Monday, February 14, 2011

Finally, the Fish

Lilliam Chermor
Now that we’ve talked about everything except the fish, it’s time to tackle the main part of the canvas-the fish itself. The Lillian Chermor Gold Fish is painted in such a way that it reminds me of stained glass--it has black outlines around solid colored areas. The fish is in red, orange, yellow, purple and brown. Let’s leave aside the gold spots on the tail and lower fins for a minute and talk just about the lines and the shapes. If it were me, I’d not outline any of the areas in black. The colors are distinctive enough that you really don’t need the black outlines except perhaps the midline that divides the fish’s body into a top and bottom half. I think I would stitch that line. In the photo it looks like it might be painted brown or purple but I can’t tell for sure. Anyway, it will be easy to couch a length of thread in the right shade and diameter across this area once the adjoining areas are stitched.

The body of the fish (except for the head and eye) is plain if you ignore the wavy lines of light and dark orange on the fish’s side. The eye itself looks easy enough to stitch. I would find a washer at the hardware store that is the right size to cover the eye area, paint it with clear fingernail polish to make sure no oil from the washer gets on my canvas, and wrap the washer in orange and white threads to create the donut shape that is the eye. It will be easy to stitch the washer down in the right shades of thread once it is wrapped as the thread that secures it will blend into the threads that wrapped the washer before you attach it.

You can then either stitch the blue pupil with a metallic thread in tent stitches or put a blue bead inside the hole, depending on whether you want the fish to have pop eyes or somewhat recessed ones within the donut shape of the washer.

There are four ways you can go with the fins. #1--You might just use flosses (this is an 18 count canvas, by the way) to do straight vertical satin stitches that are carefully laid. In silk that would introduce a lot of shine. The bottom fins on the fish’s body have tiny yellow outlines. You can do those in Silk Lame Braid in rows of stem stitch.

Silk Lame Braid is a loosely twisted silk perle thread that has metallic woven in. It’s a pretty thread and will look nice in stem stitches. Actually, I might be tempted to stitch the entire fish using Silk Lame Braid as it comes in many reds, oranges, browns and purples and there is even a yellow. (Remember, this thread comes in two diameters--one for 13 count canvases and one for 18 count. Make sure you pick up the right size for the stitch and canvas you are working with.)

Of course if you use Silk Lame Braid for all of the fish, not just the little yellow borders of the bottom fins, you probably won’t want to use a straight satin stitch. #2--How about using various small scale stitches on the fins and fish body? You could use plain old tent stitches for the calm brown and purple areas, and then switch to fancy stitches for the red, orange and yellow sections. I have to caution you that going for multiple stitches might make this canvas too busy for some tastes. Let me show you come examples of canvases that have multiple areas, many of which are done in different stitches, to help you visualize what I mean.

Look at this Sundance canvas from their photo album which they kindly agreed to let me use to showcase types of stitches. This flower design has three colors of petals. Cassie chose to use three stitches, one for each color.

To keep the changes from making this a mess, you can organize the areas so that you actually use either all related stitches or just use four different stitches, one for the red, one for the orange, one for the goldenrod and one for the yellow areas. The red and orange areas are larger than the yellow and goldenrod spaces so it makes sense to choose smaller scale stitches for the smaller areas and slightly larger ones for spaces with more room.

Here’s another floral example but there are more stitches used on the various petals. Personally I prefer the previous flower with its more limited number of stitches. But this is a matter of taste. I think this is a larger design as well. You can put more stitches on a bigger piece in my opinion.

Here’s a third Sundance floral canvas. Note that the flower petals are all the same stitch done in a shaded thread with slightly different tones. The leaves are done in two different very muted stitches, one of which is basketweave and the background stitch is subtle but fancy.

Of course one can do all the fish areas in the same stitch and just change colors (alternative #3). This flower is done that way with one fancy stitch and an overdyed thread for its petals. An overdye won’t work on Carol’s fish but this would be a nice way to handle a fish with only one color.

By the way, I did consider light coverage stitches (alternative #4) for this canvas but given the brown background, I didn’t think they would work well. With the strong teal blue background Carol has chosen, I don’t think a light coverage stitch on top of the fish proper will be in proper balance, especially with the dimensional bubbles and the seaweed strands.

Regardless, the above are four ways to handle this canvas. Anyone have other ideas?

Once all the stitching is done, then Carol can add beads or crystals on top of the stitching and do either stem stitches or couch threads on top of the body to make the vertical squiggles there.

Carol, I hope this stimulates ideas in your head about how you want to stitch the fish. Once you know which direction you want to go, we can toss around even more ideas.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at and at

Hearts for My Valentines

He's Really Into Needlepoint
Today is Valentine's Day and in the spirit of the day, I want to announce my Valentines of 2011--the gentlemen who stitch.

Michael Boren, David McCaskill and Tony Minieri are all superb stitchers, designers and teachers who charm us with their talents and inspire us all to be better needlepointers.  There are gentlemen stitchers who don't teach such as Dr. Donn Hunter who lost his true Valentine in 2008 but who stitches on, inspiring me to get better and better with each piece.  Of course there is Jeff Kulick whose award-winning talent astounds me each year at Woodlawn with each new original design.  I will never forget the late Ray Dockstader, either.  I will miss him at Woodlawn each year I visit now that he's gone.

Then there are the wonderful Kirk & Hamilton guys and of course Raymond Crawford.  And who can forget Doug Kreinik or the gentlemen at Rainbow Gallery whose threads make us so happy?

And there's the young man in the top photo (from a literacy poster from the State Library of Iowa) who reminds us that stitchers come in all sizes and shapes.  Let's not overlook the unexpected stitcher who is hidden in that large man (or the little boy) you see at the counter at your shop.  Today they are our fellow stitchers and my Valentines.

If you wish to celebrate a male stitcher you know, please add him in the comments below.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at and at