Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Creating a Riot of Curls: The Tutorial

I am about to do the hair on my current project, "Hawaiian Woman" from Colors of Praise.  The canvas is 2x3 inches on 18 count and you can see it on the left unstitched.

I decided I wanted her hair to be all curls tumbling all over the canvas. That seems to suit the way I envision the canvas.  Because of how I plan to stitch the hair, I stitched the face, neck and two backgrounds before I tackled the hair so I won't snag the curls when doing these sections.  The pink flower will be added once I do the blouse and necklace so I don't snag it as the flower will be dimensional, too.

I plan to use a technique that is based on something Sue Parsons of West Coast Finishing saw.  I took her description and played around to come up with something like the hair she had seen and wanted to use on her canvas.  Here is what Sue and I collaborated on.

By the way, Sue's canvas is "Fantine" from Leigh Designs' Water Babies series.  Isn't she cute?!  Sue did a lovely job stitching her.  This is a close up of the baby mermaid's face.  You can see the whole canvas on the Fleur de Paris website.

I will be using ribbon floss for the Hawaiian Woman's hair.  If you aren't familiar with ribbon floss, it is a braided flat thread made by YLI.  It sort of looks like a heavy ribbon.  Ribbon floss comes in regular, metallic and Shimmer Blend (which is regular ribbon floss with some metallic woven in) plus a sort of heathery look.  Ribbon floss used to come on 15 yard spools like these.

A few years back YLI started putting it on plastic reels instead.  It's the same thing and the same 15 yards of thread, just packaged differently.

To create these curls, you need ribbon floss and either a cotton floss the same basic color or invisible beading thread.  I'm going to use black Shimmer Blend 034 for my Hawaiian Woman's hair.  Sue used Metallic Coal Black 144-F07 ribbon floss for her mermaid above. Doesn't matter what color you use or whether it is regular, Shimmer Blend or metallic, but you need to use ribbon floss. I think the metallic ribbon floss gives you more Shirley Temple-type curls but I'm working with limited samples here.

To create curls, cut a length of ribbon floss that is about two and a half times as long as the lock of hair you wish to create.  Tie a large knot in one end of a length of ribbon floss and thread the other end into a needle’s eye. (A larger than usual needle is good; you might also want to use a sharp needle if you anticipate needling to sink the end of a lock of hair in a place other than a hole on your canvas.). Secure the knotted end well on the back.  Come up at the either the beginning or end of a length of hair and remove the needle.  For larger areas like the baby mermaid's hair, come up at the tip of the curl.  For a smaller area like the Hawaiian Woman I'm stitching (this canvas is only 2x3 inches so the hair area is small), come up at the hairline near the face.  

With your fingers, flick the cut end of the ribbon floss until it separates into the various filaments that make up the ribbon floss. Grab 1-3 of them and hold on tightly while you slide the rest of the ribbon floss down toward the knot on the back side of your canvas.

Your ribbon floss will look like the example strand on the left of my canvas near the scissors, except the knot will be on the back side.  See how long some of the ends are?  Those are the plies I held as I slid the rest of the thread down toward the knot.  You will need to trim the long ends so they are even again.

Thread up the ribbon floss strand again and plunge the needle down through the canvas where the curl or lock of hair ends. Don’t rush or pull tightly. This is not hard but you must be patient and relaxed for the best results.

Arrange the scrunched up thread as necessary with your fingers, then tack the thread into position with a matching color of cotton floss (one ply only) or clear beading thread and a sharp needle. Depending on the length of the curl, you may need 1-3 tacking stitches. I recommend you start in the middle of the hair and work toward one side, then go back to the middle and work your way to the other side.  I normally wait until all the hair is in before adding tacking stitches.  Remember, your needle comes up at the edge of the face, gets scrunched, and then you thread up again and go down at the border.  

In the photo above I used my needle to determine the slant of the length of hair I was about to stitch.  I took a photo and then had this as a guide for that slant I wanted.  Practice makes doing these much easier. You should try doing a few of these in the margins of your canvas before you actually create curls for the person you are stitching.

Here's a larger version of the hair underway.  See how messy it looks?  There are loops sticking up, her eye is partly covered, the flower behind her ear is partly covered, etc.  This stage is normal.  Get all the hair stitches done, then you can start tidying things up.  Push the hair out of her eye and tack it into position with your couching thread (clear beading thread or a matching ply of cotton or silk floss--or even a matching blending filament if that is what you have).  Mash a loop down that is sticking up too much and tack it down.  It's like going to a beauty parlor and getting a perm.  Once the curlers come out, you still need your hair brushed.  

Here is the hair with the locks pushed into the position I wanted and tacked down here and there with the invisible beading thread.  Remember, you can use a ply of cotton floss in the same color as the hair if you don't have any clear beading thread.

And finally here is the Hawaiian Woman with the flower behind her ear and her hair blowing in the wind.  Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and can use it to good effect on one of your canvases.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
Blogging at http://chillyhollownp.blogspot.com
and at http://chstitchguides.blogspot.com
© Copyright July 27, 2021 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.