Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trish Burr Purple Pansy

One of the embroidery kits I received as a Christmas gift is Tanja Berlin's Red Fox needlepainting kit. Berlin lists it as an intermediate level kit on her website, and since I have never done any needlepainting, and don't have the funds to invest in a beginner kit, I decided to attempt a little needlepainting before tackling the fox by completing one of Trish Burr's free patterns. 

I decided to start with the simplest pattern, Burr's Purple Pansy. I used Burr's recommended colours on the flower, DMC 3747, 341, 340, 3746, 33, and 727. I made two changes in the colour selection, using DMC 3051, 3052, and 3053 for the stem, and 469, 470, 471, and 472 for the leaf. I also didn't have the green she recommended for the single french knot, so I subbed in 472.

Purple Pansy was definitely a good introduction to needlepainting for me. In the "walk before you can run" vein, I think it was very useful to try and figure out how to get stitches to lay flatly and smoothly beside each other before I attempt to purposefully place them askew/at angles to each other, for instance in representing fur. Burr also recommends using two strands of floss for the outside row of long-and-short stitch, which I liked for how it added weight to the object being depicted. However, there is of course a reason that satin stitch and long-and-short stitch is generally recommended to be done in one strand of floss/thread, and it was a challenge figuring out where to come up through the fabric, and go back in to it, in a way that got both threads to lay flat. I was not entirely successful at this, but I did learn at least one trick, which is if I divided the threads with my needle as I went down in to the fabric, I could prevent them from twisting together on the surface of the fabric.

Other long-and-short stitch lessons: I don't know how embroiderers maintain the long-and-short nature of the stitch with any sort of regularity. The appearance of long and short stitches and where they should be placed was obscured very quickly for me, which meant I was actually using "stitches-of-various-lengths" stitch rather than long-and-short. I also noticed that the outline of my shapes ended up being more exaggerated as sewn rather than as transferred to the fabric, so I need to figure out what I do at the split stitch or first row phase that exaggerates that. Perhaps I don't come directly up into the fabric along the split stitch, and then compensate with subsequent stitches to get them to sit smoothly along the first stitch, thereby crowding the split stitch and changing the outline shape? A final observation, I need to work at colour blending if I want to recreate the original patterns. Although my colour changes appear pretty well blended, they do not match Burr's, specifically, the distinction between the dark rear petals of the flower and the significantly lighter ones is not as clear on mine. Aesthetically, anyone looking at my flower might not realize a "problem," but since I was trying to represent Burr's pattern accurately, I know that I need to know instinctively just where a colour gradation will appear, based on where I place my new colour into the previous row of stitches.

Successes: It's pretty neat how you can actually see the development of my knowledge level, from the first bit of stitching done on the leaf, where I didn't know how to change the direction of stitches well, or how closely to place them, to the final petal, the far front one. As well, this flower is small, about two inches top to bottom, and I like the details I added to the flower in an off-white that matches the ground fabric, an unbleached muslin. I also taught myself forbidden stitch for the knot details, since I know my french knots are not yet as uniform one to another as I would like them to be, and in any case I wanted a knot that would sit flatter to the ground fabric. I think these added details make this little pansy sampler a proper frame-worthy motif.

I never meant to write quite so much about a small embroidery project, but I do want records of my projects, and I would never write this much about it in my project journal, so it's good that I have recorded it here. To any non-embroiderers who stumble across this, it will at the very least be a testament to my personality. I do love details, and knowledge, especially the knowledge I can get from trying something out myself.

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