A new Dozen and more organza

Last week, when I mentioned on the Cross Stitch Forum that I’d designed another two Floral Lace designs and someone suggested that it was growing into a new Dozen, I chuckled and said no, no, six was really as many as there were going to be.

There are now a dozen.

It’s true I like sets and series of things, and, well, I’m just enjoying these so much! Floral Lace is a bit like Round Dozen, I suppose, in that all twelve designs have a “skeleton” in common: in this case a small Kloster block diamond, surrounded by a four-sided stitch diamond, surrounded by a gold cross stitch square. Then they all have three more elements, a beaded diamond, floral cross stitch corner motifs and cutwork (bars & filling stitches), but each design has its own variation on these three.

Incidentally, it did at one point make me feel a bit like Oscar Wilde. Once, when asked what he’d been doing all day, he famously replied, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” It isn’t quite that bad with me, but I did one evening find myself in the following scene: Attach beads according to chart. Half-way through, hold it at arm’s length and worry that it doesn’t look right. Decide to move the top bead in the four corner clusters up by one hole. Unpick. Re-stitch. Half-way through, hold it at arm’s length and worry that it doesn’t look right. Decide to move whole of corner clusters down by one hole. This brings the original top bead back where it started out. Unpick. Re-stitch. Sit back and enjoy the result, which now looks the way I intended it.

Most of the designs aren’t nearly so fraught, fortunately, although I did today make some last-minute changes to some filling stitches (Floral Lace will be the first ever design to include the Starburst stitch!). And they are lovely and relaxing to stitch, especially the recurring elements. I’ve also worked out that materials-wise it is quite a budget design: the cross stitch motifs need only very small amounts of stranded cotton, so if you’re happy to use odds and ends from your stash whenever you don’t happen to have a colour listed in the chart packs, then apart from that you can do the whole dozen with 1 skein of perle #5, 1 ball of perle #8, 1 skein of White stranded cotton, 1 card of Petite Treasure Braid and 1 pack of Mill Hill beads. And here the whole lot is in all its colourful glory:

The materials for all 12 Floral Lace designs

I’ve already been able to re-use the Floral Lace “skeleton” – as a starting point for the Spring Knitting & Stitching workshop. Because of the emphasis of the show, they wanted something to do with soft furnishings or dress-making, so I decided on a patch for a bag or cushion. It combines elements from Floral Lace and Round Dozen, and we should manage to do the complicated bits during the workshop, although some of the cross stitch may have to be done later at home.

Adapted design for the K&S workshop

Remember that silk organza I got at last month’s K & S? My husband remarked how thin it was, and that you could see other fabric through it. I put it over some Lugana and he was absolutely right, it is so translucent that you can see the holes quite well. So by combining standard antique white Lugana with these hand-dyed squares of silk organza, you suddenly end up with a stitchable fabric in stunning jewel colours. you wouldn’t be able to cut it, really, so this required some non-cut designs. And what to call it? I toyed for a moment with Undercover or Salome, but eventually decided on Veiled Delight.

Silk organza covering Lugana

I’ve got my teeth into Floral Lace at the moment, and then it’s (finally!) the turn of Treasure Trove, but after that I may well start playing with these lovely fabrics.

Wedgwood, cross stitch and unexpected designs

You may remember my two cream/white on green and blue Round Dozen variations which gave me an idea for some Wedgwood-inspired idea, although really I should call them Jasper, as that type of Wedgwood is known as jasperware. The two variations were stitched on 28ct Jobelan, and I wanted to stitch the new designs on my usual 25ct Lugana. Unfortunately, being made by two different manufacturers they don’t come in the same colours, and all I could find was a rather paler moss green, and a rather brighter blue. Lugana does come in a shade called Wedgwood Blue, but that is lighter than I had in mind, and when I looked into jasperware a bit more I found that the Lugana shades I’d picked were actually closer to the pottery than the Jobelan used for the variations!

Fabrics considered for the Wedgwood designs Wedgwood pale blue and sage green jasperware

So I started designing and at the end of the afternoon somehow ended up with three instead of two designs. Fortunately there is pink jasperware too smiley.

Three shades of Lugana Wedgwood pink jasperware

Floral Lace is coming along nicely, but I wasn’t absolutely sure that some of the small cross stitch motifs would work as charted, so I tried them out on a spare piece of material for shape and colour. This turned out to be quite useful as it showed me that the alternatives I’d charted for my corner tulip didn’t look nearly so nice as the first draft (I’d worried that the top of the tulip looked rather flat as originally charted. It didn’t.) and also that the colours of the tulips were far too dark. I eventually went with pinks that were much brighter than I at first intended, but in real life they just look a lot better.

Trying out the cross stitch motifs for Floral Lace

Some things, however, you can’t tell even from a trial piece because it’s not the individual motifs but the way they work together that is the probem. In the picture above there are two identically-shaped smaller blue motifs, one with more dark blue and one with more light blue. My first draft used the darker version, but after stitching it I felt it looked a bit too dark. I re-charted and stitched a lighter version next to it. It looked much nicer so I decided to go with that one. I stitched all the larger blue corner motifs first, then the dark-blue centers of the smaller motifs, and then I completed them with light blue.

When I’d completed one corner of the design, both my husband and I felt that it looked too cluttered and chunky, whereas the unfinished corners with their small bits of dark blue actually looked rather more elegant. But I didn’t like the shape and distribution of them. What if I made them smaller still, and added a third in the middle so that they formed a shallow arch curving in the opposite direction of the beads in that quarter? The picture shows the original corner (top left), two corners with the dark blue of the original motifs (top right and bottom left) and the new design with three tiny dark blue flowers arching around the corner motif (bottom right). It took a lot of unpicking, but all corners now use that last version and I think the design looks much lighter for it. But you’ll have to wait and see what the final result looks like!

Floral Lace 2 gets a make-over

Designing doesn’t always happen intentionally. Floral Lace started out as a set of three designs but rather unexpectedly acquired a fourth when I thought of a small cross stitch pansy design. I charted a diagonal corner design and an upright one, which was going to be used on either side of the corner pansy. But I soon realised, even on paper, that it would suffer from the same cluttered feeling as the blue Floral Lace, so I designed a teeny-weeny pansy (at six stitches in total it’s so small it’s hardly recognisable as a flower, but it uses some of the same colours) and hope that that will look more balanced. Watch this space…

Size, inspiration and originality

Several things have come together over the past few weeks to make me think about what makes an original design: three requests to use the Star freebies in stitching groups; my own playing with Round Dozen variations; and a Cross Stitch Forum friend doing some Sweetheart Tree designs.

I love small designs. It may be a lack of patience or a short attention span; the fact that I find large pieces of fabric cumbersome to work with certainly has something to do with it; but the plain fact is that large designs (such as the Ink Circles BoINK project and the Papillon Around the World in 80 Stitches SAL) tend to get neglected and end up in a drawer. The only reason why I haven’t abandoned a large project recently is that I don’t start them. My own Stitch-Along was deliberately designed as 12 small projects rather than 12 parts of a large design. I very rarely design charts larger than 200 stitches. And I have a particular weak spot for anything card-sized.

But there is a problem with small designs, especially what you might call mini designs: whose are they? Let me explain. Suppose you want to design a cross stitch ladybird, which has to fit in a pendant and is therefore limited to 10×10 stitches. Chances are that within that limited space you will choose to stitch the ladybird in red and black only. Now suppose someone else also decides to chart a small ladybird. The two designs are likely to be very similar. Has either of you copied the other? No, because they were arrived at independently. Has either of you infringed the other person’s copyright? I wouldn’t have thought so. So whose is the ladybird design?

This may sound like a bit of an artificial problem, but there is a practical side to it. Let’s have a look at small Hardanger or satin stitch designs. You may remember the freebie stars (which, incidentally, I have now adapted to become this year’s Christmas Craft Event project, of which more in a later FoF) and that I could easily stitch them without the chart because the design is very simple. Are they “mine”? They are, in that I charted them and didn’t copy them from anyone else. But could I honestly claim that no-one else could possibly come up with them without copying me? Of course not.

If you want to design a Hardanger mini involving some cutting, and you want some bars in there as well, you are limited to four or so shapes, and what makes your little design unique is the combination of bars and filling stitches you choose (but there are only a limited number of those, too), any colours you choose to incorporate and any other elements you add (like the backstitch motifs surrounding the Mini Kit designs). There isn’t an awful lot of room for variation.

Hardanger mini shapes

The larger the design gets, the more variation is possible and the less likely you are to come up with an identical design to someone else. But how much variation makes a new design? Take the basic shape of the Round Dozen – as my Systematic Round Dozen chart shows you can vary endlessly with it. I added new stitches to it myself, and you could add whatever you like, even borders from Song of the Weather if you’ve joined the SAL. If someone comes up with a variation I hadn’t thought of, is it theirs or mine? Here I think a case could be made for saying that if it has the combination of a hardanger diamond, surrounded by a diamond in chain or double cable stitch, with a square surface stitch border and four satin stitch corner motifs, and measuring 72×72 stitches, it is a variation on Mabel’s Fancies Round Dozen design – but some people might disagree.

What does this mean for me as a designer? For one thing it means that I have to be careful when I admire and am inspired by another designer’s work. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not if it leads to infringement of copyright. The Forum friend who got some Sweetheart Tree kits recently sent me pictures of them, and this reminded me how much I like their designs. They also gave me an idea for a set of small floral squares which combined elements of the Round Dozen, the border of a needlebook I designed for a previous Guildhouse course (see below), and Sweetheart Tree’s use of floral cross stitch motifs. Fortunately the little floral emblems I designed turned out quite different from theirs – stitched over one fabric thread instead of over two, and without their elegant backstitch swirls. So it was with a clear conscience that I went about the ever-pleasant task of picking out the colours and materials to use; and I hope to present Floral Lace to you in the near future!

A small needlebook Materials for Floral Lace