Melissa Shirley Wicked: Fun stuff

You should know that stitching does not happen overnight. I probably stitched on the background and letters for a good three weeks and maybe longer since I know it got boring. Big projects like Wicked are home projects; you just don’t pack these up and take them to a 2 hour stitch-in…at least I don’t. I like to have them set up in my stitching nest and it is usually the one in my bedroom, where I can get away and just stitch. These times always remind me of the old Calgon commercial….”Needlepoint take me away!”  I have my TV with recorded shows and my needlepoint, who could ask for anything more?

I usually have small projects (anything smaller than 12 x 12 inches) that I can take to a stitch-in or stitch downstairs in the family room stitch nest. Sometimes these are just my doodle canvas to audition stitches for the big project or another piece. And then there is the computer work that I often let get away from me…my own that is. If I have a teacher’s work I keep on top of these…they have a schedule and so do I. We all have deadlines and other things to do in our lives.

I really like Melissa Shirley’s “Wicked”…I guess, otherwise why would I stitch it?  I can’t imagine buying a piece of needlepoint I didn’t like let alone stitching one. Now that’s not to say that while stitching a piece of needlepoint I have not become less enamored with it. But I don’t think I have ever abandoned a piece of needlepoint; I even completed a notebook class.  (https://sudukc.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/wilanna-bristow/) Wilanna Bristow, my first ever seminar teacher, even told me she had never seen one completed.

I have taken a technique class at seminar that I knew I was not taking for the piece, but to learn the technique or a class from a particular teacher; and I knew I would not complete the pieces after class but I stitched on them during class and kept all the information and samples in a notebook. The remaining supplies I incorporated into my stash.

But this is a whole other blog post; see how I can get sidetracked? …so lets get back to “Wicked”

Again I started with the “W” and moved right. I left all the beading until the very last but I’ll tell you about that as we go along. All the little white circles on all the letters are beads representing stars. All these were left until “Wicked” was stitched. More about beading later.

I am not going to tell you specific threads, because I feel that is part of the stitch guide and should be protected by copyright. The stitches are also protected by copyright …not the stitch but their use in this project. But since you can see the stitches in the picture I will use names.

Letter W: I started with the moon. It is lightly padded with a stranded thread (I may have gotten the padding thread from my stash) and then stitched over in Diagonal Gobelins with a thread that had some glitz. I outlined the moon also, since the cat was stitched with a black furry thread and did not want to be dragging this into the moon.

I padded the vertical slates of the fence and the center of the pumpkin only before stitching over them with the appropriate threads. I used the same thread to pad the areas as I used to stitch them.

The cat called for a stitch that to me seemed more difficult to do with the furry thread so I changed it. I used a brick stitch for the cat’s body and random stitches for his tail.  I also used a stranded thread to stitch the two fangs on the face, I though a furry thread was not needed and another thread would make them look more like fangs. On hindsight, who was going to notice this but me? You would have to be too close to the canvas to notice this, but what can I say…it was my choice and at the time it felt right.

I left the cat’s eye (white square) and the curly q (rectangle on picture) on the pumpkin for later. I did use a highlighter in the stitch guide to note the areas I was leaving to do latter. It is easy to miss these details once you have stitched a large project. It has taken a long time to stitch and you are excited to get it finished and may even be stitching on a date deadline, so it is easy to overlook a small detail that will bug you later on. Just mark the stitch guide or keep a notebook handy to make notes.

I outlined the “W” after I finished all but the final embellishments.

Letter I: This was one of the three most difficult letters to stitch. It has a lot of details and several different techniques required.

I stitched the “I” in the following order, although I think the stitch guide started at the bottom and moved up… I stitched from lightest thread to darkest thread for the larger areas and left padded area until last. I Basketweaved the face, stitched Witch’s dress, coat, and then the pumpkin. The pumpkin is self-padded in the center section only. I stitched the details on the face and the nose, leaving the eyes for later (white rectangle). I left the hair (white rectangles), hat (white triangle), beading on hat White oval) and flower (white circle), skull beading (white oval) and the curly q (white rectangle) on the pumpkin for later. I have not done much applique, so I had to build my confidence up. The beading suggested was not a method I was familiar with so I had to decide whether to learn this or do something else. And the flower I knew how to do but it couldn’t be stitched until the hat was in place.  I stitched the outline of the letter “I” even though the top was not completed. Then I moved on to…

Letter C:  I outlined this letter before I began the details of the stitch design. This is one of the major changes I made to the piece and one of the easiest to stitch. The curves of the spider web were supposed to be beaded, but I didn’t do this. I stitched the spokes of the spider web first with a shiny braid and then couched the curves with the same thread using  a thinner matching thread to couch (I either had both threads in my stash or purchased them). I couched the long line the spider was hanging from last. I used the unstitched picture as a guide but since the entire letter C was stitched in Nobuko, no black lines were showing except the thread the spider was hanging from and the spider and the background had been stitched over these too.  So everything on this letter was surface applied. The spider was supposed to be beads also but I stitched the body in a Cashmere Stitch and later stitched the legs in Bullion knots. I left the stars (white circles) and spider legs (white rectangle)  until later.

Letter K: Another difficult letter. Again stars (white circles) are stitched later. I really had to think about this letter and how I was going to stitch it so I took a few days to live with the letter and look at it closely. By “living with the piece” I mean I leave the needlepoint up in the stand and uncovered, so I can see it while I am working on another piece, sitting down to study the piece, or just walking by the needlepoint. I had to decide the order I wanted to stitch and if I wanted to do it like the stitch guide suggested or whether I was going to add my own stitching to the piece.  I even thought about moving on to the letter “E” but it was also presenting its own difficulties and I wanted to save the letter “D” for last because it was easy. So after living with the piece a few days and really looking at all three letters that were giving me some difficulty (I-K-E), I came to some decisions. I made notes and checked the kit to be sure I had the things I needed and then began to stitch again.

I decided to stitch the bird first.  There were three stitches suggested for him, his head was Basketweave , I did not like the Basketweave on his beak so I stitched long slanting stitches over these to a point for his beak. His body a Cashmere pattern and his tail a straight stitch pattern. I stitched his pretty much as suggested but I did cover more of his body than was suggested because I had decided to make the wing a stumpwork piece. I also couched the black line from tip of his beak to the large eyeball bead using the black braid I had used for the spider web in letter “C”. I left bird’s eye to add later (white square)

The wing took some thinking about but and I decided to do it more like a stumpwork attachment than what was suggested. The suggestion was a second canvas finished like a small ornament and attached along long top side to main canvas by sewing The wing was stitched on a separate piece of canvas, I outlined the wing in satin stitch over a wire that I used later to attach wing to canvas. I also could bend the wing to give it more dimension.  I striped the canvas threads back to the stitching and wove them into the backside and covered these canvas threads with a piece of ultra-suede with an applique/sewing method. The wing was saved to attached later.

The pumpkin is self-padded with the same thread. If this piece had not been kitted I would have used floss or perle cotton to pad but I had a bunch (3 skeins). I outlined the letter but left pumpkin curly-qs, eyeball veins, birds feet and wing application for later (white rectangles and oval).

Letter E: I made more changes here too and even left some elements off. The easy part were the logs at the base of the letter. Before I did anymore I outlined this letter. Next I tackled the caldron; I would have to say the applique of the caldron wasn’t that hard. It is a padded piece of black leather but I did not put the metal handle on the caldron nor the lip of the pot. I didn’t think a handle was necessary and the pot was boiling over so you wouldn’t see the lip. The boiling and steam were a challenge I ruched the Flair for the boiling portion and I tried the technique suggested for the steam but didn’t like the way it looked.  I took it out (what a pain). Since I was trying to cover the painting error; I wanted to be able to manipulate the thread. So I couched long lengths of Flair twisting as I applied for steam.

The flames were the hardest, didn’t care for the fiber given for this, Flair didn’t work so I tried a glitzy ribbon. I stitched Turkey Tufting with glitzy ribbon threads and then frayed ribbon with a sharp needle. I like it better than the other ideas, but I’m still not happy with it. I will say, when I finished stitching this letter the only thing left were to embellish with the stars (white circles).

Letter D: Always good to have an easy part to complete stitching or almost complete stitching. The D and C were the two easiest of the letters. Small bats at top of D were Basketweave and larger bats (lower part of D) were Basketweave faces and Directional Diagonal stitches.  I outlined the letter “D” after I stitched the bats.  I left the stars and eyes of the bats to bead later (white circles, ovals and rectangle).

Next time we will do the embellishing.

Later today I’m off to our first art show of the season and always one of my favorites. I may even get dinner and ice cream.

Thank you for stopping by, I hope you have time to stitch today.

ttfn…sue

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Thank you Stitch Guide writers

I just spent the most relaxing week. I was house sitting my niece’s dogs….it’s a tough job but someone has to do it and I’m so glad it’s me.

This is my view and if I’m lucky a deer or two will stop by to see me…

15-03-24 deer

15-03-24 bunny unstitchedUsually I take a have computer project to finish, but this time I took nothing but a painted canvas, threads and a stitch guide.

But that I want to thank all those people out there who take the time to figure out stitches for painted canvases. It is so relaxing (like stitching a piece of basketweave). All you have to do is pick up the thread, look at the diagram and stitch. I’m not saying that if Sally Stitchguider has suggested Bulllion Stitches using  Marlitt thread (so glad this thread is gone) for hair that you  must follow her suggestion…I personally think Sally Stitchguider was having a bad day and I would use loose French Knots with floss first.

BUT for the most part these fine people have a working knowledge of what they are doing and are usually right on the money.  They keep abreast of all the new and exciting threads on the market and try to incorporate them in their guides.  They know what stitch works best with what thread and they don’t have to experiment around.

Keep in mind there are several types of stitch guides. And not all stitch guides are created equal. Some stitch guides are written for a canvas and the shop that sells it. This means that all the Blue Dog canvases that Shoppe Around the Corner sells will have the same stitch guide for Blue Dog. The stitch guide writer knows the threads that Shoppe Around the Corner stocks and will use them in the stitch guide.

Some designers pay stitch guide writers to write stitch guides for their canvases. Some will sell these at an additional cost to the canvas, some other designers will include them in the price of the canvas.  This means that Debby Designer’s  Pink Cat canvas will have the same stitch guide no matter where you purchase the canvas.

And then there are the canvasses that you ask to have a stitch guide written for you. Depending on what you expect you can plan on paying from $0 to $600 (highest I have heard so far). Some shops will give you free thread and stitch selections if you have purchased your canvas at their shop, but don’t expect a big written out booklet…remember you get what you pay for.  Keep in mind, you are asking someone to spend time writing a guide for you and so if you do get a booklet complete with threads and stitches, Sally Stitchguider  has a business too.

My stitch guide came with the painted canvas and threads (the threads were extra but could be purchased as a kit too. )  I seldom stitch a painted canvas with a stitch guide and threads already chosen for me, but I picked this up at a guild sale and decided to stitch it. I usually like the challenge of choosing my own stitches and threads and usually make it up as I go. I approached it like a class project and so I first read the stitch guide and checked the threads to make sure I had what I needed. There were a couple thread substitutions (but that happens), so I made the notation in the instructions and then I started stitching.

15-03-24 bunny headI started with area #1 and picked the thread out of my thread packet and began stitching. The guide suggested Encroaching Gobelin over 2 threads and I tried it but didn’t like the look. I thought the bunny to large for such a small stitch so I “frog” stitched the area. But in keeping with the stitch guide my adjustment was an Encroaching Gobelin over 4 and encroached 2 threads.

15-03-24 bunny stichedThis was so relaxing and then I realized was not looking at other areas of the canvas to decide what stitch I might want to place in various areas. It was so mind relaxing. As I was stitching the mouth area in basketweave I realized that if I stitched the tooth n basketweave also it would recede into his mouth to far to please me so another stitcher’s  choice to wait and use straight stitches for the tooth and I stitched the tooth area twice to make it padded. I also have decided his cheeks need to stand up some and so instead of basketweave here too I will make padded satin stitches…I did the same with his nose.

I started stitching his ears in a  4 by 6 Byzantine…not sure where it came from but it was not the Diagonal Mosaic that was suggested.

I realized without thinking I was stitching without checking the stitch guide and so I got back on track with his vest.  Even though the canvas was painted with a smaller check I followed the pattern in the stitch guide. I’m not sure I like the metallic I don’t think it covered as well as it should but I tried another copper silk and wool but I didn’t think it had the sparkle that was needed.

15-03-24 bunny overdyeThe pants are stitched with the thread and stitch that is suggested in the stitch guide. You are supposed to use four ply of the strand to stitch the diagonal rows. I think you were given more than enough thread to do this; there are three skeins of overdyed floss in the kit.  I think you could stitch the pants without combining any of the leftover two ply, but it seems like such a waste of thread. And so the Scotsman in me made yet another executive decision, I would stitch the reversed diagonal rows using a random 4 ply of the leftover two plies. To ensure I had a random pull I pulled separated 3 strands and randomly put them all together before I stated stitching the reverse diagonals.  It seems to have worked out so far and I like the effect it gives. We will see how frugal I was when I complete this area, if I have less than 6 ply I will have figured accurately.

I’m almost done with the bunny and so for this Easter may just set him up on the stretcher bars for everyone to enjoy.  I plan on giving bunny a background stitch and then I have an idea for finishing but then I have another year before Easter rolls around again.

Thank you for stopping by to visit, I hope you find time to stitch today or do whatever helps you be creative!

ttfn…sue

Mom and Me border

Oh Mother Nature is toying with us…the weather is getting to feel more like spring than the depths of winter. Must try and get outside in the next few days as I know this is just a tease. Saw a cartoon this week that showed two lions, one coming, one going and roaring all the way and this little lamb between them; and the caption was: lamb saying, “Can I say something?” Hope this isn’t true since March roared in…I’m hoping it lambs out.  Garfiels said it all this morning: “It’s been a LONG winter.”

14-03-07 M&Me border chartBut stitching time is great. Worked on Mom and Me border for the past week and am almost finished. Here’s the chart I developed for the corners. And the border is set; all I have left is a bit more purple and most of the green. It takes longer since I am laying the RG Petite Sparkle Rays thread on both the front side and back side of the canvas. This takes more time but I think with the ribbon type threads it makes for a smoother appearance. Sometimes when I work with these ribbon threads I think when they turn on the backside you get a bit of a different light play on the thread and I sometime can see the edges curl. It may be just me, but when this happens and I go back and look I can usually see on the back where the ribbon thread has twisted.

And wouldn’t you know it the Kreinik braids I choose to use are two of the ones being retired. In case you have not heard, Kreinik (http://www.kreinik.com/PDF/special_order_colors_release_2014.pdf) has designated 43 colors as “Special Order” colors. Oh well I am sure there are other colors that will work just as well and maybe if you are planning on stitching this piece, you have these in your stash. But this is often the story about many threads used in designing…by the time we get the designs/stitch guides to production a thread can be discontinued.

I’ve always said if you do not like a thread or color that is chosen or used in a stitch guide, change it; same goes for a stitch. There are other threads that will work just as well and some are from the same manufacturer. Threads and stitches can be changed…IT IS YOUR PIECE!

14-03-07 M&Me borderBack to Mom and Me…as soon as I finish the border am going to stitch Mom and me bunnies. And I am playing on the computer to figure out the flower pattern I want to use below the bunnies. I know the width and am guess-ta-mating the height.

But for today I need to get outside and enjoy the day…Long spells of freezing cold temperatures have affected me more than Cabin fever…need to feel that warm sun on my rosy cheeks and the warm breezes beneath my feet.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have time to stitch today! And if the weather is nice where you are, get out and enjoy it…winter has been awful everywhere! ttfn…sue

Dressed to the nine

Before I begin I want to insert a couple personal comments.

This week Jane over at Chilly Hollow’s blog (http://chillyhollownp.blogspot.com/) wrote about my blog. What an honor that was, Thank you Jane. I noticed an increase of traffic to my blog but did not realize what was happening until I read Jane’s blog later in the morning. Needless to say, had I more visits to my blog than ever. Thank you Jane. AND Thank you to all of you who took a few moments to visit and read my blog, I hope you will return.

I also had this comment from Deborah Hubbard from South Africa (it is posted to the blog too) but I thought it worth quoting…

“You might like to know that here in South Africa we use the word (not name, but hey) Toppie (with a long aw sound) for an old gentleman. Usually a pleasant one, but it’s also a good word for muttering under your breath if the driver ahead of you shows signs of strange behavior! Either way, it’s perfect for a leprechaun, and I’m pretty sure he knows that and somehow suggested it to you …”

I did not know this but I’m sure Deborah is correct and Toppy picked his name…he just has that look about him.

Okay back to Toppy…

Last week-end Toppy got duds…His shirt is a windowpane pattern stitched in Continental & Basketweave stitches using linen threads. First a dark green outline was laid and then filled with the white. Notice that the pot of shamrocks is being covered, BUT they  will return (that’s the main reason I take a picture of canvases before I start stitching…at my age I could forget what was there or just because sometimes on larger canvases it takes time to start adding the embellishments.)

His suit is Velvet, so soft but requires a wee bit o’ patience to stitch. Very Velvet threads need to be cut short, really no longer than 12-15 inches…a good quick measuring tool is from fingers to elbow. Use a larger sized needle, this will help open up the holes of the canvas and allow the thread to pass more quickly with less friction. Place the needle a ½ inch onto the thread and DO NOT move around in the needle. The pictures on the right show how thread will wear.  Sometimes the thread will break and then the needle needs to be moved in another ½ inch.

Toppy’s jacket is stitched in Mosaic stitch. Notice the letters on my jacket (A-B-C-D). This was the order my jacket was stitched in case one card of Very Velvet did not allow my entire jacket to be stitched. There did not appear to be a change in dye lots but sometimes these subtle variations do not show up until after stitching is completed. Should a new card have been needed it would have been used in ALL of area D.

There is a psychological reason for this…we read words from left to right and we also usually scan pictures from left to right. If the thread needed to be changed and there had been a slight variance in the dye lot it probably would have be skimmed across and areas C & A would have been the last the eye would have scanned and since they are identical the mind would have dismissed the first B-D variance.

The sleeves are padded Horizontal Gobelins. The padding of the sleeves was done with the Very Velvet but #5 perle coton could have been used for the padding to conserve thread usage. See how the sleeves stand up off the jacket?

The pants are also Very Velvet but a darker green and they are stitch in Diagonal Gobelin. You would also stitch these in a special order if using 2 cards of threads. In this case the two outside areas would be stitched first because when finished they well be adjacent to each other. The two inside areas are separated by other stitches and will show less change.

The ideal thing is to not to run out of thread or to have to use threads from two separate cards. Buy enough thread to stitch a piece at the same time! AND this WILL NOT work for obvious dye lot changes in threads. But occasionally it will happen that you have to use more than one card of a thread and if you cannot use either a needle blending or stitch technique to blend these threads together this is another way to minimize the subtle changes that might occur. This only works IF the dye lot change is hardly noticeable or if you are unsure that the cards were purchased at the same time. Remember not to place two different cards of threads adjacent to each other or where they will touch when finished. Also try to place in the most inconspicuous areas. Toppy’s sleeves would have been the best area to change threads  since the stitch also changes and “the mind” would have probably attributed this small color change to light play on the stitches.

So now Toppy has duds and is feel’n mighty proud…next socks, shoes and a hat, then he’ll get some hair too.

Little long today…but

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you have time to stitch today!  ttfn…sue

Bunny Progress

Good thing our streets are clean and my DH could get out this morning, otherwise we might have had to put sleeping pills in his coffee. I think he was beginning suffering from Cabin Fever, Brain Freeze or Snow Stupor, and maybe a combination of all. Yesterday, out of the clear blue he asked me if I was stitching the bunny because it was the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. I simple answered that I obviously needed to do more shopping, since my 100 or so rabbits with blue coats and carrots collection was too small for him to notice. That sent him to his computer and I did not hear from him until lunch.  

The then news media announced the Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney Pa didn’t see his shadow and they would have an early spring. Well congratulations to the Pennsylvania folks; I am very happy for them and envious too. Because here in the Midwest, the rodent would have to have been blind not to see his shadow and so I’m guessing with out -10 degree temperatures with a wind chill of -15 it will be at least 6 more weeks until we see crocus and jonquils popping up through this snow. 

And with this bone chilling weather I am so-o-o-o very happy that I can stitch, compute and read. With my blanket (camouflage army liner for sleeping bag supplied by 2nd son from his army days, too warm) shared by Lucy and hot chocolate, I’m as snug as a bug in a rug! I can zone out and only have to face the harsh reality of the snow and cold when either Lucy needs to go out (and that is only when her eyes turn green and she’s walking with all four legs crossed) or I need more hot chocolate, nature or food calls me.  

The bunny is progressing nicely his coat and tail are completed and I have cut the felt for the tulips. Hopefully,  by the end of the today I should be finished with him and he should be heading to the finisher on Friday or Saturday. I do have a problem but it is not with the stitching, it is the materials I am planning on using. I decided the tulips should be appliqued and I am using felt. I had all but the one pink and so last week I headed out to find a pink that I could use. I was open to the possibility that my pink could be the lightest or the middle value. I went to two local national craft stores and then to the national fabric store. The felt is awful compared to what I bought just last year. I purchased one but it is almost paper-thin as you can see in the picture. Since I was at the fabric store I checked both in the craft area and the cut fabrics; most of the felts were thinner than ever, some were thicker but you could tell these colors were not the most popular colors and were probably older. When I got home I noticed that felt I purchased last year (yellow) was better than the felt I just purchased but was also a bit lighter than the stuff I’ve had for several years. I took a picture, hope you can see the differences…the top row are felts I have had, yellow is felt I purchased I last two years and pink is the newest. Since I seldom use felt and I have a nice stash of the older felt for my purposes I will have time to research and study other alternatives, but I sure feel sorry for those felt artists that love to work with this media, I thought the felt I saw was of poor quality. If you are a felt designer or artist out there, where do you get your felt and have you seen a difference in the quality of felt?

Okay, enough of the felt box stand, back to my stitching plan. I am planning to stitch the carrots with 2 colors of Epic wool (persimmon and sienna) in padded satin stitches. I’m going to pad the carrots with orange #3 DMC perle cotton. I will slant the stitches on three of the carrots to match the slant they are painted. I am planning on doing the leaves with a Radial Satin stitch using all 3 ply of the Emerald Watercolours as it comes out of the skein (I am NOT stripping this thread). I will then use #3 DMC perle cotton very dark green (890) to place the veins on the leaves in an Outline/Stem stitch when the leaves are completed. I’m going to stitch the center portion of the tulips in a Diagonal Mosaic with a dark value pink, medium value yellow and light value purple #3 DMC perle cotton to blend with my felts. Then I am going to stitch the petals of the tulips using felt and padding. I made one master petal pattern and then adjusted it according to the tulips on the canvas. I have also cut the appropriate padding from quilt batting that I keep for finishing ornaments and padding appliques. After all the flowers and carrots are complete I plan on stitching the carrot tops in a Fly stitch using 4mm overdyed green silk ribbon; and I will stitch the tulip stems in a Wrapped Chain Stitch using #3 DMC perle cotton very dark green. The basket will be stitched with #3 DMC perle cotton very dark brown (838) and Walnut Watercolours (NOT striped). I’m going to pad the very top with dark brown perle cotton 3 or 4 times and cover with an Overlapping Cross Stitch so it will look like a lip to the basket. Directly below this I am going to pad again with perle cotton 2-3 times and stitch a Diagonal Gobelin over this using the dark brown perle cotton very forth stitch and filling in with Watercolours. The body of the basket will be stitched in rows: #3 DMC perle cotton very dark brown (838) used for the Continental Stitch outlines filed with a giant rectangular Flat Stitch using the unstripped Watercolours.

Okay enough with the planning, off to get more hot chocolate, and then to some serious stitching today. Can’t believe I might have three posts in the same week…see there are some good things to come from cold and snow.

I hope everyone is staying warm and safe… AND I hope everyone will have time to stitch today!  ttfn…sue