Thursday, August 26, 2010

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

I'm done with my test stitching, thank goodness. Bored now.

I think I'm pretty much settled on colours for the whole flower series now. :) And the results are:

Top pic is on the scanner, and it's a bit washed out - makes the greens look a bit grey. The second pic is in natural daylight and it's a little dark. Actual colours are somewhere in between!

Forget Me Not - obviously I'm using the Summer Sky, Narcissus and Leaf Green.
Daffodil - Narcissus and Summer Foliage. Like the way the Summer Foliage makes the Narcissus stand out.
Tulip - not shown here as it was decided long ago without testing - one of those love at first sight moments - it's BS Tulip and Beanstalk.
Daisy - really love the Carnation/Creme de Menthe combo. It really makes the pink pop!
Rose - this is a real toughie. Has to be a very deep forest green for the leaf colour. Both Elizabethan Green and Collard Greens are perfect in that respect. Rose of Sharon, while beautiful, is out. It doesn't stand out enough against the dark green. So it's Rosebud or Carmine Rose. I like both combos. Rosebud/Collard Greens is more in keeping with my "vision" but I so love the pop of the Carmine Rose... what to do!
Violet - Easiest decision of the day - after test stitching Ultra Violet, I went no further. Awesome, perfect, wonderful. Now the green... I really quite like it with the Avonlea Green. There's a nice balance between the two.
Iris - another I'm torn about. It'll either be Purple Paradise with Kiwi or Purple Night Sky with Leaf Green. I'm leaning towards the second combo, simply because I love the subtle variegation on the Purple Night Sky so much - it just doesn't show well in either pic. AND because my son walked by and said "I don't know what you're doing, but I like that one!"
And finally, Marigold - was settled without any other colours being stitched. Lasagne/Collard Greens. LOVE this combo. It's actually closer to the photo in daylight.

And now with all that said... I finally have a picture for my gallery! YAY! A dear friend, who wishes to remain nameless, has sent me a WIP picture of Celtic Leaves. She is stitching on 40ct HDF linen using a conversion to HDF silk threads. It's got a nice soft elegant feel to it and I can't wait to see more pictures!

And now with all that said and done, I'm off to do some stitching of my own! I decided English Whitework Sampler needed some love and attention. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Halfway Happy Dance

Just pulled Forget Me Not off the q-snaps and snapped a quick pic before putting it away for a couple days. In celebration of reaching the halfway mark - well actually a little more than halfway if I'm being technical about it - I decided to do my test stitching for the remainder of the flower series. Then I'll probably work on some personal stitching for a few days. Not sure just yet what that will be, I'm torn between working on EWS and RIR! But for now I'm going to bury myself in purple, orange, pink and green silks!! WOO HOO!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Progress on Forget Me Not

Not as much as I'd hoped, but I haven't had as much stitching time as I would have liked either.

2 weeks in and I'm not quite halfway. It's coming along well though, I'm very happy with how it's turning out! At this rate, I should still have plenty of time to get it all ready for the October online needlework show. :)

Anyway, enough preamble, here it is:

The colours aren't exact to the photo, they're a bit brighter in real life.

In other news... I'm now debating my colour choice for Daisy. My first instinct was to use a baby pink (because white won't show up on the fabric!!) and that's how I did the mock up. Then when I was picking colours, I came across Belle Soie's Rouge - beautiful, deep fuschia - and thought, why not? So I ordered that one. Now I'm thinking I really should have gone with the light pink. So when I reach the halfway mark on Forget Me Not this week, I'm going to test stitch some more for Daisy. Because a lighter pink may not work with my chosen green. Hmmm. And that means finding another use for Rouge, because it's just too pretty not to!

AND, I've finally started a Facebook page. I've had a personal one for ages and ages, but I figured it was time to start a Northern Expressions page. Mostly for "in between" blog post updates. lol

And now off to model stitch some more before bed. The nice thing is that I have two short days this week (6-1) and TWO whole days off so I can stitch lots! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

And on to the joys of being a designer

Ahhhh... model stitching. This has cheered me up immensely and reminded me exactly why I wanted to design.

One of the greatest joys as a designer is seeing it all come together. You spend hours on the computer, drawing, twisting and turning motifs. Then you spend hours with thread and fabric samples test stitching and picking out what you hope will be the ultimate colour combination.

Finally, the day arrives. Fabric and model threads arrive in the mailbox, and what was once only in your imagination starts to take on a life of it's own. You can finally stop wondering, "did I pick the right blue? Is that green going to be too dark?"

What is especially wonderful, is when the colours are even better than you'd hoped, and the fabric sets them off so perfectly that it surpasses anything you could have imagined.

It was a tough decision picking which would come first, but because it was the first design in the series that I completed on the computer and the first one I picked out threads for, AND because the Summer Sky from Gloriana was just so spectacular and screamed "stitch with me!!" I decided to start the series with Forget Me Not. It is being stitched on 40ct Magnolia from Lakeside linen, using Summer Sky, Narcissus and Leaf Green.

I figured while I had the camera out, it would be a good time to update all those WIP and finishes that I drone on about but never show you.

The finish... I think this is the only recent one I've not yet posted a picture of. This is Jardin D'Jour from Needlemania (with a little help from Diane Jourdan of Sampler Cove). It is stitched on 40ct linen from Hand Dyed Fibers in the natural white colour, using Hand Dyed Fibers BePopped and BeMused, which are lovely together. It looks a bit squished, and that's because the fabric is NOT an evenweave. In one direction it appears to be 38ct, in the other it's more like 42ct.

English Whitework Sampler is from Needle's Prayse. I love this design, and so far it's been a fun stitch. Not a cross stitch in sight, so it's a nice change from everything else I'm working on. I'm stitching it on 40 ct Ivory Ricamo linen, which was probably a bit of a faux pas, since the linen is very dense and hard to pull, but it is turning out lovely. I'm using Hand Dyed Fibers Perle #12 and Premium weight threads in Examplar White Chocolate. I wanted something with a little more depth than solid cream. It's a little hard to see since it's tone on tone, but the textures are lovely in it.

Next up, Rhapsody in Red by Sampler Cove. This spectacular design is being stitched on 45ct Ivory Florence linen, using Plymouth Red and Crimson silks from Carrie's Creations threads. As you can see, they're pretty close to the original colours, which was what I was going for, I just really wanted to try these threads! I'm so glad I did, because they are truly lovely to work with. I'm very excited, because I have a whole set of them winging their way to me now to pick colours for a couple future models. :)

And of course since my rotation never includes only one Sampler Cove design, here is Enya. This little beauty is stitched on 45ct white Florence linen using Waterlilies Mediterranean and Azure Skies. While I love how the Waterlilies stitch up, I do have one complaint that I really found apparent in these two colours. The colour repeats are much too long. One complete cycle of variegation is over 1 yard long. So you have a choice, you can cut multiple strands and work from more than one at a time, or you can work with one very long strand, or as I did, you can work with your normal 18" length and just be happy with the colours not balancing out perfectly. I'm still very happy with how this is turning out, but I would have liked better it if the colours flowed into one another more frequently.

I do have one other Sampler Cove I've worked on recently, but I didn't finish much of it before I switched it out. This is Tuscan Rose, which is stitched on Sassy's 40ct Hayfields, dyed on Ricamo linen using Hand Dyed Fibers threads. I find lately I can't work on this one for long stretches like the others. This batch of threads is very odd. I have older threads from before the switch that are lovely to use. I have threads that were produced in the interim while Vikki was deciding on a manufacturer and getting them perfected which are nice as well. And I have recent threads which are wonderful too. These, on the other hand, are extremely thin, moreso than any others I have gotten. And they just won't flatten out on the fabric - even on this fabric, which after washing is more like a 44 ct, they don't give very good coverage. And for some strange reason, they insist on twisting back upon themselves constantly, causing them to knot and fray and causing me to gnash my teeth and swear. It is lovely though, and I'll finish it eventually because it's too pretty not to.

In the same category as Tuscan Rose is Rosewood Manor's Great British Sampler. It's beautiful and I love how it's turning out. But again, the threads are strange, just like those above. Not surprising since they were all ordered around the same time. Anyway, this one is also stitched using HDF, on Lakeside 40ct Chantilly Cream. While I do love this design, the colour use isn't very effective. There are lots of places where a colour is only used for a couple of stitches, and could just as easily have been done in another colour which is used more. And there is a bit of confetti and fractionals and backstitch, but it will all be worth it in the end because it is a wonderful design.

And I did some work on Alpine Garden, which I'm stitching in the called for colours (for the most part) on 35 ct HDF linen. I love how this one is turning out. It's been a bit of a challenge for me, the chart isn't the greatest to read - a lot of symbols which are very similar to one another and no grid count along the edges, and some issues I had with the backstitch sections have made this less than fun at times. But all in all, I'm extremely happy with it. It stitches up much quicker than you'd expect for the size of it.

And finally, I don't know if I ever did post a picture of this so here it is, Ink Circles Cirques des Triangles. I'm stitching this one in an assortment of Gloriana silks, over one on 28 ct black (obviously) jobelan. It's such a fun design, and it's so a joy to stitch something so bright and cheerful. :) And I do so love over one on 28ct. Having an absolute blast with this design.

And just one tiny vent today. It's Friday the 13th and I live in Port Dover. If that doesn't mean anything to you, I shall explain briefly. Every Friday the 13th, our town is invaded by bikers from across North America. I think the last time we had one in summer was in 2008, and we had well over 100,000 people in town. I heard on the radio this morning that they were expecting closer to 200,000 this year. That's a lot of people for a little town like this. The webcam view of downtown looks like a sardine can already and it's not even noon. While this is wonderful for the town and the local businesses (the ones who stay open anyway), it really isn't much fun for residents. We get to spend about four days (from Thursday to Sunday) sleep deprived due to the constant drone of bikes, all of which have had their mufflers removed to make them louder, the all night parties and loud music... Add in to that the fact that we can't actually get around ourselves, because they close half the roads to cars and if you do need to go anywhere - like a job! - you have to have a special pass to get through and still can only take certain routes which are backed up for miles with traffic. It is fun, I will admit, to go for a wander through town and see all the neat bikes and mingle with thousands of people, but after the dozen or so I've attended, it's now sort of a been there, done that attitude I have towards it and I'm praying for Monday to arrive soon.

And now back to my model!! Ah, happiness is. :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

The pains of being a designer

I hope you don't mind if I vent a bit. I know I do that an awful lot, but It's not something I can vent about to my family - they don't understand. So I rely on my stitchy friends to listen when something in the world of needles and threads is on my mind.

A friend brought my attention to a message board post, ranting about the materials designers use, and suggesting that designers are being paid to promote expensive threads and/or that we don't live in the real world.

Are you kidding me?

Would you tell a painter what kind of canvas or paint to use? Probably not. Can someone explain to me, what's the difference? Is what we do as designers not artwork?

I use what I enjoy using. I enjoy using silks. If I did as the people in that thread suggest, I wouldn't be a designer. Heck, I wouldn't even be a stitcher. I have a huge selection of threads to choose from, and when I pick a colour it's because to me, that colour is the absolute perfect colour for that part of the design. I test stitch like mad to determine what I like best, and I go with my heart when selecting the colours, in other words, the colours that make me fall in love with the design. I don't simply lay threads on fabric and say that'll do. I agonize for ages about what the perfect choices are. They may or may not be your favourite threads or colours, but this is a creative hobby. If you don't like them, but you like the design, you can change them to whatever you are happy with. I include a DMC conversion where possible, and if none exists, I'll suggest a colour in keeping with the overall theme of the design. Better still, you want to switch to something other than DMC? Drop me an email. I'm happy to help as best I can. If you want to use something I don't have on hand, I'll drive the 45 minutes to the LNS to do a comparison for you. I've done it before, I honestly don't mind. That said, I'm not required to do conversions, but I happily do them, because just as I'm addicted to silk threads and love using them, I understand that lots of people don't feel that way and are just as happy to use DMC or cotton overdyes. Or that some threads aren't as easily accessible as others, so I'll help in any way I can.

I do not get paid to use certain brands of threads, and I do not know anyone who does. Some of my model threads I get free from the dyer, some I pay wholesale price for, and some I pay retail price for. Fabric I pay retail or wholesale for. It depends on the brand I go with. Does the cost to me determine which one I use? Absolutely not. If something is the best colour available, I don't care how much it costs me to use, simply because it IS the best colour available for what I want to do. Period.

I DO live in the real world. I have invested a lot of my hard earned money on thread samples for test stitching. I have complete collections of several brands of thread on hand for that purpose, that I paid for. We live on a budget, yet I manage to do it just fine without running up the credit cards. If I want something badly enough, I'll save my money to get it. Why do I do that instead of just using cheap stuff? Because I don't enjoy the cheap stuff, I don't even use it for my personal stitching, so why would it be a consideration.

Would I sell more charts if I charted with DMC? Possibly, but that doesn't really matter to me, I have fun creating in my own way. I'm sorry, but DMC doesn't inspire me. I have a more or less full time job (30-40+ hours per week) and I do my designing in my spare time. I couldn't even consider giving up the day job, I'd starve to death. Income from designing goes straight back into the business on thread and fabric samples and materials for future projects. If I have enough left over, I might pick up a chart or a few threads for personal stitching, but most of my personal stitching stash comes from birthday or Christmas money. If I don't frame a model, it's because I can't afford to pay to have it done and still get stuff for the next model. I barely break even on what I spend on supplies and colour palettes so it's a choice of kitting up the next couple of designs or framing the current one and I opt for kitting the next one. I don't actually get paid for my time to create, model stitch and chart a design unless I sell hundreds of copies so maybe in five years I'll get paid for my time.

So why do I do it? Because it's fun to do and I enjoy it. When I read things like this, it totally turns me off, and I can understand why so many designers go out of business. You need a very thick skin in this business which I don't have, so I don't know how long I'll be able to do it. It's heartbreaking when you release a design that you have spent hundreds of hours on and you love with all your heart to hear nothing but complaints or nasty comments. But those comments when people say they love it do make it worth the effort. And regardless of whether anyone bought my designs or not, I'd STILL do it, because I enjoy doing it.