Tuesday, September 24, 2013

More Questions and Answers

First, I want to thank you readers for a very special birthday gift. That day I recorded the one thousandth page view of this blog. I appreciate all of you who take the time to visit this blog site and hope you will return often. The first week in October I'll be posting the first of several articles about types of needlework which -- while they may be unfamiliar -- are great fun to do. We will revisit cross-stitch and bargello this season, too, with new techniques, materials, and pattern ideas. Also watch for more interviews with other artisans of the Annake's Garden group. Today I'm answering some questions raised by the last few blogs.

What hook did the jewelry lady use to make the wire bracelet? (An Interview with Our Jewelry Artisan,  July 1, 2013)

She used a European #19, which she says is about the same size as a G hook. It is an aluminum hook. She prefers aluminum to plastic because it is smoother and does not warp out of shape with use. We thought you would like to see a photo of a necklace she made with the same hook. She is now experimenting with crocheted ring designs.

Crocheted copper wire necklace with copper beads
Crocheted copper wire necklace with copper beads

Why is the rose picture in needlepoint so much smaller than the rose picture in cross-stitch when they are made from the same chart? (A Rose is a Rose, Part 2,  August 1, 2013)

The gingham for the cross-stitch has 4 squares to the inch in both horizontal and vertical lines, so it has 16 squares per square inch. The needlepoint picture is done on #7 canvas. That means it has 7 squares of mesh (think of them as square holes if you like) to the inch each way --- or 49 stitches per square inch. There are approximately 3 times as many stitches on a square inch of the #7 canvas than there are on a square inch of gingham (3 x 16 = 48). The more stitches per square inch, the more squares of the pattern you can squeeze into a single square inch. So the needlepoint rose is only about 1/3 as large as the cross-stitch rose. The larger the number of stitches per inch, the smaller the scale of the finished motif. These comparisons are approximate, because the gingham varies slightly from one manufacturer to another and the bars on the plastic canvas are thicker than either cloth or canvas threads.

Gingham check size comparison
1/4" Check Gingham (blue) vs. Baby Check Gingham (pink)
Let me give you another example. “Baby check” gingham is also about 7 squares to the inch, or 49 squares per square inch. Imagine that you do a cross-stitch in each square, following the rose chart. You would make 49 cross-stitches on a single square inch of gingham. 16 goes into 49 about 3 times, so the cross-stitch rose on quarter-inch check (16 stitches per square inch) would be about 3 times as large as the same rose done on the “baby check”. While the first rose is large enough for a pillow, the second one would be perfect for the bodice of a little girl's dress or the pocket of a party apron.

Stitch size comparison for different fabrics
A pattern on 1/4" gingham, monks cloth, baby check, #12 aida
Monk's cloth is another embroidery fabric with approximately 7 stitches to the inch, so a design on plastic canvas would be roughly equivalent in size to the same design on “baby check” gingham or monk's cloth. The same design on #14 needlepoint canvas or #14 Aida cloth (196 stitches per square inch) would be considerably smaller. The photo will give you an idea of the differences in scale among four non-canvas fabrics.

I still don't understand what a “quillow” is. (An Interview with Our Quiltmaker,  August 16, 2013)

A quillow is a small quilt or throw with an appliqued pillowcase attached to one edge. The quilted part folds up neatly and slips into the pillowcase to make a pillow. Nice for naps, travel, a child's quiet time, etc. See the photo-montage below for the proper way to fold a quillow. Neat, isn't it?
Quillow folding photo-montage
Folding up a "quillow"

Fabric yo-yo
A Fabric Yo-yo
What is a fabric yo-yo?
(An Interview with Our Quiltmaker,  August 16, 2013)

A yo-yo starts out as a circle of plain or patterned fabric. I use a 4-inch embroidery hoop to draw my patterns around, but any small circular object in the 3- to 4-inch range would do. Turn under a quarter-inch all around and stitch it down with small running stitches and a gathering thread. Pull the thread until you have a small purse-like object with a little puckered “mouth” in the center. You have made a yo-yo.

Yo-yo Christmas tree shape
Yo-yos sewn into Christmas tree shape
They are usually used (often over a lining) to make throws, vests, tote bags, etc. They are sewn together edge-to-edge only where they touch. Sometimes the centers are embellished by sewing a button or a ball of ball fringe inside the “mouth”. (See the Christmas tree shape made with yo-yos.)

Our quiltmaker, however, made somewhat larger yo-yos which she appliqued onto her quilt. Don't they look like flowers? The whole quilt reminds me of a garden in a painting by Monet or Renoir. Yo-yos are a good way to use odds and ends of leftover fabric.

Yo-yo quilt
Yo-yo Quilt

What is a waste knot? (Easy Cross-stitch on Checked Gingham,  August 26, 2013)

Ordinarily we don't knot our embroidery threads. When starting a piece of stitchery, however, we need to secure the first strand so that it doesn't simply pull through the fabric and out again. So we knot this thread. Push the needle down through the fabric some distance from where you plan to begin stitching. Pull the thread through the fabric so that the knot stays on top of the work. When you have used all but about two inches of the thread, end that strand by running it under the stitches you have just made, whipping it around them, or weaving it back and forth from one stitch to another. Then snip off the waste knot, pull the strand to the back of the work, thread it into a needle and secure it in the same way. All other strands are started and ended under existing stitches, so no other knots are necessary.

Do you ever sell the samples you use to illustrate your blogs?

Yes, indeed. A few of the photos are from our archives and the pieces have already been sold, but others are on our Etsy shop site, or will be added soon. Some photos were of works in progress which now are in the process of being framed, quilted, made into pillows, etc. We are constantly adding new items to the shop. Just keep checking for them. If there is an item shown on a blog post that particularly interests you, and you don't see it on the shop site, just ask us about it (see our “Contact Us” page). We will be happy to tell you if it is available.

Thank you for asking!

Yellow rose needlepoint

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Landscape Design Challenge for Needlepoint

Original needlepoint landscape "Saguaro Sunrise"
"Sunrise with Saguaro," available in our Etsy shop
I get really frustrated when people tell me, “I couldn't do an original design. I can't draw. I can't ever think of anything to do.” I want to say,”You're still breathing, aren't you?” As long as you're alive and able to see and move, you can have an original idea and you can certainly make an original design.

Some years ago I taught a needlepoint class at a Parks and Recreation facility. The students knew the tent stitch, which they'd used primarily to fill in the background around a completed design. I told them that they would create and stitch an original landscape during this class, including a bit of crewel surface embroidery. I assured them that no two pictures would be alike and that they would all be beautiful. They stared at me with varying degrees of shock and dismay. You would have thought I'd told them they were going to have to eat live grasshoppers! I heard a whole chorus of “I can't!”  I said,”You can.”

This is how we proceeded: I gave them a series of choices. When I write them out, they look a little like a Chinese restaurant menu. Choose one from Column A, one from Column B, etc.

ShapeLocationSeasonTime of Day
square evergreen forestspringdaybreak
circleEastern woodlandsummermorning
ovalprairie grasslandautumnafternoon

I didn't give them a choice of “Rectangle” because I wanted them to get away from conventional ideas.

Once they had chosen their shapes, I gave each one a template of her shape to draw onto her canvas. The people who had chosen ovals had to decide whether to use them horizontally or vertically.
"Cascades," original needlepoint landscape by Annake
"Cascades," original needlepoint landscape by Annake
Then we moved on to locations and what might be seen there. A couple had grown up on prairie farms and mentioned barns, silos, and windmills. That got the discussion started. I wrote their ideas on a chalkboard. I intended, as always, to do a picture right along with them. I chose a hexagon as my shape and mountains as my location. Everyone had a favorite season; I chose autumn. We discussed the color ranges associated with each one. (My chalkboard was filling fast.) Then we discussed how light, shadow, and color changed with the time of day. Soon their choices were complete, although no one chose to do a night scene. As I'd hoped, no two people had identical choices.

Detail of "Sunrise with Saguaros"
Detail from 'Saguaros,' showing shaded Persian yarns
Each one left that day with her choices, notes on many ideas, and a color scheme of yarns to buy and bring to our next class. I also suggested they bring along photos of anything they thought they might like to include in their compositions. The next week I had to convince them that “Less is more”. Most of them needed to leave out more details than they wanted to put into their pictures. I showed them how a few simple lines could suggest hills, a lake, a shoreline or mountain range. They got their sketches down to a bare minimum and traced them onto their canvases with permanent marker. I did a lesson on blending colors by splitting Persian yarn and combining three different shades, upright Gobelin stitch (the most versatile of all canvas stitches), Hungarian stitch and Hungarian ground.

Detail from "Cascades"
Detail from "Cascades," showing various stitches
Their “needle-paintings” developed rapidly and they began looking for stitches that fulfilled specific needs. “How do I make this wall look like bricks?” “What stitch will make this tree trunk look and feel rough?” As I taught the stitches, everyone in the class made a sample of each stitch on spare canvas. Even if they didn't use a particular stitch in their composition, they had it for future reference. In the meantime, I completed my mountain scene and one of a spot on the California coast.

"Monterey Cypress," original needlepoint landscape by Annake
"Monterey Cypress," original needlepoint landscape
The week before our final session I had them bring in a small drawing of something they might see in the sky (birds flying, a kite, a hot-air balloon) or in the foreground of their landscape. Tree limbs (bare, leafy, flowering, evergreen) were popular choices. They traced their choices on tissue from an old dress pattern, pinned them to their landscapes, and embroidered through the tissue. Once they carefully peeled the tissue away, their projects were complete. They thought they couldn't do it. But they could. And they did. No two were alike. And all of them were beautiful.

Detail from "Monterey Cypress"
Detail  showing vertical Gobelin and tent stitches
Now I have a challenge for all of you needlepointers who have only worked with kits, printed canvases, charts or canvases hand-painted by other people, and who think you can't do an original design. Go back to the “menu” and make your choices. With the seasons changing, you have lots to choose from. Observe for yourself the colors and light at sunrise, morning, afternoon and sunset. With a few simple lines, suggest a place. If there are elements you want in your design that you cannot draw, trace them from a photograph. Use any canvas and yarn. Use tent stitch alone or in combination with other stitches. Follow the directions for putting your landscape together. Share it with us (use our “Contact Us” page) and we can include it in a future blog.

Happy designing! Surprise yourself!


Branch detail from "Cascades"
Detail from "Cascades," showing tree branch in crewel embroidery

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