Friday, May 29, 2015

Blending Yarns, More Needleweaving: Spring Q & A

blended yarn examples
Some examples of blended yarns used in needlepoint

Can you tell us more about blending yarns for “painterly” effects?

I would be happy to do that. We discussed the difficulty of finding variegated yarns for “stained-glass” stitchery (March 8, 2015). The same problem arises when you are doing a needlepoint picture with subtle shadings. Often the best solution is to blend your own yarns.

To make a blended yarn, you need to begin with yarns that divide easily. Most common yarns have either three or four strands (called plies) that separate easily. These are called 3-ply and 4-ply yarns and include tapestry and crewel yarns, as well as the heavier knitting weights. Most novelty yarns are not so easy to separate. You can determine whether a yarn will separate by examining the end of the yarn. You should be able to see the separate fibers, or plies. Spread them apart with your fingertips. If they spread apart easily, cut a length of the yarn. See if you can gently pull two strands free. Then separate the two strands in the same way. You should then have either 3 or 4 individual strands of yarn. Just because a yarn splits readily, however, doesn't mean that it is suitable for blending. Wrap the ends of a strand around your hands. Pull, twist, and tug it to make sure it doesn't fray.

blended yarn sampler
Blended yarn sampler

You blend yarns by threading strands of different shades into your needle at the same time. Begin with three shades in the same color range a dark (D), a medium (M), and a light (L). Look at the sample above. Each division contains three strands of yarn used together. From left to right, you have the following color designations: DDD, DDM, DMM, MMM, MML, MLL, LLL, and DML. As you stitch, the strands of yarn will turn, so that the same strand is not always on top. This is what creates the intermediate shades. You will probably have to use several of these combinations in your completed design.

Blending embroidery floss works in a similar manner. With floss, however, you are working with 6 strands, rather than 3 or 4. Floss is not as easy to separate neatly as is yarn. I usually separate floss into three 2-ply strands, not six 1-ply strands. I treat it in the same way I did the yarn above, working with a dark, medium, and light shade of the same basic color. You can use three more closely related shades for even more subtle blending if you like.

When I enlarged your hibiscus sketch for the window transparency (April 29, 2015), it looked to me like you did your sketch on tracing paper. Do you do all your sketches on tracing paper? Isn't it hard to draw on it?

hibiscus sketch on tracing paper
Hibiscus sketch on tracing paper

You are very observant. Yes, I did that particular sketch on tracing paper. No, I don't do all my sketches on tracing paper. No, it isn't hard to draw on this paper. I use Canson brand fine-textured, semi-transparent, acid free paper, which is very smooth and firm. I use tracing paper for sketches when I'm going to: 

  • a) trace the sketch onto sheer fabric or parchment for painting or coloring;
  • b) trace it onto needlepoint canvas for painting or stitching (June 15, 2014);
  • c) trace it onto another piece of paper in order to make a hot-iron transfer (October 6, 2013).
tracing on a window

I tape the original sketch to the glass of a sunny window, then tape the fabric, parchment, canvas or paper over it. Then I trace the outlines with a fine-point permanent marker for a) and b) or a hot-iron transfer pencil for c).

Are you going to do more needleweaving (October 17, 2014 and November 30, 2014)?

Certainly. So far we have only discussed needleweaving on canvas. Now let's talk about using the same type of patterns on fabric. The examples you see below are worked on decorator burlap, but they could be done on any fabric that is loosely-woven enough to allow you to easily count threads. The general idea is the same: Stitch over a certain number of threads, then under a certain number of threads, repeating the pattern from one end of your project to the other.

needleweaving sampler on burlap
Needleweaving sampler on burlap

“Hourglass” : white (Color A), light blue (Color B); do not skip threads between rows.
  • Row 1: With A, over 12 (threads), under 6; repeat to end.
  • Row 2: With A, over10, under 8; repeat.
  • Row 3: With A, over 8, under 10; repeat.
  • Row 4: With A, over 6, under 12; repeat.
  • Row 5: With A, over 4, under 14; repeat.
  • Row 6: With A, over 2, under 16; repeat.
  • Rows 7 through 12: With B repeat the Rows in this order 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
“Squared Waves”: brown (Color A), white (Color B); skip 2 threads between rows, both horizontally and vertically. This pattern can be varied to produce any combination of longer and shorter “waves”. The first and third rows are done in Color A; the middle row, in Color B. The stitch pattern is: over 2, under 2; repeat. The stitches on the middle row are done in the spaces left between the stitches on the first row. The stitches on the bottom row are parallel to those on the top row. Follow the pattern in the picture or work out one of your own.

“Chain Links”: white (Color A), light blue (Color B); do not skip threads between rows.
  • Rows 1,2,3: With A, over 3, under 2, over 3, under 2, over 3. Take yarn to the back of the fabric.* Work under 13, over 3, under 2, over 3, under 2, over 3. Repeat from * to end.
  • Rows 4, 5, 6,: Skip 13, over 3, under 2, over 3, under 2, over 3, under 13; repeat to end.
  • Rows 7,8,9: Repeat Rows 1, 2, 3.
“Hexagonal” (Look back at “Hourglass”. Notice something? Yes, this pattern is the “mirror image” of that one.): brown (Color A), white (Color B); don't skip threads between rows.
  • Row 1: With A, over 6, under 12; repeat to end.
  • Row 2: With A, over 7, under 10, over 8; repeat across, ending with over 7.
  • Row 3: With A, over 8, under 8, over 10, under 8; repeat across, ending over 8.
  • Row 4: With A, over 9, under 6, over 12, under 6: repeat across, ending over 9.
  • Row 5: With A, over 10, under 4, over 14, under 4; repeat across, ending over 10.
  • Row 6: With A, over 11, under 2, over 16, under 2; repeat across, ending over 11.
  • Rows 7 through 12: With B, work the Rows in reverse order 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Choose your own color schemes and practice the patterns. Then go back to the original articles and practice the canvas patterns on your fabric, too. Have fun,

Needlepoint landscape collage
Original needlepoint landscapes the blended yarn examples were taken from

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