Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meet Rusty O'Toole

Here's the latest of my canvaswork characters: RUSTY O'TOOLE.

I wanted to stitch something for the fall - that could be displayed from September through November - and what better than a scarecrow, guarding the pumpkins and hanging out with his crow friends?

I used a bunch of fun stitches for his patchwork pants and shirt. And I've slightly padded the pumpkins and even the pitchfork a bit to give them a little more dimension... The crows are done in a simple basketweave stitch, with the wings added in long diagonal satin stitches on top, after the body stitching is done. Overall, this piece is a little more complex, with stitches being added on top of others (such as Rusty's straw hair and hands added last) and a true cornucopia of stitches used throughout the whole piece.

The rustic twig border overflows with a bounty of autumnal goodies: variegated falling leaves, lazy daisy sunflowers and dusty-colored chrysanthemums (with french knot centers), and shocks of Indian corn - using a terrific variegated thread (Waterlilies in "Cheyenne") that truly mimics the colors of Indian corn. Little pumpkins in the corners, of course....and for the finishing touch, a sprinkling of gold beads - for nuts or acorns.

I tried really hard to get Rusty's expression just right: friendly - not scary or silly - but eager to do his job of guarding the fall harvest. And I stitched this piece on 18 ct. vintage canvas - sandstone with brown marbling - to give it a hazy autumnal feel (plus, you don't have to stitch the background). I wanted the piece to say: "Celebrate the season...but be sure to have fun, too!"

Work in Progress...

I've been away from the computer over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Here's why:

My landlord is currently replacing the windows in my office and things were kind of messy for a few days. I knew it would be disruptive to my work, and went ahead and covered everything with sheets, etc.....but even so, I didn't realize HOW messy it would get!

All the inside work is done, and I can take away the sheets....but there is a fine grit of sawdust and dirt over everything. Yuck. But never mind...I'm just grateful to have my little office back, and my computer and printer up and running again.
So, I'm back in business this week!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

More Starry Thoughts

I recently received an email from a stitcher who informed me her local stitching guild was going to work on my STARRY NIGHTS design, over a two-month period. And because some of the stitchers were interested in changing the colors in the design, they were first going to have a meeting to discuss color theories and possibilities...and she also asked why did I include the greens in the project, when the variegated skein of "Elderberry Wine" didn't have any green in it.

It got me thinking about why I chose those particular colors for that project. And I realized that other stitchers might appreciate hearing my answer too. Here's what I wrote to that Starry Nights stitcher:

"What brave stitchers you are. I'm sooo glad you are eager to tackle the color changes!I love it when stitchers change the colors of my designs.It's such a fun way to challenge your color sense...and have a wonderful surprise element built-in to your stitching.

And I think your idea of having a color class first, to discuss color options is a GREAT plan! Be sure to bring along a DMC color chart - wonderful for seeing all the color choices - and lots of DMC floss skeins to play with.(The DMC chart also lets you see which colors are available in #5 pearl, and which are only available in floss - another important design criteria that you have to factor in to your color choices). How fun to get everyone playing around with variegated threads and all the color possibilities!!

When I was designing this, I wanted a nighttime color scheme, but I also wanted a variegated thread that had FOUR different colors in it (harder to find than you might think)...and the thread I settled on was Caron Watercolours' "Elderberry Wine."

Here's a photo of the thread, which I just got finished using in another new piece, NORDIC SNOWFLAKES. As you can see in the photo, there isn't any green in the variegated skein. Just blues, purples, fuchsias and turquoise.
You can see in the photo above, how all those VERY COOL colors go together and are so similar that there just needed to be an accent color in STARRY NIGHTS that was slightly different than the rest - something to add an unexpected POP ofcolor. So I snuck in some green (just in the floss/background)...which injects a slightly warmer hue into the overall piece, even tho the greens I chose - 992 and 3814 - are a blue-ish green, and seem to echo the turquoise color, 807. (Green is also a calming, grounding color, so it also calms all those jewel tones down.But at the same time, it's warmer than the blues and purples, so it adds a bit of warmth to the design, as well.)

These are the things you need to think about when changing colors in STARRY NIGHTS: Find the family of (four) matching colors to your variegated skein, then "throw in" an unexpected accent color....maybe a gold? or a bright red? a bright yellow? a bright pink? or a clear, pure color against a set of darker, muted colors? Some different color that will sparkle against the others, and make your eye skip around the complex quilt design....and also provide a fun sense of hide & seek/discovery thruout the overall pattern.

You might also like to know that when I was designing STARRY NIGHTS, I wanted to create a beam of lighter color - like a moonbeam - that goes from the upper right corner, down to the lower left corner. Keep this in mind when you stitch your background...and try to use the lighter background colors in that "beam" of light. It's another (subtle) way of moving the viewer's eye across the pattern. And then those dots of green make your eye skip from spot to spot in the overall piece. (Without that green accent color, I think the whole design would meld and blur together - might look rather muddy, overall - and your eye wouldn't see so many of the different shapes.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Prairie Wind

Here's another favorite PRAIRIE SCHOOLER design that I stitched up on 18 ct. Davosa fabric, using itty bitty cross stitches. I love to hang up this design when autumn arrives and the leaves are turning colors.

And those squirrels! I've stitched these squirrels with fuzzy tails - using Rainbow Gallery's Whisper - just to give it a little bit of fun texture.

Speaking of squirrels, my wire-haired pointer Katie loves to chase squirrels. We have a few that live in the oak and cedar trees around my house and she dashes out every morning to check if she can surprise a squirrel nibbling nuts on the front lawn. She's come real close a time or two, but the squirrels always manage to high-tail it up the tree and Katie is left leaping and howling underneath in frustration.

Last Sunday Katie and I were taking our morning walk around the town of Healdsburg, and I spied a squirrel in the tree-lined street far in front of us. It had something very large and furry in its mouth. As we approached (and Katie hadn't seen it yet) I realized the squirrel had one of its large babies in its mouth and seemed to be moving it across the street and up into some other trees.

I stopped far enough away to give it time to move across the street. It had to stop every couple of feet to rest with this big, furry, limp baby in its mouth. I squinted to make sure the baby squirrel was alive - its tail twitched every so often, so I guess it was used to being carried like that... Anyway, it continued travelling bit by bit, up the nearest tree, over onto a roof, then across to a group of trees, presumably to another nest.

As they disappeared into the leafy canopy, Katie and I began to walk again...and I hoped the squirrels had found a safe and happy new home for the approaching winter months.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Prairie Hymn

Like so many of you stitchers, I adore all of the Prairie Schooler designs, and have many of them in my stash. I am drawn not only to their folk art simplicity, but also to their graphic style - which may appear simple, but to me is very elegant and sophisticated. It seems to me, Prairie Schooler patterns are absolute CLASSICS. And by this I mean they stand the test of time. Whether viewed new today, or ten years later, they still delight the eye and are a pleasure to look at - as well as being really fun to stitch, with their limited color palettes and full stitches.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite designs: these four birds from Prairie Schooler. Instead of stitching them separately on pillows, I wanted to stitch them vertically like a bell pull. But when I finished stitching them I decided not to make a bell pull, but rather, set them in a long frame.

I stitched it on a pale green 18 ct. Davosa fabric, using my Over-One-Tent-Stitch so that it stitched up quicker than cross stitch. Anyway, I love it. And have it hanging in my living room, where I look at it every day....and never get tired of it!

And like many of you, I have a stack of Prairie Schooler patterns that I WILL GET STITCHED (well, that's my plan, and I'm sticking to it).....But even if I just pull them out now and again, and just look through them, they make me happy. And they inspire me to keep stitching - on whatever it is I'm currently working on - so I can (one day) start stitching on yet another Prairie Schooler classic!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Check This Out!

Several months ago, I got a phone call from an enthusiastic guy called Mark Lipinski. He was calling because he had been visiting The Country Sampler in Papillion, Nebraska and bought several of my needlework quilt patterns there. He is also the publisher/editor/owner of a fun new quilting magazine called QUILTER'S HOME, that specializes in all things quilting.

He wanted to show off some of my quilt patterns and asked if he could write an article about my designs.
Of course I said YES! (I'm always tickled pink to have my designs noticed by quilters, since our interests are so similar in many ways.) We chatted some more, and he promised it would appear sometime in the fall. Well, here it is!! Check out the November/December issue of Mark Lipinski's Quilter Home magazine to see the wonderful writeup he gave to my counted canvas quilt patterns.

And you don't have to be a quilter to enjoy this magazine. It's full of really fun articles about fabric, food,and lots of other things that will make you smile and probably laugh a lot, too. (His witty and insightful articles about all types of quilting/fabric/crafty/creative obsessions can also apply to us stitchers as well - you know what I'm talking about...)

Anyway, if you see this magazine in the store, give it a look -- you may find it downright irresistable!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Yankee Pride!

It's been a while, but here's the newest design in my American Quilt Collection.
It's called YANKEE PRIDE, which is actually the real name of the quilt block that inspired it.

I immediately loved the name of the quilt block, and as I stitched this model up, I thought about how many ways the title could be interpreted.

Yankee Pride actually represents all of us, as Americans. It also refers more specifically to the New England area and the Yankees of that particular region. (The rope twist border is a tribute to that sea-faring, ship-building tradition). I chose to use blues and golds as my color scheme in this pattern because Yankee Pride also reminded me of the Federal Army colors (those "damn Yankees") during the Civil War. And those same blue and gold colors evoke for me today the spirit of "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" military men and women of today. (The zig zag chevron border is another tribute to the military bars and stripes found on uniforms.)

And here's the original photo that inspired this design. I found it while flipping through a home decorating magazine. I kept returning over and over to this page, to stare at the quilt. I could immediately see it as a stitched quilt. Well, the rest is history, as they say....

So if you're itchin' to show off some of your own YANKEE PRIDE, grab this pattern and start stitching! (... And while you're stitching, why not give some thought to your own meanings for the phrase "Yankee Pride"...)

Friday, November 2, 2007

It's a Stash Thing...

In order to finish the VINEYARD BOUQUET I showed you yesterday, I needed to go to the local stitchery store to find just the right beads to finish the grape clusters. Not only did I find some beads, but I found some other threads as well. Surprise, surprise. Here's the bag full of goodies I came home with:

You can see the bead assortment I found (for burgundy, gold, pink, and green grapes). Then notice the other threads: a handful of luscious Wildflowers and Waterlilies in teals, blues, orchids and purples....with matching silk Splendor colors.

That's usually how I get started on a new design...I find a bunch of thread types and colors that excite me and match the vision I have in my head. Then I set to work stitching with the different threads, adding or subtracting thread colors and types as I see the design develop on the canvas. For this particular design idea, I wanted more monochromatic threads, and the piece will eventually be done in just one (monochromatic) color, such as teal, blue, orchid or purple.

For now I'll put this pile of threads in a plastic bag for future reference, so when I'm ready to start stitching, all the threads I selected will be ready for me to use. And as you might guess, I have all sorts of stashes of thread bags hidden away in baskets, tins, boxes....the trick is to remember WHERE I put which thread for which project! But you know how it's just a stash thing.

And what makes my "need" for more thread a little bit crazy (even to me) is that my kitchen table is currently covered in piles of hand-dyed threads, like this:

Skeins of pearl cotton threads in size 5, 8, and 12....that I've hand-dyed in lots of yummy colors....because you never can tell - I might just need some more thread one of these days!

...Well, what can I say? It's a stash thing....

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Here's What I'm Working On...

Here's a little sneak peek at something I'm trying to finish up this week.

I'm calling it VINEYARD BOUQUET. I wanted to get back to doing some blackwork again, but do it on 18 ct. canvas this time. I've used a variegated thread (of course) in a autumnal colorway, with burgundy, green and gold accents.

I'm planning to include a few other color choices: a chardonnay version (golds) and a zinfandel version (pinks), because this design would definitely look great in other color combinations. And although I wanted to work on the "old" brown canvas to give it a vintage look, it can also be stitched up on sandstone or eggshell canvas, for a brighter, sunnier look. There are places for beads, too - especially for the grapes....I just don't know how many to add - that'll come at the very end, after all the stitching is done.

And I'm especially pleased with the borders on this one! The rippling ribbon effect is soooo easy and fun to stitch....And the satin ribbon accents that "wrap" the green outer border add a subtle sheen to the plain outer border, making it look rather elegant, plus give it a little extra dimension. And speaking of dimensions, the overall size of this piece is 10.5" x 10.5" on 18 ct. mono canvas.

I'm really lovin' the look of this design, thus far! So I think I'll get back to work on it....Later, Stitchers!!