Saturday, May 22, 2010

Needle Blended Shading: An Ornament Tutorial

I was looking through old picture files yesterday, hoping to find inspiration - and I did! I won't show the photo, as it's been so long, I don't remember who did the work. It's a block from an art crazy quilt that has four layers of shades of pink, embellished with embroidered seam treatments - which goes right along with what I'm doing these days in needlepoint.

As for the layers of shades of color, I decided it would be fine to do an ornament, but with needle blending, as Anne Stradal (The Cape Stitcher) taught me. She uses this technique for skies behind lighthouses and California missions. Charming!! I used it on my recent "Coral Reef" series to shade the sea water from light at the top to dark at the bottom of the ocean.

The first scan is one of the water droplets, where you can see the gradual shading from top to bottom. This is achieved (on 18 mesh canvas) by dividing the piece into equi-distant sections, using five if you're just using two shades of a color - which is quite enough!

Start on the first section with four plies of the lightest color. Then on the next one, three plies of the light, plus one of the dark. Next - two of each, then three of the dark and one light, and finish with four plies of the dark. Very easy! (using DMC cotton floss)

I worked on the red one first, but decided to make it larger for the pink one and use three shades of the pink. Be sure not to have the shades of color too far apart in value.

By using three shades, I had to use more divisions - and arrived at 8, so the little spaces are narrower. Also, I drew the ornament larger than the red one, which is from my collection of "traditional ornament shapes." (Available as E-Patterns on my web page.)

The ornament that is to be red is 4 1/8" wide. If you print this out, you may either just trace it onto canvas, or - better - go ahead and stitch draw it, following my drawing, as it's very easy - and much better to have it perfectly symmetric. On this one, I'm using Nobuko stitch for background.

The ornament that is to be shades of pink is 5" wide. By no means does it have to be divided into 8 segments for three shades - could also be worked beautifully with just the two shades on five segments. I had originally drawn these to do more of the Coral Reef things - using different shapes and salt water tropical fish. Will do that another time!!

ADDENDUM: It's Monday morning, and my mind seems to be coming back - I remembered where I saw the beautiful crazy quilt block which inspired the "layered" pink ornament! It was on the blog by Jo of New Zealand - No Matter Where I Go, I Always Meet Myself There - this is fun, informative, and very imaginative, as well as showing beautiful needlework.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Using DMC Memory Thread: a Tutorial

When first working with a new thread that isn't familiar to me, I like to experiment and find something a bit out of the ordinary, unexpected, but within the limitations and character.

Almost immediately, when I saw the DMC Memory Thread, I saw CORAL! It reminded me of a pink sea fan on my screen saver! This prompted a series of "Coral Reef" ornaments, that are featured in the new issue of Needlepoint Now in my article.

That was a lot of fun, and after seeing it "in print and in person," I was prompted to start another one, and realized how much I had learned about handling the Memory Thread and making stitches with it - trial and error.

This is one of the "water droplets" - and I'll be showing it as it progresses on the other otther blog. Anyway, the method is this: With NAIL CLIPPERS (I never use scissors for cutting needlepoint threads, as the clipper is so much easier, more efficient, and produces cleaner ends) clip off a piece about 12" - 14" long. I like to rub it back and forth a few times gently on a rounded table edge to remove any bends or kinks.

To begin, decide where the first stitch will be placed - I make a sketch of a general idea before beginning. Using a #18 tapestry needle, make a hole from front to back, (for placement) - kind of jiggle it around a bit so that the Memory Thread will go right through it. Poke the M.T. through it about an inch, and bend it down on the back. Then complete the Fly Stitch.

You'll be poking the M.T. through from back to front in "step 3" (the tail) of this stitch, so to identify where on the back to come back up, stick the needle through from front to back, and with the needle still in place, turn it over and see where to come back up with the M.T. (the first photo)

At this point, if the end is bent or frayed a little bit, simply clip off the very end to smooth it out and make it easy to push through the hole.

A mistake I made when I first started doing this was to neglect to poke the needle through from back to front, and eliminating this step made it very difficult to make the thread go through from back to front. I finally figured out that going from front to back was easy for a REASON. DUH! It's a good idea to keep a pair of tweezers close by for pulling the M.T. through if necessary - fingernails also work in a pinch.

Anyway, here I'm making fly stitches to create coral. The third photo is showing the "coral" almost finished.

The picture that inspired this one had some coral/peach color on it in this shape - so in addition to the yellow (#6170) I used a bit of #6060 to make the second part of each branch. Simple to do. I just made a stitch coming up from the back, sliding under the tail of the yellow stitch, and back down from front to back.

Last, the little polyps! I found a skein of DMC variegated Pearl Cotton that was the perfect color, weight, and texture for making French Knots here.
I won't pretend that this was easy, or that it didn't get a little tedious, but it's really well worth the effort - many of the threads we love affect us this way, but we use them because they produce the desired look, color and texture of our creations. If everything were easy, there would be no challenge to our creativity!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Tartan Tutorial

First an explanation of the header. Again I have not designed and stitched the Birthday Crazy Quilt heart for May - haven't had time, but maybe next year. If I start now, I can probably at least get "July" worked. For now, the roses are blooming beautifully in the yard, so I opted for June for the header for the next two months at least.

Next, I have begun a tutorial on setting up plaid ribbons (we in this country call tartans "plaid.") This will be on the other blog, from time to time - so tune in there if it's of interest to you. I'll do more traceable DIY type things here on Freebies.
This is showing the "set-up" I devised yesterday for stitching the Millenium Ribbon from Scotland.