Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Oh Ashley, I love you, I love you, I do"


Everyone remembers "that beautiful love scene" as Rhett refers to it a few moments later (after a vase is hurdled over his head I might add) that profession of love between Scarlett and Ashley that repeats in periodic scenes throughout the movie. It's the first scene where we get a glimpses of what Ashley Wilkes is really made of. Excuse me if I'm underwhelmed. I've devoured the book and I've seen the movie hundreds of times but I still can't wrap my head around what Scarlett's infatuation is all about, why didn't he just cut her loose right then??... but we wouldn't have such a great story I suppose... but that being said, it will be interesting to see how my personal lack of enamor for the "elegant Mr. Wilkes" plays into my stitch selections. 

He certainly can't stand out like Scarlet does. It's during antebellum after all, we have to let the ladies steal the show! It wouldn't be gentlemanly otherwise. Luckily though this character is pale and always seemed to fade into the background so I'm going to respect that and keep him true to character by stitching him in a rather quiet way to balance out the ladies. 

I used a much paler shade for the bulk of Ashley's skin; Vineyard Conch C-136 using  Splendor S896 and S1147 to highlight and define his skin and S1149 for his cheek color. Speaking of skin colors, if you haven't acquired the Splendor skin cards, I would highly recommend seeking them out. There is Blush which is what I pulled from on this and Bronze color ways (which we will see later). They are a must-have in my opinion for anyone stitching people regularly. It is so convenient for shading to have so many flesh-tones on one card and the colors on each coordinate so well together so it takes a lot of the guess work out of choosing shades.

His lips were stitched with four strands of Splendor S1041. I tent stitched them and then wrapped them but I wasn't satisfied with how they turned out so I wrapped them again in the opposite direction.

His hair is stitched a similar way as we stitched Scarlett (you can read about that HERE) using Vineyard Snapdragon C-049. 

Ashley's shirt is stitched in white Splendor S802 doing a Cashmere stitch to follow the shape. The collar is stitched in a skip tent using the same white Splendor. The shirt stripes are stitched in S947 and I first stitched one long stitch down the entire stripe coming up in the bottom left and going through the canvas at the top right of the stripe and then basketweave over that long stitch, this gives the stripe a subtle lift. The vest is stitched with three stands of DMC Floche 800 in Diagonal Mosaic and Reverse Diagonal Mosaic and I used Steel Grey High Luster Kreinik 010HL using French knots for the vest buttons. The tie is stitched using Neon Rays N01 in brick stitch over two. There again, I played with stitch direction to add dimension and the knot area of the tie is vertical brick and the two sides were done in horizontal brick. 

Now this brings me to a decision, what to do about the areas where one element goes into another shown in the areas circled below.



On the left Scarlett's hair bow will be in front, as will Melanie's veil on the right. I will be doing the hair bows in silk ribbons when I am almost done the entire piece and the veil will be something fabulous but I don't want to reveal my plans just yet, but I want it to be on top of Ashley's suit jacket so I'm going to stitch the suit jacket right on top of both areas covering them up and keep a photo to reference so I know what goes where later on. First, I back stitched the outlines of his lapels and wrapped the back stitching using the Neon Rays N01 and then the bulk of Ashley's suit jacket was stitched using Splendor S889 in Byzantine #2 (from the book Stitches for Effects) stitch on the left and then I reversed the direction on the right-hand side. Playing with direction is a very easy way to add some dimension and interest without making the piece too busy and it is an interesting way to visually break up areas that are the same color or stitched in the same thread. 

So going back to the beginning of my post about Mr. Wilkes, when I think of him, I usually associate him with books, maybe it's because that first love scene with Scarlett seemed to be in a library. My second favorite book happens to be Gone with the Wind and although I read it digitally, I have a much loved edition that just so happens to look like my magnet I mentioned in a previous post. And what is that saying about what you love you have to give away?? Well, in the spirit of that saying, I have a magnet and a matching needle case that I'm going to give away as a set. How do you win them? Please comment below on who your favorite Gone with the Wind character is and why, please also include your email address. Contest closes at 4 PM on April 7th. On April 8th, everyone's name will go in a bowl and one of our needlepoint students at B.F. Goodstitch will draw the name of the winner (it could be you!). The winner will be contacted by email. Duplicate comments will only be entered once.

See, you never know what's going to happen around here so please consider subscribing so you don't miss any of the fun!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The dress

The dress worth fighting over.....In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett's younger sister, Careen, whines to her mother that she wants to wear Scarlett's green dress to the barbecue. She's turned down, of course, but in actuality, the dress is white with a green lily of the valley flower type print with gorgeous ruffles across the bodice and shoulders. Which lead me to my dilemma, the movie costume is one thing but the way my canvas has been designed is very different. When in doubt, I go with how the canvas is painted and channel the spirit of the dress as opposed to killing myself by trying to be too literal.

So how to do it justice? With such beautiful shading, I hate to cover it up since that's one of the things I value the most in a hand painted canvas and the inspirational dress in the movie seems like a sheer overlay with a white lining, I think light stitching will be just the thing. I decided to go with a classic but easy to follow pattern of over three, under one, over three darning pattern on the vertical using two strands of silk Splendor. I'm using S1055 for the palest barely green shade, S905 for the medium-light green, S996 medium-dark green and S907 dark green. Before I get into the darning pattern, I'm going to deal with the dark green swirls, trust me, it will save my sanity.

In general I like to stitch strategically and I've stitched myself into enough corners to know it's easier to think about stitching order towards the beginning than to have to deal with headaches later. I have decided to do a wrapped backstitch over the dark green swirls using three strands of S907. By doing the backstitch and wrapping first, I can slip my needle underneath he wrapping while doing my darning pattern if necessary to keep my pattern going but also it is easier to do the wrapping portion without surrounding stitching so you won't have to avoid catching the darning stitches while trying to wrap. I don't want the wrapping to be too tight so I did my back stitches over two canvas threads at a time making sure the stitches and watching my tension. The important thing with wrapped back stitch is to always wrap in the same direction per swirl. So either outside of the line towards the inside or inside going towards the outside of the line, it doesn't matter which as long as you always keep your needle wrapping in the same direction thus avoiding making a tangled mess. Wrapped back stitch is also great for rounded lines.


 So now that the swirls are out of the way, a few things about darning patterns. Most darning patterns start on one end and continue to the opposite side. Since the stitching is so light, you can't start/stop a thread in the middle of a row. You also can't bury your thread to start it because you will see these mechanics through your light stitches. I will often use a L or pin stitch to start and stop my threads which essentially is taking a stitch vertical and then horizontal and I often go over them a few times just for good measure. Your thread should not be knotted so the L/pin stitches lay flat and your framer will just put the mat right on top of these stitches in the margin or they will be pulled to the back area of the framing as part of the lacing with no issues. If you are finishing as a stand up or ornament, your finisher will also know what to do (probably a row of machine stitching to prevent fraying of the canvas and these stitches will get caught and held safely). Since this pattern has so much going on, these things are not as much concern, so when I did my wrapped back stitch I did a few little jumps. And now I'm going to take a leap of faith and do something almost as shocking as a woman in mourning dancing the Virginia Reel, I'm going to show you my backside!


As you see, I followed under my back stitches on the backside to avoid as much traveling as possible and I jumped to the closest swirl. If it was too far away, I used a waste away knot and then buried under my back stitches later. Between the darning stitches the back stitches and dealing with the dots, you won't even see it. 

With all these color changes this is also a good time to mention thread management. The concept is to pull threads you are going to use again out of your way so you don't catch them while stitching other areas or colors. I use a combination of pulling them off to the side and wrapping them around the tacks of my frame on the front and keeping them on the needle and using a handy magnet... and speaking of magnets I can't believe I haven't shown the one I have been using.... there really is a magnet to go with every project if you look hard enough and I just couldn't resist this one:






So back to our darning pattern. Here is a quick illustration of the darning pattern I used. 

So now what to do with those dots? I know this is a day dress but I couldn't help but think sequins. It is still pre-war after all so a little glamour is not unheard of but still keeping in mind this is a day dress, I decided to meet in the middle and go with matte sequins. They weren't easy to find but I did and BF can help you find them too if you give them a call. I used a super thin invisible quilting thread to attach them.

And this whole plan is being repeated on the bodice except the ruffles which I have BIG plans for... but alas, we are back to where we started regarding stitching order. I plan on doing some major 3D ribbon work for the ruffles and we all know if I stitched that now it would catch on all my other stitching and probably get worn out and wrecked so I'm going to hold off and do that towards the end. But stay tuned because we are going to give you all the ins and out when we tackle them.

And here we are with the progress on the dress so far along. 

And "I'm ready for my closeup Mr. DeMille". . . oops, WRONG movie!

So that means ladies and gents that next time we are (finally) moving on to another character.... who will it be I wonder? Will it be the scoundrel bootlegger? Or the always lovely and appropriate Melanie? Don't miss a single episode, subscribe to our blog via the box in the upper right hand side for delivery right to your inbox. 

In the meantime, Fidelis and I wish you a healthy new year full of enjoyable stitching. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Well I do declare, it's been a terribly long time since my last post. I wish I could say I was at a southern plantation doing research but no such luck, I've been working like a field hand getting my yard under control before winter sets in. 

But who cares about me, let's get back to our southern bell, Miss Scarlett, in particular let’s talk about her hair. Now I will admit, stitching hair can be confusing. It's often painted in a single large block of color which can be a little daunting because it doesn't give you any real direction on how the stitches should go and this was the case with Miss Scarlett's. My personal favorite hair moment in Gone with the Wind is when Scarlett pulls her sister's curl. If I had a sister, I bet I would understand....let's hope trying to stitch all these hairstyles in this piece doesn't have me wanting to pull my own hair out! Luckily though, I've tackled a good amount of hair in my day so I've come up with a few tricks over the years, or at least things that work for me.


I've found when dealing with hair, my first thought usually leans towards texture. Do I want it slick, shiny and smooth like the ladies in those Pantene commercials? Or do I want it a little courser or thicker? The answer to these questions drive my decision on what thread to use. If I want Pantene lady, I'll go with something stranded like Splendor as you can't beat the sheen of stranded silk. If it's a difficult color to match or I want it a little more flat (like for a mermaid), I'll look at cotton floss or Floche (although not my favorite). But if I want coarser, bouncy hair, which in this case I do, I'll go with something with bit of a twist, like Vineyard or Pepperpot. For Scarlett I'll be using Vineyard Dark Earth #C-042. I find the color name slightly ironic since the scene before she wears this green dress is when her father explains that for anyone who is Irish "the land is like their mother" and that "land is the only thing that lasts". . . earth/land, they’re the same thing in my book. 

If you watch the movie it's hard to see exactly what's going on with Scarlett's hair in the barbecue dress scenes, I actually found a few drawings online that I found more helpful than trying to tell from photographs or the movie. It seems around the temples the hair is pulled back, which means that the different sections of the hair will be angled in different directions. When faced with a situation like this, I often find it's easier to mark it out before stitching. I know some people use the thread they're going to use to put in directional stitches, but more often I use either a Dritz Fineline Air Erasable pen (which only works on blondes or light colors since the ink color is purple), or if the hair is dark, like in this case, I find a white chalk pencil – like dressmakers use -- especially handy, and unlike the air erasable, I can mark it one night and come back the next day and decide if my approach is still on track or if I need to make adjustments. With air erasables they often fade away in 12-24 hours (depending on humidity) so be forewarned. The encourage every stitcher to seek out these two products. They last practically forever, aren't a big investment and you will use keep finding uses for them.



So in marking off my direction lines, I put lines near the bows in first, then the long waves and then the lines on the top third of her head that is being pulled back. As I mentioned, I found a drawing online very helpful but if this wasn't a movie character with a specific frame of reference, you could look at google images for inspiration to help you figure out how to break it up or use the white or blue chalk pencils with a damp clean cloth or new makeup sponge as the perfect eraser so you can experiment, or you could use the air erasable and then use the chalk over it once you figure out what you want.  Here is the result of my chalk lines.


A word of friendly advice when you have hair broken up in different directions. I stitch each area with its own thread. Even if I have enough left with my working thread, I will often stop that thread and start again in the fresh area. I know this might sound like unnecessary work but I do this so if I have an issue in my next area, I can cut/pull it out and not have to worry about the previous area which I'm already happy with. And here is progress after a short evening of work. 




We all like to think the next area will go as smoothly but if you encounter a challenge in the next and have to take it out, you will be glad you put in the 30 seconds of extra effort. And speaking of which, you may have noticed that my chalk lines in the second picture above is different than what I stitched in the progress picture directly above. I initially misread the sections directly below the bows. Thankfully, I (mostly) follow my own advice and I’m glad I did because the stitches in the sections directly below the bow were "self-contained" so when I figured out my “misread”, I could take them out and shift gears without much angst in the top of the head area which I was happy with.

I did the crown of the head with an angled satin. The areas directly below the bows are done in long and short and the draping hair areas on the sides were done in a combination of long and short, stem and split stitch. I like split stitch when trying to create waves because it seems to make for a smoother transition to change directions to create the wave. I often put in a few dividing lines and then start filling in, it keeps my lines from going too far astray. Here is an example of my initial dividing lines to break it up.


And finally, here is my finished product. Including eyebrows which I kept pretty simple, as don't need her looking like Brook Shields circa 1982 . . . 


So up next, we're going to tackle that amazing BBQ dress... and be warned, like the movie, we might need an intermission and do the dress in two blog posts.

In the meantime, please consider subscribing to my blog for delivery of new posts right to your inbox and if so, please remember validate your subscription by clicking the link in the email you will receive. You won’t want to miss a single episode of our Gone with the Wind extravaganza!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And so we begin.....  
            
I've always felt that staring at an unstitched canvas must be similar to how authors feel while staring at the blank page. Granted painted canvases aren’t quite blank, but there are so many options. How do you know what's going to work and where do you start?

For me, if the canvas in question is Gone with the Wind by Labors of Love, there's really only one option, you have start with the star of the show, Miss Scarlett. Her attire is usually the height of fashion, even if it’s made from the drapery, but it's her natural beauty, that dewy skin, those hypnotic Irish eyes and those rosy lips that can make every man in the county swoon. You know the ones.... the lips that "should be kissed and kissed often and by someone who knows how". And how does one create lips that convey that look? You've got to go rayon. Many cringe at the thought. I have a friend who did almost an entire piece in rayon and although I think she may have invented a few new curse words along the way (and they weren’t fiddle-dee-dee), sometimes you just have to pull yourself up by your boot straps to get the look you want, which she did, and man was it worth it!

While we are talking about that dastardly rayon, let me share a few tips. I've heard talk in needlepoint society of stitchers who use mini hair straighteners to flat iron their rayon. If you like to do that and it floats your boat, by all means go for it, but I have found that running the strand(s) over a barely damp brand new makeup sponge helps straighten and control them just enough and I like to use slightly longer lengths for laying. You waste a little with the extra length, but I find having a little extra helps not only with laying but it prevents it from slipping out of your needle as often. I'm going to be using Anchor Marlitt in 881 – it’s a pretty bold rosy color but not quite hot pink. I prefer Marlitt over Neon Rays sometimes because you can add or reduce strands depending on what you're doing so it's great for darning stitches where you want a light touch. I'm not doing a darning here but the color was spot on and I like the freedom to strand when I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to be doing.

The first plunge into a brand new canvas is always thrilling but in your excitement, don't forget to take out some brand new needles. Many shops, like BF Goodstitch, are thoughtful enough to provide you with 1-2 new needle(s) with your purchase of your canvas. If you don't already have a needle brand that you prefer, you might want to use that opportunity to find out what your thoughtful shop is giving you as this is an easy way to try different brands, styles and sizes of needles to see what strikes your fancy. I've tried lots over the years but the ones I always go back to and are my general go-to needles are John James Tapestry Petites in size 22 (for 18 mesh). Obviously I wouldn't use these for bullion knots, I have special needles for that (more on that another time), but they are great as a go-to needle for general stitching needs on 18 mesh. When I now stitch with a normal length needle, I feel like I might as well be using a BBQ skewer! Ok I exaggerate, call me Aunt Pittypat, but I feel like I have better control with the Petites. If you haven't tried them, they are worth seeking out, and if you find them, make note of where because not everyone carries them. 


But back to Ms. Scarlet and that dewy skin. Time to choose threads and for me, when it comes to skin, it has to be silk. Since Pepper Pot has such lovey choices for shading, for Miss Scarlett I have chosen four beautiful shades: Tippy Toes (194), Powder Puff (193), Baked Alaska (192) and for the blush area, Scallop (035). And a piece of advice, Tippy Toes and Powder Puff are just a hair different, don't make the mistake I did, keep track of what you're using where and don't mix them up as Powder Puff and Tippy Toes are very close to the naked eye. I used Powder Puff for the bulk of her skin but it is worth using Tippy Toes too because it creates a perfect subtle highlight.


As much as I like progressive needlepoint and stitching to push the envelope, I'm also all about balance. I think skin really looks the best stitched in basketweave so that is what in going to do for Katie Scarlett. For years I risked the curse of the zipper line. You've probably seen them, it happens when someone stitches two rows of basketweave in the same direction accidentally. For longer than I am embarrassed to admit, I would never stop at the top or bottom of a row so I would know which direction I was traveling. For advanced stitchers this will be old hat but you newbies who may not be aware, or those who want a refresher, I have attempted to demonstrate how to read the canvas to determine the direction of your stitch. Basically you look at which thread is on top of the weave of your canvas. I remember it by "up the stairs, down the pole", the "pole" being the vertical intersection on top which means you should be traveling DOWN which I have illustrated below with red lines, the “stairs” illustrated in turquoise meaning the horizontal weave is on top so you should be traveling UP. 

I've known several advanced stitchers who have claimed not to have known how to read the canvas so I thought this was worth mentioning. If you're still not following me, try to get your hands on Jo Ippolito Christensen's "The Needlepoint Book" (there are three editions—I’m sure they all have similar sections on basketweave) as this book has the most comprehensive information on basketweave. I think every serious stitcher needs at least one edition in their possession but if you aren’t in the position to invest in this book yet, check with your local library.

And now we are onto those lips that should to be kissed....I did a simple vertical satin stitch using 3 strands of Anchor Marlitt 881 using the longest horizontal line in the middle as the dividing line. But before I started my satin stitch, I did a horizontal stitch over two canvas threads in the middle of both the top and the bottom sections just to pad and give it a little fullness. I had a few areas that were looking too sparse for my liking so I went back in with a single strand strategically filling-in areas. I think I stopped just before the appearance of lip injections.

I am a firm believer that all eyes need sparkle, even if you're dull ole' Ashley. Scarlett's emerald eyes are stitched with Silk Lame' Braid for 18 Ct. in SL 58 and Winter both by Rainbow Gallery and Kreinik #8 black 005HL. 

Here is the result of two evenings of work:


I'll stitch her eyebrows when I do her hair. Now what will we tackle next?? Her BBQ dress? The RUFFLES (sigh of overwhelm)? Or will we move on to another character entirely? You'll have to stay tuned to find out. Don't miss a single episode, please consider subscribing to have delivery right to your inbox and if you do, please remember to click the link in the validation email to active your subscription. Until then, happy stitching!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When Fidelis, the owner of B.F. Goodstitch, asked me to "collaborate” on a project with her and then blog about it, my mind went to a million scenarios. The word collaboration is such a hot phrase these days and in my humble opinion, greatly overused. My initial thought was “how’s this gonna work?” After some brainstorming, which I cannot reveal the details as it would just be more evidence of how insanely obsessed we both are about needlepoint, we decided that to be truly collaborative, we would both stitch the same singular hand painted needlepoint canvas at the same time in tandem. Almost like the tag team wrestlers you see on the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). We would split up the areas to use both of our strengths to fulfill the canvas’s great potential. Here’s hoping we do it justice.

                

There has been a very special canvas at B.F. Goodstitch that we’ve both been admiring, Labors of Love’s “Gone with the Wind.” We are both enormous fans of the movie and being the romantics that we are, are probably attracted to the allure of another time and the unrequited love between Scarlet and Ashley. .  . and not to mention the fabulous costumes just crying out for stitches and techniques. For me, I know a canvas is “right” when I can already think of options for certain areas. It is often the last straw between buying a canvas or not, because I already can see what I’m going to do with it, how I’m going to finish it and where it’s going to be displayed in my home. I often don’t have to keep notes on my ideas of which stitch or technique to do in certain areas because once I see a stitch or technique for an area, it’s so obvious to me, I often can’t see anything else. This can also create problems if my idea doesn’t pan out, but let’s not well on the negative. To quote Ms. Scarlet “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I have often felt that buying a canvas is like finding one’s spouse, the spark’s either there or it isn’t and no one else can tell you if it’s right but you and when you know, you KNOW!



In the flurry of excitement that occurs when any good team embark on a new project, we immediately started mentioning which stitch or technique could be done in which area and by whom. Fidelis seems to think I will be doing the ruffles on Scarlet’s dress and I claimed that because she has experience with stumpwork and is especially talented at 3D hair techniques, Fidelis will be charged with Miss Pitty Pat’s curls (which between you and I, I quiver at the thought). We will see who gets our way in the end, hopefully we both do at least to some extent. So please subscribe to our blog (by submitting your email address using the "Follow by Email" box in the upper right-hand corner) to follow along on our adventure so you don’t miss any of the action. I’m sure like any Oscar winning movie, there is bound to be plenty of drama. . .