Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Flowering Blossoms

Spring has arrived in the wine country of Northern California. You can tell because everything is starting to bloom like crazy. The small peach trees that last year didn't put on much of a show, are going to town this year.

And I'm getting quite a rush of orders this week....especially in my kimonos. I just filled another order for a woman in Colorado who is stocking up on my kimono patterns so she has her stash ready to go for her annual RV road trip. Lucky lady!

Here's one of the kimonos she ordered, my APPLE BLOSSOM KIMONO:

It's another favorite of mine, because the colors are so delicate and they mimic the softness of tender flower blossoms. For this design, I used Caron Waterlilies (silk) in 88 - Mountain Meadow with several pale pink silks, and a soft pink metallic - Hi-lights H609. I love to use the soft rayon Hi-lights for the kimono lapels because the colors are very soft, and look very much like silk fabric.

This design, like all my other kimonos, was done on 24 ct. Congress Cloth, which is a very fine type of needlepoint canvas.

Here's a close-up of the individual kimono patterns. You can see that the kimono body is made with a small box grid, and inside are "flowers" made of an upright cross, covered with a regular cross stitch. Then the larger box grid on the sleeves echoes the body pattern - only the flowers are larger and made with lazy daisy stitches, topped with various accent threads, to create a little sparkle. This larger pattern is repeated at the bottom of the kimono, to tie the patterns together, and also, to create a little more interest in the whole design. And we can't forget to add a few beads, to create even more texture and dimension! And the flower branches are created with random straight stitches, with small lazy daisy flowers and leaves sprinkled on top.

As I look at this design, I begin to wonder what it would look like in pale plum or orchid colors.... Sounds like a good idea for another kimono: the PLUM BLOSSOM KIMONO...or maybe the ORCHID KIMONO....hmmmmmmm....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Springtime Kimono

I was just printing out some kimono patterns for a customer's order and realized that I haven't really looked at them in a while. Although I don't ordinarily do "oriental" designs, I really enjoyed creating my series of kimonos, and for a while was eagerly stitching them up, one after the other.

I discovered the kimono shape is absolutely wonderful for showcasing composite stitch patterns.(NOTE: Composite stitch patterns are made from combining different stitches to create a new, more complex stitch pattern.) Here's a detail photo of the above kimono. Look at the simple flower pattern of the robe, and the block pattern of the sleeve. Notice the one "flower" I stitched in metallic on the robe, and then did more of them along the bottom edge of the kimono. The fun part for me was thinking up new composite patterns that would replicate the look of richly textured kimono fabric.

In the kimono, there are two simple rectangle shapes (the sleeve block and the robe block) that can be filled with complex stitch patterns; then there is the lining area that I fill with a simple tent or basketweave stitch (a good calm area for your eye to rest); and finally,there is the silk lapel area that can be stitched with a simple diagonal satin stitch, but using any fancy, shiny, metallic thread of your choice. And once I had the kimono stitched and floating on the canvas, I had to think of some way to anchor the kimono to the background (and I didn't want to fill the whole background with stitches). So I thought up suitable "oriental" motifs to use in the background. This pattern has parasols stitched in the back of the kimono; I have used a variety of other things in the backgrounds of my other kimonos.

Now let's talk about the variegated threads I used....Because I initially stitched all my kimonos on 24 ct. Congress Cloth, I was able to use much finer threads. In this design I used a fine, single-ply cotton (such as Bravo!, Encore, or Wildflowers). You can also easily substitute 2-3 plies of a variegated cotton or silk, and the design still looks elegant!

What's wonderful about these kimono designs, is that you can easily change the color palette to reflect your own preference. To conclude, I'll show you the same SPRINGTIME KIMONO in another, darker palette. (I enjoyed this design so much, I stitched it up TWICE, just to see how different it would look in darker spring colors.) That's the joy of using variegated threads: you never quite know how the finished piece will look until you get it all's that "surprise" element that has me totally hooked on using variegated threads every chance I get!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Yet More Old WIPs...

Well, what can I say except: I'm a Gemini, and I need a LOT of different projects around me to feel happy and creative.

So here's another W.I.P. I pulled out of my stash. It's Tony Minieri's STARS OF THE MILLENIUM.

I've got it mounted on stretcher bars, and couldn't fit the whole width of it on my scanner, so I can only show you a portion of it. But it's a beauty - even with only a part of it stitched up. It's done on 18 ct mono canvas (I chose to work on light pink canvas, just for fun.) And again, I'm using my favorite pink and green palette. (I just have a big bag filled with lots of different pink and green threads, and I figure out which threads to use, block by block, so it's an additional challenge to pick the threads as I need them.)

But block by block, this design is absolutely fascinating to look at - as well as stitch it! Each block by itself is a creative masterpiece, and overall, I'm sure this will be something I'll stare at for years....(of course I don't expect to get it finished for years...I'm just happy to get one block completed at each retreat weekend)

Here's a close-up of one of my completed blocks:

The layering of stitches in this piece makes it a real stitcher's challenge. And yet, the compulsion to finish one more block continually leads you me, it feels a bit like climbing a strenuous mountain.

Step by step, stitch by stitch, the project is scaled. All it requires is a needle and thread, a good bit of patience, a thimbleful of optimism, and a whole lot of perserverance.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Bringing Out those Old W.I.Ps (continued)

Here's another project underway....and I haven't had much free time to work on it, so it was a good weekend retreat project. It's THE TOKEN Quaker sampler so many stitchers have already stitched up. I saw this project while skipping thru so many blogsites and I actually fell in love with it because I saw so many other stitchers working on it, each working it in different variegated colors. So of course, I just had to stitch it too!

But my version is a tad different, in a couple of ways.

Here's the close-up photo of this project:

First, I'm working the design on eggshell 24 ct. Congress Cloth, with 2 ply of variegated silks and cottons. And I'm even adding ittsy bittsy stitches of fine pink metallic to give it some hidden sparkle.

Second, I'm NOT cross stitching it; I'm only doing a simple half cross stitch, or a plain old Tent/Continental Stitch on the whole design. (My thinking is: I figure I can stitch it twice as fast, if I'm only stitching half the cross-stitches...if that makes any sense...and besides, because I'm a two-handed stitcher, I tend to stitch pretty fast -- I just have to make time to stitch on it...sigh).

Third, I'm changing colors thruout the whole design, using my all-time favorite color palette of pink and green (with a little lavender and a dash of old gold sprinkled in).

This has become one of my "sanctuary" projects. By that I mean when I'm pooped from working laboriously on harder, more complex projects, or when I'm wound up from a million day-today design decisions, I can find a safe haven, a little private "sanctuary" by stitching on this project. There's no difficult decisions to make on this piece (aside from deciding which color to use) so my designing mind can take a rest while I stitch....

A PROJECT FOR EVERY STATE OF MIND, that's my stitching motto!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bringing Out those Old W.I.Ps

To prepare for my stitching retreat last weekend, I was determined to work on old projects, and NOT start anything new (much as I would have liked to start a new one)... So I went rummaging around in my various stashes to find some old projects to bring and hopefully get more stitching done on them. (Can you relate to that impulse??)

I came across an old Diane Evans' Something Different canvaswork design called MARGARET that I started several years ago. I LOVE Diane's designs and hope to get more of them stitched eventually....
but for now my goal is to get a little bit more done on this one. (And yes, I have made some changes as I stitched - what else is new, huh? - so mine's a bit more symetrical than Diane's original design. I've also added the green outer border. I confess I must have a severe orderly border compulsion...I just can't resist putting borders on all my stuff. What can I say? It's a designer thing....sigh)

What I love about stitching Diane's pieces are how truly inventive her stitch combinations are. She's such a creative designer! Just when you think you understand the pattern, she throws something totally unexpected into the design and you think, "How in the world did she come up with that variation?"

Here's a close-up of a section of this design:
It's stitched on 24 ct. Congress Cloth (I chose the pale green canvas, as well as the green and orchid color combo) with 1-2 strands of silk and very fine metallics. As you can see, there are lots of clever patterns that could be used in other situations on other canvases....plenty of stitching inspiration here!

I'm particularly intrigued by the large rice stitches at the lower left of the detail photo. There are sets of four large covered rice stitches that leave the inner arm alone (to be covered with a metallic thread later) and create such an interesting lacy pattern in the middle of the design.

Hmmm...I really don't have much to finish on this project...I wonder how long it will take me to complete it?....