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!