Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quickpoint: Unfinished Business

Bear picture from previous post
Where we left off...
I want to apologize for dashing off last time and leaving you with an unfinished project. Things can get very hectic at Annake's Garden this time of year. We were doing a quickpoint project which was destined to be a new addition to my series of whimsical needlepoint pictures that I call ‘Close Encounters’. This quickpoint picture features a bear in a field of sunflowers and a background of snowy mountains and Colorado blue sky. When I left you, the picture was complete except for the bear's features and one more finishing touch...

Detail of bear's face
Detail of bear's face
The last step for the bear's head was to complete her features. The eyes, nose, and mouth were first done in tent stitch. Then some of the stitches were gone over in embroidery floss to give shine to the features. I tried to give the bear a startled expression. Tiny stitches show the reflections in her eyes. I exaggerated the size of the nose just a little because that is where the “close encounter” will occur.

Then it was time to remove the picture from the frame and gently steam-press its surface. J.D. then polished the frame and got it ready to receive the finished picture.

Bear quickpoint with one step left
Just one step left...


Waste canvas
Waste canvas
I call these pictures ‘Close Encounters’ because each shows a mammal encountering a very different kind of animal (in this case, a bee.) In order to add the bee to the picture I had to make smaller stitches than the quickpoint canvas would allow. I used a special canvas, called waste canvas. Its threads can easily be removed after the needlepoint (or cross-stitch) is complete. It can be used on fabric as well as canvas or completed stitches. Let me show you how it is done, starting with a picture of the waste canvas, which can be worked as either mono canvas or penelope canvas. Since I planned to do the bee in tent stitch, I chose the mono option.

I had to work out the bee design on graph paper. There are hundreds of species of wild bees in our western mountains. Some of them have bodies as large as as the last joint on my thumb! This design does not represent any particular wild species. Since I expected the thickness of the stitches on the bear's nose to present some problems, I first tried the pattern on waste canvas over a piece of heavy felt.

Steps in creating the bee on felt using waste canvas
Steps in creating the bee on felt using waste canvas
First a piece of waste canvas larger all around than the design to be stitched was cut out. If the design is very large, it is then pinned or basted to the background. (I prefer basting because it is more secure.) This one was so small that it didn't need to be basted. Then the stitches were put in just as they would be on regular mono needlepoint canvas. (I don't pull the stitches quite as tight as I would do ordinarily.) The next picture shows the finished design with some of both the horizontal and vertical threads pulled out. (A pair of small tweezers is useful for this.) The last picture shows the design on the felt with all waste canvas removed

The remaining steps were to repeat the design on the bear's nose and to turn the piece over to J.D. for framing. Now this ‘Close Encounter’ (title as yet undetermined – suggestions?) is complete. The meetings, so far, have been friendly. I hope this one will be, too.

Finished quickpoint picture of bear and bee
Finished quickpoint picture of bear and bee

Now I want to mention a use of quickpoint that I neglected to discuss in the previous post about quickpoint (March 31, 2017): quickpoint bargello.

Quickpoint bargello pillow top "Aspen Trees"
Quickpoint bargello pillow top "Aspen Trees"
Unlike tent stitch and the other traditional needlepoint stitches, bargello stitches are not short, slanted stitches. They are long, straight stitches. The lengths may differ, but a common stitch covers four strands of canvas thread. Two stitches share a square of canvas where one stitch begins and the other one ends. If you are working on #5 canvas, as I did in today's project, each of those straight stitches covers a lot of canvas, so you want to use a yarn that is going to cover that space under each stitch. You can see these long stitches put together in the “Aspen Trees” canvas here.

Quickpoint bargello pillow "Ocean Waves"
Quickpoint bargello pillow "Ocean Waves"


This type of bargello works up really quickly and is not hard for older eyes and hands. Here are some other examples of quickpoint bargello from the post for May 1, 2013. If you have never tried bargello, quickpoint is a good way to get started. The first one is called “Ocean Waves” for obvious reasons.

Bargello pillow and picture using the same stitch
Bargello pillow and picture using the same stitch







The second pillow is called “Evergreens” and features a strong all-over bargello pattern. The picture on the wall is entitled “Firs and Feathers”. It is done in a technique that I call ‘Bargello Plus’. This combines a large area of a bargello pattern with an area of conventional tent stitch to give a realistic addition, like the eagle in the picture.


Bargello picture "Bear-ly There"
"Bear-ly There", available in our Etsy shop








Here is another example of 'Bargello Plus', entitled “Bearly There”. It combines the bargello pattern used in “Aspen Trees” with a realistic figure of a bear.


Finally, here is a picture which uses the “Ocean Waves” bargello design with tent stitch inserts of a fish and a seagull. I called it “Seafood Surprise”. You can decide for yourself which creature is going to get the biggest surprise!

Bargello Plus picture "Seafood Surprise"
Bargello Plus picture "Seafood Surprise"

Finally, a question from a reader: Did you ever find a source for standard quickpoint canvas?

JoAnn's online site shows some simple quickpoint kits designed for children. They are inexpensive. You could re-purpose them to do any picture you want to do. Otherwise, I think your best sources are the “gently used” shops, yard sales, and garage sales. If you have a weekly shopping flier, you might put an ad in the “Wanted” section. Contacting needlework and craft shops online is another possibility. If you find a good source, please let me know, and I will pass the information along.

Have fun!





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Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Quickpoint Project

Daffodils in the garden
Spring daffodils
Our project for today will be another picture in my “Close Encounters” series. I am working on #5 jute canvas, principally with acrylic and novelty yarns. Most of the work is done in continental (tent) stitch, but there are exceptions. I will discuss each of those as we come to it. To cover the canvas, I have used doubled strands of many of the yarns, giving the picture a homespun effect.

When I work on a picture, particularly if landscape is involved, I imagine that this is a real place and that I am am standing nearby observing it. (From behind a telephoto lens in this case, since a bear is involved!) I envision a sunny day in late spring or early summer. The highest mountains have not lost their snow cover, but the lower slopes are snow-free. The mountains slope away downward and toward the left, as do the lower layers in front of them. Although my approach to this picture is impressionistic, I will try not to break the rules of perspective and lighting.

Bear outlined on canvas
Bear outlined on canvas
You will notice that the canvas is printed with a pattern of 10-by-10 squares. That means that each blue square on the canvas encloses 100 empty squares. This type of canvas is especially good if you are going to do a detailed square-by-square pattern of your design before you begin stitching. This time, however, I am just going to indicate the major areas of my picture by drawing lines on the canvas with a permanent black marker. I go over the marks with a sheet of paper towel to remove any loose color that might come off on the yarn as I stitch. I am using minimal guidelines so that I can make changes as I work.

Canvas lashed to picture frame
Canvas lashed to picture frame
Once I am satisfied with my design, J. D. laces the canvas to the top of the frame I plan to use for the finished project. When the canvas is firmly stabilized on the frame, he ties off the lacing and cuts it. I can then hold the frame with one hand and put stitches in firmly with the other. This gives me tension to make my stitches as even as possible. I highly recommend securing your canvas this way. If you do not pull your stitches too tight, you should not have much if any blocking to do on the finished canvas. A gentle steam pressing should be enough.

Small balls of yarn stored in egg cartons
Small balls of yarn stored in egg cartons
Then I choose the colors and weights of the yarns I want to use. Since one of my major themes is saving money, I am going to use just what I have on hand. Some areas will need large amounts of yarn, while others will require only a few inches. I keep small balls of leftover yarn in egg cartons. I run the ends of the yarn through holes in the top of the carton so that I can see at a glance what yarns the carton contains. For each project, I fill one or more cartons with small quantities of the yarns I plan to use as small accents. Blunt-pointed tapestry needles with large eyes and a pair of sharp scissors complete my preparation.

Canvas with mountains stitched in
Canvas with mountains stitched in
I prefer to work by natural window light. I decided to stitch over the white knitting worsted tent stitches, but not over the gray ones. This gave the snowy mountains more depth and resolution. I make decisions like these constantly as I work and so should you. If your work doesn't please you, change it. Take out stitches and re-do them, stitch over them, change colors, blend colors, put in details or leave them out. If you don't make your work match your ideas, you may always be dissatisfied with the piece no matter how much other people admire it.

Canvas with sky added
...and the sky added
The next step was to stitch the large area of the sky. I continued in tent stitch, graduating the blue colors from a very light blue just above the horizon to a deeper, darker blue at the top of the picture. The light is coming from above and to the left side of the picture, with the sun about ten o'clock high in the sky.


Bear needlepoint with middle background
Needlepoint with middle background added
Then I turned to the middle distance. Here I sketched the lower slopes of the mountains, showing slopes of rock, dark green patches of evergreen forest, and lighter green areas of mountain meadows. As I moved down behind the bear's head to the neck and shoulders, I put in a section representing broad-leaved trees along a watercourse that is implied, but not actually seen, in the picture. (The land has leveled off here, although it still moves a little farther into the distance on the left side of the picture than on the right side.) In the shade below these trees, I stitched a few rows of a dark green yarn that has tiny fleck of color in it. Using single strands of Persian tapestry yarn and a small crewel needle to make tiny random stitches on the surface of the dark green yarn, I suggested a variety of plants growing and flowering in the shade.

Needlepoint with bear's head begun
Beginning to stitch the bear's head
The next step was to begin stitching on the bear's head. I worked from the outer layers inward, beginning with the ears. The bear is standing in sunlight in a field of wild sunflowers. The sun is bringing our the red tones in her coat. (Yes, I said her coat. I decided from the very beginning that my bear would be a young female.) She has just turned her head and is looking almost straight at the viewer because something has attracted her attention. This shows a bit more of her neck, cheek and muzzle on the left side of the picture and a bit more of her shoulder and ruff on the right.

Bear with face and shoulders filled in
Filling in the face and shoulders
In this step, I completed much of the bear's face, neck and the tops of her shoulders. The eyes, nose, and mouth will not be stitched until much later. The shoulder is more prominent on the right. That shoulder is “bunched”, because it is carrying more of her weight. A dark shadow runs down that side of her body, which is not struck directly by the sun. I sketched three wild sunflower blossoms and a couple of leaves in marker below the bear's head, leaving the guidelines for her upper chest, since some of her body will be visible between the flowers and leaves when they are done. A different color background was used for this photograph so that the faint sketched lines would be more readily visible.

Bear with sunflowers added
Sunflowers added in the foreground
Now I filled in the flowers, leaves and the bear's shoulders and chest, including the parts of her body that show between the flowers and leaves. Wild sunflowers have much smaller centers than domesticated ones. The number of petals varies, and the petals may be irregular.




Bear and sunflowers with near background detail
More detail added in the near background
I continued to fill in the background. As it grew closer to the foreground, I made larger random stitches for the flowers and gave them increasing size, shape, and definition. Not all of them are facing forward; some are seen from the side or the back. Leaves and stems are suggested. (This kind of surface embroidery can also be done after the picture is removed from the frame.) I emphasized the divisions between the petals of the large flowers in the foreground and added veins to their leaves. Back-stitching a lot of it emphasized other features in the picture, such as the rocky cliffs in the mid-ground and the tall trees along the watercourse. I try to be conservative with outlining, but only you can decide when you have done enough on your picture. A good rule to consider, however, is: “Don't put anything in that you are not willing to take out if the effect doesn't work!”

Oh, my goodness! Look at the time! We are doing a Farmers' Market this weekend. I hate to leave you with unfinished business, but I need to be in the greenhouse NOW! I'll be back in a couple of weeks with the completion of this project and much, much more.

In haste,



Bear with background complete and some back-stitching
To be continued - please bear with us...

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