Tuesday, September 11, 2018

There's no place like home. . .

Hold on a second, are we in the right movie? Maybe you didn’t know that The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind have more than a few things in common. First and foremost, both originated from books. Both were produced by MGM and directed by David Selznick who must have been a very busy fellow because both were released the same year, 1939, which film experts believe to be the best year in film ever. And at the Oscars, both were nominated for Best Picture (GWTW winner), Best Art Direction (GWTW winner), Music-Original Score (WOZ winner), Outstanding Production (GWTW winner) & Special Effects (neither which is baffling). In all, Gone with the Wind won 10 awards out of 15 nominations whereas Wizard of Oz won 4 awards out of 6 nominations—not that it’s a completion, personally both are 1A and 1B as my favorite movies. But to me the most important thing they share is an ongoing timeless theme and one beloved to my heart: Home

Now I have been told that I often think differently than the masses so if you’re scratching your head, let me explain. Scarlett does everything she can to save her home and Dorothy goes on the journey of a lifetime to return to hers. Both go through unbelievable adventures yet essentially end up where they started, back home. Both movies end leaving you with the impression that brighter days lie ahead for both heroines.

What does that mean in relation to our work in progress? It means I’m stitching Tara, of course! Do you know that most needlepoint projects aren’t completed because people either don’t know what to do with or get bored with stitching their background? I’ve been told this by more than one needlepoint expert and I can see that as being true but not the case here because the designer gave us a built in pattern to which there’s only one logical choice in my mind, cashmere stitch outlined in gray tent. I wanted the cashmere stitches to seam very smooth and flat so for that I’m sorry to have to say it folks, but we’re going to have to strand. Yes I know, I know, no one ever wants to strand, never mind their background, but the look warrants it. And I have a quick tip to help you. I have been stitching “in transit” (train) of late and I find if I strand the whole cut length into little bundles and then wrap them lightly around a finger or two, making a little wheel of the amount of strands I need, they stay neat and then I don’t have to strand every single time I need to start a new thread. I sometimes do several lengths at a time if I need a lot. It just cuts a step out for later. You could even thread up multiple needles and have them ready if you are trying to keep the momentum going. So try pre-stranding and you might not hate it as much. Oh and I’m assuming you all know how to strand properly so it’s not a jumbled mess. In case you don’t, I tap the top of the cut end so the strands fan out, grab a single strand, hold the rest of the strands with my other hand and pull straight...don’t try to separate them like a cheerleader split, that’s where you get into problems. This always works without fail and it will save you a lot of wasted thread and personal headache. And while we’re talking about stranding. I hear the question again and again— three or four stands? For me, on 18 which is usually what I work on, it’s almost always three, but I often like a lighter coverage, but if you are changing the color from what the canvas is painted or need full coverage because you’re covering something up, I suggest four. One thing I like about standing (yes, there IS something to like about stranding) is if whatever you are using isn’t covering, in a pinch (aka too lazy to rip out and start again) you can always go back and add one to two more stands on top of what you’ve already stitched to get the coverage you need- my needlepoint students and I affectionately refer to this as “popping a stitch” (needless to say I have a fun group of students). You can also do that to do very pinpointed padding (like I did with Scarlett’s lips back in this POST—link). Is this technically correct? Probably not, but practicality is always wins out with me, especially when the alternative involves ripping out. So I’m going to strand away because it will lay very flat which is the look I want. I’m using four strands in Splendor 800 in bright white for the white bricks/slats and Pepper Pot Silk Oyster 004 for the gray outlines. I’m using four strands because as you will see, I am going right over a few things again that I’m going to add back later (like Ms. Melanie’s veil and the tassel—more on those in future episodes).

We also need to stitch the shutter. I began by stitching the shading on the right using a cashmere stitch and then tent stitching the shading of the vertical slats in Vineyard Forrest Green C-069. I then used four strands of Splendor 907 to do a cashmere stitch down the right and left sides using the vertical shaded lines as my guide/boundary. That naturally creates the slats across. This is a great example of how you can break up a single color using a series of directional stitches to give it interest and look more realistic. Also notice I reversed the direction of the slant on the slats, as opposed to keeping them the same slant/angle as the sides. I did this for visual interest. It’s subtle but I think it works.

While we’re talking about the concept of home, let’s talk about my second one, my local needlework shop, B.F. Goodstitch. Something bordering on magical happens when I walk through those doors, it’s just comfortable. It doesn’t put on airs, if you love needlework, you’re welcome. The owner, Fidelis (what happened to her? She was supposed to be stitching this too... I think maybe I’m monopolizing the canvas), went to the Royal School of Needlework in the UK. She knows about all kinds of needlework, not just needlepoint. Her knowledge is such an asset because she can help you figure out how to do anything relating to needlework, and I do mean anything. You need to pad Geisha’s hair, she knows precisely how to go about it. You can’t figure out what material to use for raised 3-D cat whiskers, well she just so happens to have horsehair in her stash (no joke, that actually happened). Not a single thread is the right color match for your Sharon G corset canvas, she knows how to manipulate an overdyed thread by flipping it onto itself adding a blending filament and a light stitch to make it all work...she has saved my stitching sanity more than I can count! I always feel so inspired when I’m with her. When I count the blessings of my stitching life, she is the top of my list. That’s another thing about homes, it’s not about the building, it’s about the lives inside, it’s about the people. 

Many years ago Fidelis and I had a conversation about where this art form would be going. We agreed that there was going to be “crossover;” crewelwork/long-and-short, elements of goldwork and stumpwork were all going to start being incorporated and if you follow many of the designers and/or teachers or are even just an observer on the original Needlepoint Nation Facebook group, I’m sure you will agree, that day has come. Hopefully we, as stitchers, will keep evolving which is why education through a local needlework shop is so important! Online shopping may be easy but we need shops to help enable us to build a local needlework community and just as, if not more importantly, provide hands-on education. It’s only through education will we grow as fiber artists. B.F. Goodstitch recently hosted a class with JP Sligh of Labors of Love on how to paint your own needlepoint canvas. JP’s partner in crime, Mark Young, attended too and was great company. It was a surreal moment for me to not only meet the designer of this Gone with the Wind canvas but to have a conversation with him about my progress so far and my plans for the remaining areas. They are both such nice gentlemen and very generous with their talent/knowledge. I’m not usually a picture taker but I just had to get a photo to remember the occasion. 

It was such an educational day. If you have the chance to take JP’s class, you should because the way he teaches do not require  any artistic ability on your part to apply his techniques.

We still have some background left but such an emotional topic has tired me out like a lady who missed their nap at the barbecue, so we’ll cover the remainder of the background next time... we are over the halfway point now, only two characters left and the rest of Scarlett’s dress to finish. Many stitches and techniques still to come so don’t miss an episode, subscribe for updates for delivery to your email.

In the meantime, just remember the moral to both stories ... there’s no place like home. . .  because after all, tomorrow is another day!