Monday, December 22, 2014

A Different Approach to 4-Way Bargello

autumn explosion test sampler
Test sampler for "Autumn Explosion" 4-way bargello
Four-way bargello pictures were very popular at the autumn craft shows. This inspired me to try an approach to them that I had been considering for some time. We have considered designs that began with traditional squares, peaks-and-valleys, and domes. There are many different linear approaches we might take and I promise to devote future posts to some of them. However, instead of working with a linear baseline throughout the pattern, I wanted to begin with a definite shape in each of the four quarters of the design.

prepared canvas
Canvas prepared for 4-way bargello
I began by preparing a canvas as I usually do, finding the center square of the canvas, putting in the north/south (vertical) and east/west (horizontal) dividing lines, then drawing the diagonals. Then I tried placing various cut-out paper shapes on top of the canvas to see how they looked joined at the center and/or at the diagonals. Leaf shapes looked promising, but I chose heart shapes instead. I decided to place the heart shapes so their points met as close to the center as possible. By measuring the space between the diagonal and the nearest horizontal or vertical line, I found out how big half of the heart shape must be in order for the whole heart to fit neatly between the diagonals and for four of them to touch at the diagonals all around the design. I re-cut paper patterns until I had one that fit.

heart baseline stitch pattern
Stitch pattern for baseline hearts
The next step was to make a stitch pattern that would be as close to the paper pattern as I could make it. That turned out to be harder than it sounded. I tried several variations and finally chose the one shown here. It did not fit perfectly, but gave me the effect I wanted. I had to put in several short stitches, called compensating stitches, around the points of the hearts to make them work. I rotated the canvas ninety degrees each time so the compensating stitches would be the same in each quarter of the design. The four heart patterns formed a baseline for the design, but this one was closed, not open like the ones we worked with before.

Heart baseline stitched into prepared canvas
Heart baseline stitched into prepared canvas
I decided to use colors from the spectrum to stitch my design. I first worked from the heart baseline inward until the hearts were solid. Of course the number of stitches decreased as I worked inward and only partial stitches were possible in places. As far as colors were concerned, I was moving from red to the red-violet end of the spectrum. Working outward, I was working toward the blue-violet end of the spectrum. The spaces around the hearts near the center of the design were soon filled. As I continued stitching around the outside of the design, the tops of the hearts eventually joined together, forming a scalloped effect. 

4-way bargello in progress, first in from baseline then out
4-way bargello in progress, first filled in from baseline, then filled outward

Once I had used all the colors of the spectrum, I decided to stop and put in a solid background. The colors of the hearts reminded me of flames glowing, flaring up, cooling and fading away. This gave the work its title:”Hearts Afire.” I placed skeins of yarn in a variety of colors around he center design. Black is not my favorite color for stitching, but I chose it because it set off the vibrant colors of the hearts better than anything else I tried. I stitched each corner separately, using the basketweave version of tent stitch and rotating the canvas ninety degrees as I completed each corner. The tent stitches lie flatter than the longer stitches of the hearts. This makes the hearts stand out even more clearly against the background. You can see the finished design below. If you want to do a heart design of your own, you might do something in shades of pink and rose and lacy white, like a Valentine.
4-way bargello "Hearts Afire"
Finished 4-way bargello, "Hearts Afire", with black background stitching in place

There are many shapes you could use to devise your own design. If you choose leaves, for example, you will get a different effect if you start with the stems at the center than if you start with the tips of the leaves at the center. Flowers, bows, stars or the little butterflies on the hatband in the previous post open up possibilities for four-way designs. Alphabet letters or number shapes are easy to find in ready-made cut-outs or stencils. Some animal shapes are simple and stylized enough to use: bats, owls, fish, seated cats, etc. But start with something simple for your first effort, so that you will have a successful result. Then you can move on to more complicated projects.

Simple shapes for this 4-way bargello technique
Some simple shapes cut out of paper for this 4-way bargello technique

Be creative!

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shapes and Patterns: More Simple Needle-weaving

Photograph "Honalee" by jljardine
"Honalee" by jljardine
I have always been fascinated by shapes and patterns. When I was a child, I would lie on my back in the grass and look for “pictures” in the clouds. I loved to see them change shape. On summer nights, after my parents were asleep, I would leave the house to look for patterns in the stars. I liked to invent and name my own constellations. I'm still looking for patterns in clouds and trees and frost on the windowpanes.

I've recently been studying a photograph of an old piece of Norwegian embroidery, looking for new needle-weaving motifs. The picture is in black and white and the motifs are rather small, so I don't know how accurate my reconstructions are. I have, however, derived a couple of patterns that I like. I wanted them to be large enough to use on a belt, so they are much larger than the original embroidery. I also wanted them to be colorful, so I did each motif half in red and half in blue. The spaces between the motifs were left empty, but they could easily be filled in with a third color, leaving no empty squares in the design. I worked the two examples in acrylic yarn on plastic canvas so that I would have good reference samples to keep on file. The directions for each of the two patterns is below its picture.

needleweaving pattern 1
Needleweaving Border Pattern I

Pattern I: Starting on the far left of the canvas and leaving enough yarn loose to weave into stitches on the back of the work, bring your needle down through the first square of canvas mesh.
  • Rows#1 & #2: under 1, over 2, *under 2, over 2, under 6, over 6, under 6, over 2, repeat from * across.
  • Rows #3 & #4: under 1, over 2, *under 2, over 2, under 4, over 10, under 4, over 2, repeat from * across.
  • Row #5: under 3, over 2, *under 4, over 6, under 2, over 6, under 4, over 2, repeat from * across.
  • Row #6: Repeat Row #5 (with a second color, if you choose).
  • Rows #7 & #8: Repeat rows #3 and #4.
  • Rows #9 & #10: Repeat Rows #1 and #2.
needleweaving pattern 2
Needleweaving Border Pattern II

Pattern II: Starting on the far left of the canvas and leaving enough yarn loose to weave into stitches on the back of the work, bring your needle down through the first square of canvas mesh.
  • Rows#1 & #2: under 1, *over 2, under 2, over 4, under 4, over 2, under 4, over 4, under 2, repeat from *across.
  • Rows #3 & #4: under 1, *over 2, under 2, over 6, under 2, over 2, under 2, over 6, under 2, repeat from *across.
  • Row #5: under 1, *over 2, under 4, over 6, under 2, over 6, under 4, repeat from * across.
  • Rows #7 & #8: Repeat rows #3 and #4.
  • Rows #9 & #10: Repeat rows #1 and #2.
When I looked at the second pattern, I was reminded of butterflies. At that time, I was looking for a way to decorate a hat for a dear friend of mine who is a member of the Red Hat Society. (Their motto is: “When I'm an old lady, I shall wear purple with a red hat.”) I had a wide-brimmed red straw hat. It was pretty, but rather plain. Why not, I asked myself, make a wide hatband with a row of purple and lavender butterflies? I chose dark purple for the bodies, a lighter purple for the lower wings, a dark lavender for the upper wings and white for the background. But first I needed to make some minor changes in the pattern of the butterfly. I decided that I didn't need the rectangles between the butterflies. I liked the straight edges and squared corners, so I didn't try to make any of those into curves. I filled in the hole in the center of the body and shortened the “head” end by one row. Then I added “antennae” like little stair-steps on either side of the head. After carefully measuring the crown of the hat, I determined how many butterflies I could place on the band and how they needed to be spaced so that there would not be any butterflies that were not whole. (See the practice piece.)

needleweaving butterfly motif
Sample of the needleweaving butterfly motif
The motifs for the hatband were worked in acrylic yarn on #7 plastic canvas. This made a very firm band that is removable and washable. Because #7 plastic canvas has a large mesh, I doubled each strand of yarn for the butterflies to give a them a smooth, solid appearance. I finally decided to work the background in tent stitch in a single strand of white yarn and to back-stitch the antennae on top of the tent stitch after the butterflies and background were completed. I also modified the antennae slightly. (A word of caution about working on any kind of canvas: do not pull your stitches too tight; your canvas may start to curl and may never lie completely flat.) Once I had the work completed, I had a band that was 22.5 inches (about 57 centimeters) long and 2.5 inches (about 6.5 centimeters) wide.

I formed this into a circle and lined up the two ends so they matched exactly. Using a piece of the background yarn, I overcast the two edges to make a flat seam, leaving extra yarn at both the beginning and the end. The loose ends were both secured and hidden inside the tube of stitches formed by the seam. (see picture showing the joining of two pieces of plastic canvas). The finished hatband was then placed over the crown of the hat and pushed down to sit directly on the brim of the hat. (see below) I hope my friend enjoys wearing her hat to Red Hat Society meetings and festivities.

joining pieces of plastic canvas illustrated
Joining pieces of plastic canvas, illustrated in contrasting colors

Here are some things you may want to do:
  1. Practice both of the patterns on sample canvas for your pattern file. You may think practice pieces are a waste of time, but they are not. Not only do they give you a good idea of how a project will look, but they also allow you to encounter and solve a lot of minor problems that you can then avoid when you do a larger project.
  2. Look at the empty spaces between the motifs on the patterns. Design one or more borders using these “negative” spaces. (Turn your pattern samples over to get ideas.)
  3. Make something useful or decorative (headbands, hatbands, belts, eyeglass or cell phone cases, etc.) from one of the border designs or from the butterfly motif.

Have fun!

red hat with purple butterfly motif headband
The red hat with purple butterfly motif headband

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Craft Show Queries Answered

October 31 in the Springs photo by jlj
Autumn is craft fair season!
I apologize to those of you who have been checking this site for a new blog post. From mid-September to mid-December, Annake’s Garden is involved in quite a number of art and craft shows. We are often away from home; and we spend a lot of our time when at home loading and unloading, packing and unpacking, changing out displays, doing minor repairs and replacing the items we have sold. Therefore, I sometimes get behind in my writing, sample-making, and designing.

We meet such nice people at these shows, and it is especially gratifying to meet readers of this blog. I'm going to use this post to try to give some fairly prompt responses to recent questions and comments from such readers.

Are there going to be any more blackwork designs that we can download?

Yes, there will be more from time to time as I get a chance to work on them. I see they are appearing on Pinterest® frequently. I'm glad to see people are using them. At the bottom of this post is a page of quick and easy border designs in cross-stitch and back-stitch for you. (Just click on the picture to download them.) When we get into folk embroidery more deeply, you will find them useful. You will probably be doing them in bright colors rather than in black, however. These were done freehand, but should be easy enough to follow. If you are going to do a hot-iron transfer, however, you will want to re-draw them using a straight-edge or ruler. I'm also working on more of the small colored designs to be posted later

Why does your framed four-way bargello in the September 29th post look so different from the sample pattern? They're not the same shape or anything!

I keep telling you that even small changes in pattern lead to great differences in appearance. Believe me, the two are worked in exactly the same way, with two minor exceptions: I changed the way I did the very center and I did a satin stitch border around the finished design to blend with the picture mat. So what made the differences? First of all, the framed picture is done on #10 needlepoint canvas, which has 100 squares per square inch. The sample was done on plastic canvas which is approximately #7, with 49 squares per square inch. The plastic canvas sample is much easier for you to see in a photograph, while the stitches on the needlepoint canvas are smaller and closer together. Second, the framed picture is much larger, so there are many more rows than can be seen in the sample. The farther from the center those rows are, the more the outline is smoothed out, giving a scalloped edge. Third, the baseline, while in a dark color, is not the darkest color in the picture, making it less evident. Finally, I used more than twice as many colors in the picture than in the sample (13 as opposed to 6), so the colors don't repeat as often and the baseline color appears in different places in the pattern. Perhaps this close-up of the comparable are of the framed bargello next to the sample pattern will make the process easier to visualize.

That's the beauty of these four-way patterns. You can use the same one over and over with different color combinations, number of pattern repeats, and small changes in the centers and along the diagonals and no two will be alike!

4-way bargello picture -  pillow comparison
Here is another example of two projects using the same pattern, with variations - these were done more than 30 years apart!

I'm reading your posts on my iPhone and I can't count the squares on the pattern you say you did as a child. The picture's too small. Can you give me a counted-out pattern?

Simple needleweaving on plastic canvas
Another sample of the simple needleweaving stitch
Certainly. Start with Color A. Bring your yarn up from the back of the canvas, letting a couple of inches hang down to be woven into the stitches on the back later. Row 1: over 8 threads, under 2, over 8, under 2 across. Row 2: under 1, over 6, under 4, over 6 under 4 across. Row 3: under 2, over 4, under 6, over 4, under 6, across. Row 4: under 3, over 2, under 8, over 2, under 8 across. (See sample.)

With Color B, secure your yarn under Color A stitches on the back, bring your needle up through the same square of mesh as the end of the first over 8 stitch of color A. Skip 2 threads, push your needle down in the same square of mesh as the beginning of the next over 8 stitch of Color A. Continue with Color B to fill in all the skipped spaces in Rows 1 through 4, leaving no canvas threads showing. (See sample.) Repeat Rows1 through 4 until you have filled your canvas. At the end of each row, do as much of the pattern stitch as the canvas allows, bringing your yarn to the back of the canvas to secure it. The sample shows the same pattern (shown on trug canvas in large scale on the original post) done on plastic canvas in approximately the same colors.

I must confess that this is such a simple pattern that I often work a column of Color A from bottom to top rather than from side to side, then reverse my canvas and work back with a column of Color B. The advantage to doing it this way is that you can add columns of as many colors as you like, instead of just alternating two colors. This is a follow-the-weft pattern. Unlike the follow-the-warp patterns we have been doing, this kind of pattern can cover the canvas completely. These are patterns that work nicely for conventional needlepoint, as well. They can be used as all-over designs, fillings, or backgrounds.

How do I get my little girls interested in needlework? (From a discussion at a recent craft show.)

Do they make art in school that you put up on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board? If so, copy a favorite one onto cloth or canvas and help them learn a technique to make it into something permanent like a framed picture or a pillow. Or do the same thing with a picture from a favorite movie like Frozen”. Help them do a simple cross-stitch/back-stitch pattern (like one of the ones on the chart below [See the post for August 26, 2013 for directions for easy cross-stitch on checked gingham.]) and then applique it onto a T-shirt or sweatshirt. Encourage them to make handmade gifts for family members (especially grandparents) or their friends. Work together on costumes for school plays or holiday parties. Older children should be encouraged to make useful things for premature babies, elderly people, anyone in need. Often groups of girls can get together to work on such projects, socializing and developing social consciences at the same time.

Good luck on all your projects,

Downloadable blackwork stitch patterns
Click to download these blackwork stitch patterns

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

Weaving with Needles? Yes!

(This post is the first of a series introducing some new needlework techniques. Although the tools, materials, and patterns closely resemble what I have shown in the past, the underlying structure is very different. Except when working Holbein stitch, the back of the work didn't matter a great deal;  now, however, the back of the work -- even when not seen -- will be quite important. The simple techniques shown in this post lay a foundation for exciting future projects that appear much more complex than they actually are.)

samples of canvas for needleweaving
Samples of background fabrics for needleweaving
Needleweaving can be done on any background material that has evenly spaced openings:  nylon net, filet crochet, fishnet, mono canvas, monks' cloth, etc. You can even use rug canvas if it has some flexibility to it. Some of the background threads will show through and become part of the design. If your fabric's mesh openings are considerably larger than the yarn or thread you are using for weaving, you can compensate by weaving two (and sometimes more) strands side by side through each square of mesh. All kinds of novelty yarns and threads can be used together for special effects. The kind of needleweaving we will look at today goes completely through the background fabric. In later posts, we will discuss surface weaving.

Annake's first needleweaving pattern
Annake's first needleweaving pattern (demo only)
I was introduced to needleweaving in first grade in a one-room country school. There were only eight students, so we did all sorts of projects. We little ones each made a needlewoven pillow top, which our energetic teacher then backed and stuffed for us. The older children made table runners. These were gifts for our mothers. I became fascinated by the fact that I could simply count the number of threads my needle passed over and under on each row and make a pretty pattern. That fascination with pattern has lasted me a lifetime and still plays a large part in my work. Here's a picture of that first pattern, done in knitting worsted on rug canvas so you can count the squares and figure out the pattern for yourself. (If I were going to do a project on rug canvas, I would use a much thicker yarn.)

needles for needleweaving

Needleweaving on large-scale background fabrics like fillet mesh or #5 canvas is done with extra-large needles so that several stitches can be completed with one pull of the yarn. I use two weaving needles (see picture above). One is five inches (about 13 centimeters) long and about the diameter of a darning needle. The other is just a bit thicker and twelve inches (about 30.5 centimeters) long. Both needles have eyes large enough to accommodate knitting worsted-weight yarn. If you cannot find weaving needles, use the largest and longest darning, tapestry, or chenille needles that you can find.

materials needed for needleweaving
Materials needed to start needleweaving
Woven fabric has two components: warp, long threads that run the length of the fabric, and weft (usually pronounced “woof”), back-and-forth threads that run at right angles to the warp. I'm going to show you some simple weaving patterns on plastic canvas. The exposed bars of the plastic will correspond to the exposed threads of the canvas fabric. Plastic canvas is not flexible, so I will use a tapestry needle and worsted-weight yarn. These patterns follow the warp “threads”, shown here as running left to right. The stitches begin at the left, where a short fringe of yarn is shown. I have woven the loose ends in at the back of the work on the right. I used 10.5 inch x 13.5 inch (about 27 cm x 35 cm) plastic canvas so that you can see several repeats of each pattern. I suggest you practice the patterns on plastic canvas and file them for future reference. You will need at least three colors of yarn: A, a dark color; B, a medium color: and C, a light color. Cut your yarn pieces a couple of inches longer than the canvas so that you can leave fringe at the ends or run the loose ends under the stitches on the back.

For the first pattern, cut 6 pieces of one color (color A). For Row 1, push your needle down from the top into the first open square and pull the strand through, leaving at least an inch for fringe. Run the needle under 2 threads (plastic bars), over 2, under 2, over 2 all the way to the end. For Row 2, insert the yarn in the same way, pass under 1 thread, over 1, then under 2, over 2 to the end. Rows 3 and 5 are like Row 1; Rows 4 and 6, like Row 2. Weave in all six strands. Notice the strong diagonals, both left-to-right and right-to-left.

First needleweaving sample, one color
First needleweaving sample, one color

By now you think you know all about the pattern and could do it in your sleep. But there is more to learn. Cut three pieces of color A and two of color B. Leave an empty row of canvas square (or more) between pattern stripes. Do Rows 1, 3, and 5 in color A, following the weaving pattern for the odd- and even-numbered rows. Do rows 2 and 4 in color B. Now the diagonals are much less noticeable and your eye begins to pick out small clusters in the stripe.

Second needleweaving sample, two colors
Second needleweaving sample, two colors

Now cut two pieces each of colors A and B and one of color C. Weave Rows 1 and 5 in color A, 2 and 4 in color B, and 3 in color C. This time the eye is drawn strongly to the center line of stitches. Would you get the same effect with A in the center and C on the sides? Try it and see.

Third needleweaving sample, three colors
Third needleweaving sample, three colors
Weave the second pattern in one color, then in a second color next to it, with no empty canvas in between. The pattern is the same for both. Start as before from the top in the first row of squares, work under 2, over 1, under 1, over 6, [*] under 1, over 1, under 1, over 1, under 1, over 6, repeating from [*] to the end. This is Row 1 and Row 5. Next, start the same, then under 1, over 1, under 1, over 2, under 4, over 2, [*] under 1, over1, under 1, over 2, under 4, and repeat across the row. This is Row 2 and Row 4. Start Row 3 from the top, under 1, over 1, under 1, over 1, under 2, [*] over 2, under 2, over 1, under 1, over 1, under 1, over 1, under 2 and repeat to end. Use the same pattern rows for the second color. When the piece is complete, turn it over. You will see another, different, pattern on the reverse side that you can use as well. If I were doing this pattern on needlepoint canvas, I would cover all the open squares with tent stitches in a third color. And, yes, many needleweaving patterns “translate” into needlepoint or even cross-stitch patterns.

A more complex pattern in two colors
A more complex pattern, repeated in two colors

If you want to practice your patterns and make something useful at the same time, make strips of pattern from six inches to ten inches (15.5 to 25.5 cm) long and an inch to an inch and a half (3 to 4 cm) wide. Leave short fringe at each end or make longer fringe and tie it or knot it together to make a tassel. Glue felt to the back of the canvas (but not to the fringe or tassels). Whenever you give someone a book, give them one of these pretty bookmarks. Or make a whole set of bookmarks for a student, a book club member, or any eager reader.

Happy weaving!

Simple needlewoven bookmark in use
A simple needlewoven bookmark, in a daisy pattern

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Monday, September 29, 2014

More Fabulous Four-way Bargello

 (We return to Annake's "Introduction to Four-way Bargello" with Part lll ...)

4-way bargello needlepoint "Green Envy"
Framed 4-way bargello needlepoint, "Green Envy"
This time we are going to make a four-way design based on the arch shapes we practiced in the March 20, 2014 post. It is a little bit more difficult than the last pattern but not much. The result, however, will look like it is much more difficult than it really is, and really impress people. The variegated green four-way is an example of traditional four-ways done in this manner.

wave bargello stitch sampler
Bargello wave stitch sampler
Use a small piece of plastic canvas to practice your stitches. We are going to start with a simple arch. (This time our basic bargello stitch is an upright stitch over three threads of canvas.) The top of the arch is made up of three parallel upright stitches. On either side there are two parallel stitches dropped down one thread lower. Repeat this. Then do three single stitches, each dropped down one thread from the start of the one above it. The last of these stitches is the bottom of the arch. Do not double it. Now start upward at one side of the arch with three single stitches, each raised one thread above the stitch below it. Repeat the two sets of paired paired stitches. Do three parallel stitches for the second arch and complete it with downward stitches. Now make a third arch in the same way on the other side. Remember that the bottom stitch of each arch is shared, not doubled.

center marked plastic canvas
Center marked plastic canvas
Prepare a piece of plastic canvas at least 10 inches (26 centimeters) square on which to practice the entire pattern. When you are ready to work the pattern on needlepoint canvas, you can make the square as large as you wish. Draw the center lines and diagonals carefully. This time, start at the center square of the canvas and count up to the 20th square on the vertical line (Think of this direction as North if it helps you). Mark the square. Mark the 20th squares on the East, South, and West centering lines.

quarter baseline for 4-way bargello
Quarter baseline for 4-way bargello
Now thread a dark-colored yarn into your tapestry needle. Starting in the marked North square, make an upright stitch over three threads of canvas (the plastic bars represent threads). This is the center stitch of the three parallel stitches that make the top of the arch. Make an identical stitch on each side of the center stitch. Now chose a side and complete half of the arch. When you reach the bottom of the arch, start up the side of the next arch. You will be not be able to complete the first double stitches, but, instead you will need to make a stitch over two threads, ending at the diagonal line. Then you will have room to do one very short stitch over a single thread, again ending at the diagonal line. Run your needle under completed stitches on the back of your work and cut the yarn. Return to the three stitches at the top of the arch. Secure the end of your thread and do this side of the arch and the beginning of the next, working the exact reverse of the stitches on the first side you worked. The stitches on the right side should begin and end in the same rows of squares. Check this occasionally with a straight edge (ruler, index card, envelope, etc.). End by securing your yarn. Now you have made the baseline of your design on a quarter of your canvas.

full 4-way bargello baseline
Fully outlined 4-way bargello baseline
Turn your canvas 90 degrees. Repeat the baseline in this quarter exactly as you did in the first quarter. The two short stitches at the end of the baseline should end on the diagonal in the same squares of canvas as those stitches on the previous quarter. Continue turning your canvas and working the baseline on one quarter at a time. Your four baselines should meet and join as seen in the sample here. If they do not, find your mistake and correct it. Otherwise your mistake will get worse with each row you complete and your finished project will be irregular and uneven.

4-way bargello stitched outward from baseline
Practice 4-way bargello stitched outward from baseline
Now you are ready to work outward from the baseline. Choose your colors of yarn and decide the order in which you plan to use them. You may work the first row outward as a continuous row if you like, rather than doing one quarter at a time as I had you do to establish the baseline. If you feel more secure continuing to do a quarter at a time, however, by all means do so. You may even want to thread two needles and work from the center line of two adjacent quarters toward the diagonal line between them. If you have problems at the diagonals, you will then only need to remove a couple of stitches on each side and correct them. Begin each stitch in the same square of canvas as the end of the same stitch in the baseline row. Cover three threads with each stitch, working toward the edge of your canvas. This time you will be able to complete the two parallel stitches, plus a tiny stitch over a single thread. The tiny stitch at the beginning of the next quarter should be at right angles to the tiny stitch you just made and end in the same square on the diagonal. On the next row, you will be able to work both sets of double stitches before you reach the diagonal. On the following row, you will be able to add one of the three single stitches. Continue in this fashion, each time doing just as much of your pattern stitch as you have room for, stopping on the diagonal. As you approach the edges of your canvas, you may have to use partial stitches to complete a row. Continue working in your color sequence, even when you can only put in a small part of a row in each corner. Or, as an alternative, work the corners in the color of your baseline, keeping to the pattern stitches until the corners are complete. The sample is complete to the edges. Remember: your stitch sequence is 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, descending and 1,1,1,2,2, ascending to the next 3 at the top of the next arch.

4-way bargello filled inward from baseline
Practice 4-way bargello filled inward from baseline
Working inward from the baseline, you will lose stitches rather than gaining them. As you come to the diagonal, work as much of the stitch as you can, ending on the diagonal itself. The stitches that begin the next quarter should still be at right angles to their counterparts in the previous quarter. You should work your color sequence in the reverse order moving in toward the center than the one you used moving out toward the edges. You will have to make a decision about the center itself. I used a longer center stitch for the center stitch of the three final stitches, but you may want to use four tiny stitches in the next color. It is the decisions you make about such things, along with your color choices, that will make your work distinctive and individual.

Working on a much larger canvas with much smaller mesh, I made a few different choices, so that my finished canvas (below) differs in some ways from my original sample. The point is that, even if you don't follow the pattern exactly, as long as you do exactly the same thing in each of the four quarters, you will make a successful pattern. Once you feel secure with your pattern, you are ready to make it on needlepoint canvas and to have a beautiful project that you will be proud to frame. Congratulations!

4-way bargello needlepoint "Autumn Explosion"
Framed 4-way bargello needlepoint, "Autumn Explosion", using the same stitch as the practice piece above

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Use It Up!: Glass and China “Whimsies”

a group of glass and ceramic garden "whimsies"
A group of glass and ceramic "garden whimsies"
Those of you who have been reading these posts for some time know that I and other members of the Annake's Garden team really don't like to see anything go to waste (see the posts for March 15, 2013 and June 3, 2013). Lately our glass artisan (see the December 30, 2013 post for her interview), in between periods of canning and freezing food for winter, has been combining pieces of miscellaneous glassware and china dishes into delightful “garden whimsies”. I just cleared a couple of shelves in my kitchen cabinets of glass and china pieces that I never use and passed them along to her so that she can create more of these objects. There are quite a few examples of this kind of item on the Internet, most of them to be used as bird feeders. I feed native and migratory birds all year, and I have to say that many of these items while attractive are not particularly bird-friendly. You want to feed seeds and suet to the birds, not feed the birds to the neighborhood cats!

small garden whimsey with candle
So we determined that most of her creations would have other uses, in addition to (or instead of) bird-feeding. We chose three of her many pieces (see above) to feature for you. These can be used indoors, on a porch or patio, or outdoors, under trees or along paths or in flowerbeds. The smallest, we decided, was perfect for a candle-holder and it is shown that way throughout this article. I can picture a double row of these, each different from the other, along the edges of the sidewalk that leads to our front door, acting as luminarias to welcome guests to our home. Obviously the candle-holder could have many indoor uses as well.

large garden whimsey with floating flowers
The largest piece is an ingenious combination of a bowl, its inverted lid, the glass cover of a ceiling light fixture, a saucer and a small cut-glass dish, all bonded together. Indoors on the buffet, it could hold chips and dip, canapes with nuts or mints, holiday cookies and candies, etc. Outside, it makes a lovely water feature, either by itself or with flowers floating in the bowl. Its color can be changed with the water used to fill it. Just add a drop or two of food coloring to the water and stir it thoroughly before pouring it into the container. And it can even serve as a bird feeder in the right, safe, setting. The water in the base makes it very stable and hard to overturn. All the pieces are securely fastened together with an all-weather adhesive, so it is easy to carry and to transport from place to place.

medium garden whimsey with candle
The medium-sized “whimsey”, a pedestal arrangement topped with a vase shaped like a flower, proved to be the most versatile article of all. It is shown here as a candle-holder. At the bottom of this post you will see it again in a montage showing just a few of its possible uses: holding a floating flower, potpourri, hard candies and, yes, even birdseed. Incidentally, all the photographs were taken in Annake's Garden, so they give you little glimpses into small corners of our late summer gardens.

"whimsey" used as a serving tray
We were so happy with the first arrangement we made with a fourth “whimsey” creation that we photographed it separately. This is a vase cemented to a glass tray. The artisan filled the vase with her dried flowers and I contributed a combination teapot (top handle) and teacup (bottom handle). What a nice object to have at your elbow when you are ready to relax with a cup of tea and a good book! It also shows how three of our team (J.D. took all the photographs) worked together on this project for this post for you.

Recycled and fused glass trivet and spoon holder
Recycled fused glass trivet (left) and spoon holder (right)
Finally, we wanted to show you a couple of items our glass artisan “re-purposed” in the kiln she uses to make her glass plates, jewelry, sun-catchers, wind-chimes and other beautiful creations. The first is a plain glass tray which she has ornamented with fused glass dots and stripes in bright colors. She turned it into an attractive trivet to protect a tabletop from a hot dish or pot. The second article is a simple bottle, melted and shaped into a holder for a cooking spoon. It is also decorated with bits of colored glass. 

I think everyone who has been a homemaker for more than a few years probably has leftover or mismatched pieces of glass or china. While we don't all have access to a kiln, we do have access to a variety of appropriate adhesives. (Be sure to read all the cautions and directions very carefully; look for terms like “food-safe,” “dishwasher-safe,” or “weather-proof,” depending on your plans for the object.) We can all think of useful and decorative ways to keep these items from going to waste. I hope we have provided you with some ideas and inspiration. We would love to hear about and see pictures of your own creations.

Have fun with your “whimsical” project!

glass and ceramic garden whimsey collage
Some of the many uses for a "whimsey"...

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