Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Darmstadt Pattern

This week's "Stitch of the Week" is more of a pattern than a stitch per se. It consists of a series of Gobelin stitches (i.e., straight up and down stitches) done over 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 canvas threads. The stitches gradually ascend to the highest point and then recede to the shortest stitch which is shared between adjacent stitch units. Also, the longest three stitches are divided in half; so instead of stitches over 8, 10 and 8 horizontal canvas threads you will have two groups of stitches both are over 4, 5, and 4 horizontal canvas threads, one group is placed above the other).

This all sounds terribly complicated but the stitch is rather easy to do and it works up quickly. The final step to the Darmstadt Pattern is a horizontal stitch in the center of each diamond over four vertical canvas threads using a darker color.

The final effect of all this work is an attractive stitch that makes an "interesting and dynamic background" according to The Needlepoint Book. The stitch has a good backing although it is subject to snagging. Variations on this stitch might include adding or subtracting stitches in the middle portion of the diamond (i.e., the half length stitches). Instead of a center portion over 4, 5, and 4 canvas threads, you could do one stitch over four threads or an additional stitch over six canvas threads. Also, you may want to vary the color of the central horizontal stitch. Most times this stitch is done in a thread that is "a decided contrast" (Background Stitch Reference Book, p. 2) however a more subtle effect might work as well (perhaps even metallic?). I have done this stitch using wool and I like the way it looks but you might try doing it with Neon Rays or some other ribbon-type thread for a different appearance. Whatever thread you choose make sure that it is thick enough to properly cover the canvas (upright stitches will generally require more thread than diagonal stitches). Happy stitching.

Book of the Week ( Month? )

I've been so erratic in my blogging that the Book of the Week probably should be re-christened the Book of the Month (or even -- the Book of Whenever I Get Around to It). No worries though.

The A-Z of Needlepoint (ed. by Sue Gardiner and published Country Bumpkin Publications in 2005) is a great needlepoint book for beginners. Admittedly, the introductory section is poor -- too brief by a mile. However, the section on needlepoint stitches is where the book truly shines. There are over 60 stitches featured. They are explained in step-by-step fashion with clear photos and descriptive text. Almost all of the "biggie" stitches (i.e., the most popular/easiest) are included. This book is especially good for visual learners.
Having said that, let me also say that this book may not be for everyone. It does tend to take half a page and six photographs to explain what one good chart can. Some people are chart-o-phobic though. Another problem with the book is that it is not very descriptive when it comes to saying how the stitches might be used.

It sounds as if I am saying more negative than positive about this book so let me re-cap the positives: the photos are excellent, the step-by-step instructions are both clear and comprehensive (I've even referred to them myself on occasion) and the format is approachable (small, spiral-bound).

The book is not comprehensive but if you know all the stitches in this book then you have a head start on most needlepointers. I might even go so far as to say that you know as many stitches as you need to! (Ooops did I say that?)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back from Columbus

Russell and I are back from the TNNA show in Columbus, OH and we bought some good stuff for the store. It should be arriving starting in a week or so and continuing for the next month or two. We bought from a number of new designers including Ruth Schmuff, Shelly Tribbey, Kathy Schenkel, Leigh Designs, Maggie & Co./Ewe & I, Kelly Clark and Raymond Crawford. I am telling you -- lots and lots of good stuff coming.

We decided to take the plunge and buy some cross stitch and counted canvas patterns/supplies. I've included a photo of Russell and I with famous cross stitch designer, Nora Corbett (she's a lovely person). I also met Suzanne Howren and Beth Robertson of Stitches for Effect fame (also very nice) and Amy Bunger (a real hoot).

We also bought some crewel supplies and are looking forward to introducing ourselves and our customers to some new needle-related activities. Look for cross stitch and crewel embroidery classes in the next couple of months.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Patsy Swain, Nancy Kingsbury and Steve Smith who were hugely helpful in manning the store while we were gone. Good job and thank you!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Oriental

This week's stitch of the week was pretty much the opposite of last week's -- the Oblong Cross (it is not online yet). The Oblong Cross is a very easy stitch to learn therefore we spent most of last week's class learning lots of variations on the basic stitch. The Oriental stitch, this week's stitch of the week, is a bit of a challenge to learn and so today's class was spent just learning the stitch.

The Oriental stitch is a fantastic background stitch and a great stitch for filling in large areas. It is a Milanese-type stitch comprised of two diagonal rows of arrowheads that alternate directions. The Oriental stitch, unlike the Milanese stitch, does not line up seamlessly. The long stitches of one row share the same hole with the long stitches of the next row thereby creating gaps or spaces in between the rows of arrowheads that are then filled in with Slanted Gobelin stitches.

It is best to do the rows of Milanese before filling in with the Gobelin stitches. Since the stitch requires three different passes to complete, it is not super quick. Also, compensating this stitch can be a challenge. Carolyn Ambuter in her Complete Book of Needlepoint recommends solving this problem by filling in everywhere with Slanted Gobelin stitches which works except when one is using two different colors (one for the arrowheads and a different color for the filing in stitches).

The Oriental stitch looks remarkably different when done with one color/type of thread or two as illustrated by the above pictures. This is not a stitch for the faint at heart but can be quite striking.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What I'm Stitchin'

It was interesting to read the comments from my last post. Of course it is always easier to criticize than to do -- which is why I prefer to criticize!

Most of my beef with Needlepoint Now is purely a matter of taste as Mindy accurately surmised but I am also bothered by the tone of self satisfaction and the presumption of intimacy with readers. One of the great things about Needlepoint News magazine (could they have more similar titles?) was a regular feature where they asked readers for information about "things they wanted to know." Also they were not afraid to go out on a limb and say for instance that a particular needlepoint book was not worth buying. Now granted that was easier to do in the seventies when needlepoint books were being published left and right. However Needlepoint Now with its advertisements for featured projects doesn't exactly instill me with confidence regarding its objectivity. But hey again I criticise so I will stop but before I do one last note -- one reader did point out to me that the authors of articles in Needlepoint Now are not paid for their work and therefore sales of the featured projects are one way for them to get compensated for their hard work. Duly noted.

In other news, I have actually finished a project! Wahoo! It is a small project and one that most of you were not even aware that I was working on. It is the last in a series of four coasters painted by Julie Mar of orchids. It was a strictly old fashioned basketweave, scrunch-it-up-in-your-hand, Paternayan wool project and I think that it turned out nicely. The photo that I have to show you my work is terrible but given my rather erratic posting schedule lately I thought that it was more important for me to go forward with the lousy picture than wait until I have time to take a decent shot.

Julie Mar is an outstanding canvas painter. She is based in Asheville, NC and is currently represented by Patricia Dee of PLD Designs in Moorestown, NJ. I've done a couple of Julie Mar projects. They are challenging to do as they usually involve a fair amount of shading and her canvases are not stitch-painted (so lots of decision making to do). I've always been pleased with the results though.

We just received several Julie Mar canvases in the shop last week including a number that are on ten mesh (quick, quick, quick). When you stop by the shop ask to see them and I would be happy to show them to you. Or better yet do a search on the website for Julie Mar and/or PLD Designs. You might like them too.

I chose wool for this project because they are coasters and they need to be durable. The blue background seemed like a good idea at the time but as the coasters will now be used in the shop the blue doesn't go with anything. Ah the hazards of taking too long to finish a project!