Gorgeous, creative needlepoint to inspire

I came across this design whilst browsing. I don’t think it’s especially new, but I think it is gorgeous, with a really innovative use of different canvaswork stitches for texture, and wonderfully vivid depth of colour.  I beieve the designer is Rose Swalwell of Derwentwater Designs, who (if I’m correct) studied at the Royal School of Needlework.

Red Poppy Canvas Work Kit by Derwentwater Designs
Red Poppy Canvas Work Kit by Derwentwater Designs

At only £13.50 for a complete kit it’s an absolute bargain, and a wonderful way to get started with more creative needlepoint.  (You can buy online here & probably lots of other places, too!)

Freeform Bargello – the series so far!

Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008 - £25
Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008 - £25

The freeform bargello series is far from complete, but I have finally finished the borders for the second and third pieces, so thought it was time for an update.

Kits are now available, colourways and prices as shown (additional colourways will soon be available for ‘Marble Wave’ – watch this space!).  Each kit includes a comb-bound A4 chart book with full

Marble Wave (c) TangleCrafts, 2008 - £20
Marble Wave (c) TangleCrafts, 2008 - £20

instructions, full skeins of overdyed floss, and a free bonus chart to complement the design! Please visit the Stitchery Designs page for further information.

You can find details of how to place an order here, but please feel free to email me if you have any questions about either the kits or ordering.

You can get 10% off the prices shown if you are a member of the

Bobbin Along (c) TangleCrafts, 2008 - £22.50
Bobbin Along (c) TangleCrafts, 2008 - £22.50

TangleCrafts Yahoo Group and mention it when placing your order.

I’m working on more designs to add to this series, exploring bargello and freeform bargello from different directions, so watch this space for more new designs coming soon!

In the meantime, please let me know what you think of the freeform bargello series so far 🙂

Bobbin Along – another freeform bargello experiment

Bobbin Along Bargello (freeform) (c) TangleCrafts 2008
Bobbin Along Bargello (freeform) (c) TangleCrafts 2008

It’s another WIP, as (once more!) I have run out of the thread I need to complete the border…  I am also still at the mercy of a temperamental printer/scanner but I’m trying to work around it!

This design posed some interesting challenges for me, although I had learned from ‘Marble Waves’.  I was careful to stretch the bobbin ‘thread’ to fill the first triangular quadrant of the design, so that there would be fewer issues where the mitred corners of the 4-way design meet.  It is still by no means a smooth transition but I think the ‘swooping’ nature of the curves disguises the inconsistency reasonably well, and (by default) actually creates a nice, almost overlapping 4-way pattern when viewed from a slight distance.

Stitching this design prompted various ideas for variations, which I will hopefully have time to explore at a another time.  I like the way a ‘sheet’ of bargello appears to drop behind another bargello wave that crosses in front of it, a result of the ‘thread’ twisting over and around itself.   I think this effect would be emphasised if I worked it on a bigger cut of canvas, increasing the size of the ‘thread’ swirls.  I think it would also be interesting, if working the piece to a larger scale, to make the bargello following the contours of the ‘thread’ into a ribbon of bargello, rather than continuing downwards o fill the quadrant, as it currently does.  This would leave more of the plain, geometrically striped background visible, and add emphasis to the curves contrasting against it.

I also wondered about using a different colour scheme either for the bargello or the plain background.  Again, I think this would only really work if the piece were larger, and more of the background visible.  But the bargello could be in shades of pink-to-plum, to match the bobbin ‘thread’, against a background of contrasting moss-green shades.  I think this would work best combined with the bargello-as-ribbon idea.

Stitching this design has also kick-started the idea for my next design project.  I added the whipped backstitch ‘thread’ in pink as the last step of the central panels, so before it was added, I could just see the green curves against green curves.  Perhaps largely because they were in green (!) this made me think of rolling hills, which prompted me in the direction of a bargello landscape.  This is not exactly a new idea – one of my very first bargello projects was ‘High Desert Stars’ by Iona Dettelbach (shown right), a chart distributed by Rainbow Gallery (click here for my review of Iona Dettelbach’s latest bargello book) – but it set me to thinking about it, and I have something semi-visualised in my head that I am looking forward to realising in stitch.  I’m not sure yet if it will be a 4-way design, like the others (so far) in this series of freeform bargello experimentation.  I’m considering a panelled piece.  But we’ll see how it develops…  Watch this space!

Freeform bargello – Marble Wave update

Marble Wave (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Marble Wave (c) TangleCrafts, 2008

A friend has very kindly scanned this new version of Marble Wave for me – the main differences being a softer colourway (with greater differentiation between the lightest 2 colours) and a tiered border.  As you can see, this is still WIP, as I have run out of the purple thread, and must wait for a new delivery.  Kits will also be available from that point!

I am much happier with the appearance of this revised version. The colours are from the same family as the original (see right), but much subtler.  I like the fact that the lightest yellow-sea green shade gives the impression of a kind of ‘aura’ around the wave motif.

Janet Perry has recently blogged about this piece, and I hope she won’t mind if I paste what she has written here, as she explains in design terms why it works:

“The design has a central medallion, which is not symmetrical. This makes it lovely, but also makes it difficult to design the Bargello around it so that, while not symmetrical per se, it looks balanced. She achieved this in several ways, which we can apply to our own projects.

1. The space is divided through the two diagonals. The strong line not only highlight the center, but they also divide the space clearly into equal areas.

2. The swirls just outside the central medallion take up much of the space, and turn, so they fill up enough of the quadrants, so symmetry is less important.

3. The overdye comes next and its changing colors make the color change more important to the eye than symmetrical patterns.

4. She uses the different threads in the same sequence, which creates balance. She also uses similar Bargello lines, curves are always on one side of the swirl, spires on the other, which also creates balance.

This is an absolutely wonderful piece.”

Thank you, Janet!

Another freeform bargello experiment

Despite continued printer trouble, I have been able to add a picture of this piece, as it was stitched by one of my model stitchers (Judith Ann Pounder, Derbyshire).

Marble Waves (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Marble Waves (c) TangleCrafts, 2008

The principle is the same as the Oak Leaf Panel (see earlier entry), with the central motif in basic needlepoint (in this case long stitch/satin stitch), with a freeform bargello background.

However because the central motif is not symmetrical, as was the case wth Oak Leaf Panel, I had to adapt the freeform bargello at the mitred corners, otherwise the patterns would not have met up at all.  They still don’t slot together perfectly, but I’m happy with the modifications, which just emphasise the swirly nature of the pattern.

What I don’t think works quite so well is my choice of colours, which included one multi-coloured shade (yellow, sea green, sea blue) and 3 shades of aqua blue.  Unfortunately, the sea blue within the multi-shade is almost exactly the same as the lightest of the other three blues, which has the result of lessening the definition of the central wave motif, in the places where the 2 blues sit next to each other.  Still, this realisation is one of the reasons why models need to be stitched, and all it means is that I need to reconfigure the colourway.

I will probably also modify the border slightly, to echo the 3 shade border of different thicknesses used in the Oak Leaf Panel.

Oak Leaf Panel – finally completed!

It hasn’t taken me quite as long as it might seem to complete stitching this piece – lack of time aside, I have also been battling with an ailing scanner/printer.  Bless it’s little cotton socks, I managed to sweet-talk it into working for long enough to scan in my updated Oak Leaf Panel (but it is still being temperamental).  Anyway…:

Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008

My original plan was to stitch a decorative border around the outer edge.  However, I decided that as there was already quite a lot of movement in both the motif and the background that might make it all look a little too busy.  So I opted for simplicity, instead, and I think this plain border provides a good contrast to the myriad curves contained within it.

(I do like the oak leaf border (not shown), though, and may include the chart within the kit as an optional extra, to be added or not at the discretion of the stitcher.  It could also be stitched as a bookmark, which I may do myself at some point.)

The sense of undulation in the freeform bargello background reminds me of fabrics from the 60 and 70s; but I think the heightened sense of movement is also a result of using overdyed threads with tonal changes along their length, but without dramatic tonal difference between the three different threads used.  I normally make my bargello choices in a more pronounced light-to-dark colour scheme, but I like the slightly different effect my alternative choice has created.

The intention is that this will be the first of a series, exploring the different patterns created by different shaped leaves (etc).

Freeform Bargello WIP

The long train journeys yesterday gave me the luxurious opportunity to actually spend some time stitching, so I started working on the canvas work (/needlepoint) adaptation of my Noro knitting wool oak leaf design (see earlier entry for pic).  This time I used 18ct canvas and Carrie’s Threads 6-ply cotton, which has given me a little more flexibility with the design, in terms of both colours and stitches.

I’m really pleased with the ‘knobbly’ effect of the acorn cups, and I think the purples work well as a contrasting background colour to the autumnal greens.  I’m stitching the background area in freeform bargello.  By this I mean that instead of following a fixed, charted (or standard) bargello pattern, I have actually used the base lines of the oak leaves as the starting bargello line, so that the background complements the foreground & emphasises its natural contours, rather than detracts with an entirely independent pattern.  In terms of bargello, I am ignoring the acorns, and just following the contours of the leaves to avoid unnecessary complication in the pattern.

It’s a very relaxing form to work, as once the central design has been stitched (which in itself doesn’t take an incredible amount of reference to the chart given its 4-way repeat) there’s no need to refer to a chart at all – you literally just stitch the bargello around the outer edge of the leaves.  I stopped after 2 rows, as I need to work out the placement of the border before I continue – but it was an ideal project to work on while travelling.

Oak Leaf Panel with Freeform Bargello Background, (c) TangleCrafts 2008
Work in Progress: Oak Leaf Panel with Freeform Bargello Background, (c) TangleCrafts 2008

I must confess I am a little annoyed with myself, as I got married earlier this year, and the theme of our wedding stationery was oak leaves (based on a verse about the oak and the cypress from Kahlil Gibran that we used in our vows).  I had wanted to stitch a design to use, but at the time – with all the other wedding organisation pressures – I just didn’t have the time or inspiration.  In the end, I drew a design, instead, which is – actually, essentially, anyway – a freeform bargello design, and we used the coloured ink drawing onthe stationery, instead.  I’m annoyed now, because I seem to have oak leaf stitch patterns practically dripping from my fingers – I just couldn’t do it at the time when it would have been quite appropriate.  Still, it doesn’t mean I can’t go back to the wedding stationery design and re-interpret it for stitch now, and I hadn’t thought about that until I began writing this, but I think, actually, I will.    That’s that settled, then!

Needlepoint with Knitting Wool

Not too long ago (just a few weeks, in fact), I was sitting on my sofa and contemplating a ball of wool.  As you do.  Well, it was Noro wool (Kureyon), and the colours are beautiful.  I bought it because I was using it for some small-scale bagweaving projects, but as needlework has come back to the fore for me lately, as I was looking at it, I started to wonder why it couldn’t be used for needlepoint.

I asked around, but couldn’t find anyone who had tried it (not with Noro, at least), or could offer any practical advice re. canvas gauge for different wool types.  A couple of negative replies just said no: the fibers of the wool would not stand the abrasion of the canvas, or no: the inconsistent thickness of the wool would prevent even coverage.  Having already decided I wanted to try it, that wasn’t sufficient to stop me.  So after thinking about it awhile, I decided to see what would happen.

Guess what?  It works!  Okay, you have to use shorter lengths of yarn, because it will fray and break with repeated friction against the canvas.  For the same reason, longer stitches (eg long stitch, satin stitch) are more successful than short or layered ones, which just fluff up – of course, you could always invent a design which embraces this feature, and then it is no longer a drawback.

I actually used Noro Silk Garden, in the end, just because the colours were better suited to the design I had envisioned.  Kureyon is a similar weight yarn, though, and should work just as well.  I stitched onto 11ct canvas because it was what I had.  Luckily, I would say this is about right.  A higher gauge would definitely crowd the stitches.  The satin stitch gave very even coverage on 11ct.   A lower gauge canvas would probably also work, and potentially give greater flexibility in stitch variety.  The yarn can withstand a little careful unpicking, but will fluff up and/or break with repeated unpicking.

I cut down the yarn from the ball into lengths of about 18″ each, and separated it into colour groups.   I ended up with about 10 different colours (with some variety in each ‘colour’, due to the tweeded colour blending of the yarn).  I didn’t use all of them in my project – in fact, I probably had about half a ball left of unused colours, which could be easily used in another small project.

I was really pleased with the results, and it was fun to work around the limitations of the quantities I had of each shade.  I normally work on a much finer gauge canvas with ‘normal’ (overdyed) embroidery threads, so this was an interesting experiment for me.  I can’t say I have been totally converted & will only ever do needlepoint with knitting yarn from now on; but at least now if I see a yarn in colours that inspire me, I don’t have to feel limited by what the label says it is for.

It is actually a very economical way of needlepointing, as one ball of Noro wool costs around $8, whereas individual skeins of overdyed needlepoint wool/floss cost up to $5 or $6 each.  To buy full skeins of each different shade I needed to stitch this design ordinarily would have cost around $30, and I would have had lots of unused thread left over so this was a bargain.  I will probably create a small series of needlepoint designs specifically for use with Noro wool, taking care to ensure the colour areas are not too large (there is nothing more frustrating than finding you do not have enough of a colour to complete a particular area).

I will also be re-charting the design for ‘regular’ needlepoint, using overdyed floss on 18ct or 24ct canvas.  The limitations imposed by the quantities available of each colour meant that I could not take the design quite as far as I would have wished.  The re-charted pattern has an additional border around the outer edge.

Needlepoint using Noro Silk Garden 247 on 11ct mono canvas. Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Oak Leaf Panel (c) TangleCrafts, 2008. Needlepoint using Noro Silk Garden 247 on 11ct mono canvas.

An intro to TangleCrafts & me

A predominantly self-taught stitcher, I have recently decided to venture out into the world to market my own counted thread designs. I’ve been designing for 6 years, & have more patterns & ideas than time in which to stitch them (or in some cases, chart them).  Luckily, I have managed to build a little team of model stitchers who are helping me make some headway.  I can’t – of course – kit a design until I have a photo of the finished stitched pieces to show on the packaging, so this is an essential part of the process.  It also helps me gauge the quantities of thread & fabric to include in kits, find out if instructions need clarifying (something that’s harder to do if I stitch my own models), and in some cases, see things I want to change in the pattern itself.   It’s a great learning curve!

I do a lot less stitching myself than I used to, but I really enjoy the process of the designing, & stitch small samples as I go along, just to make sure things work.  I have lots of ideas I haven’t had chance to try out, yet, but with my stitchers’ help, that mythical day when I will have time to get around to everything is hopefully getting slightly closer.  At the moment, my time is spent mostly fine-tuning existing charts, typing up instructions, & perfecting the layout of the chart/kit packaging. I enjoy designing the packaging almost as much as the patterns themselves – just another aesthetic aspect of the job, I guess.

Of course, the problem with spending a lot of time charting, means that I ALWAYS get sidetracked & see how a spin-off pattern could work, or it will kick-start another idea entirely.  It’s fruitful in one way, but not necessarily productive in terms of actually getting done what I intended to!  But I have limited time for all this work, so I do have to be strict with myself, & prioritise things I would otherwise leave until later.  The ideas & planning notebook is ever-expanding…

There are related projects such as dyeing my own threads & colouring my own canvases which are on the really-need-to-get-done list, too. The charting & kitting has to take priority; but being able to supply my own hand-dyed threads would be a great addition – & I may even have to get some charts re-stitched using the, depending on how successful they turn out to be.  And canvas colouring, although not essential to the current wave of model stitching, will again play a large part in ideas I have for the future.

Why can’t I do everything at once?  I’m sure if I just had a few more hands, & a few more hours in every day, life would be so much easier!