Not quite stitching

While chatting with Gary and Beth for Fiber Talk a couple of weeks ago, it came up that in spite of having had three of the eight classes allotted to my RSN Canvaswork module, I had yet to put a single stitch onto the actual canvas. I can now tell you… that this is still the case. But I did do some work on the project, which considering my complete lack of ease and familiarity with this technique I am happy to call progress even though it was mostly on paper. Especially as the work got the Lexi seal of approval smiley.

Some paper prep with cat

Once again I’ve been doing very little in the way of homework, and I am still extremely reluctant to do anything on the “real” piece. But then an idea struck me. Unlike Jacobean and goldwork, canvaswork is a counted technique; this means it can be put into a chart, which in turn means I can basically work out what to stitch before stitching it, which feels very reassuring! So I set to work by my usual method of starting with pencil and squared paper and then transferring it into my stitching program. First up was the big bud which is mostly green but with some very faint red shading. First I charted the diagonal-ish columns of stitches without any reference to colour, then roughly drew in dark and light areas, and finally computer-charted it in five greens (to be made up from four shades of perle #8 in different blends) and some red. I also decided on one mostly red stitch at the top, as the photograph shows a distinct touch of colour there.

Charting a bud

Next was the big pink tulip. That is going to have much more blending and shading in it, which I find quite challenging to get my head around. Again I started by charting the stitches (which in this case go in three different directions to visually separate the petals) without any reference to the colour, then worked out the dark and light areas and allotted colours to them in the stitching program. Because the mid to darker pinks in the program were very similar, I had to make some of the lines thinner to distinguish them from the nearest shade. It looks a bit odd but does show up where there is a change of colour (or more likely colour blend).

Charting a tulip

I did manage a little bit of actual thread-related work too: I wasn’t happy with the five shades of pink I had chosen for the tulip, which were all Carrie’s Creations overdyed stranded cotton. Lovely threads, but one of them was too variegated and the lightest shade wasn’t light enough. After a lot of rummaging through thread boxes (what a lovely relaxing activity that is!) I ditched most of my original selection, picked a new darkest shade, kept the second darkest one, and added four pinks from Chameleon Threads’ Shades of Africa range of stranded silks, from the Fynbos set (that means I now have six shades, but two of them are quite similar and I want to see which one works best on the canvas). I also tested how many strands were needed for good coverage on the diagonal stitches, and worked out that whereas the vertical ones take six strands (blue arrow), for the diagonal ones four strands will suffice (orange arrow) – five starts to be difficult to lay flat, and six definitely looks crowded.

A range of pinks Sampling for coverage

And finally I sampled Angela’s suggestion of mixed upright double cross, with my sky thread underneath and a green over the top. For the green I used a new acquisition, a variegated sashiko thread, which is a matt cotton used in Japanese embroidery. The sky takes nine strands of silk for good coverage (canvaswork eats thread, it really does) but as this stitch has several layers crossing over each other I tried it with six, and the sashiko thread as it comes (it’s about the thickness of a full thread of stranded cotton). I like the look of it but want to try it again with just the horizontal stitch in blue, to echo the horizontal direction of the sky, and probably with more strands of silk and perhaps a double sashiko thread as there are some visible bits of canvas (orange arrows, among others).

Sampling two-tone upright double cross

My next class is on 20th April so I’m hoping to use the Easter weekend to get some serious sampling done – and who knows, perhaps even put in that scary first stitch…

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