Sunday, February 28, 2010

How to Choose a Painted Canvas: Elmer The Candy Cane Dog Stocking

The first and most important thing to do when you are choosing a painted canvas to stitch is to fall in love.  If you don't really like a design, the first time you run into a snag you will put it away into the Someday Pile, from which it will likely never emerge again.

I fell in love with Elmer here.

If you are going to do anything except tent stitch the design, it is easier to work with a simple canvas.  The beautifully drawn, realistic canvases with gorgeous shading are what I love but they are harder for a beginner at painted canvases to deal with.  Luckily I adore the Candy Cane Dog stocking from Kirk & Hamilton which I've named Elmer.  The dog isn't all that detailed and the background is very simple.  Plus if you look at the snowflakes, you can see that the painted area of each flake is carefully centered on each stitch intersection.  There is not going to be any question as to what is a snowflake stitch and what is a background stitch.

If you are a beginner at painted canvases, this is exactly the sort of canvas you should work with first.  It is simple and well painted but something I really like so I will enjoy stitching it.

After you fall in love and bring your canvas home, make a color copy.  I use copies as a template for finishing a design by cutting out the paper shape, then using it as a pattern for cutting the backing material and lining.  A color copy comes in handy if you need help figuring out where something belongs that you stitched over, too.  I sometimes also make a black and white copy to mark up with notes.

Now put the canvas and your copies away where you can't see them.  Once they are out of view, pull out some scratch paper and sketch what you remember of the canvas.  Tomorrow I'll tell you what I do with these scribbles.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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Introducing the Candy Cane Dog

This canvas is one I discovered at The Scarlet Thread during their closing sale last summer.  I didn't even know this counted thread shop carried painted canvases until almost The End, but luckily, the owner had this one on display at the checkout counter and it came home with me.

It took me a while to identify the designer as the English firm Kirk & Hamilton.  They have a nice website and I've also found some images of their painted canvases plus a few silk screened canvases on a British online site.

As you can see, there are similar cat themed canvases now available but they aren't on the website yet.

Here are the details about my Candy Cane Dog canvas, which is about 5 1/2 inches high and almost 3 1/2 inches wide at the base.  It is on 18 count canvas.  I didn't realize he was a beagle, but I am pleased that the designers intended the candy cane dog to be a beagle as my husband had a beagle when he was small.  Stories about Elmer and his antics have enlivened family gatherings since we married.

By the way, Old World Designs has a Kirk & Hamilton trunk show starting Monday, March 1st, if you want to pick up one of their canvases and stitch along with me.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stars: Marilyn Monroe is Finished

Last night I added the last few beads to my Marilyn Monroe block and added the last border to the design's top to see how it all looked together.  I wanted as much information as possible on this design so I could decide how the sashing would look with or without the purple metallic touches I was considering.

The photo shows the results.  First of all, I love the top violet border but discovered it is extremely difficult to keep the two strands of Impressions you need for full coverage straight, even with a laying tool.  I am leaving this for now but when I get to the "local" shops after I go to the Woodlawn exhibit, I will check to see if Vineyards Silks has a similar color as it will cover better with only one ply.  I would hate to leave this as bumpy-looking as it is now!

As you can tell, I decided it would look better to have all black sashing. In the poll, 47% of the voters thought touches of purple would look nice here, while 37% voted for all black and another 15% were undecided.  When I see how busy Marilyn Monroe is and look at other color versions of Stars (see link below for quite a few to browse), I can tell that I am going to need the restful solid black sashing and borders of plain black and plain violet to counteract the flash of the star blocks.  No matter what colors you use, solid lines of color help unify the busy star blocks in my opinion.

So my sashing will be plain black.

However, there is a problem with all black sashing--the terra cotta colored canvas shows through quite a bit.  I am going to have to either increase the thread coverage from 4 plies of silk to 5 or 6, or I'm going to have to color these areas with black marker.

I decided black marker was the way to go, so I'll be pulling out the sashing I have finished to color the areas black.  I will also color the middle border area black although I am not pulling out the stitching I have already finished at the top and left side.  The fern stitch offers better coverage than the fancy sashing stitches do.

Once the existing sashing is removed and the plain canvas areas blacked in, I will restitch the sashing you see above.  Then this canvas will be put aside for a while since I have a small painted canvas to start.

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Reminder: Woodlawn Exhibit Opens March 1

The Woodlawn Plantation Needlework Exhibit opens Monday, March 1st and is open daily from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m. every day in March.

To whet your appetite, here is a photo of one of last year's ribbon winners, courtesy of Nimble Needle.

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Friday, February 26, 2010


Someone announced on the ANG email list that Pocket Full of Stitches in Texas is going to stay open.  There were no details in the message but I assume this means the retiring owners have found a buyer for the shop.  Keep your fingers crossed!

UPDATE:  See Monica's comment below for the latest.  Thank you, Monica!

By the way, here is the Pocket Full of Stitches website.  If you are not familiar with the shop, you'll enjoy a browse.  It has many many happy customers!

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Stars: Beading Marilyn Monroe

Since my last posting, I have finished the parallelograms in Stitch Five, laid long slanting lines for Stitch Six, and built the bottom layer of the lattice-like Stitch Seven.  You can see all that in the above photo.

Stitch Six introduced a new thread:  black B2 which is Gold Rush 18 in color GD31C.  It's a woven chainette type metallic thread but the cut end of Gold Rush doesn't unravel the way many chain woven threads do.  It's a very nice thread that covers in long lines on 18 count well, but then it is Gold Rush EIGHTEEN.  Of course it is perfect for 18 count!  It introduces a lot of drama to the Marilyn Monroe block, doesn't it?

Stitch Seven's bottom layer is in the violet A2 which in my case is J.L. Walsh's silk-wool #1074.  This is a strand of soft silk and wool which is slightly variable in color which can be separated into 5 plies.  I used two of the plies for the foundation of Stitch Seven.  Some J. L. Walsh silk/wool blends are solid in color and some are overdyed.  1074 is the latter.

The middle step in Stitch Seven is to put what Tony calls Strap Cross on top of the latticework.  For this I am supposed to use a strand of violet A1 which is Impressions #6042, also a silk/wool blend.  I was a little skeptical that the Impressions called for in the instructions would work together without Impressions hiding the J. L. Walsh underneath it.  So I moved to Plan B.  I used 2 plies of my A3 thread (which is the violet Splendor silk floss in color S1086) instead.  Interestingly enough, this silk looks more blue when laid on top of the bluish violet J. L. Walsh silk than it does when laid on top of the terra cotta DMC floss it is paired with in the squares that surround the center star in this block.

The final step of Stitch Seven is to add accent stitches in black B1 which in my case is 2 plies of Soie Crystale black silk floss #0020.  When I completed the last of Stitch Seven, the design was officially finished but I thought the holes at the top and bottom of each center black cross leg were too prominent (probably because I lightened the thread for Stitch Seven) so I put beads in them.  In the above photo you can see half the block beaded and half not beaded, so you can compare the two looks.  I am using Mill Hill's Magnifica beads # 10120 which are a dark terra cotta color similar to the same color in the overdyed Silk N Colors that tops the center star of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe is not quite finished.  Once I finish the beading, she will be and then I will turn my attention to the sashing blocks tomorrow and reveal what I have decided to do. there.  Once the sashing is done, I will only need to do the outside border on the top and can put Stars away for a little while.

While you wait, you will certainly want to visit the designer Laura Perin's blog to see her pink/green/lavender/apricot version of Stars, which is magnificent!  Laura has been working on this a while and is much further along than I am.  Ignore all her praise of me for talking her into picking this up again.  I just wanted to see her lovely colors develop!  I think this is my favorite colorways of all the Stars I have seen, so I can't take credit for selfishly wanting to see more.

If you are tired of watching Stars versions, then go see the Needle Works' blog to see wonderful photographs of an upcoming Tony Minieri piece, some spectacular finished stitching from customers, see the new store under construction and of course proof that it does occasionally snow in Texas!

In Blog news, I've adjusted all my titles' color to be deep black instead of charcoal and made the header title deep plum to help things be clearer.  I am also still rebuilding my blog list but still can't move it from the bottom of the page.  So I am reducing the number of blog entries on the first page to three so you don't have to scroll down past five entries to find it.  I hope all these little cosmetic changes help make Blog more readable for you, Dear Reader!

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stars: Continuing Marilyn Monroe

I have continued to work on the first quilt block star.  In the photo above, you see the completed purple corners that surround the central star I talked about last time, plus the copper wings in stitch five and the light terra cotta flanking patterns around the copper wings that makes up stitch six.  (By the way, the photo shows the copper wings as silver but they are a light copper color.)

The corner wings were tricky to stitch as each stitch's holes are covered by the previous stitch.  These were done in copper metallic Color D4 instead of D1 which is what Tony tells you to do.  My D1 thread is DMC metallic floss which gave me fits when I tried to lay it properly for this stitch so I switched to my D4 color (Kreinik 021 in #8 fine braid).  It looks good with the other colors and the Diagonal Fishtail Areas make a nice braided corner in Kreinik metallics.

The Parallelograms that make up the fifth stitch of the Marilyn Monroe block look easy. You stitch parallel lines that are crossed by horizontal lines sort of like the # symbol.  Then you put slanted lines / on top of the first two steps and follow up by three rows of backstitch.  Simple, right?  Well, no. I found the starting and stopping points of each step a little tricky to get right.  In fact, I'm going to have to remove the backstitches from my first pair of stitches as I started them too high and they don't reach to the bottom of the block as they should.  This step is done all in terra cotta C2, which is DMC cotton floss 758 for me.

Two more stitches remain to finish the stitch block once I finish stitch five.  After that, I need to make up my mind whether to add purple metallic to the sashing blocks (you can still vote your preference on this at the poll at the top of the page but do look carefully at the borders and my progress on the first block to see how the colors will look together) and pick up a new thread to stitch the third outer border at the top.  Currently only two of the three borders are stitched.   So I have a way to go before I finish all I intend to on Stars before starting a new small painted canvas.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Toronto Retreat for Stitchers

If you have been charmed by the Olympics' Canadian location, you might want to take a little jaunt to Toronto in late April to the stitching retreat that Gitta's is sponsoring.  There will be two classes offered, one of which is included with your registration, and you can buy the other class project if you like.  The retreat organizers have the latest updated information listed on their blog.

Gitta's shop is well-known for their charted silk gauze designs.  I have a gorgeous charted violets piece in my stash, waiting until I have a hankering for another tiny project.  If I could, I'd love to go since a dear friend is helping to organize the retreat.  I know how organized she is and what fun she is planning, so I hope you will consider a little trip to Toronto to see the best Canadian stitching has to offer!

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For Deepa, How To Needlepoint

Deepa posted a comment this week asking about how to learn to needlepoint.  I answered her in the Comments area, but I am reposting what I said there as a blog article for those who are curious about NP and want some help getting started.

Deepa, this is a topic worthy of a long article, but I'll point you towards the American Needlepoint Guild first. I think your embroidery skills are terrific, so what you need are some projects to get started with. ANG has many many Stitch of the Month things for you to play with. Go to this website which has diagrams of many many NP stitches. There are 11 stitches presented each year, then in December (usually, but the trend now is to present the outline in January and you fill it in throughout the year to reveal the project) there is a project using the stitches. I think this is a good place to start getting comfortable with new stitches.

If you aren't Deepa and you need some stitching orientation, the best place to start is Needlepoint Now's tutorial.  It has six short articles on important things, plus two free projects, one easy and one intermediate.  The tips are good, too.

ANG also has a Kid's & Beginner's section of easy projects, most with outlined designs you transfer to your needlepoint canvas.

Of course it is easy to show charted or outlined NP on the Internet, but I will be starting a brand new small painted canvas project later this week. How about I talk about how I go about it in more detail then? Until then, read what Janet Perry says about choosing threads and stitches for painted canvases here.  It's a reprinted article but should give you some general guidelines on how Janet works.

I also wrote an article about how to choose threads and stitches for a painted canvas that is on the ANG website.  You can read it here.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Newsletters, A Magazine and a Book

Before I forget, three new February shop newsletters are available for your browsing pleasure.  In alphabetical order they are:

Click on the links to enjoy.

I've also discovered that Ann Strite-Kurz has a new book of her charted designs coming out in the early summer.  As usual, she offers a pre-order discount and group orders also receive free shipping.  If you enjoyed Ann's article in the January-February 2010 Needlepoint Now, you will want to grab a copy while it is discounted.

Speaking of NP Now, some back issues of this great magazine are on sale.  Details are on their home page.

If you are interested a bit about the upcoming March-April issue of the magazine is on the editor's blog.

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Stars: Starting Marilyn Monroe

I'm making good progress on Stars these days, probably because I'm trapped inside by snow and ice still.  Since the outer border has to wait until I go thread shopping and I'm waiting to give everyone a change to vote on what I do with the sashing, I started the first star block yesterday.  This block is called Marilyn Monroe.  It is stitched in seven stitches of varying complexity.  The first is shown above.  I used the lavender J. L. Walsh silk-wool #1074 as my A2 thread and my Silk N Colors overdyed silk 062 for the Overdye.  Tony says you can manipulate the Overdye to make all the Rhodes Lozenges the same but I wanted each one to be different in honor of Miss Monroe, who showed a different side of herself to each of us.  Sometimes she was a sex kitten, sometimes she was a comedienne, sometimes she was the little lost girl from next door.

Stitch Two fits a waffle stitch between the eight points of the star.  I used the peachy DMC cotton floss #758 for C2.  Step Three is very tricky.  The mosaic stitches that fill the corners vary their direction and threads.  I didn't get this quite right but I will adjust it as best I can.  I used the medium dark violet Splendor S1086 as A3 and DMC cotton floss 758 again as C2.

I'm laboring on Step Four but haven't done enough to make photos worthwhile yet.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Problems with Blog

This morning I'm having technical difficulties with Blog.  I am trying to update my list of blogs I read and Blogspot is NOT cooperating.  It finally put the list at the top and absolutely refuses to have it on the side where I want it.  So I deleted it and am going to rebuild it from scratch since Blogspot also limits the number of blogs I can list.  I should go through all the blogs I follow and remove the non-NP ones and the ones that aren't updated often.  I will do that as I have time.

Right now the only place Blogger will let me put the blog list besides the top of the page is the bottom of the page, so the bottom of the page is where it is.  Sorry.  I can't do anything about this currently but I'll keep trying to move it and I'll keep adding links there.

I also got a note from Marianne saying she can't read the header title clearly.  I think this might be a function of her monitor as it is perfectly clear on mine.  I've tinkered with it but the changes I've come up with don't look good, so for now Marianne will just have to know if she can't read the title, it's me.  Sorry.  I'll keep tinkering with this, too.  I may change the photo to something plainer and hope that makes the title easier to read.

Blog changes take a lot of time and some research.  And Heaven Help You if you have to move your blog!   Ruth Schmuff has moved her blog recently, so update your bookmarks and blog lists to her new blog address.

You can also reach her blog by clicking on the link to it at either her shop website or at her designer website.  (Ruth owns Bedecked and Beadazzled in the Baltimore suburbs and also designs and distributes painted canvases and counted thread patterns through Tis The Season.)

The reason I'm emphasizing Ruth's new address is you don't want to miss the updates she posts to her blog on her mystery classes.  Above you see the finished model from her last class on Raymond Crawford's Merry Christmas panel.  She's doing a Melissa Shirley heart currently.  The things Ruth does to a canvas you wouldn't believe!  So go visit the new blog address and see what she's up to.

Meanwhile I'll be here, tinkering....

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Starting and Stopping Threads the Shay Way

When I was talking about the trouble I was having starting and ending threads on Stars, lots of folks put great information in the Comments section but I also got fabulous information via email.  I'm quoting Marj below, who explained how she learned to start and stop threads from Shay Pendray:

"I have just reviewed the information on starting and ending threads in Shay Pendray's book 'Inventive Needlework' pp. 81and 83. That is basically what I was  taught.

First, if I recall correctly, unless the thread is slippery like rayon, it is not really necessary to do a locking L or locking I stitch. (I often do them anyway if I have plenty of room, but then I am a wee bit paranoid.) Two pinhead stitches fairly close together are usually sufficient.  Next, when I am working a piece with lots of thread changes like 'Stars', I almost always make my two pinhead stitches by bringing the needle up though the area that I just finished stitching. Use the tip of your BLT [Best Laying Tool or any other laying tool brand] to keep from snagging the already worked thread. Then use the tip of your BLT to move the already stitched threads slightly to the side so that you can see the canvas thread clearly. Bring the needle over the canvas thread and down into the adjacent hole. Repeat. Surface threads may have to be nudged back into their original positions.

With a ribbon like Neon Rays, for instance, you can come up through the ribbon, go back down over the canvas thread being very careful not to catch any of the strands of the ribbon. The hole in the ribbon will close itself when you pull the pinhead stitch tight  Magic!
I did not understand this technique until I saw someone do it and I am not sure how to explain it clearly with just words. The goal is to make a pinhead stitch without catching any of the threads on the front of your work; don't worry about catching threads on the back.  If I make my starting and ending pinheads in the area which I am currently stitching, I do not often run into problems finding places to start and finish my working thread. Nor do I find pinheads occupying holes which I need for other parts of the design.
However, if all else fails, I make my pinheads out in the sashing/border as was previously suggested.

If you are not familiar with this technique, try it on a doodle cloth. Ask me lots of questions."

Thanks a lot, Marj, especially for allowing me to post this for everyone to read.  I used this technique on the star quilt block I am working and find it is a great way to secure your threads.  I won't use it in areas where I'm afraid of disturbing threads but it has been very useful in less populated areas.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Many Thanks to My Guests

Here's a great big thank you to both Melissa Shirley and Bonnie, who graciously took time out of very busy schedules to talk about stitching butterfly purse canvases.  I hope you enjoy the canvas of the month feature, especially this month when we have such a lovely design series to talk about!

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February Canvas of the Month (Melissa Shirley)

This month I am lucky enough to have two guest bloggers talking about how to stitch a butterfly canvas.  When Bonnie proposed using the new Melissa Shirley blue butterfly purse canvas as this month's project for us to discuss how we'd stitch it, I remembered that Melissa Shirley herself had just finished stitching the brown tiger butterfly canvas from this series.  So I asked Melissa if she would allow me to share photos of her stitched butterfly purse and talk about how she stitched it.  And she said yes!

You can see all the butterfly purse canvases and the other butterflies in the series on Melissa's website.

In her essay below, Melissa tells us her purse was finished by Marlene's.  Here is their website, in case you would enjoy browsing all the fabulous finishing that they offer.

Now, here is Melissa to talk about her brown tiger purse canvas and how she stitched it.

Melissa Shirley's Brown Tiger Butterfly Canvas

I am so flattered that Jane asked me to contribute to this blog. I’ve never written a stitch guide so anyone reading this will have to bear with me.

I started stitching my butterfly purse in the fall and although there were several in the series to choose from I chose the Brown Tiger Butterfly because the greys and browns and rust colors are my cup of tea, especially in the autumn months.

I have another, larger butterfly purse nearly finished but I became disappointed in the way it was turning out, specifically the butterfly itself. It was too flat even though I had done a lot of beading on the wings and elsewhere. It was a lesson for me and I went into this project with all that in mind.

I’ll take the opportunity to say here one of the things I think about a lot when I’m stitching and when I see stitched work is how the stitching and thread selection creates a depth of field. I want to see what’s in front come forward and what’s in back recede and I try to use color and threads and stitches to achieve that. The few “rules” I try to keep in mind are:

Threads that come forward are shiny, lighter and warmer colors, and heavier in weight. Threads that recede are matte, cooler colors and thinner in weight.

I’m also a great fan of light stitching and generally letting the painted canvas show through, especially in backgrounds or when ever it seems appropriate.

I generally use simple stitches. I tend to rely on color and texture more than a cacophony of stitches since I just don’t have the repertoire and experience to mix stitches as well as I would like. I am a student.

My Brown Tiger Butterfly Purse:

I started with the background behind the butterfly. It’s a flat floral pattern, cool grey flowers on a black background. I cooled it down a bit more and stitched the flowers with a Diagonal Mosaic Stitch in blue (Trebizond Silk, 653). The black is stitched in Elongated Continental with 12 Strand Treasure Braid from Rainbow Gallery (TR265).

I scoured a few stitch books to find what I wanted to use for the wings of the butterfly keeping in mind my disappointment with my other butterfly.  I had already chosen a Kreinik Braid of warm grey (011C, #16) and settled on a stitch I found in Suzy’s Small Stitches called Staggered Mosaic that I used in both directions. I left a few stitches out of the stitch and created a nice cup for the beads I wanted to add. I took my stitching to my local bead store and picked out beads (about 6mm) that fit into the cups. I chose two kinds of metallic looking beads to show the shading in wings.

I used the same Kreinik braid I used on the wings for the body of the butterfly. I padded the body and covered it with long vertical stitches that I lashed down with a black Kreinik Braid (005 #16) and used that same black braid diagonally to stitch the butterfly’s head.

I used a white Kreinik braid (032C, #16) and a Tapestry braid (#12, 4002) on the edges of the wings and piled on pearly seed beads (size 15) in white spots on the wings.

Next I stitched the top leaf border background with 2 or 3 ply of Mandarin Floss (M838) from Rainbow Gallery and filled in the leaf with Sundance Beads (14H, color#4) straight up and down, every other hole.

I then stitched the bottom border stripes, top to bottom this way:

#1 River Silk (4mm,No.61),
#2 Green cube beads (4mm) straight up and down,
#3 Kreinik #16 Braid (032C) over 3 straight up and down,
#4 Flair (F567) Elongated Continental,
#5 Fuzzy Stuff (FZ31) and
#6 Flair again, diagonally, over 2.

The gold borders around the butterfly and the top and bottom borders are stitched with a Kreinik Tapestry Braid (150V, #12).

I had the hardest time with what I thought should have been the easiest part, the side “tiger skin” borders. I tried a number of threads and stitches, ripped out a lot and finally settled on a cross stitch, over 2, using another Kreinik Braid (022, #16). I also smoothed the edges of the tiger stripes with plain stitching using the same braid. The lighter brown is stitched with Impressions (1134) using the Encroaching Gobelin stitch.

The last thing I have to say about my purse is the finishing. I sent it to Marlene’s Needlepoint Finishing in San Francisco to be finished in brown leather and it is gorgeous inside and out. Sadly, someone once wrote that the finishing of needlepoint is a necessary evil. I think it is the final step that should not be taken lightly. I have played around with finishing some of my own, smaller needlepoint projects but I know finishing needlepoint is an art unto itself and it can make or break the success of a much loved and labored over piece of needlepoint, so I always send anything I really care about to the finishing experts who are truly artists.

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February Canvas of the Month (Bonnie)

The February Canvas of the Month is a new Melissa Shirley canvas called Blue Butterfly Clutch #1363F. This design is 16 inches wide and 9 inches high on 18 count canvas. This design comes on 13 count canvas also, and is available as a smaller pillow design that doesn't have the elaborate side panels.

Bonnie's Blue Butterfly Canvas

I am actually contemplating purchasing this piece and stitching it as a pillow. Melissa has the same butterfly in a square pillow shape, but I am drawn to the outside panels on the purse version, so I am thinking of adapting it to a pillow. Like a purse, though, a pillow has to have durable stitches and threads. At least they do in my house with 2 kids and 2 cats! So that means, most of my stitches are simple with no beads or anything that may catch or not wear well.

I am going to start with the butterfly since I want that to be the focal point. The body is done in horizontal satin stitches. Pad slightly first, then stitch with an overdyed cotton. Then go back over the top with darker cotton and put in single horizontal stitches to represent the divisions. Another thread the might work for the body, if you can find the colors is a chenille, again with the division stitched in with maybe a solid cotton to match or a small perle cotton. I think the texture of the chenille would be great! I though first about using very velvet for the texture, but I think it would be too heavy.

For the wings, I would use Splendor or a strandable silk mixed with a blending filament or Accentuate for some sparkle. Stitch in long and short making sure it’s on the short side since this is to be a pillow. Follow the directions of the wings. The divisions are a stem stitch with a strandable silk or maybe a couched silk perle. The dark at the top of the wings is basketweave in silk, stitch each side in the opposite direction. The brown in the middle (not the body) is a basketweave in silk with slightly less plies than the blue so it recedes. Lastly the antennae use a Kreinik cord and couch in place after you complete the background.

Now to the background behind the butterfly. My first thought was silk ribbon for the flowers a wider ribbon that would make the distinct petals, but I am concerned that would make the focus the flowers not the butterfly and I am not sure it would hold up on a pillow that well. I would tackle all the light blue background in an alternating continental with cotton floss. I am thinking cotton since it will give a different sheen than the silk on the butterfly. Or maybe so there is no blank canvas showing through (which you would have to add a liner fabric behind), a Parisian stitch or Hungarian for a nice vertical stitch. For the flowers, maybe a perle cotton for texture or just white floss stitched in a satin stitch. I might be tempted to try a thin silk ribbon and see what it looks like, the idea of silk flowers just won't go away! I would stitch the satin stitches in all the same direction, but break the stitches at each petal end so you ‘see’ distinct petals when you are done. The middles are either small eyelet or a simple Smyrna cross – still trying to keep these flowers behind the butterfly. Lastly the stems in a floss in either a stem stitch or tent.

The borders I would pad and then satin stitch at an angle to look like cording. Maybe a metallic or maybe a gold colored silk so not so bold.

The right and left panels would be done in something like Silk ‘ N Ivory or Burmilana. I am trying to find another texture that is different than the butterfly or its background. Another thought might be a twisted fiber. In order to get the shape of all of the designs, I would stick to simple basketweave for the whole thing.

The top and bottom border would be done in a similar fiber as to what is chosen for the side panels. On the lower panel, the flowers would be satin stitched like the ones on the middle background. The background is just basketweave. The lattice work, I would lay a strand across each line and then couch it down invisibly for the most part with a decorative couching stitch at the intersections. Or maybe just tent stitch them changing the directions to match the direction of the line so it appears as a line when stitched. On the top panel, the flowers are again satin stitch with French knots on a stock for the center. May find the French knots too prominent and just go with an eyelet type stitch that matches the painted shape. The stripes are done in horizontal satin stitches. You will probably need multiple columns of stitches for each stripe of blue so the stitches don't get too long.

That’s it! There are so many things you could do if you weren't concerned so much about wearablility and kids/pets. I could see beading the butterfly, silk ribbon for the flowers as just a start. It all depends on what you are planning on doing with the piece.

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February Canvas of the Month (Jane)

The February Canvas of the Month is a new Melissa Shirley canvas called Blue Butterfly Clutch #1363F. This design is 16 inches wide and 9 inches high on 18 count canvas. This design comes on 13 count canvas also, and is available as a smaller pillow design that doesn't have the elaborate side panels.

Jane's Blue Butterfly Canvas:

The blue butterfly purse canvas is done in mostly blue and white with gold lines that divide the panels. The side panels have lavender touches and the butterfly itself has some cream or yellow, browns and possibly black on its wings and body. Since this is designed to be made up into a pocketbook, I need to use durable threads that will stand up to handling. I also want threads that have a bit of shine to them so the natural choice is to pick threads from the silk/wool blends like Silk & Ivory/Trio, Impressions or Silk n Cream. All seem to have good blues and lavenders and snow whites as well as a nice selection of browns and deepest black, but I think I'll add Vineyard Silks (which is all silk in a tapestry-type thread) to my mental stitching of this canvas as it has the Shimmer line that has metallic fibers mixed in.

Starting with the side panels, I'd stitch both sides in tent stitches but vary the threads. Trio is strandable so use the three shades of lavender in Trio so you can blend colors as you work. Once all the lavender stitches are in, work the blue pattern in Vineyard Silk Shimmer so that there is a bit of sparkle from the metallic thread there. It is a little boring for us embellishment artists to work so much basketweave (or tent) but this is a purse that will need to stand up to being carried. Once the two side panels are done, lay long lengths of gold metallic thread (Kreinik 002 in size 16?) along the gold separation lines. Cover the lines of gold thread with Treasure Braid Ribbon in a matching gold, with stitches laid perpendicular to the underlying Kreinik. If you want more sparkle, switch to a gold Fyrewerks Softsheen. I think regular Fyrewerks would be too much sparkle for this pieces.

For the top section with the blue flowers, work the columns in the background in Scotch stitches, either varying the blocks to fit the widths entirely, using two or three stitches to fill the area or compensating. (Or all three!) This article shows various sizes of Scotch stitches to better illustrate how to vary the stitch to fit the space.

Use your Trio (or another silk/wool blend) and lay it carefully across the width of the Scotch stitches. You might want to start with the white columns and remember not to drag blue threads across the white areas in the back. You will avoid a "shadow" from the darker thread that way.

I'd switch to Kreinik overdyed metallics for the two-toned flowers and use a matching dark blue in regular Kreinik if you can find it for the dark blue flowers. If you can't find a good blue in metallic threads, try some Vineyards Silks (Shimmer again) in the deepest blue to match or see if Caron's Snow in blue is the right shade. Stitch the petals with brick stitch over 2 threads, then go back to add the white stamens in the flower centers. Use Caron's Snow in white for those stamens and just lay the white lines across the blue brick stitches. Attach a few clear hex beads in the center of each flower, using a doubled and waxed ply of white DMC cotton floss. If you want to add blue to the flower centers, use blue DMC cotton floss instead.

For the bottom band which is a trellis pattern, lay the long threads to make the trellis diamond lines. Couch each thread intersection with a stitch in the same thread to secure it. Remember, this is a purse that will be handled so you want the long lengths of thread secured.

Fill in the white background with white Caron Snow in all tent stitches (or basketweave). It will sparkle a lot which will lift the blue flowers. Work the flowers in Vineyards Silk Shimmer (or blue Snow) to make them look more like the background, or work every other stitch in tent and add more iridescent hex beads in the bare spots. I'd probably not do this myself since beads and hard wearing aren't going to mix well but it sure would look nice! You could always use a small thin metallic thread and work a cross stitch in between each skipped tent stitch instead of a bead. That gives you a slightly beaded effect and is more hard-wearing.

For the central butterfly pattern, I think I would use my Trio again to stitch the pale blue area in a pavilion stitch. Pavilions are diamond shapes and there are a lot of variations. Choose the right scale for your background. It should look like the white diamonds in the bottom panel but be smaller. You may find you need an extra ply of your Trio to completely cover the background. Here are two different Pavilions but you can choose from many versions of this stitch.

Once the background is finished, stitch the darker blue flower stems with long vertical stitches that cover the stem, using Trio. The white flowers themselves should be stitched in long stitches that radiate from the flower centers, but first outline each petal with stem stitch. (For the flowers you could use either Trio or the white Caron Snow.) Then cover the outline with the long stitches so the edges of each flower are raised. The center of the flowers would look great if you added a small mother of pearl button there. You should find the correct size in buttons for baby clothes at fabric stores. Stitch them securely. You might want to use a small clear hex bead in each button hole to further secure it. An alternative would be to attach some of the Swarkovski hot fix crystals to the center of the flowers.

The body of the butterfly is last. First, pad the body of the butterfly horizontally and then lay long vertical stitches over the padding. Use Trio for the light and dark browns. However, it might look lovely to use brown metallic for the antenna and body segment lines. Use the same thread for the top edge of the wings. Again, pad this with stem stitch the same way you did with the white flowers in the background, then go back over with vertical long stitches to cover. Now work your way down each wing using Brenda Hart's mosaic stitch variation, stitching each segment in slants going in the correct direction toward the body.

I'd use a mix of plain Vineyard Silk and Shimmer Vineyard silk in the same shade of blue. You could do the long stitches in the regular Vineyard Silk and then add sparkle by using Shimmer Vineyards Silk for the small group of three stitches. Once a section is done, outline it in stem stitch with a blue metallic thread, probably one of those you used for the flowers at the top of the design. You may want to add shading lines right on top of your mosiac stitches. If you do, switch to a sharp needle. You may also want to use a thinner metallic than what you used for the flowers at the top of this purse design.

Finish up with the brown edge of the lower wings, adding a little cream there. You can either use long stitches like the upper wing brown line (without the padding) or tent stitch the cream area.

My version of the purse would be simpler than if I were framing this but it'll make for a spectacular pocketbook to carry to elegant parties for years to come.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stars: Two Borders and Faking Overdyed Thread

Trapped by snow as I am (Day 15), I am getting a lot done toward my Stars goal of stitching the top three borders, the big corners, the little sashing corners, the first star quilt block and some of the sashing around that block.  Once all that is finished, I plan to put Stars away for a bit and work on a painted canvas before I do the second two stars blocks on the top row and finish up the sashing that surrounds them.

I forgot to mention that I've basted a line down the center of the piece.  I am not going to do the third outside border until after I make a trip to the local shops to see if I can find the right shade of violet in Vineyards Silks.  I think it will cover that area better than my Impressions does.  That third outer border has a central fan shape that has to go in the exact middle, hence the basted line.

In the photo above you see the underlying sashing pattern, one with violet metallic overstitching and one without, the wide black fern stitch inner border, and some of the tiny middle border, done in long armed cross stitch using the overdyed silk that the colors are based on.

In my case, this is not the overdye I choose colors from.

Actually my colors of violet, black, terra cotta and metallic copper were inspired by the card of Overture #V31 (a three plied heavy cotton from Rainbow Gallery similar to Caron's Watercolours) you see in the photo above.  It is tan, terra cotta and violet.

My dear friend Linda used this thread (minus the ecru parts) to create a wonderful color scheme when she stitched this lovely version of Carole Lake's "Berryville" from the ANG website.  I wish you could see this in person.  Scans and photos don't do it justice.  I wanted to use the same colors for Stars and before she died, Linda helped me choose the threads I would need, particularly the blacks. Stars will be my memorial to her and her incredible color sense.

However, I need a silk overdye for Stars and hunted all over for one without any luck.  Black, violet, terra cotta and copper are not available as an overdyed color set. (Any thread company that makes one, could you name it after Linda?)  There are various ways to cope with this.

Someone in the Scarlet Thread stitching group that is stitching Stars plans to dye their own threads.  I went this route, too, and asked Vikki Clayton of Hand Dyed Fibers to see if she could mix copper in with terra cotta and violet.  The two skeins of silk in the bottom row on the right are what Vikki came up with.  She did a periwinkle blue painted with copper and a terra cotta painted with copper.  If you are willing to wait until she can get to your order, Vikki is very open to trying new color combinations.  Here's her website.

My periwinkle/copper from Hand Dyed Fibers is too blue but the terra cotta/copper is something I'll incorporate into Stars somewhere, even if I don't use it as the overdyed silk.  The colors aren't quite what I want for an overdye.

I did eventually get lucky at Scarlet Thread when I realized they carried a full line of Silk N Colors.  I found Autumn Twilight #062 at the shop.  It is a nice mix of terra cotta and violet with muddy brown.  In the first photo of my progress, you see it used for the thin middle border.  But what if I hadn't found Autumn Twilight?

Then I would have faked my overdye.  See the two skeins of violet and terra cotta floss in the top row above?  Those are two skeins of overdyed Needle Necessities floss.  I would have used lengths of those mixed with a darker and lighter violet and terra cotta plus some of my Hand Dyed Fibers terra cotta/metallic copper and faked an overdye.  This is really easy to do.  First, choose the colors you want for your overdye from a floss type thread.  Then pick several shades of each color so you can work from dark first color, medium first color, light first color to light second color, medium second color, dark second color, and back to dark first color, etc.  This mimics the shading of many overdyes.  Cut 9 inch, 12 inch and 18 inch lengths of each color you want in the faked overdye, then pick the lengths at random as you run through your color sequence.  That gives you a short bit of light first color, followed by a lot of the middle shade of the first color and then another short bit of the dark first color.  Does that make sense?  Your color graduations will be more abrupt than if you were using an expensive overdyed thread, but this is a good way to fake an overdyed thread using things like DMC cotton floss.  You can really run wild by color blending, using a few plies of the light shade mixed with the medium shade, etc. to give yourself more gradual transitions of color.  It's a good way to create the overdyed thread of your dreams if you can't find what you want.

I probably will mix in occasional bits of my Vikki Clayton terra cotta/metallic loss with the Silk N Colors floss to add copper metallic to the show and I'll probably add some violet to the mix also as the Silk N Colors thread has a lot more terra cotta than violet.

Folks are still voting whether I should add violet metallic to the bottom layer of the sashing stitch.  I'm leaning toward not doing that right now, but haven't made up my mind.  I discovered that the large black fern stitch border stitches are visible in person although you probably can't see them in the photo.  So all the fancy stitching isn't lost when using black threads.  We'll see.  I'm still thinking it over.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Stars: Sash Blocks and Fancy Sashing

Yesterday was Frog Day as I ripped out the remaining five sash blocks and restitched them with slightly less thread to allow all the elements of the stitching to show.  I also ripped out the two rows of sash that had been stitched.  I did that first, actually, so that I wouldn't disturb any sash blocks I had stitched a second time by ripping out the sash lines next door.  In the photo above, the arrow points to the top of the canvas.

For the sash blocks, I used the following:

violet - substituted A3 for A1 - Splendor S1086
black - not used in in the sash blocks
terra cotta - C1 - Pebbly Perle P14
copper metallic - D1 - DMC metallic floss S279

You'll notice that only three of the four colors are used in the little sash blocks.  You'll also notice that I substituted A3 which is a Splendor silk floss for the A1 (Impressions) on my thread list.  The Impressions was just too heavy. Since my A3 thread is almost the same color as A1, I went to a floss and used two or three plies for the areas that have to be violet.  I am also untwisting my Pebbly Perle and using 2 or 3 of the plies you get from unraveling the strand instead of using the whole strand.  I want the various elements of the blocks to show, not be hidden by something else, so I am adjusting thread weights and coverage as I go.

The sashing that divides the 12 star pattern blocks on this quilt design is done in B-1 which in my case is black Soie Crystale silk floss #0020 from Caron.  The stitch is a very intricate one called the French Interchange Pattern.  In the photo above you see the first step, which is the little vaguely floral patterns.  The second step is to cover the empty spaces with two rows of slanted lines.  I've started doing this but haven't finished.

If you look carefully at the larger version of the photo, you'll see the little flower shapes have been overstitched with a strand of purple Accentuate #16.   I thought I'd try doing this to reveal the pattern better. Otherwise I might as well just do all the sashing in long slanted stitches entirely.  The fancy stitch will not show up in black.  What do you think?  Is it worth the trouble to overstitch the design to show off the fancy stitch or should I just do all the sashing in plain long slanted stitches?  How will violet bits in the sashing look with the large solid black border that outlines all the star blocks?  I can't decide!

So I've added a poll at the top of the page.

UPDATE:  To help you understand my puzzle, take a look at the cheerful and happy colors Sara Leigh is using for the top border and big corner of her Stars project.  The widest border which is blue in her version will be black in mine and I want my sashing to look good with it.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Melissa Shirley Visits Aristeia Needlepoint

Aristeia Needlepoint in Los Angeles is having a Melissa Shirley trunk show starting this weekend.  The show includes a visit by Melissa herself next week.  If you happen to be in the area, go visit for me!  Details on the Aristeia website.

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My Stars: Threads Used in the Corners

I've been asked what threads I am using, so I'll post the threads I used as I finish each section.  Note that I added 36 threads to my Stash Credits total right up front but I will continue to add threads to that number as I choose others besides the main threads I have selected.  In some cases I am going to use one B2 thread in one section but choose another thread to act as B2 in another section.

A1 - violet Impressions 6042
B1 - black Soie Crystale 0020
C1 - terra cotta Pebbly Perle P14
D1 - copper metallic DMC metallic floss S279

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Stars: This End Up (with Loose Ends)

Last night I stitched the last two corners on the bottom of the canvas.  They went a lot faster than the first two!  Once you understand an area, the stitching always goes better, doesn't it?

I did turn my canvas upside down to work the two bottom corners, which promoted me to mark the "top" of the canvas with an arrow so I'd always know which side should face up.  I noticed when stitching the corners that I needed to know the Top from the Bottom since I turned the canvas to reach the corners better and had to make sure the little Smyrnas that go in the corners were all oriented the same way, whether I was working them upside down or right side up.   In geometric designs like this, I always mark the top so I know without hunting which End is Up.

The quilt blocks are arranged in four rows with three stars in each row, and later on I'll be able to see easily which is the top row, but for right now I want to easily know which end is the top end.

You'll see a lot of loose threads on the canvas.  I am doing some test stitching.  Look at the two little blocks that separate the black sashing lines.  On the right is my original sashing block and on the left I have removed the original stitching and replaced it with another version.  The right side is too heavy and the left side too light.  I'm going to have to look at my threads and pick the right color values and weights to make the little sashing blocks look their best. That's my task for today.  Once I choose what I like best, I'll work all six of the little blocks the same way.  I know I said I was going to work from the top down on this design, but it seems to make sense to get these elements in now.

Note in the top border that I have little sashing blocks drawn in with an X in them.  There really aren't sashing blocks in the border. I failed to understand the instructions and drew them there, then marked them so I would remember that there aren't blocks actually there.  I have a lot of trouble with diagrams and am always making (and correcting) mistakes.  But that is part of doing counted work for me.

Why do I do counted work when I'm so bad at it?  Because I want to improve my stitching.  You never get any better at something unless you practice and I enjoy learning new techniques.  A great example of what I'm learning can be found in the hints from Blog readers on starting/ending threads in yesterday's Comments.  You should go back to the previous Blog entry and click on Comments (at the very bottom of the article next to the date in pink) and read them.  I got a great private email with more tips also.  I'll quote that to you in another blog entry if the author gives me permission.

In the photo and in real life the sashing blocks have holes where you can see the canvas.  I think I'm going to rip these out and replace them with sashing that uses four plies of my black Soie de Crystale silk instead of the three I used.  Tony says to use four plies but I didn't listen. Sorry, Headmaster!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stars Corners

I started my first real stitching on Stars yesterday.  I already had a corner in place and had done all six of the little sashing corners but I have begun to think that they all used too much thread to allow the full effect to show.  So I pulled out the two big corners and one of the little sash corners.  In the photo above you see one of the two big corners that I finished.  I think I will stitch the other two big corners before I forget how they are done, then test stitch the little sash corner with smaller thread coverage and see how it looks.  Then I'll either remove all the sash corners and redo them or start on the top borders.

I've already got one problem I'd like input on from counted thread stitchers:  The big corners (and probably all the star quilt blocks themselves) have lots of starts and stops of many threads.  My corners on the back are quite thick with pin stitching/Locking L starts and stops and I've discovered that many of my Locking Ls were put in holes I need to put some other threads in later.  How do you handle starting and stopping threads when you have so many stitches and threads occupying the same space?

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention Tony Minieri graciously gave me permission to post photos of my version of his Stars design.  Thank you, Headmaster!

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Don't Know How I Missed This

I'm just catching up on a few things here, in between shoveling snow and rearranging the pantry so I know what food I have available while we are stuck on the mountain.  (Not to worry, we have plenty of everything we need, particularly if it involves beans or canned tomatoes.  I see chili in the near future....)  First of all, somehow I missed Stitches in Time Needlepoint's newsletter.  It looks like they went stitching in France!

A-Z Needlepoint/Regal Rabbit started a Kelly Clark "Twelve Days of Christmas" club with guides written by Susan Portra.  This is a great opportunity and I hope you can still sign up.  Details are on their home page.

Traditional Stitches in Canada is going to offer a beginning needlepoint cyber class.  Know anyone who wants to learn?

I wonder what else I missed?

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Getting Started on Stars

Yesterday I spent some time looking at my four sets of threads for the Stars for the New Millennium project.  I discovered that I had my A1 and A4 mixed up so I needed to make sure I didn't have other errors.  I also needed to read the instructions several times to figure out where I stopped work 3-4 years ago when I put Stars down.

To work this piece you choose four colors:  A is a main color, B is the sashing color--sashing is what quilters call the borders between quilt blocks--and a second main color, C is your neutral,  and D is an accent color. You also need an overdyed floss that includes at least these four colors.  Most folks start by choosing the overdye and then picking their four ABCD colors based on it.  

Naturally I didn't do that but more on this later.

Mr. Minieri tells you what type of thread (floss, perle cotton, tapestry wool, etc.) you need for A1 or C3, and you can look at the list of threads he used to see what brand he used to get another idea of what type of thread he recommends if you need to substitute.   

I think I'm going to need more of my A1 and B1 threads. B1 is black Soie de Crystale and I have three skeins but I'm not sure it'll be enough. I was clever enough to choose threads that I thought I needed more than one skein of from brands that don't have a lot of color variation among skeins, but I didn't think about getting enough of A1 to do the outside border which is purple in Tony's model in the photo.  I am using Impressions for A1 currently but I think I might look at Vineyards Silk and see if there's a good violet color in their line in March to use as A1 when I get to the Woodlawn needlework exhibit and visit the local shops.  There are a lot of threads available now that weren't available in 1999 when Stars was published and I think I'd like to include a new thread, particularly one that covers as well as Vineyards silk does.

This means that I can't do the outer border yet.  I will have to finish the two corners and the top borders without stitching the outside edge of those areas in A1.

I'll publish the threads I am using section by section.  I anticipate that I'll use both Impressions and Vineyards Silks for A1, depending on what area I am stitching.  

I don't know if you saw Sara Leigh's comment that her stitching group (which is working on Stars right now) all spent right around $100 on threads.  They used threads from their stashes whenever possible.  As far as I know, all the stitchers are using one of the 13 colorways listed in the instructions.  Is that right, SL?

Guess I'm going to have to settle down and work on Stars today instead of shoveling snow!

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Monday, February 15, 2010

The SharonG Camouflage Bra and Tap Pants Set

My lingerie set from SharonG is finished.

I hope you can really see the shine of the beads in these photographs.

SharonG, thanks for the idea of beading the entire canvas.  I never ever would have come up with this idea on my own.  Thank you for opening my mind to other ways of handling a canvas.

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February 2010 Chilly Hollow Newsletter Article

Morning all! We are snowed in here in Virginia, with more on the way, so it seems a good time to go visit a museum. After all, one can only stitch, stare at the Weather Channel or shovel snow for so long before you need a break!

Let's start out with an exhibit of kimono from the 1910-40 period which are for sale. These were the first mass-produced kimonos in Japan and the bold, graphic patterns would make great NP designs.

Are you an admirer of samplers? Then you'll want to read this article about getting the most out of the V&A's online exhibit of samplers before you go browse their museum site.

Are you enthralled by the elaborate clothing of the Elizabethean period? Then you will want to browse this collection of gloves. They are astounding!

The trim on those 17th Century gloves is amazing but it turns out, trims and edgings are an even older craft. The Vikings made them, even. Examples of Medieval trims in silver and gold are shown on this site which explains a bit about them.

Somehow the snow doesn't seem so important when we browse the stitching of our spiritual ancestors.

Before I close, I want to let you know that Ruth Schmuff's It's Not Your Grandmother's Needlepoint blog has moved to a new site. Bookmark at, then settle in and read about Ruth's Valentine canvas. Ruth, hope it is snowing pink spangles and silver rhinestones on you, not the real stuff!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Camo Tap Pants Done! Stars Started!

The SharonG tap pants are done!  I finally finished the last few rows of t-stitched background yesterday.  Hurrah!

Here is the set unframed.  It is supposed to be sunny today so I should get a good photograph of them framed for tomorrow.

I put my Stars for the New Millennium canvas on Evertite stretcher bars last night and recounted the border to figure out where I stopped working this several years ago and where I needed to start to work on Stars again.  I realized after reading the instructions I have not finished the right hand corner yet.  I am undecided whether to do the corners before I work on the top row of borders or not.  I guess I'll make up my mind tonight.

It struck me again sorting through my threads (which I have in labeled floss bags and arranged on large rings with Color A on its own ring, Color B on a ring together, etc.) that Stars is a threadaholic's delight.  I know I worked out what the thirty-six different threads cost for this project before but I don't remember the totals.  So I used Needle in a Haystack's and Alex Paras' Needlearts sites to look up costs for each skein in each of the four sets of colors, using Tony Minieri's own colors as an example.  (The other colorways in the book use various brands, depending on what is available in those colors and types of threads.  But Tony's set is a good benchmark.)

Color A threads total (without tax or shipping charges if you have to mail order) $33.20,  Color B threads total $25.65, Color C threads total $19 and Color D threads total $10.40.  I know I'll need several skeins for some threads but I didn't take that extra cost into consideration.  The total for threads if you buy everything new for this project in Tony's colors will top $88.25.  The Stars booklet itself is $55 or so.  I would think budgeting $150 for the project is reasonable.

But I bought very little new myself for this project. My friends Linda and Mimi sent me some threads and I had most of the colors necessary already.  I even have about 20 other skeins of other thread types in reserve in the basket that holds the Stars threads in case my choices don't work out.

Bottom line:  this is not a cheap project, which is even more reason to stitch each quilt block as separate ornaments in various colors from your stash.

But I'm working the entire project.  It is just too beautiful to take account of the thread costs.

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Needle Comparison and New Needle Minders

You may remember that I won a set of gold and a set of platinum needles from John James in one of Gone Stitching's blog radio contests last fall.  I've been using the needles in my last 3-4 projects and meant to tell you a bit about what I think about gold and platinum needles since then.

The John James gold-coated needles are lovely.  They have a nice golden coating that gives them a unique look.  I have acid hands so the coating only lasts where I grasp the needle through about 6-8 hours work of stitching but if you don't have body chemistry like mine, you will enjoy the look of these needles a lot and the coating should last a very long time.  These needles squeak as they go through NP canvas.  This eventually wears off but it seems odd when you first start working with the needles.  In all other ways the gold John James needles are the same quality and type as regular John James tapestry needles.

The John James platinum needles look like any other John James tapestry needle but they have a smooth surface that glides well through needlepoint canvas.  Eventually my acid hands wear this coating away also, but it takes 2-3 weeks of regular stitching each night (I estimate 20-30 hours at least) for this to happen.  They are a pleasure in the hand to use although they look identical to regular John James needles.

Would I pay extra for these two types of needles?  Probably not.  My Piecemaker needles feel as good as the platinum John James needles and their coating lasts a lot longer.  I can't really tell a lot of difference between the platinum John James needles and their regular needles after a few weeks of regular use.  However, if you are a true sensualist that responds to the look and feel of your needle, you may really enjoy the golden look of the John James gold coated needles or the smooth glide of the John James platinum coated needles.  They are certainly worth buying and sharing among your guild membership to see what they think.  We don't pay enough attention to our needles.  They (along with our scissors) are a tool we use constantly.  A few special needles are probably something a stitcher should treat him- or herself to at least occasionally.

To see the John James gold and platinum needles, browse the Colonial Needle website.

Speaking of needles, I use magnets on my canvas almost all the time.  While working the miles of t-stitch on the lingerie set background, I turned the needle minder I was using (one of Kelmscott Designs' monogramed letters with cherubs) upside down for the row of backwards tent and right side up for the rows of regular tent.  This helped me remember what I was supposed to be doing for that row if I was interrupted.  Kelmscott has two new designs out this winter. The Hearts Afire pattern is shown above and you can see it and also the Hummingbird and Flower design at this link.

All the current Kelmscott magnet patterns, including the monogram one I am using, are visible on their website.

If you want something more unusual, how about the pewter St. Margaret design from Krazy Kats Fiberhaus?  They also have a St. Michael, a pig with wings, a cat with mouse, and a scallop shell and more, all in pewter.  These are all based on Medieval motifs and will be something very different from more widely known magnet suppliers.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Threadneedle Street Announces Replacement for Medici

Threadneedle Street sent me the following message announcing a replacement for Medici wool.  I am reproducing this with their permission.  Their email address for further information is at the end of the message.
Jane, waving from Chilly Hollow



Special Announcement, February 12, 2010


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Our Medicis rack beforeOur Medicis rack after

Many of us were shocked when we learned a couple of years back that DMC would stop producing Medicis wool yarn. As supplies dwindled and color after color sold out, people wondered what they would use in its place. More than one company has come along offering yarn that they suggest we use instead of Medicis, but none of it is yarn that duplicates the color range of Medicis.
We are pleased to announce that Medicis is back - but with a few changes. Here are the pertinent facts:
1) This yarn is not being produced by DMC.
2) It IS being produced in nearly the same color range as when it came from DMC.
3) Color numbers are also the same.
4) Yardage of skeins is the same as before, 25 meters (approximately 27 yards).
5) It is no longer available in hanks.
6) Eventually it will not be called Medicis. For now we will continue to refer to it as Medicis as that is the name people know it by, and many colors are still in stock with DMC Medicis labels.
7) Six old colors of Medicis will be discontinued. Although we still have inventory of these colors, when they are gone they will no longer be dyed. Thirteen NEW colors of Medicis are also being produced.

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New Medicis colors

8) Not surprisingly, the cost of Medicis skeins has gone up. DMC has had 2 price increases in their line since Medicis was discontinued. If DMC still produced Medicis, they almost certainly would have raised the price. Currently we have Medicis yarn at $1.40 per skein.
There are bound to be skeptics out there who will question whether the new Medicis is the same as the old. In my opinion, they are virtually identical products. Even dye lots are comparable. Although every thread occasionally has dye lot differences between batches, in cases where we have the same color in both old and new Medicis, nearly all are virtually identical to the old colors. Two colors are a little different but they are probably an improvement over the original colors. Great care has been taken to ensure the quality of yarn and dyeing.

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Original DMC Medicis colors side by side with replacements

Here is a list of all Medicis colors, with both discontinued and new colors indicated:
*Discontinued color, available while supplies last
**New color
Copyright 2010. All prices are in U.S. dollars and are subject to change without notice.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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