Monday, July 15, 2013

A Rose Is a Rose, Part 1 - From Inspiration to Finished Needlework

(This post is the first in a series on designing original needlework, with tips and tricks for getting ideas out of your head and into the the finished needle art of your choice.)

Variegated Rose Framed Needlepoint
Framed Needlepoint, "Variegated Rose," from our Etsy shop
I'm often asked where I get my inspiration and how I work from idea to finished project. There is no single, simple answer to those questions. I love the rhythms of bargello and the disciplined nature of geometric designs. I even venture into abstraction occasionally. But my greatest inspiration comes from Nature. A stroll around my garden will provide me with a host of ideas. What I do with those ideas -- and how I do it -- varies greatly.

Let me give you an example. Every few days J.D. and I make a circuit of the garden to see what is newly in bloom and to plan what work needs to be done. He usually has a camera in hand. I was so enchanted with the photograph he made of a single blossom of one of our climbing roses that I immediately wanted to do a needlepoint picture of it to fit into one of a set of round wooden frames. This is how we made that happen.

Pink Rose in Annake's Garden
Pink rose from the garden
First of all, J.D. printed a color picture of the rose in a scale that would fit the frame. I asked him to do it in a square format, which translates easily to a circular one. After studying the picture, I asked him to make a black and white print and a negative print (not shown) of the same picture. I combined the two monochromatic prints to outline sections of the flower, some of which showed in the negative print but not in the positive one. I also decided what to eliminate from the background. The next step was to make a simple outline drawing of the rose, changing details here and there to get the effects I wanted. I numbered each petal and leaf segment from palest tint to darkest shade.You can see the results of these steps in my process in the accompanying photo, below.

From Photo to Chart, in Stages
Stages in the design, from photo to chart
I prepared my needlepoint canvas (#14 white mono) and ran colored threads horizontally and vertically through the center. Then I centered the canvas over the drawing and traced it onto the canvas with a fine-lined permanent marker. Once it was dry, I rubbed the lines vigorously with a paper towel to pick up any bits of ink that might discolor the yarn and pulled out the centering threads.

It was time to choose the tapestry yarns for the rose and leaves. I didn't follow the colors of the photo exactly, although I kept to the values of light and shade. The yarns I chose were a little closer to lavender-pinks; therefore, the blossom has a rather cooler overall tone than the one in the photo. I often think leaves don't get the attention they deserve. I used grayed tones to match the coolness of the petals, showing more of them than actually appear in the photo.

Rose Needlepoint Closeup
Closeup, showing background and top-stitching
With the color areas of the picture completed, I filled in the background in a neutral color. Finally, I began back-stitching around certain segments with a single strand of yarn. This is traditionally done on counted cross-stitch pictures, sometimes using a single color for all the back-stitching. I prefer to use lighter, darker, or grayer yarns to emphasize the features I'm outlining. Purists won't do this sort of surface stitching on conventional tent stitch. I'm not a purist. I'll not only use back-stitching, but also any surface embroidery that will enhance the canvas work and make it match my mental vision of the piece. J.D. blocked, backed, and framed the picture. He was part of the process from beginning to end and deserves a lot of credit for its creation.

Completed Rose Needlepoint
Finished needlepoint, with its frame
The picture changed a bit at every step of the process, so that the finished work is more my impression of the rose than a slavish copy of the photo. I believe our ideas and feelings should continually evolve and that our work should reflect that evolution.

I do a lot more work from sketches and quick studies in pencil, watercolor, pastels and markers and from handmade charts than I do from photos. However, I've done enough to offer some advice . If you are planning to sell your project, be sure you have not copied anyone's copyrighted material. I work from my own photos and J.D.'s (with his permission, of course). If accuracy is important, take lots of pictures from different angles and distances and in different lighting. Be selective about the parts you use; leave out anything that doesn't improve the picture. A lot of what the camera picks up is not only non-essential, it is distracting. Sometimes less is better.

Next time I promise to include a pattern you can use to make a rose of any color, real or imaginary. Enjoy!


Original Rose Photo from Annake's Garden
Original photo of the rose, also shown on our Etsy shop's About page

 Creative Commons LicenseThis post by Annake's Garden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


  1. Absolutely beautiful!! I'm stopping by from Blogging Buddies.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! It's nice to hear from someone else who gets inspiration from their garden.

  2. You make it look so easy! This should work for cross-stitch too which is my needlework love. Your finished needlepoint is lovely! (Here from Bloggers and Readers team)

    1. Thank you so much! And, on the subject of making it work for cross-stitch...keep an eye out for Part 2 of this series ;->

  3. Beautiful Work! You have such a talent. Absolutely gorgeous work :)

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you'll stop by again.

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