Monday, June 27, 2011


Terry Dryden's finished her latest design and it's a honey!  It will be piloted next March and taught for the first time at the ANG Seminar in 2012.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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The Cat Topiary Garden Hedges UPDATED WITH PHOTOS

Left Side Hedge
UPDATE:  Blogger finally allowed me to add the last two photos, after 18 hours of trying!

I've been test driving a lot of stitches for the various bushes, hedges and tall trees in the background of the cat topiary garden.  I am particularly interested in finding a stitch for the topiary bushes themselves since right now I'm thinking millions of French knots.  Anything is better than that, right?  LOL

So I'm reading carefully through my two best sources of plant stitches--June McKnight's Plants and Animals in Needlepoint and the three Stitches for Effect books by Robertson and Howren.  I found an interesting stitch called Staggered Cross in More Stitches for Effect (page 60) that is recommended for topiaries.  When I tested it I didn't think it was what I wanted for the topiaries in my garden but it sure looked good for the hedges!

In the above photo I've completely covered the front of the left hedge (but not the top, I'll use another stitch there) with the diagonal rows that are step one of Staggered Cross.  I used one ply of DMC 700 here.  I have started adding the tiny cross stitches of step two in the rows above the length of thread laying across the canvas.  I used the slightly lighter DMC 701 here.  That adds texture to the pattern and makes the hedge look slightly rougher--which is what you see in clipped hedges.

I originally thought I should use a darker thread for step two since I thought the big stitches of step one should be more prominent, but using the lighter thread for the tiny stitches looks better.  This is part of Color Magic, which is what I call the mysterious effect of two or more colors together on a needlepoint canvas.  You really don't always know what will happen!

Right Hedge Started
When it was time to start the right hedge, I turned my canvas on its side to make working the diagonal rows easier.  In the photo above I've stitched a few rows of step one.

Staggered Cross

Here's a diagram of Staggered Cross, showing both steps.  As you can see, this is an easy stitch.  The tiny green stitches are regular cross stitches while the red and yellow stitches are just big cross stitches.  I used one ply of my DMC floss on my 18 count canvas for both steps.  You may decide one ply looks skimpy if you are working the 13 count version of this design.  Go up to two plies--or maybe even three if you like the effect--but don't go any higher.  You don't want the hedges to be too heavy looking.  We have the more solid items like the cat statues and the real sleeping cat to do.  The hedges shouldn't overshadow those areas.

Note that the hedge fronts are painted a solid color without shading.  So I didn't bother with a stitch that would reveal shading in the paint underneath.  Staggered Cross pretty well covers the painted design, even with just one ply of cotton floss.    This means you can choose any two close shades of green for the hedges that look good with the other bush and shrub colors. This will help you use up stash threads, even if your greens don't exactly match the paint color. It's more important to have two very close shades of green that work with the rest of the canvas than it is to match the paint color.  DMC 700 and 701 are a pretty close match, though.

Right Hedge Top
Once the sides of the hedges are done, we move to the tops.  I wanted to use a slightly larger scale stitch here that is related to Staggered Cross with the same threads as used on the sides.  So it's back to the books!  I found just what I wanted on page 12 of June McKnight's Plants and Animals in Needlepoint.  It is called St. George and St. Andrew Crosses.

St. George and St. Andrew
This is a simple stitch.  You do the same large cross stitch used in step one of Staggered Cross but in a straight row, skipping two threads between each large cross.  For the rows above and below your first row, stagger the large crosses so that they are positioned above and below the skipped two threads in the first row.  Continue along, alternating large crosses and skipped spaces, until the area is filled.  Then put big plus signs + in the skipped areas, again working until the empty spaces in each line are filled.

The above photo shows what you end up with at this stage.  By the way, I used my lighter color of green here:  DMC 701.

See the hedge top under the cat topiary in the center of the photo just above?  I stitched that the same way as the other two hedge tops so that all three are the same stitches and thread.  I'm also going to use Staggered Cross to do the very dark green front of that hedge, probably using DMC cotton floss in 319, which is a dark green with olive green mixed in.  For that center hedge, I'm going to use DMC 319 for both steps in Staggered Cross as I want that hedge in shadow without any color shading to catch the eye and detract from the gate in front of the hedge.)

But there is more!  I made sure that I didn't compensate my St. George and St. Andrew Crosses at the top edge of the hedge top.  If there were a stitch or two there uncovered by either the large crosses or the large plus signs, I did a small tent stitch over them.  I compensated at the sides and bottom of the areas but not the top. Once I finished adding a tent stitch here or there at the top side, I put tiny one wrap French knots along the top, covering the tent stitches which are just there to give something to stabilize the French knots so they won't pull out.  Then I scattered French knots here and there through out the cut top of the hedge.  This softens the regular look of St. George and St. Andrew Crosses and makes the hedge look more like the tiny leaves are growing back here and there after a trim with the garden shears.

The photo below shows the finished look and the diagram above shows just the St. George and St. Andrew Crosses without any French knots or tent stitches along the top.  The tent stitches and French knots were done using DMC 701 but the dimension you get from French knots makes it look like the hedge tops were done in several colors. They were not.  It's just more Color Magic.

Left and Right Hedges Done, Center One Underway

I need to finish the central hedge and then I'm going to stitch the four remaining bushes which aren't topiaries.  They are on either side of the egg-shaped bush and to the right side behind the cat statue.  That will mean the egg bush and the four shaped topiaries are all of the greenery unstitched at this point.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at and at