Monday, December 28, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Ashley

The Ashley stitch is a very pretty stitch. It is really more of a pattern than a stitch but we won't split hairs. The stitch begins up two horizontal canvas threads and over two horizontal canvas threads to the right. The second stitch begins immediately underneath where the first stitch began and goes over three horizontal canvas threads and to the right over three vertical canvas threads (ending immediately to the right of where the first stitch ended).

Stitch numbers three and four are repeats of stitch number two -- going up and over three canvas threads and beginning/ending one canvas thread underneath where the previous stitch began/ended. Stitch number five begins one vertical canvas thread to the right of where stitch number four began and goes up and over two canvas threads in the same manner as stitch number one.

This five-stitch, Cashmere-like unit (over two, over three -- three times, then over two again) is repeated immediately underneath the first group. However, the stitches in the second unit are done from the top down and to the right as opposed to up and to the right. The stitch progresses in this manner -- one group of five stitches slanting up and to the right, the next group slanting down and to the right. In the next column, the orientation of the groups is reversed thereby creating a blank area where the four "group of five stitches" meet.

In the final step to the Ashley stitch, an eyelet stitch over one canvas thread is executed in the vacant center area where the "group of five stitches" meet. Variations to the Ashley stitch call for using a different color/type of thread for the center eyelet stitch. One can also vary the stitch by using a different stitch in the center such as a Mosaic stitch or a Smyrna Cross.

As with any stitch that spans several canvas intersections/canvas threads, a ribbon-type thread can be used (such as Neon Rays, RibbonFloss). The Ashley stitch can be used for architectural details, wallpapers, borders and backgrounds.

Stitch of the Week: Van Dyke

The Van Dyke stitch, this week's Stitch of the Week, can be worked either vertically or horizontally. It works up easily and fairly quickly and it has a nicely woven/braided appearance. The stitch works especially well with overdyed thread such as Threadworx Floss or Caron Watercolours.

The stitch consists of oblong crosses that overlap. Begin by going down and to the right over four horizontal canvas threads and two vertical canvas threads. The second step begins two canvas threads to the left of where step one ended and goes up and to the right over four horizontal canvas threads and two vertical canvas threads.

The second stitch unit is begun two horizontal canvas threads underneath where the first stitch unit began and proceeds in the same manner as the first stitch unit (i.e., down and to the right over four horizontal canvas threads and two vertical canvas threads, over to the left two canvas threads and then up and to the right over two vertical canvas threads and four horizontal canvas threads). Each of the subsequent stitch units begins two horizontal canvas threads underneath the previous stitch. At the end of a row you must end your thread and then begin again at the top of the row.

To work the stitch in a horizontal manner, rotate the canvas 90 degrees and proceed as above. When used as a single row the Van Dyke stitch makes excellent columns. The Van Dyke stitch also make great stripes, borders and when done in wool it looks like a knitted garment. To compensate you may want to fill in at the top and bottom of the row with a Gobelin stitch over a single horizontal canvas thread.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Double Stitch

This week's stitch of the week is one of my favorites -- the Double Stitch. This is an easy stitch to do and very useful as well. It can be used for filling in large areas, as a design element or even as a background stitch.

The stitch consists of two parts. The first part is an oblong cross done over one vertical canvas thread and three horizontal canvas threads. Work horizontal rows from left to right skipping one vertical canvas thread in between oblong cross units. The second row of oblong crosses begins two horizontal canvas threads below the first row. The top of the second row of oblong crosses will overlap or encroach one canvas thread onto the previous row of stitches. The final step is a simple cross stitch inserted in between the oblong cross units.

The result is a wonderful bumpy texture that looks like quilting to me. When worked in one color the stitch can resemble tree bark. You might try combining an overdyed thread with a related solid-colored thread for a more interesting look. When the oblong crosses are stitched with a dark colored wool and the cross stitches with a very fine metallic, the double stitch can resemble a night sky. Other suggested uses for the stitch include bushes, shrubs and even the fur trim on coats.

Adjust the thread amount you use to provide the level of canvas coverage that you desire. Also be sure that all your top stitches are slanted in the same direction for greatest effectiveness. The Double Stitch is a stitch that you will not regret learning and one that you will find many uses for in your stitching projects.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Colors -- Planet Earth / Silk & Ivory

The National NeedleArts Association is having its Winter show next month in California and in preparation for the show manufacturers and designers are releasing their new products. Brown Paper Packages, the distributor of Silk & Ivory, recently dispatched 4 new colors bringing their total number of colors to 220. Tilli Thomas, the makers of Planet Earth, also released their new colors -- thirteen new luscious colors bringing their total number of colors to 165.

The Silk and Ivory colors are Pewter, Onyx, Smoky Quartz and Straw. Silk and Ivory is a 50% silk, 50% Merino wool thread, made in Switzerland. It offers a incredibly soft feel, has a medium twist and a lustrous appearance. If you haven't tried Silk & Ivory before consider using it on the background of your next 13/14 mesh piece.

Also for use on 13/14 mesh canvas is Planet Earth, a 100% silk, single stranded thread. The colors of Planet Earth are wonderfully saturated and vivid. Their new color families include a fantastic array of yellow-orange from Amber to Persimmon (see above). Also released is a blue family that includes colors entitled Venus, Calypso, Poseidon and Neptune (bottom right) as well as a great new neutral family (Almond, Honey, Cashew and Dijon -- at right).

Here at Rittenhouse Needlepoint, Planet Earth is one of our favorite fibers. We recommend it all the time for 13/14 mesh canvas. It is affordable and wears well and as they continue to add colors it just keeps getting better and better.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Diamond Straight

The Diamond Straight is an easy stitch to learn. It is comprised entirely of straight stitches. The pattern is: over one, three, five, three, one -- skip a row of holes, repeat. The tallest stitch of the second row lines up with the bottom of the smallest unit of the first row, one canvas thread to the right or the left (in the skipped row of holes).

After you have stitched the diamond units you fill in the empty spaces with Continental stitches in a complementary-colored thread. These fill-in stitches create a lattice pattern which nicely enhances and completes the diamond pattern.

When stitching a straight stitch over one canvas thread it is sometimes wise to do the stitch twice so as to avoid the dreaded disappearing stitch syndrome. A straight stitch over one canvas thread has a tendency to disappear. Doing it twice makes it more prominent. Try it -- see if you like it.

The Diamond Straight has a wonderful quilted appearance therefore I think that it would be useful for Santa's clothing or bag. It also would make great paths, roads and backgrounds.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Frog Class Reunion

On Thursday night we had a reunion for the frog class of 2009. We had a good turnout including many completed frogs! Each was more creative than the next.

Martha Hurt, pictured here, stitched a Mosaic Frog (item 6356) from Julie Pischke for her grand-daughter Chantria. Jonne Smith completed Woodland Animals Frog from Edie & Ginger for her cabin in the woods. Other completed frogs included Michael McAlister's Ms. Key West (Julie Pischke, item #6359), Fran Dorfman's Baby Hanukkah Frog (item #15010) and Brit Traugott's Baby Ho Ho Ho.

Still-in-process frogs included Mindy Bogue's US Traveler Frog and Lois Kyler's Flora Frog (item #6348). And then of course there was your intrepid blogger's frog -- Imari Frog which sadly is nowhere near being finished (I can tell you more about this some other time).

Of course, the point wasn't necessarily to finish but rather to enjoy ourselves which is something that we all did with pizza, champagne and good camaraderie.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Trunk Shows Galore -- Online and Otherwise

The big news is that we've got three trunk shows in residence right now -- Tapestry Tent/Liz, Patty Paints and Brenda Stofft. The Tapestry Tent show is departing shortly (12/13) but what a show it has been. Liz, the painter for Tapestry Tent, is really an accomplished artist. Her canvases, particularly her Christmas stockings, are quite spectacular -- with lots of unusual themes and incredible detail. You can see the trunk show online by selecting "canvases" from the home page and then typing in the search box "Tapestry Tent".

Patty Paints features Americana-type, Colonial Era inspired canvases but she also has some more contemporary designs for Halloween and even Dr. Scholl's sandal toppers (a nice way to have a pair of needlepoint shoes that are more affordable to have finished than a full shoe). You can see the Patty Paints trunk show online by selecting "Canvases" from the main page and then typing in the search box "Patty Paints".

Lastly, we have the designs of Brenda Stofft in house until January. Brenda is a designer who we were unfamiliar with until a customer of ours asked us to purchase a couple of her pieces. Well, one thing led to another and we are happy to offer her line for sale. She has a wonderful whimisical sense of humor and you can see the Brenda Stofft trunk show online by selecting ... well, you know the drill.

Happy shopping.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Roumanian Leaf

The Roumanian Leaf is an interesting stitch. It is a nice stand-alone stitch but would also make for an interesting background. As the name implies, the stitch looks like a leaf of sorts. However, it also looks like a stylized tree/Christmas tree. It is important to study the diagram carefully in order to get the count right when doing the Roumanian Leaf. The stitch begins with a straight up and down stitch and then consists of a series of "V"s that get wider, stay the same size, and then eventually get smaller.

The first part of the stitch is a simple Gobelin stitch (straight up and down vertically) over two horizontal canvas threads.

This Gobelin stitch is then flanked by two diagonal stitches which are begun one horizontal canvas thread below the top of the Gobelin stitch. Each of the diagonal stitches goes over two horizontal canvas threads and one vertical canvas thread (either to the right or the left). This first group of stitches ends immediately underneath (one horizontal canvas thread below) where the Gobelin stitch ended. A tacking stitch completes the group.

A second group of stitches is done underneath the first group. It starts with two diagonal stitches, each beginning one horizontal canvas thread beneath (and one vertical canvas thread to the right or the left) of where the first diagonal stitches began. This second and larger "V" flanks the stitches of the first group. The second group ends in the same manner as the first group (i.e., with a tacking stitch, straight up and down over one canvas thread).

The Roumanian Leaf continues with another group of stitches forming a still larger"V" and ending underneath where the stitches of group two ended. This, the largest of the "V"s, is repeated two more times as shown in the diagram. Don't forget the tacking stitch.

The final "V" formation begins down one horizontal thread and to the right or the left one vertical thread from where the third group of large "V" stitches began. This final "V" is more sharply slanted than the previous "V"s and brings the Roumanian stitch to a close.

In terms of spacing for multiple Roumanian Leafs, the important thing to remember is that the top of the Gobelin stitch for the next Roumanian leaf unit shares the same hole as the farthest right or left hole of the final, longest "V" stitch. You will also know if your spacing is correct if the beginning of the first of the three longest "V"s shares the bottom hole of the previously executed Roumanian leaf stitch unit.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One Year Anniversary Party Today

We've been receiving fruit and flowers this morning. Why? Because it is a special day here at Rittenhouse Needlepoint. We are one year old today!

That's right -- we opened just one year ago today -- on the day after Thanksgiving. For those of you who were with us during that first weekend you know how far we've come in a year. Definitely a lot more stuff for sale now then there was during that first weekend. But hey -- what do you want? We put the whole store together in something like six weeks!

Of course, some things don't change. The coat rack is still here but now it is covered with a visiting trunk show of beautiful Christmas stockings and the majority of our canvases adorn the flip panels -- the ones that did not arrive in time for our original opening.

Stop by the shop between 4 and 7 and help us celebrate!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Parisian Stripe

A nice and relaxing stitch this week. Parisian stripe is simply the Parisian stitch where the long stitches line up underneath one another thus creating a small space that can be filled in with short stitches in a different color. The Parisian Stripe leaves a good backing on the reverse side of the canvas. It would work well as a background stitch or as a filling stitch for large areas. It has the regular appearance of a geometric stitch and little texture therefore it is relatively undemanding and discreet.

The stitch is done in horizontal rows alternating one short stitch and one long stitch. The combination can be: short stitch over 1 canvas thread and long stitch over 3 canvas threads or short over 2 and long over 4 canvas threads. In subsequent rows, the long stitches are lined up underneath one another leaving a space that is later filled in with short stitches in a different colored thread or for a more subtle look in a different thread texture.

The stitch is easy to compensate and therefore works well in small areas. Possible thread combinations include wool with pear cotton or a variegated thread with a coordinating solid color thread. Because the stitch is made up entirely of Gobelin stitches it might be necessary to use more thread than usual for your canvas mesh size.

According to Suzanne Howeren and Beth Robertson in their wonderful book, More Stitches for Effect, this stitch works well "for grass, fields, shrubbery, trees, beaches, clothing and animal fur" (p. 54)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stitches of the Week: Diagonal Cashmere and Cross Plus Two

Once again we are doing two stitches this week. The first was one that I hesitated to do since I figured that most of the class would be familiar with the stitch -- Diagonal Cashmere. As it turned out, the class was very enthusiastic about learning this stitch and it is indeed a hard stitch not to like. It's tremendously useful -- making a great background and covering large areas of canvas relatively quickly.

To begin working Diagonal Cashmere, start stitching at the upper left hand corner and work diagonally down and toward the right. The stitch unit consists of three individual stitches -- a short stitch (meaning a diagonal stitch up and to the right over one canvas intersection) and two long stitches (diagonally up and to the right over two canvas intersections). The three stitches begin immediately underneath one another. The next group of stitches commences one canvas thread to the right of where the final stitch of the previous unit began.

To start the return row can be difficult. It helps if one realizes that the first long stitch of the second row is diagonally below the short stitch. Complete as many full rows of the pattern as your space will allow and then add your compensating or partial stitches at the end.

The second stitch of the week is called Cross Plus Two. This is also a very attractive stitch although a bit less universilly applicable than Diagonal Cashmere. Cross Plus Two consists of a large, oblong cross stitch over six horizontal threads and four vertical threads. A gobelin stitch is then placed from the base of the X to the top of the X crossing over the center intersection of the X. The final portion of Cross Plus Two is a horizontal stitch across the base of cross. The second row is worked with a half-drop between rows.

When this stitch is done with a fine thread the effect is very lace-like in appearance. The stitch "produces different effects with different threads" so be sure to experiment with wool, pearl cotton, etc. This stitch would make an interesting background.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Update from the store

Took some time out this morning to "smell the roses" as it were. Here's the whole gang enjoying lattes (made by Russell). The only staff members missing are Steve, Patsy and myself (I am taking the photo). Unfortunately, it is also hard to see Mark but it is hard to take photos in the store living room -- so much light coming in through the windows.

Jim the painter is hard at work developing a line of Rittenhouse Needlepoint canvases that will be available for sale soon. I've been working with the Web site designers on the upgrade of our Web site -- very exciting.

Mark has been updating the Web store placing online Watercolours and Silver Needle. Also online currently is Alexander Collection -- great horse-y canvases. To find any of these collections just type in the search box -- Watercolours, Silver Needle or Alexander Collection.

Wendy the Magnificent has been busy, busy, busy waiting on customers and re-working the displays in the shop. She doesn't like to have her picture taken so that's why I've included it here! Unfortunately, the photo is a little blurry and she wouldn't let me take another one -- party pooper!

Russell of course continues to do nothing!! Ha ha.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stitch(es) of the Week: Combination Cross and Cushion Stitch

This week I chose to do two stitches for the price of one. The Cushion Stitch is also known as the Framed Scotch stitch. This is an excellent background stitch. It consists of Scotch Stitches done over one, two, and then three intersections. Between each Scotch Stitch unit, skip a canvas thread (both horizontally and vertically). When you have finished doing your field of Scotch stitches, fill in the skipped rows with Continental stitch. Consider doing the Scotch Stitches with an overdye thread.

The Combination Cross stitch (also known as Interlocked Upright & Diagonal Cross Stitch) is a most appealing stitch. It too makes for a fine background. The stitch is done in two different steps. The first step is to cover the canvas with cross stitches done over two canvas intersections. When you have finished your field of cross stitches, the next step is to insert a row of upright crosses in between the rows of completed cross stitches. The Upright Crosses are also over two but in their case it's two canvas threads not two canvas intersections. This stitch works in small areas and is easy to compensate. Beth Robertson and Suzanne Howren in their excellent book Stitches for Effect recommend this stitch for clothing and for use with overdyed thread.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

News from the Store

Well, I don't have to tell you about the article at the Caron web site ( ) This is a great web site filled with lots of useful information, free patterns and designer profiles.

In other news, we have a new trunk show in house from Silver Needle of Greenwich, CT. Silver Needle is the officially licensed distributor of designs featuring Paddington Bear™, The World of Peter Rabbit™, Goodnight Moon™ and Hadley Pottery™. They have a great line of city and state ornaments, also lots of canvases with a Martha's Vineyard/Nantucket/Cape Cod theme as well as children's storybook characters.

We've hired another new person -- Jonelle Kelly who will be doing bookkeeping for us as well as general problem solving and believe me have we got problems for her to solve.

We've almost finished processing the Watercolours collection from Caron. This is a gorgeous line of variegated thread in 3-ply pima cotton. The line has been much requested and having taken photos of all the different colors I can personally attest to the luscious character of these variegated threads. They have both a wonderful sheen as well as intriguing color combinations. I am hoping to have them on the floor by this weekend (fingers crossed).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stitch of (Last) Week: Montenegrin

Last week's stitch of the week is the handsome Montenegrin stitch. I had a couple of people take a look at the chart for this stitch and groan as it looks rather complicated on paper but in fact the stitch is not difficult to do and after a brief period of time working it up one gets into a rhythm.

The Montenegrin stitch is an old stitch, it covers well and is good for general use. It can be done over two or four horizontal threads. My instructions will be for the smaller version.

The stitch begins by doing a diagonal stitch across four vertical canvas threads and two horizontal threads. Next step is to drop down once canvas two canvas threads below where you entered the canvas and then count to the left two canvas threads. Return to the front side of the canvas and go up two canvas threads and to the left two canvas threads before entering the canvas again.

In step number three return to the front side of the canvas in the hole where you came forward to begin stitch number two (that is, in the hole that is two canvas threads to the right of the beginning hole). Go straight up two canvas threads and return to the backside. Re-emerge out of the same hole (for the third time) and this time repeat step number one -- going up two canvas threads and forward four canvas threads. Repeat steps numbers two and three. The stitch consists of a repetition of this "go forward four, go back two, straight up, repeat." You are coming forward in the same hole three times.

The final result is a tweedy, ribbed texture that is similar to the long armed cross.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stitch of the Week: Backstitched Spider

This week's stitch is also known as the "Ridged Spider Web" in Jo Christensen's The Needlepoint Book. This book, which I believe I have featured in the past on the blog, is a marvelous resource. If you do not already own a copy, I would urge you to get one.

Most of the information for this week's stitch is taken from the Christensen book -- pages 353 and 355. Spider webs are an interesting type of stitch. They are two-step stitch, first you need to lay down a foundation stitch and then you stitch over your foundation to create the final look.

Our foundation stitch for the Backstitched Spider consists of what I think of as a Smyrna Cross eyelet. The stitch consists of a plus sign and an "X" however all legs of these stitches meet in a center hole. The plus sign is done across four vertical canvas threads and into the center hole. The cross stitch is done across three canvas intersections and then into the center hole.

Once the foundation has been laid, the next step is to perform the backstitch. Return to the front side of the canvas in a hole that is as near as possible to the center of the canvas but not in the center itself. Go underneath two of the spokes and pull the thread forward. Next go underneath the last spoke for a second time and then underneath the next spoke. Pull the thread forward. Continue working in this fashion -- going underneath the last spoke and the next spoke -- around and around the circle. You should do this until it is not possible to go around again.

The result is a round stitch where each of the spokes is padded -- a most unusual effect but perfect for "grapes, apples, other fruit, wheels, balls, buttons, flowers, ladybugs, spiders, and other insects -- anything round" (Christensen, p. 353)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Class List Up

We've posted the new class schedule and this time we've managed to get our act together and actually post the next three months all at once. Isn't that great?

We've got some good stuff planned too. A new Bargello class called Four Way Bargello will be held October 28 from 5:30-7. Bargello is easy to do, really it's just a bunch of straight stitches. Of course, four-way Bargello is a bit more challenging. The idea is that you have four designs radiating out of the center of the scrim.

The best part of Bargello is playing with color which leads me to another one-session class we are offering called Exploring Color on November 18 from 5:30-7. This class will be an exploration of color theory focusing, of course, on how it applies to needlework. I am still formulating the class in my mind but I am really looking forward to teaching it.

We are going to experiment with a lunchtime class. This is a project class -- everyone will choose a scissor case and we'll work them together, exploring different stitches and techniques and at the end of the class we will all have a cute, useful, unique and long lasting item to be proud of.

We are also starting another frog class. Our very popular frog class was a huge success so we are looking forward to building on the experience. I am looking forward to this class because I have not made much progress on my frog since the last class ended. Of course, I might just start another frog ... !

For beginners, we have scheduled basketweave classes for every two weeks and we've tried to pick different days of the week and different times of day so that as many people as possible can attend. If, however, you are not able to make it to one of the basketweave classes, you can always schedule a private lesson with me for $10/half hour.

And don't forget the Stitch-of-the-Week class which will continue to meet on Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 and Sundays from 11 am to 12pm. It's a bargain at $5.00!