Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another “Op Art” Needlepoint from a Quilt Block

2 color ribbon design
2 color ribbon design
From time to time, J. D and I look at our archive to see which of our older posts are getting the most attention. This helps us to plan posts which return to those subjects. Lately, there has been interest in the posts about optical illusion effects in needlepoint. If this is a new subject for you, you can find more information on the following posts: November 16, 2015, December 19, 2015, January 21, 2016, and February 10, 2016.

We have been working with geometric designs based on quilt blocks. We will continue to do this, but I wanted to show you that there are other ways to create an optical illusion. This is a color sketch I did for a future needlepoint project. It was inspired by the recent Rio Olympics. At first glance, it appears to be an open flower. On closer examination, however, you will see that it is made up of the stylized bodies of gymnasts.

Design with gymnast motif
Design with gymnast motif

Today's pattern is also derived from a quilt block. This one probably has several names most quilt patterns do but I know it only as “Bachelor's Puzzle”. I have no idea how it came to get that name! We are going to begin by drawing a diagram. You will need the following materials:

  • a sheet of ¼-inch graph paper
  • a sharpened pencil
  • an eraser that won't “smudge”
  • a ruler or other straight-edged item
  • a black fine-line pen or marker
I drew each step separately, but you need only follow the steps in sequence.

Design steps 1 - 3
Design steps 1 - 3

Step 1: Find the center of your graph paper and mark it with a pencil dot. Draw a square around the central point. Each side of the square should mark through the center of 5 diagonal squares of the graph paper.

Step 2: Draw four squares in the positions shown on the diagram. Be sure the positions are exact. Each of these squares should enclose 16 of the graph paper squares.

Step 3: Draw the lines connecting the squares and creating 4 parallelograms. Once again, these lines should pass diagonally through the centers of 5 diagonal squares of the graph paper. Essentially, the entire design is made with only two kinds of lines: horizontal or vertical lines along 4 squares and diagonal lines through the center of 5 squares.

At this point, you already have an interesting design. A series of these done in bright colors and evenly spaced on a plain background would make a colorful pillow top or done in latch-hook or quickpoint a small rug. On a smaller scale, they would make an attractive set of coasters or could be joined together to make a purse or tote bag.

Design steps 4 - 5
Design steps 4 - 5

Step 4: Draw these straight 4-square lines outward from the squares as shown. Once again, careful positioning is necessary.

Step 5: Complete the parallelograms with diagonal 5-square lines. This gives you four “blocks” to make appear as 3-dimensional.

Once you are satisfied with your diagram and have erased any unnecessary marks, retrace the design (using the straight-edge) with a permanent black fine-line pen or marker. This will make it easier to transfer the design to your needlepoint canvas. The easiest way to do this is to tape the design to the glass of a sunny window. Center the canvas over the design and tape the canvas to the windowpane. Press against the canvas with your free hand while you trace the design on the canvas with pencil. You can then correct any tracing errors and re-trace the lines with pen or marker if you like.

Your next decisions will depend on what you wish to do with the pattern. If you are doing a sample or a small picture, you will want to use a larger mesh canvas, probably no finer than #10. you can use either fabric canvas or plastic canvas for these purposes. For a pillow top or similar item, you will want a finer mesh fabric canvas like #14. The stitches can either be done as long upright gobelin stitches or as tent stitches.

shaded Bachelor's puzzle design

The diagram above shows the method of shading the design. You will need three shades of your chosen color: a very light, a medium, and a dark. Bear in mind that these illusions often show up best on black or a very dark blue, green, red, or brown. Dark backgrounds are my personal choice; however, that does not mean that you cannot use white or a light color for the background. Be sure that your darkest design shade is enough lighter than your dark background that it will show up well. Conversely, be sure that your lightest color is enough darker than your light background color that it doesn't just blend into the background.

three shades of yarn
Three shades of yarn

Here are the steps for making the design:

1) Work the four squares first, using the lightest of your three design colors. These represent the ends of the “blocks”.

stitching step 1

2) Use the medium color on the sides that are a light gray in the diagram.

stitching step 2

3) Use the darkest shade on the dark gray shaded sides in the diagram.

stitching step 3

4) Fill in the center square with your background color. You can have as much background as you like around the finished design motif. It need not be square (although I would recommend a square pillow top), but may be rectangular, circular, or even hexagonal. You are limited only by your imagination.

5) Back-stitch along dividing lines as needed.

Bachelor's Puzzle finished
Bachelor's Puzzle finished, framed, and hung


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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Questions & Answers, 2016

Orange butterfly picture by J.J.
Orange butterfly picture by J.J.
I made a hot-iron transfer from the Butterfly chart (June 1, 2016) according to your directions (October 6, 2013). I did the pattern with X's and did the embroidery in cross-stitch. My colors weren't all the same as the ones one the chart, but they were close. I put the butterfly on the back yoke of a denim shirt and I really like it. Now my 12-year-old daughter wants a butterfly on the back of her shirt and my pattern is too big. Do you have a smaller butterfly pattern I could use? It doesn't have to be the same butterfly.”

Thank you for telling me about the interesting way in which you used the pattern. I love to get information like that! I'll be glad to give you a pattern that should be small enough for your daughter's shirt. This one should be enough smaller to fit. I hope it does and that she likes it! This pattern is for the smallest of the three butterflies on the wall hanging (March 21, 2016). The colors represent those of a real butterfly, but you are free to use any colors you choose.

Small butterfly from latch hooked wall hanging
Small butterfly from latch hooked wall hanging
If your daughter wants her butterfly in the same colors as yours, you can do the following steps:

1. Leave the body of the butterfly (F) brown and the antennae black.
2. Substitute violet for the darkest brown (A) on the wings.
3. Substitute lavender for the light orange (B).
4. Substitute purple for the dark orange (C).
5. Substitute cream, white or whatever you used around the edges for the light tan (E) on the upper wings.
6. Substitute mauve or rose for the medium brown (D) on the lower wings.
Here's the chart.

Readers, look for a chart for the third (center) butterfly from the wall hanging on one of our autumn blog posts.

Butterflies come in a huge variety of colors, but the colors are not evenly distributed worldwide. Here in temperate North America, the main colors are black, white, yellow, orange and brown. Purple and blue are less common and true red and green are rare. However, those colors can be found on many butterflies from the tropics. In fact, you can make up a fanciful fantasy butterfly and later find out that a live one very similar to it exists somewhere on earth. I'm beginning to think that fact applies to flowers, too. A couple of years ago, I did a large needlepoint of a daylily, giving it all sorts of unusual shades of color. This spring I opened a garden catalog and there was “my” daylily being offered as a brand new variety!

The little lion on checked gingham (July 31, 2016) is so cute! What stitches did you use?”

Head of lion on checked gingham
Head of lion on checked gingham
Basic blackwork (October 6, 2013) is done with 4 small, straight stitches: a vertical stitch in the center of the squares a horizontal stitch in the center of the squares, a stitch slanting from lower left to upper right, and a stitch slanting from lower right to upper left. If you combine the first two, you get a plus sign (+). If you combine the second two you get an x (a cross-stitch). The more of these stitches you place in a given square, the darker the area of stitching appears. The darkest area of the lion is that of his back legs, which were made by stitching a cross-stitch in each square and then stitching a horizontal stitch across the middle of each x. All the patterned areas were designed this way. Each individual area was outlined with plain chain stitch. The eyes, nose, tongue and fangs are done in solid chain (October 31, 2015), sometimes called Beauvais embroidery. You begin by outlining, but continue stitching around and around inside the outline until the area is completely filled with stitches. I'm glad you liked the little fellow!

Finally, some gardening questions, which I will turn over to J.D.

What have you been able to grow in your straw bales? (April 30, 2016)”

Spice basil growing in straw bale
Spice basil growing in straw bale
The bale gardening experiment has had mixed results: in one batch of bales, I seeded summer savory, curled cress, sylvetta, chervil, and mustard spinach quite successfully and transplanted some fennel plants, all of which are doing pretty well. In another set of bales, things have not gone as well, though I do have one batch of a special spiced basil variety doing fairly well. In the third set, zilch. The limiting factor has been how thoroughly I could soak the bales regularly both before and after planting. The soaker hose setups popular in much of the literature simply can’t do the job in our arid climate. Fortunately, I can try again in the infertile bales next year with a new watering system.

Your irises are so beautiful, and seem to grow so well! I haven’t had much luck with irises, but you’ve inspired me to order some from a catalog – they’ll be here in the fall. Any advice for me?”

Well, if you saw the collage of iris pictures in our July 10, 2016 post then you probably saw my instructions for transplanting in the same article. The only things I would add are: 1) Make sure you don’t cover the rhizome (the thick, gnarly part) when you cover the roots (the skinny, dangly parts) – the rhizome needs to breathe; 2) Make sure your soil has good drainage, irises don’t like wet feet. If you have clay or other heavy soil, add some sand or other amendment to be sure excess water drains and doesn’t stand where you’ve planted; 3) Don’t baby the irises, they seem to thrive on benign neglect.

good gnus iris
Iris, out by the alley...
A couple of years ago, Annake got three fancy batik irises of different colors. Two of these were planted in selected special locations, and carefully nursed along. They do all right, giving us a couple of nice blooms each year, but that’s about all. There was no good place for the third plant at the time, so I stuck it out by the alley, just out of the gravel, in a location that gets irregular sun and absolutely no irrigation. Of course, it has thrived – it’s multiplied and needs dividing now, and throws up multiple heavy blooms from every stalk.

At one point you mentioned that you were going to try some new methods for starting plants. Did anything ever come of that?”

J.J., my sister, did forward me an article about starting cuttings in raw potatoes; so, I got a sack of cheap russets at the grocery store before I bothered to do any real research on the subject. I found out that many grocery store potatoes are treated in some fashion to keep them from sprouting in storage, and that these should NOT be used to start cuttings. Sure enough, not a single potato from that bag ever developed any ‘eyes’ (sprouts), and I tossed them all when they started to rot.


About the time I brought those potatoes home, we found a stem broken off one of Annake’s potted geraniums on the greenhouse floor. Since I didn’t yet know any better, I bored a hole in one of the potatoes and stuck the stem in to try to salvage it, and put the whole assemblage on the back of the greenhouse bench. After my research, I knew nothing would come of the whole exercise, but I never got around to tossing the stem and potato on the compost pile. So, I was flabbergasted when Annake showed me the cutting a couple of weeks ago, not only growing but blooming!

geranium in potato
Geranium cutting blooming in a potato
It seems that the geranium never bothered to read the articles that said you can’t use treated potatoes.

Until next time: go make something, grow something, and have a great summer,

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