The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 1
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 2
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 3
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 4
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 5


RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

When I chose the  image of this red temple in the snow, one of the qualities of the print that I loved the most was all the red in the image. Having lived in Taiwan, I could easily imagine this red temple and, having lived in Iowa, I know what snow looks like.

What I didn’t imagine was how varied and complex the shading of the reds would be when I was taking an image and turning it into something stitched. The eves in the image appear almost black in some places. Solid red, no matter how dark, even a deep burgundy, wasn’t going to give the impression of depth and shadow.

DSCF4600 RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

I tested the deepest red but the color was too flat. I added some black and it looked like stripes – awful! Then I asked my husband and he looked and looked (as he does when considering an important question) and pronounced “browns”. So I tried it…and it worked…beautifully! You can see the two sets of thread combinations above, one for the darkest part of the eaves and one where it gets a bit lighter.

The base threads are Caron Impressions and the others are DMC cotton floss. The darker set of threads are Impressions 2010 and DMC 310 (brown) 433 (deep gold) and 377 (a slightly rusty red). The lighter set of threads are Impressions 2011, 3031 (brown) 434 (deep gold) and 347 (rusty red).

DSCF4595 RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

The next step was to decide how many of each thread to use in the mix. Above, you can see 1 strand of Impressions 2010, two strands of brown 310, two of gold 433 and two of rusty red 377. I started with one Impressions thread and two of each of the DMC floss but played around with the mix as I wanted the shade to be brighter.  Adding another strand of the gold or a strand of the lighter rusty red to the dark mix worked well. I don’t have a formula, as I experimented as I went along. I’d put all the threads into my needle and, without knotting the end, make a stitch over two threads of canvas. This allowed me to see what the effect would be and then pull it gently out. If I liked it I would then carry on stitching and, if not, I would change the balance and try again. This is NOT a fast way to stitch! Separating the threads, putting them together and testing the combination took a long time but the end result is worth all the time and care.

DSCF4622 RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

You can see that the color and the shading is lovely and you can even imagine the light coming through the trees and illuminating a bit of the eaves from below. The gutter between the roof and the eaves I stitched using the same color combination.  On top you can see some puffy couched grey wool for the snow resting on the gutter. I love this technique and it works perfectly here.

DSCF4614 RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

The gutter was stitched using a straight stitch over two threads over back stitch laid down for padding. Above you can see the back stitch before I covered it on the lower roof.

DSCF4624 RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

Here you can see the grey wool being laid and ready to be couched down. The most important thing when doing this is to make sure you leave enough slack in the thread you will be couching so it can be puffy. Don’t pull it tightly against the canvas or it won’t make those pretty ruffles. I use a mix of grey threads again to give it a bit more life.

DSCF4632 RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

Now I’ve finished stitching the eves and it’s time to move on to the building. I think I’ll begin with the little one story bit you can see on the left. Time’s moving quickly and I’d best get back to work!

turnbull ad 400x150 jpg RSN Canvaswork: Mixing threads to shade the eaves

RSN Canvaswork: Closer and closer!

There has been so much stitching going on that I haven’t written as I’ve gone along so this will be a bit jumbled. We leave soon for England and the piece needs to be at a point where I can finish the stitching in three days and leave one day for mounting. The problem is, I’m not sure how to determine when there will be only three days of work still to do!

DSCF4681 RSN Canvaswork: Closer and closer!

After stitching the eves I did move on to the top part of the temple building and the small building on the left. I stitched them using a mix of reds and browns but after living with it for a few days decided that it looked messy. My husband agreed – in the nicest possible way! – so I took it out. This poor piece has had so much taken out it’s a miracle that the canvas is still in good shape!

As I worked I covered the finished stitching with plastic wrap stitched loosely to the canvas outside the design area. I tried using tissue paper but it just floats away or falls on the floor. I didn’t leave the plastic wrap on the piece when I was finished with the sky but it did help prevent the snow from getting dirty.

DSCF4697 RSN Canvaswork: Closer and closer!

The details on the tree were especially fun to do. I took some floss in a medium tan/brown/pink and stitched around the bark. To stitch through all this wool you have to use a sharp needle and I found a thin one was best. I’ll probably outline the tree with the same thread but will wait until I can talk to my tutor to make sure my idea will work. This is one place where I don’t want to take stitches out.

DSCF4666 RSN Canvaswork: Closer and closer!

Here is the stitching on the smaller building that I took out. In fact, if you look at the photo above this one you can see a tiny bit of fuzz left on the canvas. There are two things about this stitching that didn’t work for me: the right hand edge, where I’ve tried to show perspective and the corner just looks daft and the mixed threads look too stripy and messy. In the photo above you can see that using the same stitch – double linked cross – but Impressions threads in single colors in the needle worked much better. I did change shades of red, getting lighter as I worked towards the bottom. The single color in the needle seems to have worked well here and, although I did mix the colors in the rows to make the shading gradual, I didn’t mix the threads.

DSCF4708 RSN Canvaswork: Closer and closer!

Next time a close up of the work! You can see my worked packed up and ready to go to England in a beautiful bag Jane made for me. I called British Airways and spoke to a lovely lady who assured me they would let me carry this down the gangway where it would be carefully put into the hold for the flight and I could pick it up in the gangway as I got off. I hope it all works out! We’re flying away to England today and soon you’ll be hearing from me as I work with Kelley Aldridge in Bristol! I can’t wait!

turnbull ad 400x150 jpg RSN Canvaswork: Closer and closer!

iStitches – what a great idea!

Before I begin, let me explain clearly to all who read this that I love books, real paper paged books. I have a huge library of embroidery books and I treasure each one. I am also a proponent of technology and think that to ignore what it can do for us is a mistake. Mankind will continue to invent new ways of sharing knowledge and information and I believe the more ways we can share knowledge and information, the better.

When I traveled to Hampton Court in February I took my threads, my canvas, my needles, a frame, a lot of other things I needed for my Canvaswork course. All of these things – with the exception of the frame – are very lightweight. Even the frame isn’t that heavy. The books, however, are heavy. Especially the Mary Rhodes Dictionary of Canvaswork Stitches. I wasn’t over my limit on weight but I did think about it and I did weigh my suitcase to make sure I would be within the limits.

No sooner did I get home that I came across a wonderful “app” for canvaswork. It’s called “iStitches”. Ruth Schmuff, who writes the blog Not Your Grandmother’s Needlepoint produces them and I have been using them a lot during my canvaswork project.

IMG 0842 500x887 iStitches   what a great idea!

There are three stitch dictionaries produced as iPhone apps. Now, I realise not everyone has an iPhone, not everyone likes technology as much as I do, not everyone would choose to use an “app” instead of a book, but I love them! I currently have the first two volumes and will purchase the third if I decide to do even more canvaswork. (Highly likely since I am really enjoying the problem solving aspect of canvaswork!).

Why do I like this “app” stitch dictionary so much? There are 300 stitches in each volume and they are all stored on my phone.  For better or worse, books are heavy and carrying them around can be problematic, especially when you are travelling. I have scrolled through the iStitches dictionary on the train going to and from work, thinking about my project and looking at different stitches.

IMG 0844 500x887 iStitches   what a great idea!

The dictionaries are organised in two ways: stitches by type or stitches by name. I find the type index helpful since, as a beginner, I don’t know the names of the stitches yet.  On the other hand, looking through all of the stitches by name lets me explore loads of stitches i’ve never heard of and maybe find one that’s perfect.

IMG 0843 500x887 iStitches   what a great idea!

The stitch diagrams are wonderful. Clear, easy to understand and, best of all, they can be enlarged so you can really see how to do the stitch. There aren’t instructions, simply a diagram with numbers telling you where to begin and what to do next. As a visual learner, this makes it really easy for me to understand a stitch.

IMG 0847 500x887 iStitches   what a great idea!

There are often variations included in each stitch, so you can see how to work the stitch in different sizes. On the Gobelin stitch pages it’s shown over 2 threads, 4 threads and 6 threads. If you’re an experienced canvaswork embroiderer, then this might seem obvious, but for those of us who are not experienced, then showing that a stitch can be enlarged or reduced is really helpful.

IMG 0848 500x887 iStitches   what a great idea!

The cost is reasonable and, of course, shipping is free. Here’s a link to the page where you can purchase the app or you can search for it in the app store; just search for “iStitches” and you’ll find it.

This review is unbiased – except that I like the app – and I am not getting any financial incentives or gifts for writing about this app. I just think it’s a great idea and I hope to see more like it in the future!

What about you? Are you strictly a pager pages book person or do you appreciate and use ebooks or apps? Share you thoughts with us – I’m sure it will be an interesting discussion!