A stitch guide is often a useful thing: it is a road map for stitching a particular canvas.
Usually, I don’t follow one slavishly (sometimes the stitches are just too complicated for me!), but they are wonderful to have as a reference point.
Unfortunately, most canvases don’t come with stitch guides.
So what’s a stitcher to do?
Let’s take “Mr. Owl,” as an example. This is a 15″ x 15″ piece, on 13 mesh canvas.
(I should mention that I like to refer to canvases, usually ones that represent animals or birds, as one would when talking about a real person. I have noticed that I am not totally alone in doing this.)
Mr. Owl is a very nice, retro canvas from JP Designs.
According to Juli, who owns the needlepoint studio, her mother designed it 30 years ago. It is probably the oldest active canvas in her line.
Apparently Mr. Owl went into retirement, at some point, only to unretire in 1995. Since then, he’s been a perennial best seller.
I absolutely love this canvas!
When I first saw the owl, I focused on the color of his handsome plumage — what usually attracts me to a canvas is color, and composition.
Often the color of a canvas will in general conform to the color of the yarn that I use, but not always.
I’m usually not one to change an artist’s original color scheme, just to, say, match the decor of my house — although there is nothing objectionable to doing that, so long as the thread covers the color you are trying to change.
It is, after all, your canvas.
What I will do, on occasion, when attracted to the colors of a design, is accentuate them for effect. I will cover the topic in some future post about speciality threads.
Back to Mr. Owl.
Satisfied that my thread colors more or less matched the original colors chosen by Juli’s mother, I began to think of possible pattern stitches that would work, and started off with a simple basketweave. (This stitch will most likely be covered in an upcoming How to Do page.)
I soon realized I wasn’t doing Mr. Owl any favors.
Quite honestly, he deserved better.
My original plan was to do all the leaves behind Mr. Owl in pattern stitches, and complete him with the basketweave.
So I simply puttered around, and completed all the leaves.
But he wasn’t quite right.
I was working in a needlepoint store, at the time, and a customer came in.
Coincidentally, she was working on the same canvas, and had used some pattern stitches (pattern stitches refer to anything that is not the Continental or Basketweave Stitch) for his body. I liked her approach.
I had to do a bit of ripping on poor Mr. Owl.
Also, I should mention that I originally stitched the whites of his eyes in Kreinik metallic 032 (pearl) — but when that company introduced a bright, clear white #5760, I used that instead.
My point here is that stitching a canvas, without the benefit of a stitch guide, is a very doable process that evolves as you do the piece.
You may start with one design strategy and end up with a different, and usually better one.
And remember, it was my customer who inspired me to give Mr. Owl the elegant body he deserved.
To summarize. There are three main points I would like you to take away from this post:
1) Stitch guides take time to develop, which is why they are rare
2) Always be flexible — and if you take as long as I do to stitch a piece, a better suited thread may come along in the meantime
3) Look at other people’s needlepoint projects and learn from how they do things
In one of my next entries, I’ll show you what Mr. Owl looks like today. In the meantime, as always, Happy Stitching!
© Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016.