In praise of neutral colors

I was stitching a teaching piece recently, and just wasn’t liking the colors I was using. I was happy with them when I picked them out, but the actual stitching with them wasn’t going the way I planned. Among the threads I had selected was a neutral, ecru, in several different weights. In desperation I decided to add the neutral. And voila! The project I was hating turned into something I was loving.

This is not the beauty shot that Rod takes after the piece is framed, but just a quickie I took, so it’s a little out of focus. But not so out of focus that the colors aren’t readily visible, and that’s what I’m talking about here.

I had stitched the center part, including the ecru band around the center, and was working on the outer edges past the green borders around the center. That’s where I was having trouble deciding what to use. So I used the ecru pearl cotton to stitch the Amadeus stitches that form the triangles, and the piece went from “blah” to “wow!”

It’s interesting how color affects a piece. I have a project that I love, and I loved the colors as well, but it hasn’t attracted any interest from selection committees. I’m going to restitch in different colors to see if that helps the design take off.

Here’s Symphony in the original colors:

And here are the colors I’m going to use to restitch it:

Of course there are more threads that I’ll be using, these are just what I’m basing the palette on. I’ll keep you posted – we’ll see how the project looks in different colors!

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Olympic stitching

I almost always have the television on while I’m stitching. I know some people listen to audio books or music, but for me it’s the tv. And what a glorious time to be stitching! The Winter Olympics are on!

Now, some events I really can’t stitch to, like the aerial ski competitions (seriously, how high up in the air are they!), or figure skating. But most everything else, especially curling or hockey, no problem!

When something momentous occurs they replay it, so I don’t miss anything. That’s probably why I like stitching to baseball, Formula 1 racing and other sports.

So my tv is on to the Olympics, I’m watching cross country skiing and trying to get a little work done. In the evening, when I do most of my stitching, we’ve got whatever event is being broadcast on and I stitch away.

When the Olympics are over, I’ll go back to what I usually like to stitch to, shows or movies I’ve seen several times. They keep me company like an old friend. I still laugh at the jokes and lines I’ve heard several times already, and I don’t have to focus all my attention on what’s happening on the screen.

My other favorite to stitch to is podcasts. I really enjoy stitching along to FiberTalk, but I have a couple of others that I like.

So back to the needle – just thought I’d share!

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A little love for Rhodes stitches

Rhodes stitches are one of the work horse stitches in a needleworker’s tool box. Spot motifs, borders, combinations, different shapes and sizes – how could we live without our Rhodes stitches?

A Rhodes stitch is always capitalized when you see it in print, named for the person, Mary Rhodes, who is credited with its creation. A Rhodes stitch is characterized by all of the stitches crossing a center point, which puts as much thread on the back of the canvas as the front. It’s a highly textured stitch, and one that works great in a wide variety of threads.

When I first started doing Rhodes stitches, I was a little troubled by the finished look. My first Rhodes stitches were usually squares, and the final stitch was almost always oblique, not the true vertical, horizontal or diagonal stitch. When I started designing I started tinkering with it, to have the final look be more pleasing to my eye.

Here’s how a Rhodes square over 4 is usually diagrammed:

You can see that the stitch begins with the true diagonal, making the final stitch oblique. This is the look that I didn’t care for, so I began diagramming my Rhodes squares like this:

The first stitch, shown in red, is the oblique stitch, so the final stitch can be the true diagonal.

But what if the project doesn’t have a diagonal feel to it, and I’d rather have the final stitch be horizontal or vertical? Easy peasy – just alter the placement of the first stitch:

In the examples above, the final stitch is a true vertical or a true horizontal.

And why does it matter? The overall look and feel of a piece is made up of all its component parts. If I want the center to be emphasized, I want all of the stitches to be “pointing” to the center. If I want a strong horizontal line, say for a border, I want all of the stitches to reinforce that feel.

But wait a minute – aren’t all Rhodes stitches in a piece supposed to have the same final stitch? Yes, and no. If I’m stitching a border, for uniformity I want all of the final stitches to be the same. But if I want to emphasize a particular area, I want the final stitch to be pointing toward that area.

In “A Bump in the Rhodes”, pictured at the top, the Rhodes stitches don’t all have the same final stitch. You’ll see that the very large Rhodes squares in the corners have final diagonal stitches that point toward the center. Since I determine which is the final stitch based on my first stitch, it’s an easy thing to manipulate so the stitch looks the way I want it.

And this is something you can do in your projects as well. Determine how you want your final stitch to lay, and stitch away. If you have trouble with the layout, here’s a little trick – start your Rhodes stitch with the true line, stitch round, then stitch over the first stitch:

I’ve slightly offset the first stitch so you can see it better, but when you actually stitch it will be covered by the final stitch. Your finished Rhodes will be slightly higher in texture, so make sure you do all of them the same, but the final look is a standard Rhodes square.

I hope this helps you as you plan out your stitching. All Rhodes stitches can be stitched in this way, with you determining how you want your finished Rhodes to look.

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Musings on color

I’m working on a new design, and ran into a roadblock. You see, the colors I thought¬†I wanted to use, I didn’t want to use once I started stitching. Sigh.

Of course, when I discovered this I didn’t have access to my tools that I usually use when selecting colors, or my local shop. I was traveling and had only the chart, the canvas and the threads I thought I wanted to use with me.

So, after some Googling, I made a trip to the local big box store to see if they would have the threads I wanted to use. I’m always reluctant to bring my thread bag with me into a store, since I don’t always have receipts for the threads I’ve already bought and don’t want to be accused of shop lifting! But, I did take in the overdyed thread I was using to hopefully use that as a reference.

Computers are a wonderful thing, but trying to guess at colors from looking at a computer screen is not the best course of action. I refer to actual thread color cards for most of my color selections. (By the way, did you know that you can get a new DMC color card with actual threads, which includes the newly released colors! A wonderful resource for every stitcher!) I made a list of the colors that I guessed might work, and headed off to the store.

Some of the threads on my list I rejected right off. I bought probably an additional dozen skeins of floss, when I only needed 3, but I needed to test the colors with the other threads in the project and didn’t want to have to go back to the store. The leftover floss will go in my stash for another time.

And I had an “ah ha!” moment when I had all the threads and was deciding which ones to use. The thread doesn’t have to match – it has to go.¬†Do you understand that?

The original threads I had selected matched with my overdyed pretty well, but they didn’t go. They didn’t play nicely together. And that’s why I had to scrap what I had selected, and make other choices.

So now, off to play with my threads and make sure they “go”. I’ll post pictures of my progress a little later. I’ll take you through this project step by step, starting tomorrow.

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Cuff bracelets continued

Pink_CuffI had so much fun working on these cuff bracelets. DMC suggests that #5 pearl cotton is perfect for these, and they’re right. For this one I used a #5 pearl in the Coloris line, and I loved the colors and how easy it was to stitch.

The last post I mentioned the difficulty I had with graphing these out, and I had a little trouble with this one too. What – it’s all cross stitch! What’s so difficult about that! Well, remember that I count threads, not holes, and there are no threads on the cuff bracelets. So when I laid this one out before I stitched, I discovered that my count was off, and what I had laid out was not going to work. So I had to make changes as I stitched. And I’m terrible at math. It involved some trial and error to make sure the opening would be big enough for the cabochon. And I stitched the whole thing and then found out that my openings were not evenly spaced. Sigh. So I had to do some ripping to get the openings evenly spaced, then restitched. Aren’t you glad I went through the trial and error so you don’t have to!

The cabochons are lovely, from Fire Mountain. I can spend hours looking through the Fire Mountain site, so I have to be very careful not to get distracted. They have lots of cabochons this size and shape in tons of colors, so you can get cabochons the color you want to match a specific outfit. DMC Coloris comes in several colors so I bet you wouldn’t have any trouble coordinating the cabochons and threads, and there are always solid color #5 pearl cottons as well.

After I did the stitching I glued the cabochons to the cuff using Alene’s Tacky Glue, the clear one not the white one. The holes in the cuff bracelets are plenty big for stitching, but not so big that the glue oozed through to the other side. The cabochons just fit the opening so it was pretty easy to get them centered

I think this one may be my favorite!

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