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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