Friday, May 30, 2008

A Traditional Memorial Day

"In great deed something abides.
On great fields, something stays.
Forms change and pass, bodies disappear but spirits linger
to consecrate ground for the vision place of the soul.

And reverent men and women from afar and
generations that know us not and that we know not of,
shall come here to ponder and to dream
and the power of the vision shall pass into their souls."

~ Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ~

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A New Flower Canvas

I've decided to start another flower canvas, this time using a photo of pansy faces that I took in my garden.

I've been wanting to try this technique (I'm going to call it a "shadow" technique, because I don't how else to describe it) on a canvas for some time. And now that I have a small canvas to experiment on, I'm eager to give it a try.

You need to have a fairly big area to fill - and the pansy petals should work just fine - and then you pick out a smallish pattern that fits the area you're stitching. I chose a oval repeat pattern, sort of a diaper pattern really, to echo the organic petal shapes. I think using an upright, straight stitch works best, because you WANT the canvas to show thru. If you use a diagonal stitch, the thread will cover the canvas more completely and not much of the canvas will show. And in this case, you want the colors on the canvas to show thru.

I'm using just one strand of DMC Floche (my current favorite thread) for all the stitching thus far (you can also use 1-2 ply of floss or silk).... You can see that even though I'm using just one yellow color, it LOOKS like I've shaded the colors on the canvas. I'll continue stitching over the black stripes too. (I plan to tent stitch the white and orange center areas, then put straight stitches - or narrow bullions - on top for the stripes. That's my plan, anyway.)

And I've done the same treatment on the blue petal. It's harder to see because of the darker color, but I'm using a royal blue thread (in a slightly smaller version of the stitch pattern) to cover the whole blue petal, yet the shaded canvas is showing thru, so it seems like you've changed thread colors.

In the background, I've started stitching rows of basketweave stitches, but leaving two canvas rows blank in-between. I'm hoping it will look lacy but fuzzy, if you know what I mean. And I think I'll do any distinct leaf areas in a full basketweave, to stand out from the sketchier background stitching...

As for the borders, I might do the same padded borders as I did on the Gerber Daisy, but I'm not sure what I'll put in the middle row. Checkers? Stripes? or just a shaded band? I'll just have to see what looks best when I get to it!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Really Colorful Gerbera!

Here's the finished version of the gerbera daisy canvas I made from my sister's photo:

It's very..... BRIGHT, isn't it?
But then, the flowers themselves aren't exactly subtle in their this canvas represents that zingy brightness in it's colors and patterns.

My long satin stitches are a bit ragged, I know....but I was in a hurry to get it done and didn't lay them as neatly as I could matter, I was eager to see how it LOOKED! So I rushed thru it.....and maybe using the thicker Floche thread wasn't the best choice after all...maybe stranded floss or silk would have given a smoother finish. However, I do like the contrast between the dark orange basketweave-stitched petals and the satin-stitched petals; that's something I'll keep in mind for other projects. But you know, that's the fun of playing around with smaller canvases. I learned a few things that I will certainly apply to other canvases in the future.

I'm particularly pleased with the border. The padded green borders are complimented by the variegated yellow & gold section, which I created with three of the yellow threads, but merged the colors in a simple skip-over where the colors met...

And I wanted to try making the fuzzy little leaves with random lazy daisy stitches, but I inserted an additional straight stitch in the middle, in a lighter green. I wanted to see if it would look like the leaves...It sort of does, but maybe more shading of colors would have made it look more realistic.

Anyway, I really like the pink background's slightly jazzy, but also a fast and easy stitch that lets the pink canvas show thru, but still finishes off the background effectly. (After I stitched it, I realized I should have tried to make rounder polka dots in the background....wouldn't that look neat, too? Oh well, I can try that sometime on another canvas!)

Now that I have gotten this bright gerbera daisy canvas out of my system, I can go back to stitching my other (quieter) canvases. . .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Great Gerbera!

Canvas Play, continued...

Here's the canvas I'm playing with...It's a photo my sister Diane took of a Gerbera Daisy. (See more of her macro photos on her blog, Going to Pieces)
She gave me permission to copy it onto 18 ct needlepoint canvas, because I was fascinated with the image and wondered if I could replicate & interpret the flower using different types of threads and stitches.

I wanted to see if I could create the look and feel of velvety petals using different thread textures. I started out using Ribbon Floss satin stitches on all the petals, but with a very limited color palette and way too much shine, the effect was over the top - so I ripped out the satin stitched petals....but left the basketweave stitches in the darkest orange (I'm really not crazy about ripping out that tight basketweave stitch - yucko - so I'll just work around it).

Anyway, I recently bought some DMC Floche thread and decided to work the stem and greenery with it. Boy, is that Floche yummy to work with! So I decided to order more Floche in yellows and oranges and see what it will look like in the petal areas....(I'm eagerly awaiting a UPS thread delivery so I can continue working on the petals.)

In the meantime, I've moved on to the border - which I added to the photo to give it a finished look. I decided to create the look of a triple mat....using #5 pearl cotton. And here's a very simple but VERY ELEGANT way to create a border for any canvas: PAD IT!!

Here's what it looks like up close:

I've layed a few long threads first, then started stitching a simple Diagonal Satin Stitch over the top of those long threads. It creates a solid but raised border that also has a soft sheen, thanks to the pearl cotton. This effect can be used with all sorts of threads....stranded silks or cottons, as well. Give it a try, if you haven't already!

(And the little orange squares in the border corners are worked with Ribbon Floss, but stitched twice - so they also have a nice little pillowy poof to them!

As for the space between the two border rows, I haven't quite decided what's going in there...I'm thinking alternating yellow, orange and maybe pink bars, but I won't really know if that works until I try it...and I can't try it until I get the Floche thread! (Maybe just one color would look better, and not compete with the flower, so maybe a simple satin stitch row will be the best option.) But I'll worry about that later.....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Canvas Play!

I had some stitching odds & ends to share with you.

Have you ever wanted to start on a new canvas, but didn't have the correct size of stretcher bars handy? Well, here's a tip to get your canvas mounted quickly using the bars you have in your stash. Get the closest size bars you have - so you can attach your canvas to at least 2, but preferably 3, of the sides of your bars.

I attach my canvas directly to the bars with staples. (You can use brass tacks as well.) Then get a long strand of a STRONG thread (I use #5 pearl cotton) and do a long sort of whip stitch from the canvas to the open side of the stretcher bar, all the way across the open side. When you get to the end, go back and pull your thread taut - or as tight as you want your canvas to be - then knot your thread to secure it.

In the photo above, I stapled the canvas to three sides of the stretcher bars, then wrapped & tightened the fourth open side. You can also attach your canvas to TWO sides, and then wrap and tighten the two remaining sides. And, if you want to be truly proper about it( especially if it's a large canvas), you can baste a wide rug/bias tape to the open sides of your canvas and then wrap your strong pearl cotton thread thru the tape - instead of stitching directly on the canvas and risking any damage to your canvas. That's the REAL way you would properly attach a canvas to a proper English type of floor stand.

But in this instance, I'm just playing around with this small canvas that I've printed off of my own printer. I asked my sister if I could copy one of her fantastic flower photos and embellish it on canvas. She graciously said yes...and so I'm off and playing with my threads, trying to see how best to interpret her gorgeous gerbera daisy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Color Changes Everything

Speaking of color, here's an interesting example of how much color can change the feeling of a design. When I originally designed FLYING GEESE I was totally focused on using blues, greens and purples. And it turned out just like I envisioned it - very yummy in those totally cool colors. [I used Overture V115-Delphinium for the variegated thread; Watercolours 068-Mediterranean is also similar.]

This design, by the way, was the first quilt I did by mixing in DMC floss with my usual #5 pearl cotton colors. It finally dawned on me that if I incorporated floss, I could expand my color palette a bit more. DUH! (Sometimes the simplest ideas take the longest to penetrate).

Anyway, I had so much fun adding floss to the quilts, that I designed several more in the "Color Study" series. In the FLYING GEESE design, the "main elements" of the big triangles and main borders are done in the #5 pearl cottons, but the background patterns are done with floss (which was easier to stitch with than the pearl, but you have to strip & lay the floss, which you don't have to do with pearl cotton).

Then, last summer, my sister Diane wanted something to stitch and she selected this FLYING GEESE pattern. But she wanted to use colors that I wouldn't think of for this design - REDS - and completely surprise me with the results. And so she pulled a palette of various reds and pinks and this is what her piece ended up looking like:

We both really liked the look and feel of this piece; and we were both pleasantly surprised at how much "pinker" it looked, and how playful and fresh the pink and red palette seemed. In any event, the different palette gives it a totally different feel. Now it's very valentiney, or perhaps has a more summery-strawberry-parfait feeling to it...Oh,Yum! Isn't color delicious!?!