Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Final Elements

I'm on the homestretch! The only elements of any significance (not simply stems connecting things) remaining were the carnations at the bottom. I've been pondering what to do with these since the beginning, because the stitches I would normally use and have used in the past -- the New England Laid stitch or the Romanian Stitch -- are not historically accurate to the period, at least not from what I've been able to research. I also can't use Long and Short soft shading, which would also be a prime selection, for the same reason.

I wanted to keep at least part of these flowers open, in keeping with the other elements which all have an open airy feel to them. So I segmented each petal, and decided to alternate sections of satin stitch at the tips and the center of the petals, with seed stitch in between to provide the airiness I was going for. I started by putting lines of split stitch to help me keep a sharp edge -- something I don't normally do, but with the sharp angles here, I needed all the help I could get!

I opted to use the two shades of rose color, as the blue and purple seemed a bit too heavy and would throw the rest off balance in my eye. Here I have finished the edges of the alternating petals in the lighter shade. The two inner petals will be in the darker shade.

And the finished product is here:

The edges of each petal are outlined in the split stitch which is a bit lighter in weight than the outline/stem stitch and less obtrusive in this use. The seed stitch really pulls it all together, I think. I am very happy with it!

I did make one little minor "error" which it took me a while to figure out, something that just didn't quite look right to my eye. It's very minor and I'm not planning on changing anything. Can you see what it is?

Now the challenge is to duplicate this on the mirror image carnation on the other side! Then, some nice rows of shaded chain stitch for the bottom of the flowers, and pull it together with the stems, and I'll be finished!

I had a question the other day about one of my earlier posts, from the beginning where I was stitching the Tudor Rose, and didn't know what I was going to do in the center! Sorry for keeping you hanging :-) I opted for a simple padded satin stitch. I don't have a photo of just that, but when I post the photo of the whole piece, I'll point it out. Thanks for asking!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Evolution of Design: Stitch Selection

I'm furiously working to finish this project to meet the April 1st judging deadline. Because of that, and spending all my time stitching, I had a period of time where I was not taking photos as I went along. This past weekend, though, I kept my camera on the table next to me and paused now and then to take some photos, and they show how I was progressing (or not!) through some design execution decisions. It seems that the closer I get to finishing, the more I end up ripping out and wasting time!

Let's look at the big leaves at the bottom of the piece as an example. They serve as the base of the piece, and where I would normally have some weight down there to anchor things (dense stitches, darker colors) this piece is much airier than the typical Jacobean designs I tend to enjoy. Making these leaves dense would be out of character. So I needed to find something that would work.

I decided to start by simply outlining the leaves in -- of course -- outline stitch! (Also known as stem stitch, depending on the direction you hold the thread.) Then I thought I would start with French knots along the "vein" of the leaf:

My next thought was to use Seed Stitch to form some shading, as I did in the Tudor Rose. This is typical of Elizabethan crewel, where the long and short soft shading had not come into favor yet. Seed or Speckling Stitch was used in various densities to accomplish shading (lots of stitches closer together for dark shading, fewer stitches farther apart for lighter areas.) This image (I believe it's from the Victoria and Albert Museum) of a blackwork piece illustrates what I'm talking about:

So I continued my French Knots a bit further into the leaf and then transitioned to seed stitch in a slightly lighter color to try for the effect I was looking for. I was not impressed with the results:

I'm not sure if it was the different color, or the seed stitch execution (I have some trouble keeping them consistent in size. As simple as the silly little stitch is, it can go wrong very easily!) Out came the scissors and the tweezers -- can't live without my Uncle Bill's Tweezers! -- and out came the seeds. This is NOT an easy stitch to remove, by the way. You have to be very careful not to snip the fabric!

Next attempt was just using French Knots:

Better, but there was still something wrong. Can you see? The knots I put in origianlly were bigger than the ones I added, and there is a perfectly good reason for that. I wrapped my thread twice on the first ones, and only once on the later ones. I have read instructions that say "never wrap twice" and other instructions that say "always wrap twice". I tend to change based on what effect I'm going for. At the very least, though, in something like this, I needed to be consistent! Out came the scissors and tweezers AGAIN (at least these were super easy to rip out!) and I tried again.

Finally! I was happy with the results. The next challenge is to get the mirror image leaf to look the same :-)

I was told a long time ago (by my Mother, of course!) never to be afraid of ripping things out. If you don't, you'll always look at it, even years later after it's been hanging on the wall framed, and wish you had. My Mother even took a piece down, took it out of the frame, and ripped out a flower that had been bothering her for years. It can be frustrating and feel like it's wasting time, but it's really just perfecting your work and your vision.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Little Leaves

I have been so busy trying to spend every minute I have stitching that I have fallen behind in my blog posting, and I am sorry about that. I promise to be better! Today's update will be petty short, but I hope interesting. It's about little leaves.

There are two sets of small leaves at the top of my Elizabethan design. I decided to stitch them in Satin Stitch, and have been experimenting a bit with that. I read a lot about people who use split stitch to outline their shape and then do Satin stitch over top. The split stitch helps to keep the edge straight and sharp. I have never done that, but have straight and sharp edges anyway. I decided to try it this time, and I did like the results! I don't have a photo of the split stitch, but here are the little leaves in Satin waiting for their vein.

I will say that the split stitch helped me not have concentrate quite so hard on the edge.

To give the leaves a bit more dimension, I added a vein of outline stitch. The colors are more washed out in this photo, but you get the idea. What do you think??

I'll take more photos and post soon! Does anyone have anything they want to see? Any questions that will help me frame my posts? Thanks!!