Monday, October 17, 2016

Autumn Questions and Answers, 2016

Butterfly reference samples
Butterfly reference samples from May 21, 2016 post
Why do you use so many photos, drawings and even fabrics for reference?

Because every photographer, artist, and designer sees something different in the subject and consciously or not emphasizes that difference in his or her work. Viewing their differences causes me to look much more closely at the subject than I might have done on my own. I always see things that I never noticed before, even about very familiar subjects. After absorbing as many impressions as I can, I choose the characteristics that I want to emphasize in my own work. On another day, I might look at the same collection and make entirely different choices. That was a good question!

I'm a fairly new reader of your blog. I went to your archive and have been working my way through early posts. I really like the Spanish blackwork, especially the onion domes. (February 27, 2014) I copied the patterns and would like to do some pictures, but I have a couple of problems. I can't draw so I need some kind of outline to work with. I don't want to use children's designs like you suggested from coloring books and I don't care much for flowers. What kind of things do you think would look good in blackwork and where do I find patterns for outlines? (This is condensed from a longer message.)

Gymnasts 'flower' mandala
Gymnasts 'flower' mandala
Welcome to Annake's Garden! What a delight it is to have such a thorough and enthusiastic reader! I hope you find many techniques to enjoy in past, present, and future blog posts. For now, however, let's consider the blackwork. My first thought was of mandalas. These are traditionally circular designs. My gymnastic “flower” (August 31, 2016) is a mandala. They were originally inspired by intricate designs made for Buddhist and Hindu religious ceremonies. You may have seen Tibetan monks on television creating an elaborate mandala sand painting.

During the current era of popularity for adult coloring books, there are whole volumes devoted to mandalas. These can feature anything from cats to Cleopatra, trees to temples, or flags to fancy desserts. As interesting as these are, however, the areas are much too small to show off blackwork patterns. You would want a simple design with fairly large sections something like this framed quilt block (courtesy of J.D.'s sister J.J.). You could then fill in the sections with different blackwork patterns instead of these pieces of printed fabric. 

Mandala-like quilt block

Onion Domes blackwork on monk's cloth
"Onion Domes", blackwork on monk's cloth
Now let's think about topics. You liked the architectural look of the onion domes. You might want to do a picture of a Victorian house like the famous “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco, California; this was the subject of one of my earliest blackwork pictures. If you are more mechanically inclines, you might want to look at some Steampunk patterns. There is even a steampunk mandala adult coloring book. We recently had a parade of antique cars and trucks here in town; I thought at the time that some of them might be good subjects for a blackwork picture. There is always costume to explore, from wearable fashion to theatrical costumes (masks, too). For inspiration, check your library for a book on the work of Gustav Klimt, an artist who made masterful use of areas of intricate design in his paintings.

Antique automobiles coloring book
A good source for designs for any of these topics is Dover Publications. They have books of black and white line drawings. Just remember to copy only the basic outlines, not the tiny details which you plan to put in with embroidery. Calendars are a rich source of pictures of animals, landscapes, still-lifes, etc. I collect inexpensive ones from the dollar stores for my picture files. My friends are generous with their used ones at the end of the year, too. Keep in mind that the more stitches there are in a blackwork (diaper) pattern, the darker the area will appear when it is stitched. Good luck with your blackwork project. Have fun!

I've been practicing bargello patterns on needlepoint canvas and I think I'm pretty good at them. Now I want to make Christmas ornaments with the patterns on them. I have some cute cookie cutters to use for outlines. Can I just do a square of the bargello design, draw the cookie cutter outline on the back and cut it out?

No, no, no, no, NO! Never cut into a finished piece of stitched needlepoint! The cookie cutters are a great idea. Draw the outline on the front of your canvas. Stitch your pattern baseline somewhere near the center of the piece and work both upward and downward from it. Work right up to your drawn outline, using partial stitches where there is not enough room for a whole stitch. I've done a simple bell design to show you what I mean.

Bargello bell shape
Bargello bell shape, ready to turn into an ornament
Place your needlepoint face down on felt or another non-woven fabric and pin it in place. Stitch along the outline by hand or machine, leaving an inch (3 to 4 cm) or so unstitched so you can turn the ornament right-side-out. Cut around the outline, leaving about ¼ inch (1 cm) of canvas between the cut and the outline. Turn the ornament right-side-out. Use a smooth, blunt object like the handle of an aluminum crochet hook to push the outline smooth from the inside. Stuff the ornament if you like. Turn under the raw edges and stitch it closed. Thread yarn into a tapestry or darning needle and make a tied loop at the top of the ornament to act as a hanger.

Keep those questions coming!

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