NOTE: this post contains some thread changes. One of the advantages about having someone else stitch the piece and then tell you the fiber and stitch choices she made is that she makes all the mistakes and you get all the benefits! I am what I would term an “organic” stitcher. I start with a basic plan, but I make a lot of changes as I go along.
It’s been a long time since we got together to stitch! Since I wrote last, I’ve been on the road with markets to Las Vegas, Nashville, TN and Cleveland, OH. We did well at market, and I’ve been buried under orders ever since. I finally got my head above ground this last week, and I’ve been stitching up a storm in my off-time. I told my BFF designer-friend, Karen McVean, of Strictly Christmas, that I had stitched two hours on Monday and two hours on Tuesday and that I was now four hours behind on shipping. Ugh. Anyway, I’ve done a lot of stitching on this Mary Charles “Patriotic Barn” since my last post, so this will be a long one.
One of the reasons I haven’t posted in a while is that I had to face, and then do, ripping out all the dark blue in my sky. I finally gathered enough strength to face it while we were in Cleveland. We had a beautiful view of Lake Erie, so after the market, I would
come back to my 27th floor room, pull the desk chair up to the windows and start picking out the Basketweaved sky. The view was the only thing that kept me motivated to taking out over 10 square inches of sky. Why the “retro-stitching”? Back in January, I started stitching the darker sky color in an overdyed pearl from Threadworx that I had picked up while visiting Gina at Stitcher’s Paradise in Vegas. My original sky was a couple of solid wool threads and I had decided they were too thick and I was worried about the abrupt color change, and the harsh line it would create, from the lighter sky near the horizon and the darker sky above. Gina had a gorgeous Threadworx color for the darker sky, but she didn’t have a companion color for the bottom, lighter sky in stock. I figured I would order it when we came home. Big mistake! NEVER, in fact, let me bold that, NEVER, assume there is a companion thread if it’s not hanging right there in front of you! After calling stores for a week, I finally called Tony of Threadworx, and it turns out that the company doesn’t manufacture the pearls in all of the colors that their floss comes in. Geez! Fortunately, Tony was a big help and he sent me the same darker color in a six-strand floss and then found a lighter overdyed floss for the lighter sky. Now that I have the two FLOSS fibers stitched in, I have to admit that the ripping out was worth the wait. I really love the effect of the two colors.
Enough ripping, let’s get back to stitching!
The first thing to notice is that I finished our flag. After stitching the cream background in, I went over the area with five chain-stitched stripes. Joan Lohr suggested this and it was a good choice. The chain stitch allows us to flexibility to keep the stripes flowing freely. It’s also a traditional embroidery stitch that adds to the primitive folk art feel of
Mary Charles’ painting. Good choice! We used Rainbow Gallery Silk Lame’ Braid in #SL97. I continued the glitz by stitching the blue panel in Silk Lame’ #SL159. I did that in Staggard Cross (page 247, The Needlepoint Book by Jo Christensen. BTW, I met Jo and her husband last fall at the Dallas trade show – they are the sweetest couple!). I choose this stitch because it leaves me with spaces to add white beads in later for the little stars.
For the flagpole, I looked for a stitch that would be both raised and look rounded, so it would stand above the sky background. I started with the cap by just layering cross stitches across the cap, starting with the widest first and finishing with the top one in
the middle. I then used Van Dyke (page 337, The Needlepoint Book) paired with Rainbow Gallery’s Rainbow Linen #R457 for the actual pole.
Using Burnelana #3887, I stitched the three tree trunks in Interlocking Gobelin (page 191, The Needlepoint Book), modifying it to fit the curves, especially on the yellow tree.
Ok, let’s move on – there’s more to stitch!
OK, maybe not stitching just yet: (this should have been done BEFORE we put our first stitch in the canvas, but, I didn’t know then what I know now) because I have a basic plan of what I want to do with the decorative stitches in this piece, I have some prep work to do. In order to use certain canvas stitches the way I want, I need to do some “adjusting” by – and let me assure you that this is not needlepoint sacrilege! – painting out some areas. If you do this quick step, it will be so much easier on you down the road. Here’s what I’ve painted out. I want to use a leaf stitch for my grass that is four threads wide. If I stitch what is painted, I will have one awkward thread on the left that i will have to compensate in. Or, I can paint out the entire left thread and not compensate. It’s an easy choice and an easy fix by painting out the left vertical thread. (in full disclosure, I tried to remember not to stitch the left vertical thread, but kept forgetting, so it made sense sanity-wise just to paint out the thread with white acrylic paint.
Voila! Now my overall design-width perfectly accommodates a four-thread wide leaf stitch. When I painted out the white thread, I found that my far left fence post was now on the outside thread. I could have left it there, but it wasn’t that big a deal to grab some blue and some off-white (technical names are Liquitex acrylic paints: Swedish Blue for the sky and Unbleached Titanium for the off-white). I then decided that I only wanted to stitch two legs on my sheep, so I simplified them by painting out the extra legs. I used
Liquetix Chromium Oxide Green with a touch of Cadmium Yellow Medium and lightened it all up with white until the color was a perfect match. Although not photographed, I’m also painting out the wagon wheels – I’m going to stitch my wheels over the grass. I prefer Liquitex Acrylic paint, because it is a top-quality paint with consistent colors, but you can use a much cheaper Delta Cremecoat or a similiar brand and probably match the colors without all the mixing.
Now that we’ve done some prep work to get the canvas just right, let’s move on to stitching!
I have plans for some decoratives that we want to use further down the road. I like texture and dimension a lot, but to achieve that, you often need to build upon some basic ground work, which, to me, means Basketweave or another “quiet”, low-keyed stitch.
We need to get this sky stitched in, but before we start, I figured it would be easier to stitch around the fence posts than try to cram them in after the sky was done, so I first
put the fence posts in. I ran two threads of Rainbow Gallery Elegance Silk Pearl #8 in #E840 parallel to the painted vertical thread. Then I went back and x-stitched over them. This helps to pad the posts enough to visually lift them above the sky level.
Now that that’s done, lets head to the sky. First up, either xerox or snap a picture with your phone to make a copy of the sky – you’ll need that when it’s time to figure out where to place your stars. (You may see hints of white painted stars under your threads, but the photo/xerox helps you at least find them.)
I have a lot of decorative stitches planned on this canvas, so I needed to designate a couple of “quiet” areas. I had a teacher, when I first started taking classes, that always reminded us that you need Basketweave areas for your eye to rest. In other words, not every stitch needs to be busy, busy, busy. I’ve seen some pieces that are so “overstitched” that you can’t even tell what the original object is supposed to be. Basketweave helps the decorative stitches shine! Basketweave is our friend! Because I wanted to do a decorative star stitch, I chose to Basketweave the entire sky using an overdyed floss from Threadworx (see below). By using the overdyed in a Basketweave stitch, I created some subtle lights and darks to the sky without overpowering the decoratives above and around it.
First, if you haven’t finished stitching your roof, do that before starting the sky; otherwise, you’ll have a heck of a time stitching the edges of the roof against the Basketweave.
Turn your canvas upside down and basketweave (starting at horizon line) and stitch the light blue sky first, going one thread around the top of the trees.Stitch the lighter area of the sky in Threadworx Hand Overdyed Floss in #10160.
As you get around the tree, you will notice that the light blue fades into dark blue. Here’s how to make a smooth transition from light to dark:
Blend your the threads like so:
Working in Continental, stitch your first row over the tree tops using all light thread.
Remove one strand of light blue floss and add one strand of dark blue (4 lights + 1 dark). Stitch across the top of the tree one row in Contintntal. The dark blue is Threadworx Hand Overdyed Floss in #10151 NOTE: you need TWO skeins of the darker fiber.
The second row of blended threads uses three light strands and two dark strands.
Repeat with 2 lights + 3 darks
Repeat with 1 light + 4 darks
Repeat with all dark threads (#10151) using Basketweave and work your way down to the top of the canvas (remember, I turned my canvas upside down to make it easier to sort out the blending rows).
Note that I carried the arc of the light sky around the tree to the right of the flag pole. On this side, I made two rows of each blend, just to keep the arc from plunging to severely towards the horizon.
Once my sky was stitched in, I went back with Rainbow Gallery Neon Rays #NP10 and made five-pointed stars using RobIn King’ star stitch (found on Pinterest) for the larger stars, 2×2 cross-stitches for the small stars and a cross-stitch for the single dot stars. The only two tricks to this easy stitch are 1) keeping your threads flat coming out of the canvas and back into the canvas, AND, 2) making sure that your stitches are uniform and all crossing in the same direction. This works up quick and feeds my need for practically instant gratification (especially after stitching all that Basketweave!)
Finally, I added the fence railings using one strand of our Elegance Silk Pearl #8 in E840 and long stitches from rail to rail. Quick and easy!
Note that in order to insure that you, or my cat, Diva, can’t pull out the long-stitches, use this trick to anchor your thread to the back: run your tail up the vertical barn board about five stitches, loop the needle back through the last thread and run it under another five or six threads. Snip off excess. Note: and don’t show Juli Poitras of JP Needlepoint this pic of the back of my canvas! I said something on Facebook last week about someone’s back looking as good as their front, and she said she didn’t know our backs needed to be as good as our fronts and I said that of course they should and that she should stop stitching her really cute canvas immediately if she wasn’t doing that – LOL. Basically, I was just trying to get her to quit stitching up so many models and making me look bad because it takes me six months between stitches when I’m working on models.
That catches us up! Sorry for the long post, but now we are all back up to speed. Next week, we’ll have more time to chat and work on a specific area instead of stitching all over the place.
Bring popcorn and I’ll find us a good Netflix marathon to stitch by!