Monday, July 1, 2013

Catra and Her Background Hieroglyphics

Catra's Background Hieroglyphics

I am stitching a canvas from Tapestry Fair called Cleo's Cat.  This is the canvas that has decorated the left side of Blog for about a month.   I have just enough of the background done to show off my stitching progress.  By the way, I call this piece Catra in honor of a friend's cat, CleoCATra.  Here it is on the Tapestry Fair website.  As you can see, it's a bit over 11 inches high by 10 inches wide on 18 count canvas.

It has been a challenge to work because Ruth Schmuff did a very similar canvas in the early spring mystery class she ran for her shop. (You can see Ruth's finished piece at her blog at the link below.) The backgrounds and bottom borders of both canvases are painted in an almost identical way. Ruth's hieroglyphics are beaded and she used an elaborate open pattern she made up (along with skipped tent I think) for her background. Very pretty!

Because I am doing a stitch guide for this piece for Tapestry Fair I can't copy what Ruth did.  I don't want to, anyway. She's taken things as far as they can go in the direction of beading and fancy backgrounds so I am going in a totally different direction.  My background is as simple as you can get--a Parisian Stitch variation done in Finca perle cotton and High Cotton. I just read on someone's blog that they'd taken a class from a famous teacher (can't remember who) who said why use a fancy stitch for a background when a simple one will do? Wish I knew who said that.  I took it to heart here. The only concession to fanciness is that I turned Parisian on its side and am working it in vertical columns that don't interlock. I call it Parisian Sand since it is a Parisian variation and reminds me of a sandy texture.  Here's Parisian Stitch.  I've posted a photograph of my Parisian Sand diagram.

Parisian Sand doesn't compete for attention with the hieroglyphics and is easy to compensate around all those fiddly hieroglyph shapes. (Two important things for background stitches!)

I can hear someone in the audience saying "Wait a Minute! There are a lot more hieroglyphics on your stitched version than the original!" Yes, there are. When I was thinking background stitches and wondering what to choose that would be totally different than Ruth's backgrounds, I browsed my stitching books and came across a background stitch that is alternating triangles. It is a variation of Pavilion Stitch where the diamond shapes have one color in the top half and another in the bottom half. You get a row of triangles followed by a row of upside down triangles. They immediately reminded me of pyramids, which gave me An Idea. This is regular Pavilion stitch to give you a vague idea of where I started from.

Diagrammed Stitches for Background Panels
I knew I would have room to add three pyramid shapes in my red-orange side boxes which are empty in the original canvas. I ended up stitching them in long horizontal stitches. Some of the paint shows through, especially in the photographs, but I don't mind that. The background is supposed to be the slightly faded painted plaster of an Egyptian temple, after all. This was my starting point. After that I rummaged through all my stitch books, looking for more stitches that sort of looked like hieroglyphics. I found three, all of which are on one diagram posted here. From the top down, Foothills from Marnie Ritter’s Canvas Patterns Book 2 page 87, Sandy’s Slide Variation from page 91 of the same book, and two versions (one facing right and one facing left and running vertically) of Houndstooth from SharonG’s Simply Essential Needlepoint Stitch Explanations (SENSE) page 30.

Worked as a single stitch or in a small group like a spot sampler, they all look vaguely like temple hieroglyphics. This same diagram has a charted cartouche as well. I didn't have enough of these stitches without a lot of repeats so I did a little research on Egyptian hieroglyphics and graphed a few that were simple. There's no meaning to them except for the little walking U shape you see in the picture of Catra which means "return," which is appropriate since I am returning to the theme of Egyptian cats. It's usually drawn walking the other way, though.  I somehow reversed it in my mind which is also appropriate as I am mildly dyslexic!

This is where Catra stands at this point. I may change some things if my plans don't work out but I am thinking I want to use fewer beads and not as much sparkle as Ruth since authentic Ancient Egyptian jewelry was not sparkly. Red, turquoise, some green and lapis blue set in gold were their colors as these had meaning in their spiritual life. I am adding some embellishment, though. In the photo you see the scarabs are rolling the sacred sun orb. The suns are flat red sequins.

I need to stitch the top row of background, then probably will work on the lotus fan columns next.  It will take me a while to get enough of the next areas done to show you photographs.  Stay tuned!

Catra Right Now

UPDATE:  Progress to date.  Enjoy!

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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  1. I love the mummy and scarabs on the background - wish I had thought of these! Since Catra is a real cat, and Ruth's Bastet is a statue, I think they will compliment each other - both stitched versions have really captured the feeling of Egyptian art. Great so far, Jane!

    1. Peggi, I'm glad you are pleased. My Catra seems like a cartoon cat to me, very fantasy instead of a religious icon, so I am feeling fanciful when I stitch her. Great fun and I keep having ideas of what to do next when I should be working on something else. That's the sign of a great design, I think. Can't get it out of my head!

  2. Two thoughts--
    I love both canvasses, but might hesitate to try Ruth's Bastet because I'd worry that it was too complex, so I am grateful for your interpretation and a simpler viewpoint.
    I am working on a very complex but beautiful Halloween club designed by ACOD and exclusive to The French Knot. I believe it was your hint that helped me compensate a pattern over a contrasting area. You suggested basting the pattern across the contrast and removing the basting thread after the correct pattern had been established on the other side. Jane, it was a life saver! Thanks so much for all you do to keep knowledge flowing across the miles!

  3. I love it when you talk needlepoint like that! You can convey so clearly your thought process and I always learn from you! The background is wonderful! I really like a simple background, too. It's in the back, right?

  4. Ms. Kath, I think you are not giving yourself enough credit for your skills. Ruth does great instructions and I bet you could do her Bastet just fine. But I am glad you like the more straightforward approach I've chosen for Catra. That's flattering! Anne, I am happy you found my explanation interesting. Yes, the background is in the back. Backgrounds are supposed to be behind the central items so I wanted it not to "outshine the bride" if that makes sense.

  5. Oh, joy! Jane is stitching and we get to see. Thanks!!!!!

    1. You are welcome. I am glad you like peeking over my shoulder. I'm always stitching but a lot of it is dull and some of it Top Secret for the trade shows. I am lucky that Tapestry Fair encouraged me to show Catra off in public!

  6. I, too, enjoy watching you stitch. Since I am always agonizing over the stitch to use, and then what thread would work best and, and then if there is something in my stash that will work as well, and then schedule a trip to a far away needle shop because ,of course, the just right thread never is in the stash, it is a pleasure to see someone as engaged.

    I echo Robin.

    1. Thanks, Margaret. To tell you the truth, half the time if I don't have a thread I need, i change direction and do something else or I borrow threads from a friend's stash. With a trip to the LNS so difficult to schedule due to the distance, I have to be very flexible. I try not to worry about it. Figuring out problems like these are fun for me and I hope they are fun for you, too.