possible!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ready to party!

Clara and her little nutcracker are ready for the holiday party!

To complete Clara's costume, I added pantaloons, using white DMC floss in alternating horizontal rows of tent stitches and French knots.

Clara's nutcracker is a miniature version of the ornament I've previously blog-stitched, so I used the same threads for the tiny one. Red Petite Very Velvet formed his hat and sash, with black Petite Very Velvet creating his belt and boots.

His jacket and pants were worked in white Trio with trim in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002. Brown Burmilana was used in French knots for his beard and mustache. To make him stand out from Clara's dress, I outlined the white of his uniform with DMC floss #318 in tent stitches.

For the next canvas in the series, I'll be heading to the Land of Sweets!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back home and in the saddle again!

I've been out of town the last several days, but I took little Clara with me. I hadn't been on an airplane in almost two and a half years, and I was pleased to learn my little blunt-tipped Fiskars' scissors still pass TSA inspection!

Clara's dress is now finished, with trim added in DMC floss #3841.

With the lightest shades in place, I continued work on the Scotch stitches in the background and began filling in the tent stitches which frame them with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #014. The metallic thread provides just enough twinkle without detracting from Clara and her nutcracker.

I've got a fair amount left to stitch, as well as having a ton of canvases to paint, so I guess it's turbo-needle time!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Getting all the elements in place

There's a fair amount of background in the Clara design, so I decided to start with it first. As with Herr Drosselmeyer's background, I'm using a framed Scotch stitch, this time with DMC cotton floss #3755.

When I got close to her shoulders, I started working on her dress in a framed mosaic stitch with DMC floss #3756. So far, I've completed the bodice and the sleeves.

On to the flesh tones! For both Clara and her tiny nutcracker, I used DMC floss #950. It's showing up well against the lighter areas surrounding it.

I won't be blogging again about Clara until the first of next week, as family matters need to be attended to. Just wanted you to be sure I wasn't being a slacker!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Honey, I shrunk the nutcracker!

Next up in my series based on The Nutcracker ballet is Clara. As you may recall, she's the young girl who receives a nutcracker as a gift from Herr Drosselmeyer, a guest at her parents' holiday party. At the stroke of midnight, the nutcracker comes to life and does battle with the Mouse King. Only with Clara's intervention does the nutcracker emerge triumphant, and then is magically transformed into a handsome prince.

Interestingly, in my research on the ballet, I learned that various dance companies interpret the role of Clara in different ways. Some follow the original story, casting a young girl in the part; others choose an adult as Clara, who then in Act II dances the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy as well. As you can see, my design follows the original story, with Clara decked out in her party dress. The nutcracker she's cradling in her arms is a miniature of the one I've stitched in previous posts.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ready to waltz!

With my costume dilemma solved, the Waltz of the Flowers canvas is finished!

My first step was to rip out the Silk & Ivory I'd originally used on the bodice of the central dancer's costume--it just was too "woolly." A trip to my LNS solved all my costume problems, however.

I found an exact color match to the S & I in Vineyard Silk Classics "Seagrass," which provided the sheen I was looking for. Both bodice and "petals" were worked in a satin stitch. To define the top and waist of the bodice and to separate the petals, I used Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #088 in tent stitch.

The skirts were worked in Wildflowers "Apple Blossom" in a diagonal upright oblong cross stitch. All that remained was to add some flowers in French knots to the dancers' hair and toe slippers in tent stitch, using DMC pink cotton floss, and I was finished!