Today we’ll finish up talking about balance and exciting needlepoint by looking at a piece I’m finishing up and talking about it.
The design is from Two Sisters Needlepoint and has three small Lily-style shifts. I loved it immediately because it puts those iconic shifts in a clever small package.
My philosophy for stitching canvases is to push all the parts of the design just a bit while still keeping the canvas in balance. I do this by asking if I could use a different stitch here or a different thread there?
But looking for new stitches and threads isn’t enough, you also need to consider a couple of other things. First, have you find places to use Tent Stitch. Every canvas should have some Tent Stitch on it. Second, look for places where threads and stitches can be reused.
Doing these things gives your project consistency and repetition. That creates a structure for the stitching in addition to the design itself that allows the pushed elements to shine.
Analyzing the Canvas
The first step in analyzing the canvas is to look at the number of colors. The colors break down like this:
That makes for 8 colors.
My next step in analyzing the canvas is to look for design elements that repeat. Although there is much that is different in the three shifts, they all have the column of squares in the center. That means I should treat them all similarly. Because the frames in these columns is one stitch wide, this is a natural place to use Tent Stitch.
The other repeating element is the little ties near the bottom of each shift. These too should be treated similarly.
These are the only repeating elements.
The Thread Plan
Since the colors are given, the next step is to pick threads. I do this by pulling out threads that are in the colors on the canvas.
Given the decisions I had already made I needed to include something that attracted attention for the Tent Stitch frame. For this I picked metallics. To play off that for the white I picked pearl cotton to give it some contrast from the wool used for the background.
I pulled many other threads for the other colors in the shifts. Some weren’t exactly right, some were too thick for the canvas; these got discarded as I stitched. In the process as I used each thread I looked for places where I could reuse them.
Here’s what I found:
The lighter pink on the green shift is reused for ties on the pink shift and as the darker pink on the turquoise shift.
The metallic pink on the green shift is the framing metallic on the pink shift.
The darker green on the pink shift is used for the ties on the turquoise shift.
The lighter green on the pink shift is used for the stems and leaves on the turquoise shift.
The pink background thread on the pink shift is the lighter pink on the turquoise shift.
With the background, this brought the total number of threads to thirteen. You can see by the number of threads used that I pushed the thread choice to create more variety.
Creating a Stitching Plan
An important part of using needlepoint is to pick different stitches to give you a variety of textures. I started by picking two stitches, the background and the columns.
For the columns I chose Mosaic. It fits the squares perfectly and, unlike Smyrna Cross, my other consideration, it’s flat. The background needed to be a stitch with complete coverage that would be vertical in direction. Because I wasn’t working on this every day I wanted a stitch that was straightforward and easy to compensate. Diagonal Cashmere, one of my favorites, is a good choice because it fits these criteria and is small enough to keep the pattern going between the dresses.
Next I thought about where else I could use Tent Stitch. I found places on each dress. The roses on the green shift, the leaves on the pink shift, and the stems on the turquoise shift are all in Tent.
This left me with a problem. In each shift there are single thread lines (inside the roses on green, as ribbons on pink, and as leaves on turquoise). Because they all change direction, Tent by itself won’t work. I chose Straight Stitches for the leaves and Outline Stitch for the roses and ribbons. A nice advantage of Outline Stitch is that I could use slightly thicker threads for these lines.
My final stitch choices are for the flowers on the blue shift. They mostly have distinctive centers. I’ll stitch each individually using Elongated Smyrna, Diagonal Gobelin, and two sizes of Rice Stitch. The outer areas are narrow and will use Diagonal Gobelin or Tent Stitch.
That left me with the backgrounds of the shifts needing stitches. Because these are the largest areas in each, they are also perfect for textured stitches. I chose each as I prepared to stitch them. The green shift uses Diagonal Mosaic. I picked it because I hadn’t used it in awhile. To push it I reversed direction on each half of the shift, pointing the stitches away from the center.
For the pink shift I wanted a stitch with a different direction, vertical to emphasize the length of the shift. I thought Diagonal Gobelin would be too dull, so I made Elongated Cashmeres. They do not all break at the same points, largely because design elements get in the way.
For the turquoise shift I wanted a stitch with a completely different direction. I am always surprised at how Brick Stitch looks when done for an area like this one. Brick Stitch it was. With these three stitches we get lots of variety within each dress, pushing the needlepoint away from too much repetition.
It feels as if I used lots of stitches, although only 11 were used. The variety comes because the same stitches are used with different threads and in different contexts. For example, Diagonal Gobelin feels as if it is a different stitch in the ties than in the pink flower center — but they are the same stitch.
The canvas is balanced with thread as the main aspect, then stitches, then color.
Push you Needlepoint
Combining the elements you have in unexpected ways, looking for places for repetition, and going just a bit further to find interesting stitches and threads creates a needlepoint that is exciting.
These ideas of pushing and balance work for every stitcher, no matter what your level is. They also work on every canvas, although I find the challenge and reward is greater on small pieces. It only takes a little thought to do this, making your canvases great.