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. . .