Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stitch of the Week : Long Armed Cross

The Stitch-of-the-Week long-armed cross was met with a decidedly lukewarm reception this week. I had chosen to introduce the group to the "giant" version of the stitch (8 threads forward, four threads back) which leaves some of the canvas exposed. I thought that this looked fine -- very lattice-y and rope-like; a look that would make a fine border. Some of the class was turned off by the exposed canvas and very much relieved when we progressed to the smaller version of the stitch (ahead four, back two). I was surprised at how different this version of the stitch looked from the larger version. No more open canvas, this smaller version was dense and braided looking. The rows alternated directions alternated directions which gave a ridged effect that I found appealing but which did not appeal to some of the class.

We also experimented with different fibers. Neon Rays gave a braided ribbon effect that I found quite appealing. Sparkle Rays was a bit less refined and showier. Kreinik Braid looked like a mess on my piece but that was mostly because I had the wrong size fr my outsized canvas (I am always stitching with either super small or super large canvas because I tend to save the "good stuff" (i.e., 13 or 14 mesh) for students. I should re-stitch my Kreinik braid sample with #32 and see how it looks.

As for potential uses for this stitch Howren & Robertson are quite specific: "braided Santa's bag handles, reindeer reins, horse reins, dog leashes, fence posts, and twisted looking fences." I don't know how many times one might need the perfect epaulet stitch but the group concluded that this would make for a fine one. I think that the stitch would make a handsome border between stitched areas or in the larger version a border around an entire piece. I also think that it would make a fine rug or a filling-in stitch. Perhaps too it might make a fine stitch for the pages of a book which interestingly enough brings me to my next subject ...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Returning to Basketweave after a long day of "Decorative Stitching"

I'm here on my sofa and I've got a choice of projects to work on and I've reached once again for the basketweave one. There is nothing like a good, old-fashioned, scrunch-it-up-in-your-hand, all-basketweave-all-the-time project to relax me. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy so-called decorative stitches (as if basketweave isn't a decorative stitch) but it is like a rich diet -- a little goes a long way. One needs some commonplace, no frills, everyday nutrition too and that's what basketweave is to me -- relaxing, comforting, and nearly mindless.

Having said that, let me also say that I've been working Dena's boathouse row project, putting in a portion of the sky using one full strand of Paternayan and the jacquard stitch. It looks nice and has drawn lots of positive comments. I 've enjoyed working on that piece too especially not that I've learned to alternate my stitching from bottom right/upper left to upper left/bottom right thus negating the need for turning the canvas. Turning such a bulky canvas can be tiresome. Occasionally I loose concentration and will mess up the pattern (exactly the sort of thing that no longer happens to me while basketweaving). Generally I've had to rip out only a few stitches at a time but I did have to rip out more than that the other day.

The jacquard stitch is a fun and attractive stitch though. It looks especially handsome when done in two different fibers of the same color (such as wool and embroidery floss) or when done in two shades of the same fiber. It's a stitch that has a lot going for it. It makes a fine background or, as I mentioned, sky or even grass (as in the fairway of a golf course). It's not the fastest stitch to work up though its not the slowest either. It's not the fastest stitch to work up though it's not the slowest either. It's completely scale-able so it's very versatile (you can vary the number and length of the stitches in either the Byzantine portion of the stitch or in the continental portion). It covers the back of the canvas well and if you choose not to make the stitches too long it's fairly snag-proof and durable.

I just love it and will definitely use it again. Just not tonight. I'm too tired.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cute Product Alert

We have a new product at the shop. It's a child's rocking chair from Sudberry House and we've outfitted it with a canvas of Noah's Ark from Susan Roberts. I think it looks fabulous and would make a wonderful heirloom project for a new child. The canvas is $105 and the chair is $180. Thread and finishing would be extra but for the price ... it's a family heirloom and many hours of happy stitching.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Where are my scissors, laying tool, needle threader, etc.?

Have you ever noticed that when you are stitching stuff just disappears? I have had a couple of instances recently where my stitching accessories/thread have just up and left me. On Friday during Happy Hour at the shop I had several people helping me look for my -- product plug alert -- easy to use trolley needle (item 2820, $6.99). We could not find it anywhere. I looked under the chair, behind the curtains, under the cushions, in my pockets, under the coffee table, even under the carpet (a highly unlikey spot but hey I was desperate). Finally I just gave up. It was frustrating though because a.) I had already misplaced and then found my scissors earlier in the stitching session and b.) because both Dena and I had heard them land SOMEWHERE. When I went to clean up and put my stuff away I discovered that the trolley needle had fallen into the drawer of the table to my right -- don't ask me how, I guess that the drawer must have been open and maybe I wasn't looking where I put it. Who knows? That's not the point anyway. The point is that stitching stuff disappears.

It happened to me again on Saturday night. I was stitching on the water lily/koi fish project (more about that later) when I needed more of the pale mauve metallic thread and I could not find it anywhere. I had just been stitching with it and I looked and looked but could not find it. I tore apart the sofa/sleeper, tried everywhere I could think of (except strangely the drawer on the sofa table). I still didn't find it and as it was getting late I just wrote it off to sleepiness and took the dog out with Russell.

The next morning I found the mauve thread down in the store, right next to the cash register -- don't ask me why. Near as I can figure, I must have had some of the metallic thread in one of my needles already and then I used it up. Now as to why the thread was next to the cash register I have no idea.

Needless to say last night when I sat down to stitch I was extra careful to remember to put everything in the "right" spot. But of course then I forgot and placed the scissors next to me on the sofa and then I shifted my position and well, before you know it, the scissors had fallen between the cushions and ... you know the drill -- cushions everywhere, lots of cussing, sweat pouring down my brow, so on and so forth. Can you say frustration?

Now -- let's talk about that koi/lily project. I discovered while I was working on the previous blog entry that I have been looking at/working on my canvas UPSIDE DOWN. Can you believe that? How dumb can you get? Once I saw the canvas right side up you know it made a lot more sense. No longer are the lilies face down and the fish are now swimming upstream instead of downstream. So there you have it. The hazards of working on a canvas that is an abstracted version of reality. I am still going to work on it upside down -- I can't really turn it around because I am working the canvas in my hand and if I turn it around then I will be grasping the worked area of the canvas in my left hand -- not good. So, I'll keep going as I am and when I am done I will turn it around and be surprised.

In other news, we had a busy day at the shop on Sunday but not too busy for me to start another project! And this one is a big one. Dena, who works at the shop, brought in a huge canvas that she had custom-painted of Boat House Row and the Philadelphia skyline. It's a great canvas and she has all the thread (Patternayan) for it. She wants me to do all different stitches so I thought it would be fun for us to do it together though somehow I have a sneaky suspicion that I am going to be doing most of the work. When I will fit it in I have no idea but I told you I have multiple project personality.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Welcome to the Rittenhouse Needlepoint blog. My name is Stephen and I will be primarily responsible for what you read here.

I am a co-owner of Rittenhouse Needlepoint with my partner Russell Palmer (III). Russell and I have owned several businesses together so although this is our first needlepoint shop it is not our first business venture together.

Russell doesn't do needlepoint. He says that it is important for one of us to maintain a lay person's perspective. He also likes to say that while he doesn't do needlepoint he is a lover of needlepoint.

I myself have only been stitching for four years so although some customers have referred to me as an expert needlepointer I definitely don't consider myself one. I enjoy needlepoint a great deal. I find it to be both relaxing and satisfying. I've enjoyed learning about needlepoint and I am looking forward to sharing some of what I've learned with you.

So, where to begin? I suppose as good a place as any would be my current project. Before I go any further I must tell you that I am a multiple-project personality. It is hard for me to finish a project but it is easy (and fun) for me to start one. Therefore, I currently have something in the neighborhood of ten different projects in different stages of completion.

Recently, meaning the last few days, I have been working on a Susan Treglown design (#WL-1006) of koi fish and water lilies (I like koi fish -- this is my second project with koi fish). It's all blue, white and turquoise. Its very impressionistic and I love the colors. This is a project that I bought some time ago (2+ years probably). I purchased it at the Natchez Needle Arts Studio (such a fancy name but an excellent shop in Natchez, MS -- say "hello" to Miss Katie). The design seemed rather daunting to me for a long time as it requires multiple color changes and includes few areas of unbroken color. As a beginning basketweaver at the time, the idea of all those starts and stops intimidated me so I went with a different project that I had also bought. The turquoise and blue impressionistic koi sat in my stash waiting patiently for a long time. Occasionally, I would bring it out and admire it but then back it would go.

A couple of weeks ago I moved the canvas and threads to the space between my night table and my bed (a strange spot I know but I guess I was operating on the principle "in sight -- in mind"). It worked. I picked up the canvas the other night after a long evening of learning decorative stitches. I was looking for something less challenging. A relaxation project. So, I started basketweaving in the upper right hand corner.

I was not initially satisfied with my work. The white color that I had for the small areas of "background" was Silk & Ivory Natural. It was too blah. Also I had used some turquoise Appleton wool for an area of light blue at the top of the canvas to the upper right of the water lily. The color was too intense I felt.

So, the next morning I brought the work to the store where I proceeded to rip out the work that I had already done (using my super fabulously sharp Gingher tweezers (item #3988 -- $18.00) and my "Precision Stainless Steel Thread Cutter" (item #4847 -- $15.95). It was still a job but when I was through I laid out all the colors that I had purchased from Natchez and tried to map out where they were to go.

I substituted Threadworx Overdyed Floss -- Vanilla Ice (color #1008, item 4906). This is an off-white color with probably too much pale tan/yellow in it to be a convincing shade of light reflecting off water but still I like it better than the flat Silk & Ivory color. I also added some metallic thread for the water lilies. The Kreinik braid is actually a very pale mauve (color # 193, item 2962).

Steve Smith was very helpful in this whole process. Steve works at our shop but mostly on the computer and in the back. He took it upon himself to help me with this process and I have to admit I was leery because Steve doesn't do needlepoint (he likes hockey and football and the flat tax idea of Steve Forbes). But he was very helpful. It is always nice to have someone suggesting alternatives and offering opinions. And, he's pretty good with color too so go figure!

So, armed with my new threads as well as some wonderful new -- product plug alert -- Bohin size 20 tapestry needles (item #4820, $2.25) I began yet another project. It's always so satisfying to begin a project. Oh the enthusiasm, the promise of a new heirloom piece ... you know the drill.

Now, I've been working on it for the last couple of evening after work (and dinner) while listening to Adrianna Lecouvreur and Turandot. I am still enjoying working on the project. I love as I mentioned earlier all the colors and now that I have them all grouped by the canvas area that they cover it is much easier or me to feel confident that I am not forgetting a shade or worse yet using the wrong color.

I like the way the Threadworx overdyed floss has added interest to the "background" area. I am also really liking the Kreinik braid that I am using for the water lily. I had reservations regarding this thread because I thought that it might be a.) too lavender and/or b.) too glitzy. So far it seems okay on both counts.

I am having a bit of a hard time starting and stopping my colored threads without going through a white area. I've seen too many otherwise lovely canvases be marred by this common but easily avoidable mistake but unfortunately I don't have much room to maneuver so its been a challenge.

That's about the only issue that I have discovered so far. The Silk & Ivory is just a wonderful thread to stitch with. It positively floats through the canvas. I've noticed however that it has looked a bit funky when I de-skeinned it -- maybe a little more fuzzy than normal and reluctant to let go of the hank shape (understandable I suppose since it has been wrapped up as a skein for two plus years).

It is also still a bit difficult to determine where the blue-green vs. the turquoise vs. the blue-gray all go but I am going to take it slow and easy. Repeat after me -- "this is meant to be relaxing."