Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stitches, Snowflakes, and More - Winter Q & A

Winter Study, photo by jljardine
"Midwinter's Eve" Photo courtesy of jljardine
I'm going to use this post to answer some questions about past articles that have come up over the winter, before we start an exciting new series of techniques and projects I have planned for the coming year. For a preview of some of those projects, don't miss our upcoming 2nd Anniversary post; until then, enjoy these odds and ends and take advantage of the free pattern downloads that accompany them...

I liked the way you took a simple stitch like the running stitch and showed us how to do different things to it to make it fancier (January 16, 1015). Are you going to do more of that kind of thing?

Absolutely! The way I look at it, stitches come in families: running stitches, back-stitches, couching, cross-stitches, overcasting, chain stitches, stem stitches, satin stitches, etc. Once you are familiar with a few basic stitches, it is easy to experiment with combining two or more of them, working in either a single color or a combination of colors. Let me show you more simple examples. Most of you are familiar with cross-stitch. Look at just a few of the things you can do with it:
  1. Cross-stitch Variation Sampler
    Standard, evenly-spaced cross-stitch.
  2. Bi-color cross-stitch (left-to-right stitches in one color, right-to-left stitches in a second).
  3. Cross-stitch with a vertical Holbein stitch across the center.
  4. Cross-stitch with a horizontal running stitch across the center.
  5. Whipped (overcast) cross-stitch; don't pull the whipping stitch so tightly that you spoil the X-shape of the cross-stitch. The whipping thread is on the surface except at the ends of the row.
  6. Cross-stitch with both horizontal and vertical stitches (sometimes called double cross or George and Saint Andrew), which can be done in 1, 2, 3, or 4 colors.
  7. Bi-color cross-stitch laced with a third color. If you like, you can couch the centers of the arches down with a tiny stitch of sewing thread in the color of the background fabric.
  8. Standard continuous cross-stitch. The ends of the right-to-left stitches will share the same spaces as those of the left-to-right ones.

Once you have practiced this set of stitches, do rows b) through g) again, in the continuous cross-stitch. Try to do them on your own, without peeking. If you need help, however, you will find the stitches at the bottom of this post. [On d) and e), do the horizontal stitches in back-stitch, not running stitch.]

I like the latch-hook snowflake design (January 28, 2015), but I don't do latch-hook. I do like cross-stitch and have done some of your designs, but I'm having trouble visualizing this chart as a cross-stitch pattern. Is there a way to chart it as a cross-stitch pattern for the corners of a tablecloth?

Cross-stitch snowflake chart
Cross-stitch snowflake chart (click to download)
Of course there is and I'm happy to do one for you. Just click on the picture to download the chart. (The empty squares represent the background fabric.) You have a choice: include the border in your design or stitch only the central motif. I'm glad to hear that the cross-stitch patterns are being used. If you will e-mail us a picture of your finished tablecloth, we would like to show it on a future blog post.

Assisi work snowflake pattern
Assisi work snowflake pattern (click to download)
And here is the pattern for the reverse of the snowflake design. Done in cross-stitch, this is Assisi work. (See the discussion of Assisi work here.) You can add as many extra rows of cross-stitch around the design as you like. Once the cross-stitch background is complete, you might want to back-stitch around the white snowflake shape with a glossy white floss to give it a more dimensional appearance. I like to do even more contrast with the design. For example, I like the background stitching done in a dark blue with the back-stitching around the snowflake done in a pale blue. For an even more dramatic effect, back-stitch the snowflake in bright red against a dark blue cross-stitch background or do it in dark blue against a red cross-stitch background.

Blackwork snowflake pattern
Blackwork snowflake pattern (click to download)
 Finally, for all you stitchers out there who love blackwork, here is a charted snowflake that I've used on place-mats. If you need directions for making a hot-iron transfer pattern for any of these three charts, check the post for October 6, 2013. May stitching snowflakes make winter pass faster.

From a conversation with a lady who saw “Love Is Like a Red, Red, Rose” at one of our Christmas show booths:  “I love the rose picture! It just seems to glow. How did you get that effect?”

Framed gobelin stitch rose
"Love is Like a Red, Red Rose," framed Gobelin needlepoint
Thank you, I'm glad you like it. The black background helps, of course. Against black, all but the darkest colors seem more vivid than they would against any other color. (I actually did a first version on a white background, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted.) The warm glow from the gold frame added to the effect. The rest is achieved by exaggerating the contrasts between the colors. When I make a sketch for a project, I indicate the shading from the darkest darks to the lightest lights. On the rose, I planned to limit myself to three reds. For the dark areas, I used a maroon with undertones of dark brown. The medium red is a true red. The light areas are a light, bright red with overtones of a sunny, hot orange. I used more variety in the greens for the leaves, but continued to work from dark greens with some blue tones where the leaves were shadowed, to light greens with a slightly yellow cast at the tips of the leaves. Some people have believed that the tips are white, but they are not. Our eyes play all kinds of tricks on us. We tend to see the lightest part of a composition as being white when very often it is not.

Thank you for all your questions,

Continuous Cross-stitch variations sampler
Continuous Cross-stitch Variations Sampler

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