I love many crafts from the American Southwest and collect many of them. I love that they are hand-crafted, often using traditional methods, and that they use timeless sources of design.
In spite of this emphasis on tradition, their simplicity gives them a lovely modern quality of design.
This Medicine Bear ornament, stitched for an ANG Correspondence Course, is my latest completed needlepoint. It brings together many aspects of the Indian crafts I love into what will be a lovely ornament.
In it there are some lessons we can apply to many of our own projects.
Simple outlines make a great basis for needlepoint. This outline is a cookie cutter, items I often use for needlepoint. Simple outlines (think of Melissa Shirley’s bunny silhouettes) work so well as the basis of needlepoint because they give shape to the design while leaving open so many possibilities for stitches and color.
This shape in one typical of the overall inspiration, but many outlines are design neutral. Think of Christmas trees, many animals, hearts, and other basic shapes. Seven people could stitch hearts using the same outline and come up with seven entirely different pieces with different inspirations, color schemes, and stitches.
Pick a color scheme that evokes your inspiration. The star is stitched in turquoise and coral, a common set of colors in Indian jewelry. It’s a complementary color scheme but one that is not common. It immediately grounds this design as Southwestern. If you pick colors that are common in your inspiration, it will be easier to pick colors and you’ll find that the finished project looks better.
Let’s think about this a bit more, look at your inspiration and other things in this style; are there colors you see over and over again? Are there color schemes that are so common they are almost cliche? Take these colors and think about how you can use them.
Here a common color scheme in silver jewelry (turquoise, coral, and silver) was tweaked in a couple of ways. The colored area uses ten different threads, with no colors repeating, so there is great variety here. The silver background is much larger than is common in this kind of jewelry, so the balance is different. Choices such as this keep the result from looking boring while still grounding it in a specific style.
To Outline or Not?
Because my background stitch closely matches the canvas color and the focal point goes right to the edge, finishing this design could be a problem — important parts will be lost in the finishing. This is not true of all designs.
Look at you canvas to see if your design would be better off in a “setting” of 3-5 threads.
If this is the case, make some decisions:
- What color will best set off my design? Here black is a typical additional color in this art and sets off the bear nicely.
- What stitch should I use? If your edge color is greatly different from the canvas color, use Tent Stitch. Otherwise Skip Tent or T Stitch makes a fast edging.
- Will it show on finishing? If so make it closer to 5 stitches wide and be sure to give instructions to do this to your finisher. Visually to increase the size of this edging, ask for twisted cord to match it.
I’m applying some of these lessons to my next project.