Thursday, February 28, 2013

Learning from Your "AHA!" Moments

I treasure “Aha!” moments. You know the ones I mean. They're the frames in comic strips in which a light bulb appears over a character's head, indicating that (often against all odds) an especially good idea has appeared in the character's brain at that moment. I can think of a couple of such moments that definitely changed my crafting life.

My mother used to buy needlepoint canvases with the central design already worked and then fill in the backgrounds to make pillows, chair seats, piano bench covers, etc. It seemed to me that she did acres of this stitching. I thought it was the most repetitive, boring activity I'd ever seen.

hand_painted_canvas_.jpg
One of Annake's original hand-painted canvases
One day, however, I picked up a piece of canvas that she had trimmed off and wondered what would happen if I drew something on the canvas and stitched over it. I tried this right away and it worked well. Aha! I knew then that I'd be making my own central designs from that day forward. That would make the boring, if necessary, background work worthwhile. (It still does.) Since that time, a tapestry needle has never been far from my hand.

I had already done quite a bit of counted cross-stitch work. Patterns were available in magazines like McCALL'S and WOMAN'S DAY and could be purchased to iron onto linens. You could even buy linens already stamped. I particularly liked working with variegated floss because it had a more “painterly” effect.

I remember one time when I was adapting a counted cross-stitch design to tapestry work (I prefer that term to “needlepoint”).I kept running into areas that frustrated me. It would be so much simpler, I thought, if the charts were made for tapestry work to begin with. At that time (remember this was long ago), books of needlepoint patterns were relatively rare and very expensive.

Annake working from her hand-drawn chart
Annake working from her hand-drawn chart
Having drawn and painted canvases, as I still do, I could see how a chart could give me much greater versatility. For one thing, I could work the same pattern on objects of different size without having to redraw them each time. So I experimented and practiced and used up a great deal of graph paper learning how to turn little stair-steps of squares into the curves I craved. When I finally succeeded (Aha! Again), I fairly gloated because I could do the design without “cheating” with half or quarter cross-stitches.

Now I had my first charted design --- a flower, naturally. What would I do with it? Aha! I could hook it as a rug. I could cut squares of cloth to match it and piece a quilt top. I could work it into an afghan. I could bead it on a dress. I could make a mosaic. The list of possibilities seemed practically endless.

"Repurposed" Rolling Chart Cart
"Repurposed" Rolling Chart Cart
I still chart many of my designs on various sizes of graph paper. There are pads of the paper available to fit most canvas sizes. There are also graph patterns online that can be downloaded. Some of the atypical ones are really fascinating. There are programs to turn drawings, paintings, or photographs directly into needlepoint or counted cross-stitch charts. Some will even list the appropriate tapestry yarns or skeins of embroidery floss to match the colors in the original. How cool is that? I still do some of mine by hand, however, largely because I'm making them up as I go along.

And I'm still working on that list of ways to use charted designs.

I think it has become my “bucket list”. I'm always open for new ideas to add to it.

Any suggestions?

Annake
Mother & Child in Acrylic Paints
Annake's original study in acrylics that inspired the painted tapestry canvas above


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  1. Yes, please do comment - I really want some feedback!

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