Friday, April 25, 2008

Who Gives a Fig?

I do.
In my backyard, I have a gnarly old fig tree. Fig trees don't get much notice in the glamorous world of gardening, from what I see in magazines. But since I have one growing in my yard, I've been able to watch its growing cycle during the year. And I must say, I find it a very beautiful and fascinating tree.

After it drops all its leaves in the late fall, the branches are bare. They remind me of deer antlers because they are long, grey, curvy things that sometimes get moss or lichen on them. I watch them all winter and wait for spring to see the very tips of the branches start to turn green. Then tiny, perfectly formed fig leaves begin to appear at the branch tips. (The leaf at right is about 1.5" tall.) They look like glowing wands, with bright new life magically appearing out of their tips.

Day by day, the leaves increase in size. Their color is so beautiful, I like to sit underneath the tree and gaze up at the gorgeous green leaves, backlit by the bright sunlight and blue sky. The leaves form dappled green patterns against the sky, reminding me of a stained glass window, done all in greens, with the branches as the dark grey lead lines: all yellow green, lime green, neon green, grass green...LEAF GREEN!

The beauty of these leaves sent me looking through my books for a few lines of poetry from Gerard Manley Hopkins' SPRING, which sums it up so perfectly:

"Nothing is so beautiful as spring --
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush...
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness...

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden...."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Playing with Color

Lately, when I'm tired of printing patterns or stitching until my eyes cross, I visit a lovely blogsite I've found called "Kris's Color Stripes" ( It's a soothing place to rest your eyes and mind and just drink in lots of wonderful colors.

The blog writer is obviously an artist with a terrific eye for color. She takes photographs and then pulls out a palette of colors from the photo. Her photos are luscious color portraits - whether they're flowers, objects or places - that provide a restful sanctuary for the eye. And it's sheer delight to drink in her color combinations, to revel in the colors, just for the simple enjoyment of pure color.

As a result of seeing her blogsite, I couldn't resist playing around with colors using my own photos. And as I'm mixing and matching color swatches to the pictures, I realize that's one of the (many) joys of being a stitchery designer: being able to sift through all sorts of thread textures and colors and combine them in pleasing combinations for other stitchers to enjoy.

When stitchers are asked what draws them to a particular project, COLOR is most often the primary reason given for choosing a piece to stitch. We respond to colors in an immediate, intuitive and mostly unconscious way. They "speak" to us without words, yet they can move us deeply.

As Spring appears in your neighborhood, take time to enjoy all the colors that Nature uses. One of the fascinating things about nature is: there are no bad color combinations - they all work! Study the color palettes that appear in flowers and landscapes all around you. It will surely give you a greater appreciation for color, as well as training your eye - two things that will serve you well in your ongoing quest to become a better stitcher.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Inspiration Chain

Here's another example of inspiration leading me along a surprising chain of new ideas and new designs:

Last summer I started stitching up a lacy blackwork design with very pastel colors. I had stumbled upon a lovely "twisted ribbon" border idea I wanted to try out, and that in turn led me to create a "willow branch" border that I also incorporated into this design. Here's part of the original design:

By the time I'd gotten the majority of the stitching done, it was autumn and because it wasn't appropriate for the fall season, I lost interest in the spring colors and set this project aside.

But then, (Aha! Inspiration strikes again!) it occured to me that it would be fun to create a fall version of the same design; using the same layout, but changing the colors and elements to reflect the autumnal season. So, I pulled another palette of threads (this time in autumn colors) and began playing around with stitch combinations that would be perfect for grapes and grapevines. And before I knew it, I had the VINEYARD BOUQUET stitched:

It was quite a challenge to think up a realistic grape leaf pattern; but I like the way this one turned out, with a burgundy-colored ribbon peeking out under the leaves... And I definitely wanted to create blackwork patterns that featured grape clusters. Only after I had the blackwork areas stitched, did I decide to put beads in every blackwork box - not only did it give the piece a lot of texture, but it was the most realistic way to make it look like grapes!

But now, here it is spring I pulled out the almost-forgotten SPRINGTIME BOUQUET project and continued stitching on it. Instead of grapes, THIS version has fat pink Wrapped Roses (done with a shimmering Ribbon Floss) and the overall effect is a springtime fantasy of fluttering ribbons, soft pastels and lacy blackwork motifs.

Because the variegated thread I used on this project has such a lovely spring palette (Watercolours 64 - "Pale Lilac") I've included two color options on the pattern. You can choose between a pink accent (DMC 818 & 3354) or a lilac accent (DMC 340 & 333). Either color goes perfectly with the variegated thread and the soft springtime greens (DMC 3346 & 3347).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Funny Thing...

It's a funny thing about inspiration -- you never know where or when it will strike. Which makes it such an unpredictable ingredient in the creative process. Here's an example of where inspiration has led me thus far this year:

See this pattern?
I created this little swatch in my most recent floral collage: LILY OF THE VALLEY COLLAGE. And when the whole piece was stitched, and pinned up on my wall, my eye kept going to that swatch. I really LOVE that little swatch! The more I looked at it, the more a glimmer of an idea began to grow....
What if I took that little pattern and enlarged it to encompass the whole piece, and then used that pattern as a background for a small inset cluster of flowers?

Suddenly, I could "see" that new project in my mind's eye...and I just had to sit down and start stitching to match what I saw in my mind... And as I began to stitch, this is how it looked:

Oh, I really liked this pattern!
So I just kept stitching, and adding more elements to make it a little sparkly...a little elegant....but also spring-y. I wanted to create a design that shouted "SPRING!" And to me that means primroses. So I chose the purest yellows and pinks I could find that were the truest match for primroses, and of course, found a variegated thread (Caron's "Mountain Meadow") that had just those springtime colors running through it.

The patterns were really fun and easy to stitch. And I enjoyed creating a few new stitches that replicate the look of primroses in different sizes: the tiny clusters in the background, the larger clusters in the corner squares, and then the up-close bouquet of primroses in the center block.

And here's the finished design:

YUM! Does that create a springtime tapestry, or what?!?
Can't you just see this as a lovely box pillow on a sofa or bed?
What a lovely way to celebrate Spring!