Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Quickpoint Project

Daffodils in the garden
Spring daffodils
Our project for today will be another picture in my “Close Encounters” series. I am working on #5 jute canvas, principally with acrylic and novelty yarns. Most of the work is done in continental (tent) stitch, but there are exceptions. I will discuss each of those as we come to it. To cover the canvas, I have used doubled strands of many of the yarns, giving the picture a homespun effect.

When I work on a picture, particularly if landscape is involved, I imagine that this is a real place and that I am am standing nearby observing it. (From behind a telephoto lens in this case, since a bear is involved!) I envision a sunny day in late spring or early summer. The highest mountains have not lost their snow cover, but the lower slopes are snow-free. The mountains slope away downward and toward the left, as do the lower layers in front of them. Although my approach to this picture is impressionistic, I will try not to break the rules of perspective and lighting.

Bear outlined on canvas
Bear outlined on canvas
You will notice that the canvas is printed with a pattern of 10-by-10 squares. That means that each blue square on the canvas encloses 100 empty squares. This type of canvas is especially good if you are going to do a detailed square-by-square pattern of your design before you begin stitching. This time, however, I am just going to indicate the major areas of my picture by drawing lines on the canvas with a permanent black marker. I go over the marks with a sheet of paper towel to remove any loose color that might come off on the yarn as I stitch. I am using minimal guidelines so that I can make changes as I work.

Canvas lashed to picture frame
Canvas lashed to picture frame
Once I am satisfied with my design, J. D. laces the canvas to the top of the frame I plan to use for the finished project. When the canvas is firmly stabilized on the frame, he ties off the lacing and cuts it. I can then hold the frame with one hand and put stitches in firmly with the other. This gives me tension to make my stitches as even as possible. I highly recommend securing your canvas this way. If you do not pull your stitches too tight, you should not have much if any blocking to do on the finished canvas. A gentle steam pressing should be enough.

Small balls of yarn stored in egg cartons
Small balls of yarn stored in egg cartons
Then I choose the colors and weights of the yarns I want to use. Since one of my major themes is saving money, I am going to use just what I have on hand. Some areas will need large amounts of yarn, while others will require only a few inches. I keep small balls of leftover yarn in egg cartons. I run the ends of the yarn through holes in the top of the carton so that I can see at a glance what yarns the carton contains. For each project, I fill one or more cartons with small quantities of the yarns I plan to use as small accents. Blunt-pointed tapestry needles with large eyes and a pair of sharp scissors complete my preparation.

Canvas with mountains stitched in
Canvas with mountains stitched in
I prefer to work by natural window light. I decided to stitch over the white knitting worsted tent stitches, but not over the gray ones. This gave the snowy mountains more depth and resolution. I make decisions like these constantly as I work and so should you. If your work doesn't please you, change it. Take out stitches and re-do them, stitch over them, change colors, blend colors, put in details or leave them out. If you don't make your work match your ideas, you may always be dissatisfied with the piece no matter how much other people admire it.

Canvas with sky added
...and the sky added
The next step was to stitch the large area of the sky. I continued in tent stitch, graduating the blue colors from a very light blue just above the horizon to a deeper, darker blue at the top of the picture. The light is coming from above and to the left side of the picture, with the sun about ten o'clock high in the sky.

Bear needlepoint with middle background
Needlepoint with middle background added
Then I turned to the middle distance. Here I sketched the lower slopes of the mountains, showing slopes of rock, dark green patches of evergreen forest, and lighter green areas of mountain meadows. As I moved down behind the bear's head to the neck and shoulders, I put in a section representing broad-leaved trees along a watercourse that is implied, but not actually seen, in the picture. (The land has leveled off here, although it still moves a little farther into the distance on the left side of the picture than on the right side.) In the shade below these trees, I stitched a few rows of a dark green yarn that has tiny fleck of color in it. Using single strands of Persian tapestry yarn and a small crewel needle to make tiny random stitches on the surface of the dark green yarn, I suggested a variety of plants growing and flowering in the shade.

Needlepoint with bear's head begun
Beginning to stitch the bear's head
The next step was to begin stitching on the bear's head. I worked from the outer layers inward, beginning with the ears. The bear is standing in sunlight in a field of wild sunflowers. The sun is bringing our the red tones in her coat. (Yes, I said her coat. I decided from the very beginning that my bear would be a young female.) She has just turned her head and is looking almost straight at the viewer because something has attracted her attention. This shows a bit more of her neck, cheek and muzzle on the left side of the picture and a bit more of her shoulder and ruff on the right.

Bear with face and shoulders filled in
Filling in the face and shoulders
In this step, I completed much of the bear's face, neck and the tops of her shoulders. The eyes, nose, and mouth will not be stitched until much later. The shoulder is more prominent on the right. That shoulder is “bunched”, because it is carrying more of her weight. A dark shadow runs down that side of her body, which is not struck directly by the sun. I sketched three wild sunflower blossoms and a couple of leaves in marker below the bear's head, leaving the guidelines for her upper chest, since some of her body will be visible between the flowers and leaves when they are done. A different color background was used for this photograph so that the faint sketched lines would be more readily visible.

Bear with sunflowers added
Sunflowers added in the foreground
Now I filled in the flowers, leaves and the bear's shoulders and chest, including the parts of her body that show between the flowers and leaves. Wild sunflowers have much smaller centers than domesticated ones. The number of petals varies, and the petals may be irregular.

Bear and sunflowers with near background detail
More detail added in the near background
I continued to fill in the background. As it grew closer to the foreground, I made larger random stitches for the flowers and gave them increasing size, shape, and definition. Not all of them are facing forward; some are seen from the side or the back. Leaves and stems are suggested. (This kind of surface embroidery can also be done after the picture is removed from the frame.) I emphasized the divisions between the petals of the large flowers in the foreground and added veins to their leaves. Back-stitching a lot of it emphasized other features in the picture, such as the rocky cliffs in the mid-ground and the tall trees along the watercourse. I try to be conservative with outlining, but only you can decide when you have done enough on your picture. A good rule to consider, however, is: “Don't put anything in that you are not willing to take out if the effect doesn't work!”

Oh, my goodness! Look at the time! We are doing a Farmers' Market this weekend. I hate to leave you with unfinished business, but I need to be in the greenhouse NOW! I'll be back in a couple of weeks with the completion of this project and much, much more.

In haste,

Bear with background complete and some back-stitching
To be continued - please bear with us...

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