RSN Canvaswork: Test stitches

When it came time to work out which stitches to use for the temple, I stuck with my (now!) tried and true method of testing the stitches on my small piece of test canvas.  Firstly, I looked closely at the texture and pattern of the temple building on the original image. I could see 4 different patterns which are labeled below. It’s a little difficult to see on a computer screen so I used my high quality printout of the image.


Looking closely at area 1, you can see that the building looks like it has square shapes on the wall.  Number 2 seems to have long, thin rectangles running horizontally. Number 3 also has long thin rectangles but there is snow sitting on the edges of the wood (I assume it’s wood!) so the wood must be thicker there. Finally number 4 looks like planks.



Here is my test area where you can see I tried some stitches that I’ve decided not to use. The stitches on the top of the stitches sample are both Roumanian couching. The area on the left is stitched with three strands of Impressions wool/silk blend and the one on the right with only two. I’ll be using three strands on the finished piece.

The stitches that are numbered are the ones I’ll be using on the temple building. The number of the stitch corresponds to the numbered area on the building.

Sample 1 is Roumanian stitch again, done with two strands of thread (to save thread).  Stitch number 2 is a stitch from Mary Rhodes book called Chequer. This stitch alternates squares of Cushion stitch and Tent stitch. Stitch number 3 is called Double Linked Cross in Rachel Doyle’s RSN Canvaswork book. Stitch number 4 is Bamboo stitch which I found in a stitch guide by Ruth Schmuff.

All of these stitches look like they will be relatively easy to shade. The temple changes shades of red from darkest to lightest so it’s important to be able to shift the shade of red. Since all of these stitches will be adjacent, I wanted to see how the different stitches would work together and line up (or not), so I tested the stitches close together. Each stitch is based on a group of three threads so they all work well together.

I’m a bit nervous about starting the stitching on the temple before I go to Bristol, but I think if I wait there won’t be enough time to finish the whole piece and mount it once I’m there.

What do you think about these stitch choices? If you have any tips, suggestions, ideas, advice please let me know!

RSN Canvaswork: Roof and shading

Today I’m going to talk about the roof areas of the temple. Before I do that, however, I’m going to explain my working order. Quite a few of you left comments explaining your working order and why. I read them all ( I just haven’t had time to reply but I am reading and learning from all of you!) and on another piece I will try some of these different methods.

At the RSN, and in Rachel Doyle’s RSN Canvaswork book, she explained the order of stitching thus: it is far easier to judge edges a solid area than to judge the edge of a negative space. In other words, stitch the clearly defined shapes (tree, snowflakes, roof, building) before stitching the sky or even the snow at the bottom of the piece. Once your solid, clear shapes are stitched, then you can easily and accurately fill in the background stitches.


In fact, the top of the roof in the photo above was stitched after I did that bit of sky. However, I was very careful to stitch the sky in a perfectly straight line and right up to the edge of the roof, so when it came time to stitch the roof I knew I would have a straight line to stitch on.

Coming down the roof, towards the left, the stitches I put in for the roof followed the slanted line of the roof and I had to go back in and fill in a few stitches of sky where I hadn’t been so accurate on the sky stitching.


The roof in the image is not pure white, but a grey at the top and a slightly mixed light grey and white part way down the roof. This time the Impressions threads in three colors blended well for the effect I wanted. The roof is done in a variation of Cushion stitch. Originally I had thought to work the roof in Scotch stitch which is a diagonal stitch made up of interlocking squares. I decided to use Cushion stitch (from Mary Rhodes book Canvaswork Stitches)  for two reasons. Firstly, it’s easier to fit into the slanting  shape of the roof because the individual stitches are at the same angle as the roof line and secondly, trying to compensate the diagonal, interlocking stitch on the gradual slant of the bottom of each section of roof would have been – at this point for me – very difficult. I was afraid I would lose the pattern of the stitch and it would look unfinished at the bottom edge.


As I worked the roof areas, I became aware of just how angled each roof line is in both the original image and, of course, on the canvas. I had to do a lot of compensating on both the top and bottom edges. Each roof has a detail at the bottom, so the angle will be slightly softened after those details are put in.


In the original image below you can see the slightly ruffled edge to the snow on the two roofs of the main building. It’s barely visible on the small building on the far left but I will do the same thing on that edge as on the other two – you’ll have to wait to find out what it will be!


One question I have for all of you is: should I try to do the shadow tree outline shape on the left of the building just above the roof? Is it too complicated? If you think it would be a good idea, then I’d love some ideas!



RSN Canvaswork: Tree threads and shading

After taking out the white raised spot stitches on the tree trunk, I decided to do test stitches to make sure the color blending I had in mind would work. I’m learning…

The first thing I tried was putting together one strand of Caron Impressions 0057 (white) with one strand each of Renaissance wool 1904 and 1905. In the photo below the Renaissance wools are the 3rd and 4th skeins from the top and the Impressions is the skein at the bottom. What I discovered was that putting three strands of relatively thick thread together does not make for a good blend. Whether this was because the Impression and the Renaissance are both relatively thick compared to one floss of DMC or if it’s because the Impressions s a wool/silk blend and the Renaissance is 100% lambs wool I don’t know. That’s an experiment for another day.


The next thing I tried was to use one strand each of Renaissance wool 1904 and 1905 with two strands each of 779, 3860 and 451. This worked much better. The fine DMX floss melts into the Impressions wool/silk blend and the colors look just beautiful.


As I moved the stitches from the left to the right of the trunk, I used a combination that got progressively lighter. Always using the two lighter threads from the previous row with some newly introduced even paler shades meant the color changed gradually.


I didn’t stitch from the bottom to the top in rigid, vertical rows but left some gaps to introduce the subsequent lighter shades back into the previous rows. This way the shading looks more natural.


The trunk on the left looks quite dark at the point when this photo was taken. This area will look darker than the image until I put in snow flakes of small French knots. Those little bits of white will lighten the darkest area so it looks closer to the original image.

The additional over stitching will be around the white stitches towards the middle of the trunk. If you look at the original image you’ll see the bark peeking through the snow in small, dark ovals. I tried this on my test piece and it worked quite well. However, that will be one of the things I do last, when I’m in Bristol with Kelley Aldridge and she can help me.

I’m really glad I experimented and tried using the floss blended with the wool and wool/silk. The floss does a beautiful job of changing the shade of threads and by using many different shades of one color, the effect can be quite good.

Do you have any tips for shading when doing canvaswork? I’d love to know about them!