Sunday, September 29, 2013

A new project!

Now that the Toyland Rocking Horse canvas is finished, it's time to start something new.  This chubby-cheeked Santa designed by Amanda Lawford has been waiting patiently in the wings, and he's finally getting a place in the spotlight!

Like all of Amanda Lawford's canvases, this 15-inch Santa is exquisitely stitch-painted--a big plus.  The design incorporates a lot of bright, festive colors so the stitcher can move around the canvas and not get bogged down working with just a few threads.  And front and center in the design is a penguin--a popular figure at our house year-round.

I've started work on the canvas by drawing an outline around the Santa for the background.  After tracing an oval onto onion-skin paper, I darkened the line with a black Sharpy.  I slipped the onion-skin paper under the canvas, lining up the black outline with the canvas threads themselves, and carefully drew the border for the background onto the canvas with a gray FabricMate permanent marker.  Now I'm ready to start stitching!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The tail end of a long-term project

Another finish for 2013--the "Toyland Rocking Horse" canvas is completed!

My favorite part of the design is the ballerina doll, and I'd promised myself to save it for last.  So after working the bodice of her dress in diagonal oblong cross stitches with white DMC floss, I moved up to work the tail of the rocking horse.  Like the mane, the tail was worked in long/short split stitches with two strands of white DMC Medici wool.  A single strand of tan Burmilana was added in random long stitches for shading.

The bow was worked in encroaching gobelin stitches with Vineyard Silk Classic "Deep Wisteria" and "Gothic Grape."  I then moved back to the doll, completing the skirt with more diagonal oblong cross stitches.

Finally--time to take the canvas off the stretcher bars to finish the background at top and bottom with Vineyard Silk Classic "Tea" in the Nobuko stitch.  This was such a fun canvas to stitch, albeit a rather large project measuring 17 by 19 inches.  It took about five months, on and off, to finish--slowly but surely, one section at a time.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Coming home to Mama

Yesterday was a banner day at my house--I picked up my "Peaceable Kingdom" stand-up at my LNS!  I started stitching the canvas pictured at left early last December, not exactly as originally designed but rather as I saw it in my mind's eye.  I wanted to have a glimpse of a "kingdom" behind the angel, so I added a needle-blended sky, some hills and a field with tall grass for the lion to recline.

The stand-up was finished with blue velveteen backing and cording which perfectly blends with the sky.  It's weighted so the angel stands firmly despite the fact the piece is about 20 inches tall.

She's been consigned to the closet for now, wrapped carefully in plastic, but I look forward to taking her out in a couple of months to show off during the holidays!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Off her rocker and then some

Back to work on the Toyland Rocking Horse canvas!  I finally finished what seemed like an endless stretch of rocker, working it in an encroaching gobelin stitch with Burmilana #3506.  And all the background of Vineyard Silk Classic "Tea" is completed at the bottom of the canvas--all I can stitch, that is, until I remove the canvas from the stretcher bars to finish the half-inch remaining.

Then I started filling in some of the remaining areas:  mostly French knots in DMC floss for the berries nestled in the holly and the pompom on the hat of the Jack-in-the-Box, as well as a few missed stitches I'd identified while working on the rocker.

I'm working now on the ballerina doll, who has a hairdo of satin stitches using DMC Medici wool and a crown of satin stitches with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #092.  DMC floss #776 in satin stitches provided the cuffs of her sleeves and waist sash.  I outlined the edges of her petticoat with the same floss, then filled the area in with white floss to accentuate the ruffles.  Her bodice, begun with a diagonal oblong cross stitch with white floss on the right sleeve, needs to be finished next.  I'm getting close to a finish!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Colleen--the finale

Little Colleen is ready for the finisher!

To keep her dress from looking too sombre, I broke up the dark green expanse with a framed Scotch stitch using DMC floss #500 and 504.  The shamrock she's holding was satin-stitched with DMC floss #700.

Her market basket was worked in a woven stitch with DMC #5 perle cotton #434. I added her curls with French knots using the dark brown Medici wool.  Then I popped in the date at the bottom of her dress with Kreinik #12 tapestry braid #002, so my friend will remember her summer trip to Ireland--and me--this Christmas!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

More on Colleen

Colleen is moving along well with the addition of an apron and a shawl.

The apron was worked in white DMC #5 perle cotton and trimmed with the same Fleur de Paris fine mesh velour that I used on her cap.  The inside is a composite of slanted gobelin stitches over three threads alternating with stem stitches.  The outside is slanted gobelin stitches over three threads as well.

Two strands of Burmilana #3652--a heathery-looking thread--were used in a diagonal oblong cross stitch for the shawl.  Two cashmere stitches and one Scotch stitch formed the knot and tails.

I'm hoping to finish this canvas by the end of the week!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Looking back

Yesterday I taught a class at a meeting of the Cape Cod chapter of the American Needlepoint Guild on how to stitch skies using the technique of needle-blending.  I had the most wonderful time, working with a group of very talented stitchers eager to try something new to them.  The experience led me to think back on my 16 years of stitching lighthouses, and the various ways I've handled the sky behind them over the years.  To the left is my first model of Cape Cod lighthouse in Truro, Massachusetts.  I had a lot of blue to stitch and thought, at the time, "Better use a pattern stitch to fill in all that blue."  Try again!
In 2002, I started adapting some of my lighthouse designs for use as inserts in Sudberry House bookends.  Pictured right is Camden Island lighthouse in Maine.  I started layering the skies, using gradual shading of DMC floss in a random pattern of basketweave.  Notice that I didn't "cut in" the values of blue--there's a definite line showing between the layers.

That same year, I tried something different for a Sudberry House pencil box insert of Portland Head lighthouse in Maine.  I was still basketweaving the sky with gradual values of DMC blue floss, but VERY randomly to incorporate clouds in the sky.  Yes, it looked realistic--my youngest son tried to convince me I should stitch all my skies that way!--but it was virtually impossible to duplicate from one lighthouse to the next.

Ten years later, with the ins and outs of the needle-blending technique
under my belt, I stitched East Chop lighthouse on Martha's Vineyard,
Massachusetts, with a foggy sky. (Photo right.) It was one of the lighthouse canvases
members of the Cape Cod chapter worked on yesterday.  Is it realistic?
Absolutely!  I copied the details line by line from a photo my youngest son
had taken for me when he visited the island on a foggy day.  Can I duplicate
the look?  Definitely--I've done so since with other lighthouses.  And by
using the same "foggy sky" recipe with the canvas turned upside down, I've created "gloomy" skies, too.

You may be saying to yourself right now, "All these skies were stitched in basketweave and that's just boring!"  Well, not boring to me.  I've seen simple skies and extremely complicated skies filled with patterned stitches that made me want to cringe.  I've always held that the background should stay IN the background without being boring.  You have to admit that a simple sky with the twist provided by needle-blending keeps the subject of the canvas--the lighthouse itself--in center stage.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Taking it from the top

When I stitch a cylindrical ornament canvas, I like to work the face as soon as possible so someone's smiling back at me as I finish the rest of the project.  I first worked the lacy trim of Colleen's cap in tent stitches and the collar of her dress in slanted gobelin stitches with DMC #5 perle cotton B5200.  On to the face!

The flesh tone used here is DMC cotton floss #950--I usually use #948 for females but needed a darker value to contrast with the white of the hat and apron.  The nose was stitched with DMC floss #3774 and the mouth and cheeks were worked with DMC floss #223 and 224.  Her gray-green eyes were stitched with DMC floss #926.

The top of her cap was worked in framed mosaic stitches with the white perle cotton and trimmed with some "vintage" Fleur de Paris fine mesh velour from my stash.  I raided the stash for the hair as well, using two strands of DMC Medici wool.  I'll finish the bottom of the hair when her shawl is completed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stitching a wee gift

It's already September, and I haven't stitched anything yet to give as gifts this coming holiday season.  I've been focused exclusively on the Toyland Rocking Horse canvas, and it's slow going.  So to take a little break, I decided to switch gears and work on somethiing  that's quick to stitch for a change!

This cylindrical ornament, the Irish Colleen from my International series, is destined for a friend who visited Ireland on a two-week tour this summer.  Last Christmas, I gave her the little Leprechaun that I'd stitched for Judy Harper's last Possibilities column in the March/April 2011 issue of Needlepoint Now.  With any luck, the leprechaun will have a girlfriend this Christmas!

I've made a few subtle changes to the design for my original model and will be using different threads and stitches in several areas.  So stay tuned--I'm hoping this project will work up faster than some of the other projects I've worked on this year!