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!