Monday, January 25, 2010

Developing Plaid in Needlepoint - more on the Egg

The egg is moving along, but slowly, as I've had too many other things going on this week.

For the white on this plaid, I've used the DMC floss #3865, which is not the bright white, the "Blanc" we're more used to, but just barely "off white." Very nice! The Smyrna Cross frame around the oval is the blanc pearl cotton, as I wanted it to stand out and make a statement.

While working on the egg a few days ago, I remembered another piece I was doing several years ago, in which I was bored and tired of the project, so decided to see what would happen if I worked the weft horizontals in the plaid with beads instead of thread - the results were amazing, and put me on a whole new path in my work with beads and needlepoint!

See that post on the other blog, (Possibilities, Etc.) If this hadn't been about creating plaid and using it for something specific, I would have used beads on this egg. I was so enchanted with this "beaded solid" look, that I used it for yet another plaid - this time one I saw as an upholstery fabric in a magazine. It's actually one with stripes of equal width, but separated by very narrow stripes of gold - perfect for an evening bag.

This picture is a photo of a scan of the original sample, (I lost it long ago) so does't really show how striking it is with the beads. - but you can get the idea. Also, this demonstrates another small variation one can do to develop a plaid.

The next picture shows what we would normally think of as "gingham," but with an extra color added. Such an easy thing to do - just one little change creates a new look. The blue and green "tartan" is another one created by simply starting with some favorite colors and playing with widths of stripes. I added the dark blue, as it needed something for accent to keep from being dull.
After you start playing with this yourself, you will certainly begin to notice plaids everywhere - make little sketches even at the supermarket if you can. I always enjoy the challenge of working out a new one - but remember that using these on a specific project takes more planning as to scale, etc. - width of stripes, and their placement. A great creative endeavor, it is.
ADDENDUM: These plaid swatches are from my book on PLAID for NEEDLEPOINT, which is available - and soon to be offered as an E-book also. There are many more, as well as instructions on how to set them up for use on specific projects - and also how to design your own. This is on my web page, Elegant Whimsies.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Garnets (in beads) for January!

I didn't get this piece finished, yet again. I started it last year, and really enjoyed creating the antique "garnet" lavolier - just had to do a necklace, as garnets seem to require it. This one is made with my "beaded solid but isn't really" technique - just looks that way. (very easy) Anyway, I think my problem with January Birthday Crazy Quilt Heart is that I could not figure out how to do effective carnations - the flower for the month. I have silk ribbon in the appropriate colors, but wanted a flatter effect than I've seen in any instructions - and couldn't work it out myself. Oh well. I didn't want to fail to at least show a bit of January - with ice crystals and snow and "fir tree green."

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Project in Plaid for Needlepoint: An Egg

Learning to create and then stitch a plaid is one thing - knowing how to set one up for a project is another. I decided to do an egg with an initial on it - but it's been a while, so I made a few mistakes, which I'll show anyway. Errors in judgment. "Haste is the enemy of perfection" etc.

I decided it needed an oval with the initial - but I miscounted when drawing it on, and it is quite lopsided. On this first picture, I had painted it out and re-drawn it.

Anyway, I consulted, again, my favorite little book on letters - the French book I bought at The NeedleWorks here in Austin. (Colleen keeps this one in stock, and will gladly sell you one if you contact her.)

A word here about the charts in these books - they are, of course, graphed, and intended for cross stitch - but I have used them for many years for needlepoint, as all one has to do to translate is to make a tent stitch for every little square instead of a cross stitch as you would on fabric. Quite simple.

I wanted to put the initial into an oval, so the first thing to do, after I drew (stitch counted for symmetry) the egg outline, was to sketch an oval on tracing paper, ink it when it looked right, and then put it under the egg on canvas.

It was centered on an even count, as I wanted to outline it in Smyrna crosses for a different effect with pearl cotton. Then, the letter was centered on the oval - which was done with a DecoColor paint pen in green. The next thing was to "size" the checks I originally wanted to use - scale is very important on a specific piece, and using tiny little narrow stripes wouldn't look right - so I settled on four threads wide. Then - decided just a plain gingham would be boring, so I did the four thread pink stripes, but put six threads of white, split by two threads of light green in the center - thus creating an actual "tartan."

I made the marks with the Sharpie paint pens so they're easy to work on. By doing this, you can see how a plaid develops, as you add and substract the number of threads - and add more colors if you wish. At this point, you'll start noticing plaids everywhere you go!! - and figuring out how you'd work them into a needlepoint project.

In the photo you can see the stripes as they are stitched - beginning, anyway - and the arrows point to where I was one thread off centering the initial. I cannot count correctly late at night. Those marks around the egg are kind of "hairy" looking - but they'll disappear in the finishing. Just looking at this thing, I started to visualize all kinds of things one could do with an egg shape and fun fibers!! Put things we've learned to good use.

One thing I failed to mention - that you can see in this last picture, is that I made a decision to center the pink stripe. I made a sketch to scale on drawing paper first, and placed the canvas over it - adjusted it to see which would be most effective as the center motif. If you count them, you can see that there are seven pink stripes (including the very edges) and six of the white/green/white stripes. As pink is the predominant and stronger color, I wanted to use the format of 7.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Stitching Plaid: A Gingham Variation in Needlepoint

If you came here from the other blog, you are probably totally confused now about the terminology of this thing - I'm going to revert to what we call things now, which is much easier - I was fascinated with the information as I researched it, so had to pass it along.

Anyway, the first picture is a swatch of needlepoint I stitched from a really pretty fabric I saw on a quilt. This is where I get the plaids I like to adapt to needlepoint. I find them in decorating magazines as upholstery fabric, and in all kinds of other catalogues and magazines, on the internet, of course, - and at the grocery store where people are wearing them.

When you start creating your own, you'll start seeing them everywhere, and be more aware of them. This one is so simple, I thought it would be a good one to illustrate setting it up. I decided on this scale - a small square of 18 mesh canvas - to make each stripe just four threads wide. On a larger project, I would increase the width of each stripe. Correct scale is very important to the look of a piece of needlepoint incorporating a plaid, and it's so easy to create.

I used to use the black Pilot pen to make the markings, but the Sharpie drawing pens in color have made life easier, as it's now less confusing in the stitching. Here, I used blue and yellow, of course, and left the white stripes with no marks at all. Started in the first photo with just the blue to show how it's done. I did use the black pen to draw a corner as a guide.

The second picture shows the yellow stripes marked, and also blue and yellow down the side where the weft will be worked - just as with weaving a fabric. The loom is warped, then the weaving is done with weft. I chose, on this swatch, since the blue/yellow/blue stripe is visually heavier than the b/w/b, to center it for symmetry. (I'm picky about this, even on a little demonstration.)

Stitching is begun on the vertical stripes - always first - and worked on the WARP threads, as that is the strength of any fabric, including needlepoint canvas. Starting with the weft - going across - would distort the canvas. Only basketweave is used here, but "skipped" to use every other stitch, leaving the weft stitches bare for filling in the horizontal stripes.
The last picture indicates beginning the warp - and the arrow points to the weft stitch. This is where the fun begins, as the stripe goes on across, filling in and making little solid squares, etc. - and where it crosses another color, it's a different look.

In doing a multicolor plaid, it never gets boring!! I plan to have an actual project - even if it's only a simple egg shape with an initial or space for silk ribbon flowers - to show how to actually USE a plaid you've created yourself.

If you look at this little plaid a bit, you can see how easy it would be to make a new pattern (your own Tartan, perhaps) by just widening a stripe, adding a line of another color, etc. etc. - it can be very addictive once you get started!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Needle Threading 101

Threading a tapestry needle for needlepoint has been such an automatic action for me for so many years, I tend to forget that some people haven't experienced anything yet but threading a sewing needle with more manageable threads.

When I was first taught to do needlepoint, I was fortunate to have been shown the very easy way to thread a needle with Persian wool, which is what we used 140 years ago when I was young.

In the last few weeks, I have actually had several people ask me for an easy way to do this - something I just take for granted and don't think about. However, I do remember having ladies in beginners' classes who tried to moisten the end of the thread with their tongues, as we did sewing thread, and complaining about a lot of fuzz in their mouths. Not necessary, I'm happy to say.

The first photo shows needle threaders. On the left is a wire threader which is included in a package of beading needles - it's rather flimsy, and doesn't last long, even with just the cotton floss I use for beads on needlepoint. The center threader is quite sturdy, and even has the big hole for use with large eye tapestry needles and rug yarn. I usually just safety pin this one to my canvas so it doesn't go astray. On the right is another wire threader, but this one, purchased from Colleen at the NeedleWorks here in Austin, lasts quite a while - amazing in its durability!! These are available in packages of two.

The next photo illustrates the usual way to thread a needle for needlpoint: Simply pull the thread around the end of the needle tightly, then remove the needle and pinch the thread loop down between thumb and forefinger until it disappears. Then, when you allow it to pop back up, it will go right through the eye of the needle - quite easy when you've had practice!!

NEVER use a tapestry needle that's bigger than should be used on the size canvas you're working on, as that will also distort the holes in the canvas and ruin the beauty of your stitches. I've seen this suggested, in order to have a larger eye to work with, but it's counter-productive and not necessary.

A word about this - I use the John James tapestry needles, and there is one that's called "Tweens" - a size 21, which is between the size 20 I use for 13 mesh, and the 22 normally used for 18 mesh. I like this size 21 for 18 mesh canvas. (Also available from Colleen)
The next two pictures illustrate the "pinching" the thread to disappear, and then letting it pop right through the needle's eye. Try it - it will make your life easier.
The last desparate measure, when all threaders have been lost in the carpet or on the floor of the car, and the thread is too fuzzy or fat for pinching, is to simply cut a little paper triangle, fold in half and insert the end of the thread. Then push the point of the triangle through the eye of the needle far enough to pull the thread on through - and remove the paper.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year Already

An explanation for this header - I still haven't finished the January Crazy Quilt Heart for this month. I'm working on it, and trying to remember what I was going to do with it besides the required silk ribbon carnations. I'll have it up in a few days, hopefully - at least with the garnets and flowers.

Anyway, the header is from a plaid piece I started several years ago and had to put aside for lack of time and lots of other plaid things I wanted to do. I am a great fan of Emily Dickinson, and have always loved this quote of hers - which is why I named my Needlepoint Now article "Possibilities," and also my other blog - Possibilities, Etc.

She also said, "To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else." She might have said "to stitch needlepoint leaves little time for anything else."

I've been planning for over a month to do a detailed tutorial on my plaids - how to set them up for specific projects, etc., and how to stitch them freehand, as I do - very very simple. I already have the book, which I did about five years ago, but now am working on an update to offer as an e-book on my web page.

This close up of the upper left corner of the unfinished pillow shows the vertical stripes stitched already on the warp, which is always done first because of the strength of the weave - and you can see, where the arrow points, the background (pink) being stitched horizontally. this is what makes it so entertaining to do - it's wonderful to see the difference it makes to have it solid.

Also, see the yellow horizontal stripes. This is an unusual plaid, in that it only has the yellow elements, and not repeats of the verticals, as in tartans. (which composes a sett). I don't remember where I saw this plaid, but do remember loving the colors - so I manipulated it to fit around the quote. We'll deal with this another time.
In this shot of the lower right, you can see where the yellow stripes have started across the verticals, and where they cross the green, a new color is formed - this is also one of the delights in working plaid without paint!!
You can also see the marks I made for guidance in stitching. I have since discovered the joy of using paint pens for this step - it's much easier than making the black marks, and less confusing.
I plan to do several projects - in detail how to plan and set them up, and where to find good ones for inspiration. Even belts and dog collars! I don't use numbers for this - I developed my own way about 35 years ago, so that's a new one for me - never heard of it until recently. I'll also deal with Scottish tartans at a later date - wonderful things, they are!