Friday, September 10, 2010

Picking Stitches for the Pirate Cat Part One

 Patt and Lee's Pirate Cat
Have you ever found a wonderful canvas at your local shop but put it back instead of buying because you have no idea what to do with it?  Did you go ahead and buy it, then hide it in the back of the closet or under the bed because the only thing you can think to do with it is tent stitch the whole thing and you'd rather do something else?

This article is for you.

Sadly, there is no one way to stitch a painted (or printed) canvas.  There are too many styles, too many personal preferences, too many variations for there to be many rules to follow.  Needlepoint is not math.  I can't tell you that if you always add 2 + 2 you will always come out with the answer of 4.  But I can describe my strategies for analyzing canvases and how I choose stitches and threads for them.  This time let's talk about how to pick stitches.

The Pirate Cat canvas above has a lot of empty background.  How on earth do I figure out what stitch to use in the background?  What I like to do is study the canvas and pull out shapes from it that I can repeat in the background or anywhere else.   The Pirate Cat has a rectangular sign, so I might use box shapes in the background to reinforce the shape of the sign.

The fancy hat the cat wears is shaped a bit like bargello wave patterns.  That's another idea for the background.  I think it might be a bit too busy, though.  One thing you have to keep in mind is that the background shouldn't overwhelm the central parts of the design.  (There are exceptions when the design is very abstract, but just know there are exceptions to every rule.  This doesn't apply to the Pirate Cat.)  Ok, scratch the bargello background idea.  Too busy.

The background itself is sort of slanted like a flat \ pointing toward the cat.  I could choose a stitch that slants diagonally like Diagonal Mosaic.  A stitch like that would be a sort of arrow pointing the eye toward the cat.

As you can see, just analyzing the major shapes of the canvas gave me three ideas.  One I discarded, but I still have two good ideas left.

With all that empty space and a Halloween themed canvas, I could add darning patterns shaped like rows of little pumpkins or tiny skulls for the background.  You could also repeat words over and over again.  Horizontal rows of Feed Me repeated over and over in the background in a thread just a bit darker or lighter than the gray background would be quite cute.  I'm sure many pet owners have critters living with them who use mental telepathy to get us to hand over treats!  So there is a third idea to add to the list.

Finally, when I looked at the Pirate Cat canvas I realized all that empty space could be filled by a real feather.  I'm sure many of you have seen photos like this one.  Now I have a fourth idea, but one that hinges on my being able to find the right size and shape and color of a feather to attach to the canvas.  If I go this route, I could leave the entire background unstitched or use tent stitches all over.  Either way will work.  With something as fancy as a feather stuck in the Pirate Cat's hat, the background stitches need to be minimal.

How do I decide between four ideas?  I reluctantly decided to winnow the ideas to three as I'm going to have a hard time finding feathers.  Not that there aren't birds dropping feathers all over Chilly Hollow--there are!  But they are not ostrich feathers, full and curling.  Those would have to be purchased somewhere and due to the rural nature of where I live, I think this is going to involve mail order.  I don't want to go that route.

So now we are back to three ideas for the background:  use box shaped stitches to echo the rectangle of the sign, use diagonal stitches to subtly point toward the cat and his sign, or use darning stitches to write out either words of Halloween symbols.

Time to pull out my stitching dictionaries!

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at Archived Yahoo 360 postings at


Carol in Indian Springs Village said...

Oh I love these ideas, especially the 'Feed Me' one. We have an 8 week old kitten that is either saying 'feed me' or 'play with me' most of the time. It has been 20 years since I've had a cat this young and I had forgotten their boundless energy! But it is a load of fun playing with them and this one is especially loving too.

Deborah said...

How about a darning fish pattern or fish bones pattern for the background?