Monday, March 10, 2014

Blue Russian: Creating Ermine Out of Thin Air Part Two

Northern Light Santa with Ermine Trim

Now that I knew that I was going to use the same two threads (Wisper and Petite Silk Lame Braid) to create the ermine collar and cloak trim on Blue Russian, it was time to choose stitches.  The choice was easy really, since I wanted to create the flow of those Neiman Marcus fox collars I showed you last week.

The only way to create this look is to use stem stitches plus a little something extra.

Using the same white or gray Wisper (depending on the paint color) mixed with a strand of the white glow-in-the-dark Petite Silk Lame Braid, stem stitch the ermine collar, starting in the middle and working out toward each side. The stem stitches toward the middle of the collar will be longer, perhaps over 4-6 threads, but become shorter in length (perhaps over 2-3 threads) as you get to the edges of the collar. I started with the gray stitches (one strand gray Wisper with one strand of the white Petite Silk Lame Braid) and did the main gray lines first, then filled in later with white Wisper and Petite Silk Lame Braid.  Make the stem stitches bend to match the painted areas by positioning the needle on one side of the threads or the other. See photos to see what I mean.  Note that I didn't fill the middle of the collar with stem stitches.  There is a bare spot on both sides of the collar.

Position of Needle For Each Side of Collar

As you stitch, think about petting a dog or cat or perhaps a fur coat.  The stem stitches will flow in the same way you would pet fur to smooth it down. Leave the middle section of the collar bare (see photo below) or almost bare for now.  In the photos above, you will see how the needle is placed differently in relationship to the thread as the stem stitches are done.  This bends the thread in the direction you want it to go as you create curves with your stem stitches.   (Technically this positioning makes my stem stitches really outline stitches since the thread is above the needle in both cases, but we won't worry about that now.)

Collars Done Except for Centers

When you finish the collar (except for filling in the middle of the collar), work the edge of the robe, again matching the painted area. I found it easiest to work the gray areas first, then fill in with the white (one strand white Wisper paired with one strand of the white Petite Silk Lame Braid). Again, think about smoothing real fur. This isn’t a quick process but it is not difficult.. It may help you to see the general way I laid my stitches in the photos. Once you completely fill the ermine trim around the edges of the cloak with stem stitches, that area will be finished. The collar has another step to go.

The Ermine Cloak Trim is Finished
If stem stitching fur drives you nuts, don’t worry. You can replace stem stitches with Colonial knots using the same threads. Colonial knots are slighter larger than the French knots used on the wrist fur so it will look properly in scale. I’d rather you enjoy stitching your Santa than go nuts trying to replicate what I have done.

Now let's finish the ermine collar.

Smooth the stem stitches on the collar slightly with your finger or the eye of your needle to help you identify bare spots you need to fill in around the edges.  Do that first.  Leave the middle sections relatively bare still.

Step Two on the collar is really easy but it does require some patience. We are going to work the side of the collar next to Santa’s face first. The collar nearest the staff will be done last.

First, add a few stem stitches to the bare area in the middle of your ermine collar. Don’t pack the stem stitches in as tightly as you did the rest of the collar and for the cloak trim. You are just putting in a few background stitches before stitching the main event on top of them.  Use the white Petite Silk Lame Braid paired with either white or gray Wisper, depending on what color you want to predominate.

Once you have the collar center lightly stitched, it is time to add a few wigmaker’s knots to the middle of each side of the collar. You will start at the bottom edge and work your way toward Santa’s face, one stitch at a time. This photo shows the order in which I added wigmaker’s knots to the collar next to Santa’s face.  The arrows show the flow of the stitch with the dangling ends closest to the arrow.

Work Order for Each Collar Side

The wigmaker’s knot is really easy. It is how I was taught ages ago to make fringe for dollhouse rugs. I will describe it step-by-step in photographs below but you might like to see how Needle Works diagrams this stitch on their blog.

First, cut a four inch length of white Wisper and a four inch length of white Petite Silk Lame Braid. Because these threads are wrapped around cards, the lengths may have kinks in them. It is important to get those out before doing the wigmaker’s knots, so dampen your Wisper. I usually get a white paper towel damp, then pull my threads across the surface of the wet towel. Set the threads aside to dry. This will remove the kinks in the Wisper but the kinks in the Petite Silk Lame Braid are very difficult to remove so make sure they are located in the middle and ends of your length of thread where they will be hidden or trimmed off.

You will be adding 3-5 wigmaker’s knots to Santa’s ermine collar, so if you like, you can cut 3-5 four inch long sections of each thread and dampen them all at the same time. Then when they are all dry and straight, you can start adding your wigmaker’s knots.

Pick up a length of Wisper and one of Petite silk Lame Braid and double them so the strand is now two inches long. Choose either gray or white Wisper depending on what color you want to predominate. Poke the four cut ends into the eye of your needle. I used a size 20 needle. The size doesn’t really matter but you do want a needle with an eye large enough to get all four ends through the needle eye without too much trouble.

Wigmaker's Knot One

The loop will be at the bottom where a knot normally is.

You will start at the bottom edge of the collar and work your way up toward Santa’s face, one wigmaker’s knot stitch at a time. The wigmaker’s knots go in the middle of the collar. Look at the black and white photo showing the work order of the wigmaker’s knots again.  Remember, we are going to work the side of the collar next to Santa’s face first. The collar nearest the staff will be done last.

Wigmaker's Knot Two

Plunge your needle down through the canvas.  Don’t pull the thread all the way through. Keep the loop on top, holding the loop with your finger if necessary. Come back up again from the back in a hole next to the hole where you went down and take your needle through the loop.

Wigmaker's Knot Three

Now pull the knot you created snug against the collar.

Wigmaker's Knot Four

This is the first wigmaker’s knot. Now carefully spread the four loose ends of the knot apart and decide where you want each to lay.

Wigmaker's Knot Five

Cut a length of white Wisper and thread it up in a smaller needle. I used a size 26 but you can pick whatever size you prefer that is small enough to slide through the stem stitches layer under the wigmaker’s knot. This thread will couch each of the four long lengths of your wigmaker’s knot into position so they won’t flop around. Come up in a hole and then go down in the same hole if possible to couch each loose end. Do this for all four ends of the wigmaker’s knot, then park the needle with the couching Wisper. You will need it again for the next wigmaker’s knot. Do not pull too tightly on your couching thread or position it too close to the end of the length where you plan to trim the wigmaker’s knot or it will curl up away from the surface of the canvas.

Wigmaker's Knot Six

I trimmed each knot to the length I wanted before adding the next wigmaker’s knot since I would be moving higher up on the collar to overlap the previous knot. Better to get everything done to one wigmaker’s knot before you move up to the next. Once you are happy with the left side of the collar (the one nearest Santa’s face), stroke the couched and trimmed wigmaker’s knots carefully with your finger, checking to make sure you don’t have a bare spot or a loose end.  I ended up using four wigmaker's knots but you may only need three or want five.  This is a personal choice.

Now it is time to work the side of the collar next to the staff. You will not be able to insert as many wigmaker’s knots on the staff side of the collar or the staff will disappear.  Instead, use one wigmaker’s knot, created from two lengths of Wisper instead of one strand of Wisper and one strand of Petite Silk Lame Braid.

Look at the black and white work order and knot placement photo again.  I came up at A to place my knot, then took all four loose ends down at B and secured them loosely on the back side instead of couching them. This gives you the feathery look of the other side of the collar without the danger of covering up the silver staff. Smooth the collar with your finger again, looking for missed spots.

The wigmaker’s knots are a subtle touch, so you may omit them if you just want to use stem stitches, but I feel they really add to the look of the ermine collar.  I did not use them on the edges of the cloak, just the collar.

The next posting about Blue Russian will show the finished background (I hope) and sum up the project and what I learned from it.

Questions? Email me at chillyhollow @ and I'll get back to you by the next day.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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© Copyright March 3, 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.

One Stop Shopping for the Bargello Fiend

I've been adding information to the Counted Canvaswork Designers tab and realized I'd forgotten Althea DeBrule's Bargello Needlepoint site.  I added her site, which has her original Bargello charts and books about Bargello and various supplies you might want for your next project, but decided that the Bargello Fiends (you know who you are!) might want to check out the site which has been updated recently. Have fun!

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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@ Copyright February, 21, 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.

Going to the Dogs

I ran across some very cute stitched dogs today, so I had to share.  Ruth Schmuff just posted the first progress report on her Walking the Dog class.  This is a CBK design from Michele Noiset.

Check out Linda's Charley Harper basset hound!  It is stitched from Carolyn Hedge Baird's stitch guide.

Both dogs are wonderful, even if they are very different in style and execution.  That's one of the charms of needlepoint for me.  There's a style and design to suit every taste.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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@ Copyright Feb. 17, 2014 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.