Hardanger doesn’t lend itself very easily to lettering. Letters and numbers can be created (as I did in A-B-C and 1-2-3) and are fine for birthday cards or personalised needlecases or the like, but I wouldn’t like to stitch a whole quotation in them – it would soon become a banner!
And yet words – quotations, names, sayings – seem to go very well with stitching. Just think of all those samplers that nimble-fingered stitchers have created over the centuries; they very often have some lettering in them, either as an alphabet or as verse or saying, or even just to sign the sampler.
A large proportion of those samplers are done in cross stitch, and that seems to present an instant solution to the problem of words in Hardanger: simply add them in a different technique! Use Hardanger for whatever pictorial or abstract design you have in mind, and use cross stitch for the letters. And that is what I’ve done in a growing number of designs – usually "over one", so that the crosses are nice and small and you can get a fair bit of text in.
When designing anything with words, there is always the question whether the words themselves are enough, or whether they need to be decorated or even illustrated. There are many examples of "samplers" which are really not much more than a saying or quotation, sometimes with perhaps a simple border around them. "Home Sweet Home", "Life Begins at 40", or something a bit more shocking if you’re into subversive cross stitch – they don’t really need a lot of illustration. My Big Toe designs are a good example. Then there are the designs which have the words and some small stitched motifs or embellishments to enhance them; Lizzie*Kate designs often fall into this category. Some designs are about half and half, with illustration and text equal partners (like some of Little House Needleworks designs). And finally there are designs where the words act almost like a caption or comment to the main design.
So where do Mabel’s designs fit in? Well, they fit into several categories, really. Still on the Planned page, "Housework is a waste of good stitching time" (which comes with a bonus saying, "A stitch in time saves my sanity") will be one of those text-with-border samplers which are great to stitch with lovely variegated threads. But although the border is not an illustration, it does enhance the words – the lovely cutwork border shows that the stitcher would much rather attend to her needlework than to the washing up or hoovering!
In some designs, the Hardanger illustrates the words. This is often the case in my religious designs, where a cross (sometimes together with other symbols) shows the beliefs that underpin the words. Twice these words are "Faith, Hope, Love"; in the bookmark of that name, and in Corinth. The other is the quotation from St Francis of Assisi, where the motifs actually echo the words in two ways: the Hardanger cross refers to the Gospel, and the capital in Assisi work refers to St Francis!
A design where the words are like a comment on the Hardanger, while the Hardanger adds body to the words, is Very Berry – the words evoke thoughts of prepared dishes and drinks, and the rich hand-dyed threads and sparkling beads give colour to those images.
And are there any designs where the words and the picture are equal partners? Well, I’m stitching one at the moment. The words "I’ve caught the Stitching Bug" will sound familiar to any avid stitcher – and what nicer "bug" to illustrate it than the ladybird (or ladybug to American stitchers)! To make it a cheerful design that evokes a summer’s day when it would be lovely to sit in the garden and work on your latest project, I’ve chosen to stitch the words in yellow (for the sun), blue (for the sky), and green (for the grass). In silks, because I happened to have in my stash some gorgeous Chameleon silks which insisted that they should be used. But it works in DMC stranded cottons as well. And just to whet your appetites, here’s a sneak preview (click on it for a larger image):