Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bargello Basics, Part 3

Stitch Sampler Sheet for Bargello Basics Part 3
Stitch Sampler Sheet for Bargello Basics, Part 3

 This time we are going to concentrate on small stitch patterns that are generally called “grounds” or “groundings”. Stitched in a single color, they are often used as backgrounds for more elaborate bargello patterns. This is the way I have used them on sections of the “Mesas and Monuments” picture. There is no reason, however, that these cannot be used to form colorful all-over patterns on their own. I've given you several examples on the Stitch Sample Sheet, below, and I expect you can invent others. All of these long-and-short stitch patterns belong to a family of very old tapestry stitches collectively called Hungarian point. For more about using gobelin stitch and groundings to make pictures, see the landscapes in my September 12, 2013 post.

Parisian Stitch Examples
Parisian Stitch Examples
Let's begin at the upper left of the sheet with Parisian stitch. The first stitch (red) is an upright stitch over four threads of canvas. Drop down one square of canvas and make a stitch over two threads. Continue alternating long and short stitches across the available space. The second row begins with a short stitch over two threads directly below a long stitch over four threads. This is followed by a long stitch below the next short one. These stitches share a square of mesh, so that no threads are left uncovered. The third row is done in the same way as the first one. Done in contrasting colors, this makes a boldly striped pattern.

Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint, grass added
Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint, grass added
 If you choose related colors, however, like the red and orange sample, you can achieve a more subtle ombre-shaded effect. The more closely related the colors are, the more subtle the effect. A variegated yarn will give you an abstract pattern. This can be useful; use a variegated green in the background to suggest distant trees or shrubs, for example. I used Parisian stitch to represent the green short-grass prairie on my picture. 

Flame Stitch start at center of canvas
Flame Stitch start, at center of canvas
We've mentioned flame stitch patterns. The colors in the ombre-shaded sample are typical of those used in flame stitch. At the bottom left, I have given you a simple flame stitch pattern. To establish this, do a pattern line in your brightest or darkest color all the way across your canvas. Follow that pattern in your color sequence until you have reached the bottom of your canvas. Turn your canvas upside-down, reverse your color sequence, and complete stitching to the top of your canvas.

Hungarian Stitch examples
Hungarian Stitch examples
 The center column begins with one of my favorites, Hungarian stitch. This uses a repeating cluster of short stitch, long stitch, short stitch --- with an empty space between clusters. This is easy to see in the blue row. In the second row (red), the short stitch is placed below the second short stitch in the row above. The long stitch goes into the skipped space, with a short stitch following it. Row three (white) is worked exactly like row one. This makes an attractive all-over pattern that is useful for eyeglass or cell phone cases, desk sets, coasters, book covers, picture mats, etc.

Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint sky started
Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint, sky started
The three colors lend a strong diagonal element to the pattern. But see how different it is when only two colors are used. The design is much more static. Even when done in complementary colors like the orange and blue, one color seems to dominate the other. A variegated yarn yields another abstract design. Notice, too, that Hungarian stitch does not cover the canvas as quickly as Parisian does. Four rows of Hungarian make a narrower band than four rows of Parisian. Believe me, I thought about that while I was stitching all those square inches of sky!

Diamond medallion pattern built from Hungarian stitch
Diamond medallion pattern built from Hungarian stitch
At the bottom of the sheet is a diamond-shaped medallion made of Hungarian stitch clusters fitted next to each other in diagonal lines. To make a bargello design with this technique, find the exact center of your canvas. Place the single center cluster (gold) there. With blue, make a diamond with three clusters on a side. With white, make one with five clusters on a side. With red, make one with seven clusters on a side. The next one would be in gold and have nine clusters on a side. Continue on this way until you cannot make another complete diamond; then make as much of the diamond on each side as you can until all the canvas is covered. As an alternative, stop at the last complete diamond and do the corners in continental or basket-weave stitch in a neutral or contrasting color.

Because the squares on the quickpoint canvas are so large, I use two parallel stitches over each set of threads, rather than just one. Doubling stitches can change the appearance of a grounding pattern. The green sample at the upper right is doubled Parisian. The brown sample below it is doubled Hungarian. The last of our grounding patterns is made with Hungarian diamonds (red, black, white). The first row has the following pattern: over 2 threads, over 4 threads, over 6 threads, over 4 threads, over 2 threads, skip a square of mesh. In the second row, the 2-stitch goes on the bottom of the 4-stitch: the 4-stitch, on the 2-stitch; the 6-stitch, in the skipped square; the skipped square, on the 6-stitch. The third row is the same as the first. This is a larger pattern than the others. In bold colors, it makes a stand-alone design. For a smaller version (greens, brown), we have to alter the pattern. Begin by stitching over a single thread. The pattern goes: over 1,3,5,3,1,3,5,3,1, etc. No squares are skipped. The 1-stitch is shared by two adjacent diamonds. This is the pattern I chose, in a variegated yarn, to represent the sandy, stony desert in the foreground of my picture. I back-stitched several areas to make smoother transitions.

Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint desert foreground added
Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint, desert foreground added

Once the picture was completed, I told J.D. that I was tempted to embroider “Utah” across the sky and offer the piece as a needlepoint travel poster. J.D. took this picture to show how that would look. What do you think? Should I do it?

Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint as a travel poster
Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint, prospective travel poster

I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction into basic bargello. Later this summer, we will try some new techniques, including those fabulous four-ways. We would love it if you'd e-mail us pictures of your needlework projects.


Mesas and Monuments Needlepoint completed
"Mesas and Monuments" Needlepoint, ready to frame

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