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!