Friday, April 30, 2010

Upcoming Classes

We've got a lot of interesting classes coming up at Rittenhouse Needlepoint. We have a Shading and Thread Blending class on May 12. If you have not already taken this class I would encourage you to do so. The class is full of easy techniques that will get you thinking about your needlepoint in an entirely new way.

On May 19 we are offering a class on the Long and Short Stitch. This is the first time that we have offered this class. It will focus on learning the basics of the Long and Short stitch and also how to apply it in a realistic manner.

"Dude Up Your Canvas" is a class on making your own tassels that will be taught by our finisher Bianca Lindblad. On Saturday May 29, we have another guest instructor, Robin Bannister. Robin has taught at our store before and on the 29th she will be teaching a class in Embroidery.

Looking ahead to June, we will be offering a new class on stitching with overdyed threads (June 8) as well as a new Bargello class on Christmas ornaments.

Also in June will be our second Thread Tasting. The first thread tasting was so popular we've decided to have another. This time we are hoping to bring in fibers that we do not currently sell in the shop in order to get your opinion on whether or not we should. This is destined to be a popular class --be sure to sign up early!

The full class calendar is available online at:

Focus On: Crystal Braid

Crystal Braid is a wonderful thread available from Rainbow Gallery. It comes on cards in 10 yard lengths. The thread is 55% nylon and 45% polyester. It comes in 14 colors and is manufactuired in Japan. We carry the entire line at Rittenhouse Needlepoint.

Crystal Braid is intended for use with 18 mesh canvas. One strand of Crystal Braid is equivalent in size to one strand of #5 pearl cotton. Crystal Braid is also equivalent to Kreinik Braid #12 (tapestry weight) -- both consist of 12 strands of metallic thread braided together.

According to The Thread Thesaurus, Rev. Ed., the great strength of Crystal Braid is its "unique icy pearl look that shimmers" (p. 40). The thread also does not fray easily. It can be used anywhere you would use Kreinik Metallic Braid #12 and it is much easier to handle than Kreinik Braid being softer and more pliable.

Suggested stitches for use with Crystal Braid include Parisian Stripe (clothing -- top left), Chottie's Plaid (background -- middle left) and Hesitation (for both clothing and background -- lower left). I would also consider using Crystal Braid when depicting snow or a starry night.

The range of colors is appealing -- strong in pastels, especially greens.

Consider using Crystal Braid in your next project. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Aviva Trunk Show

Now at Rittenhouse Needlepoint until May 14 are the designs of local talent Meryl Packman and Aviva. Meryl is located in Cherry Hill, NJ. She has been painting needlepoint canvases for years and we are delighted that she has agreed to share her designs with us.

The show, while small, has some interesting and unusual canvases. There are a number of tooth fairy pillow canvases. A tooth fairy pillow is a great way to do needlepoint for the youngsters in your life. Truly a family heirloom!

Also available are a number of Judaica designs as well as images from the twenties and thirties featuring children at the beach and smart, sassy and newly liberated women.

Stop by the store and take a look. Remember, shop local.

Focus On: Vavoom

Vavoom is a new thread for us here at Rittenhouse Needlepoint. It comes in five yard skeins and is available in seven colors (white, black, red, tan, light gray, dark gray and pink). The thread is 100% polyester and consists of long hairy filaments attached to a fine, hallow core.

Interestingly, the thread looks quite different on the ring than it does stitched up. Loose, Vavoom appears feathery like a boa but stitched up it looks soft like angora. To fluff up the yarn, brush with a toothbrush or a Bunka brush. This will create the look of a beard. Vavoom can also be used for fluffy areas such as pom-poms and fur trim.

Suggested stitches for use with Vavoom include Gobelin, slanted Gobelin, Giant Brick and Encroaching Gobelin. Complex decorative stitches are wasted on Vavoom since the hairiness of the yarn obscures detail.

Vavoom can be mixed with wool to achieve a mottled animal fur. This would help to achieve a more realistic effect (hair is rarely one solid color).

The manufacturer also suggests that the thread can be curled by used a heated metal knitting needle and rolling the threads like a curler. I'll leave that for you to try!

Stitch of the Week: Paris

This week's stitch is the Paris stitch -- not to be confused with the Parisian stitch, a totally different animal. The Paris stitch probably ought to be called Tied Double Gobelin or Double & Tie as it is sometimes known.

The stitch is simple enough. It consists of two Gobelin stitches over four horizontal canvas threads. Both stitches are performed in the same row of holes and lie side-by-side. The final part of the stitch consists of a horizontal stitch over the two vertical stitches you have just made but also over two vertical canvas threads. The row of stitches progresses from left to right. Subsequent rows are staggered between the stitches of the previous row.

The Paris stitch has a good backing and is snag-proof (i.e., a good choice for a piece that needs to be hard-wearing). The stitch is most attractive in a single color but can also be executed in two colors for a striped look. Because both of the upright Gobelin stitches are executed in the same row of holes, a finer thread weight is recommended.

Because the stitch is slow to work up, I would use it as a filling stitch for small areas. It is also often suggested that the stitch has a woven basket look. Compensate the stitch with upright Gobelin stitches over two canvas threads (forget the tie down portion).

Monday, April 19, 2010

What I Am Working On

Well, I continue working on the "STJ" pillow that I shared with you last week. I've actually made some good progress though it is hard to tell in the picture. I have a long way to go. The diamond-shaped areas are a real bear! Just plain slow going. Basketweave is s-l-o-w that is just all there is to it.

I picked up another project this week (so what else is new?). This is a little Christmas tree ornament -- a silly thing really but for whatever reason it spoke to me. I got it from the Patti Mann trunk show. It's an underwater snowman of all things. Mostly I got it because I wanted to use a new fiber that we have from Threadworx. The fiber is called Legacy and it is one of these shaggy all-polyester threads. It looks just like seaweed which is where I intend to use it on the canvas. Also, I plan on doing the background in bargello using Crystal Braid, Flair and Overdyed Embroidery Floss (also from Threadworx). It should be fun.

Still not working on the Christmas stocking or the frog projects. Not sure what happened with these two projects. I was on a role and then presto my desire just left me as quickly as it came. I think if I can ever bring myself to return to these projects then I will pick up enthusiasm for them again but it's hard. So many great things to work on and never enough time. Also, these projects are both on 18 mesh and large in size so I think that has me discouraged as well.

No matter. It's all good. Life is too short to beat myself up over needlepoint.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Birds of a Feather Trunk Show In Store Now

"Birds of a Feather" began designing and selling hand-painted needlepoint canvas in 1997. According to their Web site: "In the late summer of 2007, Danielle Gann purchased Birds of a Feather. Her long history of needlepointing spans 4 generations, encompassing her own needlepoint shop she previously owned with her twin sister. Additionally, her mother currently owns her own needlepoint line, continuing on in the family tradition."

That's a lot of needlepoint experience and it shows in the well-painted canvases with appealing designs. The canvases have a graphical quality and include bright colors and abstracted elements that makes them both playful and impactful.

I particularly like the large collection of sampler-inspired designs as well as the florals. My favorite is a patriotic themed canvas that you probably have enough time to complete before Independence Day!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Vineyard Silk Classic Colors

Vineyard Silk has come out with twelve new luscious colors bringing their "Classic" line to 210 colors. The new colors strengthen several color families including orange, blue-green and blue-gray.

Vineyard Silk is a single strand silk that we recommend for use with 18 mesh canvas for those individuals who do not care to ply their thread. For more information about Vineyard Silk Classic check out my blog entry earlier this week "Focus On: Vineyard Silk Classic."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stitch of the Week: Double Cross

The Double Cross stitch is a beautiful stitch as you can clearly see from the outstanding examples stitched up by intrepid instructor Mindy Bogue. The look of this stitch can vary quite dramatically based on the choice of thread. Use a thinner thread for a more lacey look and heavier threads for fuller coverage.

Begin the stitch by making Giant Cross Stitches across four canvas intersections. Then go back and insert Upright Cross stitches over two canvas threads in each "quadrant" of the Giant Cross Stitches.

Mindy altered the stitch thus creating what the class dubbed the "Mindy Variation" which is, in my humble(?) opinion, even more attractive than the original stitch. In the Mindy Variation, stitch sizes are increased. So, you make Extra Giant Cross Stitches over six canvas intersections and insert Upright Cross stitches over four canvas threads rather than two in each of the four quadrants. Because the Extra Giant Cross Stitch carries over six intersections Mindy felt the need to "tie" it down with an additional Upright Cross stitch where the two legs intersect. She did this in a third color which added further interest and visual appeal.

According to Suzanne Howren and Beth Robertson in their wonderful book, More Stitches for Effect, the Double Cross stitch is good for baskets and wicker furniture due to the stitch's woven look. They also recommend using overdyed thread in combination with solid silk/cotton thread for this stitch.

Note: the Mindy Variation has been copyrighted and permission must be obtained (and royalties paid) before using.

Haha, only kidding.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Focus On: Vineyard Silk Classic

Vineyard Silk Classic is a really luscious thread and one of my all-time favorites. It is 100% silk, imported from China and non-strandable. One strand is equivalent to one strand number five pearl cotton.

In our shop, we recommend Vineyard Silk for use with 18 mesh canvas. It is our "go to" fiber for when we want the look of silk on 18 mesh but without the bother of stranding/plying. The manufacturer as well as other needlepoint shops maintain that it can be used with 13/14 mesh. I think that it does work with diagonal stitches such as tent stitch on 13/14 mesh painted canvas.

Diagonal stitches look particularly lovely with this thread as it reflects light so well. Recommended stitches for use with Vineyard Silk Classic include Basketweave, Diagonal Mosaic (sky, water, background), Nobuko (snow, water), Cashmere (architectural details) and Brick (lawns, bark).

Rittenhouse Needlepoint carries the full line of Vineyard Silk Classic. The thread is sold in 30 yard skeins. There are 210 colors. The line is particularly strong in pinks, greens and blues. The company has recently released several new colors about which I will write soon.

Two of my favorite characteristics of Vineyard Silk Classic are 1) the fact that it does not unravel and 2.) it does no pill. Combined with the lustrous sheen and the durability of silk, I heartily recommend Vineyard Silk Classic.

Friday, April 9, 2010

News from the Store

We are enjoying cooler weather today which is a nice change of pace from the eighty degree+ weather that we've been having recently-- way too early for those temperatures!

We have two trunk shows currently in residence though one of them is due to head out shortly. The extensive Cooper Oaks Design collection with its lovely floral designs is here until Tuesday, April 14 while the wild and whimsical designs of Ewe & Eye are here a bit longer -- they will be leaving us on April 20.

Also leaving on April 20 is a mini trunk show from Whimsey & Grace. I don't believe that I have mentioned this show before -- it is a collection of napkin ring canvases. I think that napkin rings would make a wonderful needlepoint project. You could even incorporate your initials or monogram. It's an unexpected use for needlepoint for all you "I simply can't do another pillow" people out there (and I know that you are out there because I've heard it from you before!) The collection from Whimsey & Grace also includes round name tags or box inserts for the Lee boxes.

The Web site redesign has been well-received. I will be blogging soon about some of the more advanced features of the web site. We may even hold a free class on how to get the most out of the Web site. You would be surprised at what you can do with it.

Speaking of the Web site, we are in the process of adding Canvas Works Collection online. This is the first time the designs of Canvas Works have been online so we are very excited to be able to offer them to you.

We had a special delivery yesterday at the store. Back from the finisher came two Patti Mann 3-dimensional characters: a sea turtle and a "Pudgie" elephant. These guys are super-cute so be sure to ask to see them next time you are in the store. A special thanks goes to Betty Lou Malmud for having stitched up the sea turtle for us -- gratis!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Focus On: Hand-Dyed Impressions

Caron Collection's Impressions is a popular fiber and for good reason. The combination of 50% silk and 50% wool gives it a wonderful "hand" and the array of colors is extensive. The combination of silk and wool gives depth to this thread as each of the two fibers reflect light differently.

What could be better than Impressions? Easy -- Hand-Dyed Impressions. This gorgeous collection of 97 hand-dyed colors shares all the desirable points of Impressions and adds to it subtlety and sophistication of variegated color. The colors of Hand-Dyed Impressions coordinate with the colors in Caron's other lines -- Watercolours (all cotton) and Waterlilies (all silk).

This very versatile thread can be used in embroidery, cross stitch and needlepoint. One strand of Hand-Dyed Impressions is equivalent to one strand of No. 8 Pearl Cotton. On 18 mesh canvas I use one strand however some people prefer the fuller look of two strands. It's a matter of personal preference.

Suggested stitches for use with Impressions Hand-Dyed include Alternating Smyrna Cross (top left) for bushes and treetops using one of the many shades of green. The Kennan stitch (bottom left) makes nice grass. The Woven or Web stitch (middle left) makes terrific fields and Diagonal Fern (top right) stitch plus Hand-Dyed Impressions in some of the smoky grays or browns makes realistic looking mountains. My favorite stitch with this thread is however the French Knot (bottom right). It makes terrific flowers (especially in the lavender hues) and also curly hair using the brown or straw colors.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stitch of the Week: Moorish

The Moorish Stitch (top right and left) is essentially the Diagonal Scotch stitch with a row of tent stitches in between. The over 1-2-3-2 pattern is repeated without interruption from the upper left to the lover right. In a different color or thread, a row of continental stitches is then worked on either side of the Diagonal Scotch stitches.

The Moorish stitch makes a fine background or filling stitch. It works up quickly and has good coverage on the reverse side of the canvas. It can be used for representing roofs and fields. The stitch has a definite diagonal feeling to it, a look that might be useful for stitching skies or clothing.

It is important to maintain a consistent tension when stitching the Moorish stitch and I would also encourage you not to pull too strongly as the stitch can pull the canvas out of square. Compensating the Moorish stitch can be tricky. Keep in mind that the long stitches of one row of Diagonal Scotch will match up with the short stitches of the next row of Diagonal Scotch.

Variations on the Moorish stitch include Wide Moorish (middle right and left) in which a Gobelin stitch (2 x 2) is employed between the rows of Diagonal Scotch instead of the Continental stitch. Another option is Giant Moorish (bottom right and left) in which the Diagonal Scotch stitch is expanded to include an "over four" stitch so that the pattern for the row of Diagonal Scotch stitches then becomes over 1-2-3-4-3-2, repeat.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What I am Working On

I have been working on and off recently on my current needlepoint projects. I got a fair amount accomplished on my travel project when Russell and I went to Tucson for his birthday. This project, which I started in January, is a set of coasters from Susan Roberts that have an Imari-inspired design. Imari, for those of you who don't know, is a Japanese porcelain that was created mostly I believe for European export.

The color scheme of Imari porcelain is normally blue, white and oxblood red which happen to be some of the colors in our apartment. So, I was attracted to this project because of its utility and also because of its portability.

Coasters are a great travel project because you can cut the canvas up into four separate smaller projects. These are great for plane travel and inconspicuous stitching in public. I have completed the third coaster in Tucson and have a good start on the fourth one.

The Imari coaster project is however 18 mesh which means that I have to use magnification when I work on it. So, I have another project that I have been working on that is 13 mesh. This is a project I bought a couple of year's ago (before Rittenhouse Needlepoint).

I realize now that the canvas was intended to be a tallis bag. I however purchased it with the idea of making it into a pillow. I had the shop add my initials to the canvas thinking that I would perhaps do a second with Russell's initials. I started the project -- completing just a small section in the upper right hand corner and then put it away.

A month ago I found it in the closet and decided to start working on it again. It seemed just the right thing at the time -- a good relaxing needlepoint project. I think I was actually trying to avoid working on the more difficult canvases frog and Christmas stocking canvases that I also have going right now (more about them later).

Lastly, I had Alicia, one of our painters, paint me a canvas insert for my stitching bag with the logo of Rittenhouse Needlepoint. I figure that I will bring this to the next trade show in Ohio and I will be the envy of everyone there!

I wasn't sure how far to go with the glitz on the shop's name. I settled on a medium-glitz course with the choice of Caron's Snow. The background will be done in Vineyard Silk.

I think that I will use a subtle stitch for the background. It has to be fairly easy to compensate (because of all the letters) and I don't want it to be too noticeable but at the same time it has to be sophisticated because the intended audience is a tough crowd. Any suggestions?