Monday, February 28, 2011

Monarch, in all its Majesty!

Happy news! Last night, after much creative figuring, I finished my Monarch Variation!

First, I filled in the last border of the Monarch square:

As you can see, this fifth border is the last and final (following what I think of as the Blue Diamond Border, the Beaded Border, the Celtic Knotwork Border and the Blue and Gold Border). This one is really special, because it brings all four colours together, and has these awesome corner finials that have a diamond with one stitch of each colour! I really like these because I think the circular shape echoes back to the central medallion and the multi-coloured, eight-pointed star.

This is also where the filling stitches and colour suggestions stop on the chart, as Jeanne has, quite wonderfully, left it to the stitcher to fill in the Variation points of the diamond. So, I put on my thinking cap last night, and I tried out some different things.

One of those things did not work. At all. You see, I had this idea of where I would like to add some additional seed beads to reflect on and expand the lovely Beaded Border. My initial idea was a few here and there for highlights. But then, filling in the topmost diamond, I got bead crazy! Seriously! I had almost every free space filled in with a bead. So many spaces, in fact, that there was hardly any black fabric left to be seen! I was, in all truth, rather smug at my beading prowess. You see, it has also been a very long while since I've exercised my beading imagination on my (poor defenseless) cross-stitches, so more meant better.

But, as I pulled back a little, and put it down for a few minutes, I wondered what I was thinking. It was too much. Far, far too much. And it really obscured the beauty of the arch. Thankfully, I had only done the one, so I spent a good half hour sheepishly taking it all out. My smugness had evaporated. But this turned out to be for the very best, as I then took up my beading needle with renewed determination and added (much fewer) beads in the (much plainer) pattern I had initially intended, and was (much more) pleased with the end results.

Behold! My Magnificent Monarch Variation (yes, I am quite humble, aren't I? *wink*):

And a close-up of the topmost arch of the diamond:

You can't really see much of the archwork in the photo of the whole work, and I apologize for that. It was hard to take a good picture, as it is a good-size piece. But, all four arches of the Variation were stitched the same. As you can see, I put a trio of staggered beads on a diagonal between the fourth and fifth borders, and then a small sprinkling of beads from the bottom to the top of the arch, three on each side. After much debate, I decided to leave the sides of the arches and the lattice work beneath each arch medallion white, to better set off the colours elsewhere. The sides of the arches are a repeat of the fifth and final Monarch border, but as they are diagonal, the diamonds are much smaller and not really conducive to the upright crosses.

The finials of the Variation arches reflect back on those of Monarch, and really tie the motifs together. As the finials on the fifth border on Monarch are mirror images of each other, I wanted to make those at the top and bottom, and right and left, reflective of each other as well. I decided on a sort of harlequin-esque mix, in which the main two colours stay the same (the jewel mix and the turquoise) and the two supporting colours (the purple and the gold) are placed opposite. You probably can't see that, but I like how they turned out.

Actually, I quite like how the whole thing turned out, and that makes me very happy :)

I haven't decided yet how I'm going to finish it - with a traditional frame (which is what I usually do) or by making a sort of keepsake box. I've seen some interesting tutorials, and have two wooden boxes I bought a while ago for that purpose but didn't use (as I framed the piece instead), so I may try that. The geometric nature of Monarch would lend itself beautifully, I think, to being viewed from all angles, and that - to my mind - would make it great for a special treasure box. So we'll see about that.

For a stitching review, I'll quickly talk about what I used:

I worked my Monarch Variation on 14 count black Aida (from Charles Craft) in an 8" wooden hoop. For the blackwork, I used 1 strand of DMC pearl cotton (#8 - the size on the spool, not the more common #5 in the skein) in white. I chose pearl cotton for its wonderful sheen, but it had an unexpected advantage - as one strand is roughly the thickness of two strands of cotton floss, you get the coverage of two strands without any splitting of the strands or need to keep the threads even. You get really good tension, and the slightly thicker pearl cotton is a good match for the metallic floss, which tends to be a bit thicker than cotton. It fairly glows agains the black, like opal or moonstone.

Further enchancing the gemstone feel, I chose to use metallics for my specialty stitches. The reason I inverted the traditional white fabric/black stitches look of blackwork was so that the darker fabric might show off the sparkle of the metallics flosses better. It worked even better than I had intended, and this is definitely a combination that I'll be trying again. 

You can view the original colourway here. I used two strands of each metallic. I've mentioned the colours before, but here is how they coordinate to the colours of the pattern: for the Yellow, I substituted DMC Jewel Effects (Light Effect E130); for the Green, I used Janlynn Turquoise (no colour number); for the Red, I used Mill Hill Antique Glass Seed Beads in 03003 (a metallic red) for the Bead Border and as additions to the work, and used Janlynn Purple (no colour number) for the red specialty stitches elsewhere; and for the Blue, I substituted DMC Gold (Light Effects E3821, formerly Metallic 5282). To attach the beads, I used one strand of Guterman 100% Polyester Thread in White (colour #20), using a size 12 beading needle. I anchored each bead with a cross (just like a cross-stitch, only going through the bead) to keep them fair. I find that if you use a tent stitch (bascially half a cross-stitch), as many suggest, the beads skew a little, so this little trick prevents that.

The chart, designed by Jeanne Dansby from WyrdByrd Designs, was incredibly easy to read, which I really appreciate, and included a page with helpful stitching diagrams for the blackwork. Even though I have been stitching for a while, I really appreciated stitching diagrams when I first started, and I still enjoy them as 'memory refreshers', especially when working in a technique - like blackwork - which I haven't used for a while. Although this design isn't yet available on her site, there is a large collection of free blackwork designs that Jeanne generously provides that you could adapt to try out this technique (note: I have added the link to my new Free Patterns page, so you can visit from here at any time).

I immensely enjoyed working this design, and very much recommend WyrdByrd Designs, as I will certainly be doing more of Jeanne's charts in the future. I can't wait to dive into her wonderful archive of free patterns! There may be some specialty stitches worked in too ;)

And finally - My Superly-Superiorly Skillful Secret to Specialty Stitches:

A sharp needle.

Yes, really. Have several sizes of sewing needles with sharp points at hand at all times. I discovered this a few months ago while working on a large design that used fractional cross-stitches extensively. I can't believe that I never thought of this before, but I used to patiently (and not-so-patiently) try to tease apart the weave at the center of the Aida square with the blunt tip of my tapestry needle in order to pass my floss through. And then, in a fit of flash-bulb inspiration (brought on by a great deal of frustration), I picked up a sharp-tipped sewing needle from my pincushion and used that to open up the weave. Simply poke the tip into the center where the threads are tight, and wiggle it a bit as necessary. And then use your tapestry needle to pass your floss through. And voila! A nice, neat fractional!

I have since found it very helpful to keep a number of different sizes at hand, to use depending on how large or small an opening I need. You can buy sewing needle packages with assorted sizes inepensively at most dollar stores or anywhere where sewing notions are sold. It has changed my attitude about fractionals completely, from nigh-on-impossible to surprisingly-possible. And you can stick your sharp, when not in use, in the corner of any extra fabric in your hoop! Or your own shirt, in a pinch, but be careful - sharps are sharp!

This little technique is immensely useful for specialty stitches as well, as most contain fractionals (whether 3/4 or 1/4 or 1/2). Monarch, for example, uses fractional stitches in several places, even in the blackwork. The Celtic Knotwork border, for example, uses them to form the delicate overlapping effect. So this is a very helpful hint to add to your personal Magical Bag of Stitchy Tricks :) I hope I've explained it clearly. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Thank you very much, Jeanne, for making this project possible for me.

I'm going back to my Twilight Angel, as soon as I've finished gazing at all the sparkle :) This, in all honesty, may take a while. Like, a few days. There's that much shimmer and shine!

But I can't guarantee that there won't be some more blackwork in the evenings...

Friday, February 25, 2011

And Suddenly! Sparkly Threads!

I've finished the (white) blackwork stitching on Monarch:

Isn't it pretty? I think the pattern would look lovely left like this as it is reminscent of lace.

But the really exciting news is that I've started adding in the specialty stitches.

And lo, the sparkles magically (ha!) appeared:

You can see them better in this photo:

As you can see there are some seed beads in there as well, in the second border, which substitute for the original French knots (I loathe French knots, with a deep and abiding passion borne of long experience with trying - and failing - to like stitching them and so I substitute them all the time).  There is also a minor change in the colour order of the third border, the Celtic Knotwork, but there is good reason and I'll explain about the metallic thread conversions in my stitching review when I finish, as it's rather pointless trying to talk about that without context, and I did not intend to do so today.

No, today I wanted to talk about something altogether different - Specialty Stitches!

You see, I haven't actually worked specialty stitches in a long time. In ever, effectively. I have tried to incorporate them into designs in the past, but always felt that my stitches were too messy and never looked quite right, so I ended up taking them out again. I have fallen in love with designs that used them extensively in the past, and I always meant to get around to trying them, but I always put it off. I did add a sort of star stitch to several Christmas ornaments I did in December this year, but that was more by accident than design.

It's just that specialty stitches always seem so, well, complex. And more like embroidery than cross-stitch. Logically, cross-stitch is a form of emboridery, sure, but specialty stitches seemed, to me at least, to be denizens of the world of pulled-thread work, hardanger, and free-form stitchery, and didn't seem to have much place in the rigidly charted world of counted cross-stitch. And, truthfully, I've always found them a bit intimidating.

So, when I fell in love with Monarch and was generously gifted the chart, I was a little alarmed that I might be in a bit over my head. I loved the look of the specialty stitches that Jeanne used, those being Algerian Eyelet, Smyrna Crosses and Upright Crosses (as well as the substituted French knots) and variations thereof. The stitches themselves go by many different names, but the form will likely be familiar to you. They certainly were to me.

Instead of panicking about it, while doing the blackwork I sort of pushed it into the back of my mind and mulled it over. I thought about ways to fill in the colour using regular cross-stitches and fractionals, and had pretty much resigned myself to doing so. But the longer I looked at the chart, the more I wanted to at least try the specialty stitches, until - at last! - something clicked.

When I was young, I wanted to draw stars. I could draw every other geometric shape, but I couldn't draw a star. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the connection and my points were not only wobbly and all over the place, but I could not manage to even get the right number of them! This went on for, what seemed to my younger mind at least, a long, long while. I wasn't used to not being able to do something I wanted, with enough practice, and it frustrated me greatly. It wasn't until I was sitting and drawing with my Grandfather one day, and he noticed my plight, that things turned around. He listened to my problem, and then he thought a while.

Finally, he asked me if I could draw triangles. Well, of course, I could draw triangles (obviously). He drew one on his paper, and told me to draw one on mine. I remember being very dubious at the time and quite upset that he didn't seem to understand that I wanted special stars, not plain old triangles. Then, he said to me something like "A star is really only two triangles, that go in opposite directions, laid one on top of the other", and he demonstrated by drawing another triangle - this one point down - over the one already on the paper that had its point up. I copied him, still uncertain. But then - I had my star!

Once I saw the connections, it was ridiculously simple.

I made all my stars like that for years, and even when I learned to draw them freehand, I always remembered the overlapping triangles and could always see the connection. I still do, all these many, many years later. And when I looked at the specialty stitches on Monarch, really looked at them, I saw a form that looked familiar. The Upright Cross-Stitch, after all, is only a Cross-Stitch tilted at an angle. And from there, it wasn't hard to see that a Smyrna Cross was only actually a regular "x" cross-stitch overlaid by a tilted "+" upright cross-stitch! And from there, well, the Algerian Eyelet was much the same, only with the ends of the stitches going down into the common meeting point of the center so that the stitches, when all put in, pulled the center out leaving a small circular opening, or the 'eye' of the eyelet.

And with that in mind, I enthusiatically threaded my needle with my metallics, and started in on the specialty stitches, slowing filling the lacy white frame of Monarch with sparkling, shimmery colour. I will not lie - the first few stitches were a bit difficult, especially all those oblong diamonds that are turquoise in the picture, as the tips of the elongated Smyrna crosses ended in fractional stitches and it took a bit of figuring to arrange how to place the fractionals without piercing the blackwork (I developed a useful trick that I'll be sharing later on in detail in another post).

So - they may not be perfectly formed. They may, indeed, be quite a bit lopsided. They may even be not quite rightly executed. But, they are, quite finally, my very first attempts at making the shiny stars of the stitching world, and I couldn't be happier with how they have turned out. And I hope that if you have had reservations about specialty stitches that are similiar to mine that this little epiphany might inspire you to take out your needle and stitch them with a new perspective. Because right now, my only regret is that I waited so long.

In this instance, I can honestly say - Thank You, Grandpa, you taught me everything I know ;) I just won't say it loudly, because I'll never hear the end of it. *rolls eyes*

Happy Specialty Stitching and Beading to All!

I'm off to add more sparkly threads.

(There are many sites on the web that provide tutorials about working specialty stitches. For some simple and clear stitching diagrams, I like the extensive archive at Johanna's Needlework Stitches, particularly the Cross Stitches and Variations, which includes the Smyrna Cross and Star Stitch, and the Pulled Thread Stitches that include the Algerian and other Eyelets. Designer Ellen Maurer-Stroh also has a useful list of Stitching Diagrams)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Beauty of Blackwork

Image by Nuchylee /

I love stained glass. On vacations and visits to new places, I like to stop in to any old churches in the area - preferably while the sun is shining, so I can get the full effect of the colours - just to see the stained glass windows. And I love sun catchers made with stained glass. There's just something about the way the sun shifts through the coloured glass and makes these wonderful prismatic designs that amazes me :) The craft is one I'd like to try my hand at one of these days, although I know it's far from easy.

What does this have to do with cross-stitch, you may ask?

Everything, because I recently fell deeply in love - at first sight, no less :) - with a beautiful stained-glass inspired blackwork design over at the Byrd's Nest, home of designer Jeanne Dansby and her wonderful WyrdByrd Designs line. Regally named Monarch, this elaborate geometric design uses specialty stitches with coloured floss to transform the black lines of a traditional blackwork into something altogether different and very special. You can view the design and the original post here, and I suggest you do, as you'll better understand my enthusiasm if you can see how very innovative and beautiful it looks. 

So, I left a comment on that post, telling Jeanne how much I liked it. And I started following her blog. What I didn't realize was that Jeanne had a generous reward for new followers that week, offering them a choice of four lovely patterns from WyrdByrd Designs for free. And, to my surprise and delight, Monarch was one of the patterns available!

Not only that, but Jeanne had added an additional extension to the original design, and this variation was included with the download! The variation can be viewed here. There is no colour added to this one, as Jeanne encourages stitchers in her pattern instructions to try their own colour combinations and materials. And that's what I've been working on all week!

In my defense, I didn't mean to start another WIP. I'm not usually able to juggle between different projects. I tend to get so absorbed in what I'm stitching that time away from that project feels more like a distraction than a pleasure for me. But I got inspired, and when I started pulling possible floss colours and combinations, I was so excited about it that I couldn't wait to start! That actually turned out to be a good thing, as my other WIP - Twilight Angel - has colours that are very close together (at least in the overskirt) and is better stitched in natural sunlight, which there hasn't been a lot of where I am lately.

Here are some pictures of my progress:

This is the center medallion and first three borders

This is the finished Monarch, with the first two sections of the diamond Variation

And this is where I am right now, with three sides of the Variation done!

For my work, I am using 14 count Aida in black and 1 strand of DMC Pearl Cotton #8 in white. While it might seem strange to invert the traditional white background/black stitching, I am intending to use metallic flosses for the specialty filling stitches, and I hope that the dark fabric will show off the sparkle and shine a bit more.

These are the colours I'm thinking of using for the filling:

From the top: Janlynn Purple, Janlynn Turquoise, DMC Jewel Effects and DMC Gold.

I have the two Janlynn colours left over from an old project, and decided to use them since they coordinate well with the Jewel Effects, which is the darker of DMC's two variegated metallics, having hints of red, gold, silver, turquoise, purple and lime green in its strands.

The Monarch Variation is a pleasure to stitch, and it's been so long since I worked on a blackwork design that I totally forgot about the near-instant gratification factor, as it stitches so much faster than whole cross-stitch! For other stitchers who would like to try their hand at this technique, Jeanne offers a large collection of beautiful free blackwork patterns at WyrdByrd's Nest - direct link here. All are downloadable instantly as .PDFs, and there is a slideshow that enables you to preview the designs before selecting. Also, there is a "View" option next to the download link which will bring the pattern up in your browser quickly so you can see what it's like before you download, which is great.

As I try out the colour filling, I'm hoping to post more regular updates. So check back for more Monarch! I'm very excited to see how this experiment turns out!

DISCLAIMER: When I logged in to write this post, I learned that Jeanne had posted a lovely recommendation for the Cross-Stitch Resources section of my blog (the post is here).
Thank you very much Jeanne! I love your site and your designs, and I greatly appreciate your post! I am hoping to expand the content of the Resources page in the near future, and it is an ongoing project, so there will hopefully be more interesting sites soon!

Please note that this complimentary review of my site does not have any bearing on my comments about stitching Monarch, nor does it influence my enthusiasm for this project.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Luck of the Irish

With St. Patrick's day rapidly approaching on March 17th, I thought I would share a fabulous free resource that I discovered a while back:

It's the Celtic Text Generator at the Celtic Cross Stitch site.

This quick and easy to use tool automatically generates any text you type into lovely and fancy looking celtic lettering. Be aware that you can only use one line of type and that there are no special characters. The word you type is the word that is generated, and it is case-sensitive, meaning that will not get capital letters unless you type them as capitals.
Also, the letters that are generated are large, and so only short words or phrases are best, unless you intend on working a very big piece. This lovely alphabet would work well for first names, or for a gaelic word that has personal meaning to you. It would combine with celtic knotwork patterns beautifully. To save, left click on the generated text with your mouse and select Save Picture As from the pop-up menu.
When you visit, you might want to enter the monthly competition to win a free chart!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New DMC Contest!

I just discovered that DMC is holding a designer's challenge!

To enter the competition, you need to design an easter egg using a minimum of two types of DMC threads/floss (all the collections are eligible, including Light Effects) before March 31st, 2011. All patterns must be original and can't have been published before. The stitchery type is open to any technique (including other textile arts besides cross-stitch, such as quilting, knitting, crocheting and tatting) and to any method of finishing (which is wonderfully flexible)! 

According to clarification given in the comments on the original post, this contest is open worldwide, and not limited to the US as I'd initially assumed.

There are three excellent prizes to win, a Grand Prize (consisting of all of the solid colours of DMC (!) and some of the variegated, and the publication of the design on the DMC blog) and two runners-up (variegated floss packs). To enter, you must send in a photo and a description of the materials used and the method of work.

Pretty neat, hey? Any contest with a full chest of DMC as the prize is all right with me!

Full details can be found here on the DMC Blog (February 18th entry).

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that I'm not intending on entering; I just wanted to share the news in case any other stitchers might like to enter. With no geographical restrictions and such a wide-open field of working and finishing methods, I imagine that there will be tons of entries in all areas of craftwork, and it will be interesting to watch as entries get posted up on the DMC blog. Good luck to any stitchers that decide to enter!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WIP: Twilight Angel

As you can see, I have a *tiny* bit of progress to show you on my angel. The biggest change is the white running along what is, in effect, the 2nd fold in her overskirt. The stitching is bit slower going than usual because I am endeavouring to neaten up the colours underlying the backstitch. For example, sometimes the backstitch will cut through the stitch, but the pattern is showing a whole cross-stitch, leaving half of the stitch on the other side of the backstitch line. This isn't very important in some areas - such as the soft dress and overskirt folds - but I am making an attempt to neaten up the edges and lines that are very clear cut, making the whole stitches into 3/4 stitches as I go along.

It's very subjective, and therefore a bit time consuming, but I believe it will be worth it when it comes time to add the backstitch outlining. There are a few areas around her face, hands and hair where this 'messy outlining' is particularly obvious, and I hope to fix that as I go along. This is very good practice for me, in a way, because 'messy outlines' are usually something I can't stand in the least, so hopefully this will teach me to neaten what I can and tolerate what I cannot change. Or my patience will be improved. Perhaps both :)

Also, my apologies for the light shining through the Aida towards the top right of the photograph. In an effort to more accurately capture the colours, I tried taking the picture in natural light, and while I'm pleased with the outcome, it does look a bit unusual.

Design Changes

This is just a quick note to let you know that I am still making some changes to the design elements here at Eglantine Stitchery. I loved my first banner - which was made using the Dublin text and Hearts from Stitchpoint's free Alphabet Generator (see Cross-Stitching Resources, at top) but realized last night what was bothering me - the labels did not have much relation to my banner. So I have designed a new one! I hope you like it :) There may be some more minor changes coming in the next few days, so I appreciate your patience.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day and a New Start

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!
May "Love Brighten Your Life!" and many good things come your way!

I also have a new start to share with you! It's not far along, but here is my new work in progress, Twilight Angel, my first Petite Dimensions Gold kit:

This photo unfortunately doesn't capture the delicacy of the colours very much, but it is very hard to capture the right tones. The background is 16 count Aida, in an unusual colour called "dove grey" that is really more of a smoky blue-grey.

These few stitches are my progress for the last two days, and form part of the angel's overskirt (for reference, please see the kit image in my sidebar under WIP). The lightest blue closely matches the colour of the background, and the floss has an unexpected but lovely sheen to it, like a cross between cotton and rayon. It is also more 'springy' than DMC. That's the only way I can think of to describe it.

I have worked a Dimensions Gold Collection design before, a wonderful piece that I completely fell in love with, and that inspired me to pick up cross-stitching again a few years ago. At the time, it was called Elegant Roses, but is now called Rose Cuttings, and appears to have become part of the regular line. I do not have a photograph of my work at the moment, but here is the kit image to give you an idea:

(I have yet to find the right frame for my piece, but am envisioning something much more elegant than the suggested frame, with scrollwork, perhaps in gold)

The kits have improved a great deal since that time. They now come in resuable hard plastic folders instead of plastic-bagged, which is very useful to keep the materials that you are not currently using together and clean, and with pre-sorted threads attached to a colour card.

When I worked on Elegant Roses, the floss was very reminiscent of DMC, a cotton whose only discernable difference was a lesser incidence of pilling or 'thread fluff' when stitching. So I suspect that the floss has been revamped along with the kit design, and it took a few stitches for me to get used to it. It has a bit more fullness, and its slight slipperiness makes firm darning of the starting and end threads more important, as the ends have a bit of a tendancy to slip out if not darned tightly. But the consistency is in no way as difficult to work with as rayon, and I am enjoying the way the floss lies smoothly against the Aida, and the extra little bit of shine!

I will post a review of my stitching experience and my impressions about the kit when I finish. For now, I am quite happy to be starting a new design, and greatly look forward to attaching all the pretty charms and beads and sequins when it comes time to finish. I've got a long way to go before I get there, though. :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stitching Review: Floral Bouquet Variation, Free Pattern

I am excited to share this lovely pattern, which is a free design offered by Free Patterns Online. FPO is a wonderful resource for high-quality counted cross-stitch designs that have been previously published in magazines and books. The only requirement for access is that you complete a free registration process. Normally, I am wary of such sites, as they inevitably wind up inundating my inbox with junk mail. But I was pleased to discover that this is not the case with FPO. The registration process is quick and easy, and only requires a valid e-mail address, which you then use as your login ID for the site. FPO does not send out any notification, unless you choose to sign up to one of the many optional newsletters and free offers during registration. I signed up for the Simply Beading newsletter only, and it sends out an interesting flyer every second week or so. FPO also carries patterns for other crafts, including beading, knitting, crochet, quilting and quick crafts. I have only downloaded the cross-stitch patterns, so I can’t speak for what the other craft areas are like.
Once you complete the registration process, and confirm your subscriptions via an e-mail delivered to your inbox, you can begin downloading the patterns that catch your interest. All designs are downloaded as .PDF files. The first and last pages of the downloaded pattern are advertisement pages for FPO, and are graphics heavy, so when printing your pattern it is a good idea to select the pattern pages only (it will save a lot of ink!).
This pattern, officially titled Floral Beauty, was designed by Kathleen Hurley and originally appeared in Crazy for Cross Stitch! Magazine, Number 64, May 2001 (pages 7-9). This magazine is no longer in publication, and I could not find any information about the designer, save for links to other patterns which were mostly country-inspired. To download, visit the Cross-Stitch section of FPO, select Home Decor and then Stitched Art and Floral Beauty is on the second line of images, towards the right-hand side.
This is the project photo of Floral Beauty. I call my finished project, Floral Bouquet, since it is a substantial colour variation on the original pattern. As you can see, the original colours are much more muted, although when I pulled the original colours from my stash some of them – particularly the orange used for the center of the daffodils and the tulip – were a great deal more vivid than the photograph suggested. I really liked the composition, but I felt that the colours for all of the flowers should be a bit more vibrant and that the leaves – which were mostly pastels (the daffodil leaves were seafoam green!) – needed to be more realistic looking.

I frequently make colour variations for smaller designs, particularly for Christmas ornaments. But while I have made colour substitutions before in large designs, due to lack of certain floss or dislike of a particular colour, this is the first large pattern in which I have made enough substitutions to consider it a pattern variation. This is an excellent design to substitute because it is composed entirely of whole cross stitches (no fractionals!), has no blended colours or specialty flosses (although you could certainly add them if you wish), and all of the flowers follow the same format. Each flower has a dark, medium and light colour along with a backstitch.

You could make your own substitutions easily, but if you would like to use mine, here are the details:

I have made this new colour chart using the symbols from the original. If you should have any trouble saving or reading this variation chart, please send me an e-mail and let me know.

NOTE: All leaves were supposed to be backstitched in 890 (U D Pistachio Green). I have added different back stitch colours for each leaf type. I have also added a distinct backstitch colour for each flower, as some had them and some did not (for example, the tulip and the daffodils were to be backstitched in the same 947, Burnt Orange).

My variation was stitched on 16 count Aida, white (Charles Craft Gold Standard) with 3 strands of floss for the cross-stitches and 1 strand for back stitch. I used a size 24 needle.
I omitted the border. There were two reasons for that: a circular border would make the piece harder to frame, and the pretty scallops – when I inspected them closely – all have uneven points that look more like sloppy waves than picots. I briefly considered designing a border that was circular in the middle and extended at the corners into a square, perhaps out of blackwork (rendered in one of the colours, like the pink) before deciding that I liked the work as it was. This is one of the reasons that I work from the middle of a pattern outwards, rather than starting on an outside corner the way some stitchers do; I find it very helpful to place the center elements before deciding on the framing elements.

For floral designs like this, I always stitch the flower blooms first, followed by the leaves. I learned to do this through trial and error. To my mind, the flowers are the centerpieces of the design, and the leaves are subordinate to their completion. This also accommodates adding stitches to the flowers, as I did with the left daffodil on its bottom leaf. First, I stitched it as designed, but being unhappy with the way it looked so much skinnier compared to its fellows, I added some stitches to make it fuller. I would not have been able to do this if I had stitched the leaves first. I did much the same with the bottom-most daffodil leaf on the left, the one that extends from the rosebud and the bunch of violets, for the same reason. Also on the left, I added two small leaves around the forget-me-not, as it looked very bare stitched as it was originally designed. The FMNs have no distinct leaves of their own, so I used the violet leaf design and colours. On the bottom right-most leaf of the second violet bunch on the right, I also added a few stitches to make that skinny leaf fuller.

The stitching on this project went fast and was very enjoyable. The colour chart with the unique symbols was very clear and easy to understand. The different backstitches were also done in different colours. I did not need to enlarge it. The pattern is split over two pages, with the majority of the pattern on the first page and about an inch or so on the next, along with the stitching key. I found it very helpful to cut the excess from the second page and then tape it - using clear tape - to the first page, making effectively one large chart.

The whole cross-stitches made the stitching easy and speedy; I started this design in the 3rd week of January and finished in the 1st week of February, which is very fast for me when working on a design this size. There is a size chart for different fabric options included in the pattern. My 16 count worked up to approximately 8½ by 8½ inches, which is a nice medium. I am hoping to find a gold scrolled frame for it, or a lovely dark wood.

I was very pleased with how my colour choices worked out. While I mostly used one or more of the existing colours as bases for the flower substitutions - with the exception of the tulip, which was wholly substituted - my choices for the leaves of the tulips and the violets were significantly darker than the originals. I found that this really made the bright colours of the flowers stand out when it was finished. Although the finished photo in this post may not look a great deal different than the photo in the last post - in which the leaves were not backstitched yet - the leaf backstitch adds quite a bit of depth which unfortunately did not show up well in the photos.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful pattern to use to experiment with colour substitutions, and although Floral Beauty/Floral Bouquet is composed entirely of whole cross-stitches, there is enough shading in the various flowers and leaves to make this floral very realistic looking. I highly recommend this pattern, and if you do decide to stitch it in either version, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WIP: Floral Bouquet, Stitched!

WIP: Floral Bouquet, Day 6

WIP: Floral Bouquet, Day 2


This is my first blog, and I hope in time it will become a place for me to share the progress of the cross-stitch projects I'm working on. I have been working in counted cross-stitch for around ten years, on and off, and recently got back to stitching in a major way! I have been following the progress of other stitchers as they post their projects online, and have decided to try and contribute to the wonderfully inspiring project update blogs that are out there (please see my Blog Links if you are looking for suggested sites!). I am learning as I go along, so please be patient! ;)