Sunday, February 21, 2010

February Canvas of the Month (Melissa Shirley)

This month I am lucky enough to have two guest bloggers talking about how to stitch a butterfly canvas.  When Bonnie proposed using the new Melissa Shirley blue butterfly purse canvas as this month's project for us to discuss how we'd stitch it, I remembered that Melissa Shirley herself had just finished stitching the brown tiger butterfly canvas from this series.  So I asked Melissa if she would allow me to share photos of her stitched butterfly purse and talk about how she stitched it.  And she said yes!

You can see all the butterfly purse canvases and the other butterflies in the series on Melissa's website.

In her essay below, Melissa tells us her purse was finished by Marlene's.  Here is their website, in case you would enjoy browsing all the fabulous finishing that they offer.

Now, here is Melissa to talk about her brown tiger purse canvas and how she stitched it.

Melissa Shirley's Brown Tiger Butterfly Canvas

I am so flattered that Jane asked me to contribute to this blog. I’ve never written a stitch guide so anyone reading this will have to bear with me.

I started stitching my butterfly purse in the fall and although there were several in the series to choose from I chose the Brown Tiger Butterfly because the greys and browns and rust colors are my cup of tea, especially in the autumn months.

I have another, larger butterfly purse nearly finished but I became disappointed in the way it was turning out, specifically the butterfly itself. It was too flat even though I had done a lot of beading on the wings and elsewhere. It was a lesson for me and I went into this project with all that in mind.

I’ll take the opportunity to say here one of the things I think about a lot when I’m stitching and when I see stitched work is how the stitching and thread selection creates a depth of field. I want to see what’s in front come forward and what’s in back recede and I try to use color and threads and stitches to achieve that. The few “rules” I try to keep in mind are:

Threads that come forward are shiny, lighter and warmer colors, and heavier in weight. Threads that recede are matte, cooler colors and thinner in weight.

I’m also a great fan of light stitching and generally letting the painted canvas show through, especially in backgrounds or when ever it seems appropriate.

I generally use simple stitches. I tend to rely on color and texture more than a cacophony of stitches since I just don’t have the repertoire and experience to mix stitches as well as I would like. I am a student.

My Brown Tiger Butterfly Purse:

I started with the background behind the butterfly. It’s a flat floral pattern, cool grey flowers on a black background. I cooled it down a bit more and stitched the flowers with a Diagonal Mosaic Stitch in blue (Trebizond Silk, 653). The black is stitched in Elongated Continental with 12 Strand Treasure Braid from Rainbow Gallery (TR265).

I scoured a few stitch books to find what I wanted to use for the wings of the butterfly keeping in mind my disappointment with my other butterfly.  I had already chosen a Kreinik Braid of warm grey (011C, #16) and settled on a stitch I found in Suzy’s Small Stitches called Staggered Mosaic that I used in both directions. I left a few stitches out of the stitch and created a nice cup for the beads I wanted to add. I took my stitching to my local bead store and picked out beads (about 6mm) that fit into the cups. I chose two kinds of metallic looking beads to show the shading in wings.

I used the same Kreinik braid I used on the wings for the body of the butterfly. I padded the body and covered it with long vertical stitches that I lashed down with a black Kreinik Braid (005 #16) and used that same black braid diagonally to stitch the butterfly’s head.

I used a white Kreinik braid (032C, #16) and a Tapestry braid (#12, 4002) on the edges of the wings and piled on pearly seed beads (size 15) in white spots on the wings.

Next I stitched the top leaf border background with 2 or 3 ply of Mandarin Floss (M838) from Rainbow Gallery and filled in the leaf with Sundance Beads (14H, color#4) straight up and down, every other hole.

I then stitched the bottom border stripes, top to bottom this way:

#1 River Silk (4mm,No.61),
#2 Green cube beads (4mm) straight up and down,
#3 Kreinik #16 Braid (032C) over 3 straight up and down,
#4 Flair (F567) Elongated Continental,
#5 Fuzzy Stuff (FZ31) and
#6 Flair again, diagonally, over 2.

The gold borders around the butterfly and the top and bottom borders are stitched with a Kreinik Tapestry Braid (150V, #12).

I had the hardest time with what I thought should have been the easiest part, the side “tiger skin” borders. I tried a number of threads and stitches, ripped out a lot and finally settled on a cross stitch, over 2, using another Kreinik Braid (022, #16). I also smoothed the edges of the tiger stripes with plain stitching using the same braid. The lighter brown is stitched with Impressions (1134) using the Encroaching Gobelin stitch.

The last thing I have to say about my purse is the finishing. I sent it to Marlene’s Needlepoint Finishing in San Francisco to be finished in brown leather and it is gorgeous inside and out. Sadly, someone once wrote that the finishing of needlepoint is a necessary evil. I think it is the final step that should not be taken lightly. I have played around with finishing some of my own, smaller needlepoint projects but I know finishing needlepoint is an art unto itself and it can make or break the success of a much loved and labored over piece of needlepoint, so I always send anything I really care about to the finishing experts who are truly artists.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow 
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Peggy said...

Oh, look at those wonderful beads.

Front Range Stitcher said...

Very cool. You make combining various threads and beads look easy! I love that you added subtle elements of surprise (Fuzzy Stuff as an example) throughout making this project fun for both the stitcher and admirer. Thank you to Melissa and Jane for bringing us this great opportunity.