Monday, February 28, 2011

In memory

Judy Harper (July 6, 1940- February 28, 2011)

In her Possibilities column in the January/February 2010 issue of Needlepoint Now, she referred to me as a friend and kindred spirit. The feeling was mutual, Judy--I'll miss you terribly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A little comic relief

Thanks to everyone who left a comment yesterday about The Nutcracker series! It's interesting to see how different designs appeal to different people--that's what makes the needlepoint world go around!

I may well be "danced out" at this point, but I did have to chuckle at Edy's thinly-veiled hint about doing some designs based on Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake. It, too, is one of my favorites--in fact, the last role I ever danced was that of the Swan Queen.

That memory prompted me a couple of years ago to add Pavlova to my line of Penguins on Parade. She was so named in honor of Anna Pavlova, a famous Russian prima ballerina, whose signature performance was that of the Swan Queen. "Set decoration" here was provided by a lot of Kreinik metallic threads, and her fluffy tutu and head adornment were supplied by white Peluche, worked in tent stitches and then ruffed up with the tip of my needle. It's a great thread for special effects!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Nutcracker Series--Part Two

As promised, here's the second installment of canvas models based on The Nutcracker ballet: the Waltz of the Flowers, Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Chocolate, Snowflakes and Fritz. I won't tell you which of the 12 is my favorite--mothers aren't supposed to have favorites among their children!--but I'd be curious to know which one is your favorite!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Nutcracker Series--a reprise

I've had many requests from folks, asking if I would show all of the ornaments based on The Nutcracker ballet once I'd finished stitching all the models in the series. That's a lot of photos to upload, since there are 12 designs! So I'll break them down into two posts, beginning today with the first six: Herr Drosselmeyer, Coffee, Mother Ginger, Tea, the Mouse King, and the Nutcracker himself.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Galloping into the sunset

The twelfth and final canvas in the series based on The Nutcracker ballet is finished: Fritz is ready to romp and create havoc at the family's holiday party!

After finishing the background, I worked his trousers in gray Petite Very Velvet in basketweave. I know--the canvas was painted navy blue like his jacket--but I decided keeping the pants the same color would make the overall canvas look too dark. Another reason why I never paint a master until I've finished stitching the model!

All that remained was the hobby horse! I used Felicity's Garden "Peanut Butter" in basketweave for the head, trimmed with black DMC floss. For the mane, I chose a brown Burmilana, stitching this area first in basketweave then adding turkey work loops at the top. I then cut the loops and brushed them with an old toothbrush--simple, yet effective!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Time out

The more I stitched on the background for Fritz, the more I realized I wouldn't be able to leave the hobby horse for last. The horse's colors are much lighter than the red of the background. And red threads have a peculiar way of wiggling their way to the front of the canvas, creating all sorts of havoc for any unstitched lighter areas.

So I took time out to stitch the hobby horse's stick, using a camel-colored Petite Very Velvet in basketweave. The high profile of the PVV helps the stick to stand out from the background.

With that element in place, I resumed work on the red and gold stripes. I'm on the home stretch now, and hope to have this piece finished in a couple of days!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A good start

I've made a good start on little Fritz, beginning with his face and hand in basketweave using DMC floss #948. His hair was worked in a satin stitch with two strands of brown Burmilana. His eyes and mouth were formed with a single cross stitch using two plies of floss.

I worked the brim of his party hat in a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002, with the crown in a skip-tent stitch using the metallic and white DMC floss.

His Eton jacket was stitched with navy Petite Very Velvet with a shirt front of white floss peeking underneath. His tie was worked in mosaic and tent stitches with DMC floss #304.

Then I started in on the background--a slanted gobelin stitch over two threads using DMC floss #304, with alternating rows of tent stitches in the Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002. The scale of the pattern in the background should be just right to add a little sparkle without dwarfing the central figure.

I'll work on more background before I continue to "dress" Fritz and construct his hobby horse!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Here comes Trouble!

The last in the series of ornament canvases based on The Nutcracker ballet is Fritz, Clara's mischievous little brother. He's the little imp who grabs the Nutcracker from Clara's loving arms and--in the process of trying to crack too large a nut--manages to break the Nutcracker's jaw.

Fritz is dressed in his holiday best, with a party hat, fancy suit and tie. But such finery doesn't stop him from galloping around on his hobby horse in the midst of the assembled party-goers. He is, after all, a typical little boy--full of fun and high spirits.

He's also a diminutive figure, who won't lend himself to a lot of fancy stitches. I'll need to pick a background stitch in keeping with his size to liven up this canvas a little--so stay tuned!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Snowflake finale

Well, that didn't take too long--the Snowflake canvas is finished!

For the larger snowflakes rimming the ornament, I used Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #001L--the holographic silver--in tent stitches. I think it contrasts nicely with the dark blue background.

For the tiny snowflakes dotting the background, I worked single tent stitches with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #032. I suppose some folks might have been tempted to use beads here, but I wanted a "flat" sparkle so as not to detract from the central figures.

One more design to go in the series based on The Nutcracker ballet--I'll be back!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Am I Blue?

No, actually, I'm quite happy--I finished the blue basketweave background for the Snowflake twins!

Now that all the blue is in place, I think the white Stardust costumes stand out even more. I added toe slippers in a satin stitch using DMC floss #818 to celebrate.

All that remains now are the snowflakes in the background to stitch--an opportunity to add some more glitter to this canvas. I'm still painting by day and stitching by night, but hope to have this canvas completed by the weekend.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A happy marriage

When I'm stitching a painted canvas--regardless of whether it's a lighthouse, doorway, dancing ghost or little ballerina--I always have a "look" in mind that I'm trying to achieve. Oftentimes that look hinges on my choice of thread and/or stitch for a particular area.

When I got around to stitching the costumes for the Snowflake twins, I knew my choice of thread would be an important factor. On a recent trip to my LNS, Barry, the owner, showed me some new threads from Brown Paper Packages that he'd just received. "Stardust" is a blend of 43% silk, 42% Merino wool, 10% polyester and 5% nylon and initially available in four colors: white, red, sand and black. Think Silk & Ivory with a twinkle!

I did some practice stitching on doodle canvas with the white Stardust and showed it to DH. "Looks like snow," was his comment. Ding, ding, ding: we have a winner! I first worked the bodice with a satin stitch, trimming it in Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #101 in tent stitches.

For the skirt, I needed a non-directional stitch that would still provide a "layered" look. I chose the Nobuko stitch, as the waltz-length skirt would provide enough repeat of the pattern to be effective. Since Stardust is a somewhat fragile thread, with little opalescent strands running through it, I switched from my regular #22 tapestry needle to a #20 to minimize abrasion.

The result: a costume that "floats" above the background, thanks to the loft provided by the thread, and glistens just like snow. A happy marriage of thread and stitch!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Floss Diet--Before and After

Early in a new year, lots of folks are trying to shed some of the pounds they packed on over the holidays, and their approaches to dieting can be quite interesting. Here's one, however, that you may not have heard of: The Floss Diet.

Working diligently on the background of this canvas, I came to the conclusion that the Snowflake twins were not as svelte as I would like them to be--specifically in the torso area--and decided to put one on a diet. With my DMC floss #825, I stitched over some of the costume area on the ballerina to the right. The result was gratifying! Now her physique more closely resembles that of a dancer.

Mindful that I was precariously close to white areas working with a dark thread, I was careful to start and stop my stitching as far away as possible from the costume so little wisps of blue wouldn't peek through my canvas later. The little ballerina's twin will definitely be undergoing a "nip and tuck" operation next!

Happy with the results of the diet, I then gave both dancers a hairdo and applied makeup. The hair was worked in a satin stitch with Silk & Ivory "Honey" and adorned with French knots of Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #101. Two plies of floss in a single cross stitch formed the eyes and mouths.

It's getting close to costume time!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Not a leg to stand on

There's a lot of background behind these little twin Snowflakes, and I wanted to get as much as I could behind me before tackling the dancers themselves.

But first I needed to decide on a flesh tone. I'd normally use DMC floss #948 for faces and limbs of female figures, but was afraid that shade might disappear against the white of the tutu. So I chose DMC floss #950 and so far have stitched the faces and arms in basketweave with four plies of floss.

The background is being worked in basketweave with DMC floss #825, which should work well to show off the snowflakes when I get around to pulling some metallic thread. I'll get as much of the background done as I can before starting in on the white costumes. Basketweave really isn't tedious--just time-consuming!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Land of Snowflakes

It truly is a Land of Snowflakes here on Cape Cod this morning--not just outside my window, but on my computer monitor as well!

The next canvas I'll be working on from the series inspired by The Nutcracker ballet is from Act I: the Nutcracker has been transformed into a handsome prince and offers to take Clara to the Land of Sweets. But first they must travel through the Land of Snowflakes, where they are welcomed by the King and Queen.

These two little snowflakes may look a bit plain right now, but I'm hoping to add some twinkle both to the background and their costumes before I'm finished--so do join me as I watch the snow fall!