It's a bargello thing

     Last June, at the TNNA Needlearts Convention in Columbus, I took a beginning bargello class with June McKnight. What a wonderful teacher! The idea was to learn the basics of bargello so I could help people who came in the shop and wanted to do bargello. Well, I learned the basics but that's as far as it got, my time limitations being what they are.
     Later in the summer, I received an order of hand-painted canvases from the show that included a fun small piece of three chili peppers. The distributor sent me two instead of just the one I ordered, so I took this as a sign that I was to work the second one up as a model. As I pondered how to go about it (I'm not a traditional needlepointer, having had unsatisfying encounters with hand-painted canvas), it occurred to me that bargello might just be the perfect way to approach the peppers themselves. I picked a Caron Collection Waterlilies color that said "chili pepper" to me, then turned to Ms. McKnight's wonderful new book, "The Best Bargello Book," to search for a pattern that wasn't too advanced but would achieve the dimensional effect I was looking for.
     I found one that looked promising, then proceeded to tweak it on a doodle cloth. It had to be proportional to the size of the peppers, which I found wasn't easy to perfect. But I finally found what appeared to work. And voila! I became a bargello fan. It's so much fun to stitch. As a cross-stitcher, I find the quickness of bargello stitching very satisfying. It's almost like instant gratification, but it does take more than a few minutes. Anyway, I was very pleased with the result and have received many compliments on this MIP, because of course, I've never gotten around to doing the background after completing the peppers.
    I think I "finished" this sometime in early fall, right about the time that my sisters and I were making pilgrimages to our parents' home to divvy up the contents in preparation for selling it. My father was living with one of them here in Virginia, and there was no chance of his ever going back there to live. Among the furnishings were a number of small Victorian and similar side chairs. You know the type, with a small upholstered back and seat meant more for decoration than actual seating. The one I chose, ended up with, has an old-fashioned needlepoint design along with a matching footstool.
    It fits in nicely in my guest room, which has my grandmother's antique bed and dresser. It's not the same style, but it works. (The room is sort of a reconstruction of the guest room in my parents' house. I had planned to move into this downstairs room and make the upstairs bedroom the guest room, but now that it's all in place, I don't know. It's kind of creepy.) Anyway, the footstool, which did have a lot of use, needs to be reupholstered. So I've decided to design a bargello piece for it. If it works out, then I'll adapt the design for the chair. I've got a number of books in the shop that I can use as references and resources in coming up with and executing it.
     I guess I'll find out how hard it can be, won't I?


DIPs, Part 2

     My other design in progress is a blackwork piece, but it didn't start out as blackwork. It started out as a piece of fabric that needed a design.
     When Lakeside Linens came out with the Lemon Ice color, I shook my head. It just didn't fit in. It was too bright. Then I and a customer decided we had to find a design that would work with that fabric. Every time she brought me a pattern and said, "This just may be the one," we optimistically and excitedly pulled the colors and did the floss toss. And every single time we were disappointed. Nothing seemed to really work with that yellow. So somehow I came to the decision that I'd just have to create a new design precisely for that fabric.
     As I mulled the problem over in the farthest reaches of my brain, I turned to nature. What in the natural world would complement or be associated with that color? Then I had my light-bulb moment. A gingk0 leaf in autumn is very similar to that yellow. I love the shape of the gingko. Perfect!
     After much research and trial and error, I came up with the concept. But it seemed awfully simple, a bit too basic for my taste, totally lacking in opportunities for the confetti that characterizes my designs. So naturally I turned to blackwork, a style of stitching that I find beautiful, elegant, deceptively simple looking. And one that I have absolutely no experience in doing. How was this going to work? I usually stitch my own models so that I can work out the colors and solve problems as they arise. There was no way I could stitch this model. But I blithely dove in and started working on it. I mean, how hard could it be to learn a little blackwork?
     Ha! I was right. There was no way I could stitch this model. My lack of skill with the technique made it painfully clear that I was not the one to do it.
     The second ah-ha moment. I could ask one of my customers who knew how to do blackwork. It wasn't a large design. How hard could it be if you knew what you were doing? So I asked Donna (needleworker not in paradise), who agreed! Problem solved.
     I think Donna will readily admit that it wasn't as simple a design as I had thought. Well, my original concept was pretty simple. But we both decided that it was just too boring. So much for "how hard could it be?" I am indebted to Donna for figuring out the various blackwork patterns to use along with doing all the stitching. It's going to be a lovely piece. When it finally gets finished.
     The last element I design for any piece is the border. Should there be one? Does it really need one? What kind of stitch should it be? Usually, by the time I finish stitching the main part of the pattern, I know what I want to do. Not this time. So Donna and I sat down to discuss it. She went home with a few ideas and proceeded to try to find the right stitch or combination of stitches that would put the finishing touch on this deceptively simple-looking gingko design. It couldn't be too elaborate, but it couldn't be too basic either.
     This piece might be in limbo still (okay, it's more of in a holding pattern, waiting for its turn), were it not for a fresh pair of eyes looking at it one afternoon when Donna was tending to the shop while I was out. The third eureka moment came courtesy of Jill, who said, "Make this the center element of a triptych, then frame each piece and display it as a grouping." Perfect!
     Wait a minute. That meant I'd have to design two side pieces, to which we all three responded, "How hard can it be?" And it truly won't be that hard. I know what I'm going to do. I have the elements I need. I just need a block of time to chart them and then stitch them. It will happen. After DIP #1 gets finished. (I'm pleased to report that the background is going well, and a little faster than expected.)
     So here's DIP #2, the working (and probably final) title of which is, "It is what it is."
     A note about the color in this photo. It's not very good.


The Perils of Having More Than One Computer

     I just finished writing about my other DIP and tried to upload the picture of the piece that I took in the shop the other day. There's just one small problem. It's on the computer in the shop, and I'm working on my laptop at home. I didn't think to e-mail it to myself before I left. Curses. This is the second time I started doing this at home and realized I didn't have the picture. Doh!
     So I'll try to do it tomorrow at the shop if I have the time. And if I don't, maybe I'll remember to send myself the picture. That's just silly. It will take just as long to e-mail it to myself as it will to plug it into the post. I'll definitely do it tomorrow. How hard can it be?



     I've been working on a couple of designs for the past year. Seems like forever, but it's only been a year. One, I've literally been working on. The other, I conceptualized but passed along to a model stitcher more experienced than I in the type of stitching it requires.
     The one I've been laboring over is Morning Glory. This design falls in line with my usual style, up close and personal with a flower from my (or someone else's) garden. I took lots of my own pictures, looked at lots of my sister's pictures, decided on one, and can't remember whose it was. Eh. After charting it in Anchor floss, I decided to do the flower itself in overdyed cottons. I thought it might be interesting and perhaps a little less intense a stitching experience than the usual confetti I use to get the look I want. It's been a long process.
     Here's my first go at it. I had gotten pretty far along when I discovered a mistake that couldn't stay and started the process of negative stitchery to reach the point where it could be corrected. (Pardon the wrinkles; it's been rolled/folded up for months.)
     Along the way, I decided I didn't like the way the background was turning out. Not to mention, I kept finding bad things in the flower, wasn't feeling the way I'd been working the overdye, and was generally unhappy with the whole thing. Best to just start fresh than start to hate it. So I changed the fabric, tackled the focal image, and put the background on the back burner of my mind.
     I recently finished the flower and am much happier with the result.
     I know how I want to stitch the background now to achieve the soft, faded look I wanted but wasn't getting even though I had chosen washed-out colors to stitch it in. You can see, barely, where I've begun. Maybe it won't take me another year to finish stitching this.
     It's interesting to see how the color differs in these two photos. I took both on the same day, in the same place, with the same settings, but the purples look different. Perhaps it's an optical effect created by the different colors of the fabric. All I know is, the same threads were used for both. Speaking of the threads, I found the range of purples in Anchor deficient, making the switch to overdyes even more important in the final analysis. Here are the original Anchor colors along with the overdyes from Carrie's Creation Threads and Crescent Colours.
     The other design was inspired by a piece of Lakeside Linens & Designs fabric, Lemon Ice to be precise. I'll talk about that one the next time.


I love silk

     I recently received a skein of a new silk floss to play with. How delightful!
     A little background. I've been carrying Carrie's Creation Threads in cotton for a year or more, ever since Tracy Horner of Ink Circles started using them in her patterns. The colors are so rich, and the price is so right: $1 for an 8-yard skein of overdyed DMC floss. I got just the threads for both colorways of Tracy's "I Still Do" and then decided I needed them all. They are wonderful to work with, but as with all overdyes these days, they vary from dye lot to dye lot. Whatever. I've come to terms with this and always encourage people to get perhaps one more skein than they think they'll need to be sure they don't run out and can't match the dye lot. I don't mind exchanging an unused skein occasionally. Not that anyone has ever returned an unused skein of Carrie's floss.
     In February, Carrie introduced her 6-strand silk floss. At $2 for an 8-yard skein. OMG! She had a prerelease batch of Epiphany available to work the Ink Circles "Cirque des Carreaux." So I got it, to see what it was like. The color was gorgeous, just as rich as the cotton version, and not much different colorwise. You never know with silk vs. cotton how close the match will be. I sold a few patterns kitted up with the Carrie's and Lakeside Linens Vintage Tarnished Silver and waited for the reviews. Well, of course no one has started the piece yet. It's in their queue, and we know what can happen with that.
     Jump to March. I decided to go ahead and get the newest colors of the cottons along with their corresponding silks, so I could do my comparison. Carrie asked if I wanted a skein to try out, so I could actually talk intelligently about it with my stitchers. What a concept! So I set about finding a pattern that would only need one skein of floss to complete. I found just the pattern, Tracy's "Pot Luck." One small problem. It calls for two skeins. Eh. So I decided to do it over one. It would be a good test of how well a single strand of the silk would cover on a 32-count Belfast. 
     You be the judge.
     I think it's pretty good, and those who have seen it in real life agree.
     I was dubious at the outset. Would I really enjoy working with this thread? I have to admit that I was afraid it would be like another inexpensive silk available online, Vikki Clayton's, which are pretty but which I didn't particularly enjoy working with. Carrie's has been a joy so far. (I know, I haven't gotten all that much done, and I've been working on this for a couple or three weeks. Shut up! Just because I own a shop, it doesn't mean I have any time to stitch.) My biggest fear was a knotting and static problem. The static is a slight problem with the full skein, but when I'm stitching and working with the individual strands, it's not. Go figure. (When I touched the first batch, one skein instantly flew apart in a fabulous display. Perhaps it was just having a bad day.) Knotting has not been an issue either. I'm sold.
     I'm really excited that the color difference between the cottons and the silks seems minimal, based on the eight or so colors I got in. There are one or two where the intensity varies, but I think it's safe to make the color selection from the cottons I have in the shop and order the corresponding silks. This will be my approach as I gradually increase the inventory. (Gradually increasing it gives me time to find someplace to display it in my small shop, a very big problem right now.)
     What do you think?
     A skein of the cotton is on top of the silk in this picture. These are the remaining silks, btw. I've already sold out a few of the colors that came in.
     I still have yet to hear from anyone about how they like working with it.
     In case you're wondering, this is what "Pot Luck" looks like: