Monday, March 26, 2012

Beads on Canvas - Part 2

This blog entry will be about different types of beads and different types of needles for stitching beads on your needlework.
Seed beads are small glass beads used frequently by needleworkers.  There are several different types of seed beads.  The cylinder beads go by the name of delica, or Magnifica if you are purchasing Mill Hill.  They are perfectly cylindrical beads with thin walls and large holes.  I will refer to them as delicas in this blog.  Czech seed beads are shaped like donuts and they have variations in size and shape and you don’t want to use them in your needlework.  Japanese seed beads, what most people think of as just seed beads (which is the term I will use) are shaped like rounded cylinders and are more uniform in size and shape.
Most needlework stores carry Mill Hill beads for you to use for needlepoint and cross stitch.  If you have the opportunity, go to a bead store.  The sheer assortment of seed beads will astound you.  The colors, the finishes, one color on the outside of the bead, another color on the inside of the bead, you will wonder why you settled for Mill Hill in the first place.  If you don’t have a bead store near you, there are online stores, but unless you know exactly the bead color for which you are looking, it is hard to tell the color on a computer screen.
I dislike having to cull out bad beads, I just want to put the bead on the needle and go.  If the bead will not fit through the eye of the needle or the size or shape is so dramatically different, I will look for different types of beads.  These issues have been my experience with Mill Hill beads.  I have had better luck with the seed beads at bead stores, because the quality is just better.
The best type of beads to buy are Japanese seed beads, the worst quality seed beads are from China.  Of the Japanese seed beads, TOHO and Miyuki are the quality names.  Miyuki seed beads are sometimes named Miyuki Rocaille.  Don’t be thrown by the word Rocaille, they are seed beads.
The two sizes of beads favored by needleworkers are the 11/0 and the 15/0 beads.  Really, all you need to know is that the 11/0 are the larger sized seed beads.  If you want delicas, the beads that are 11/0 are smaller than seed beads of that size.  You can buy 10/0 delicas which are about the same size as the 11/0 seed beads.
Here is an example of seed beads, the top row is 11/0 Mill Hill, the next row is 11/0 Miyuki and the bottom row is 15/0 Miyuki.
Comparison of Seed Beads

As you can see from the top row of beads (Mill Hill), the size of the beads is not completely uniform.  The second row of beads (Miyuki Rocaille) are much more uniform for the same 11/0 size.  The bottom row shows you the difference between the 11/0 size, which is the top two rows and the 15/0 size which is the bottom row.
This picture is a comparison of delica beeds to seed beads.  The top two rows of beads are 11/0 delicas.  Notice the finish, one is matte, the other is actually transparent with red on the inside.

Comparison of Delicas and Seed Beads

The bottom row is seed beads, 11/0 size.  Notice the shape and size are different than the delicas, but they are all 11/0 size.

A note on delicas.  There is some question as to the durability of some of their bead colors.  Painted or dyed beads can have the finish wear off.  Galvanized delica beads, or metallic delica beads, should really be avoided as the finish will tarnish.  Other issues have been that pink, purple and red beads may fade.  If in doubt, ask the store owner if the colors are permanent.  I suggest the owner because the owner should know more than just a store clerk.  Don’t get me started on store owners that don’t even know their own merchandise.
Liz wrote in the comments for the last blog that you may want to use colored thread with transparent beads because it will change the color of the bead.  She is certainly correct and here is an example of transparent seed beads with a red colored thread.

Transparent Beads

This is a really interesting effect, so don’t bypass using a thread of a different color than the underlying canvas color.
Tubular beads may also be used on canvas.  This is also a transparent example of a bead.

Tubular Beads

A beading friend of mine said that the edges of tubular beads are rougher than the edges of seed beads, and will cut through the thread.  She suggested that placing two small seed beads (the ones above are 15/0) prevents the thread from rubbing against the edge of the tubular bead.  In this picture I just ran a thread through the beads, but I’d want to make sure that those seed beads on the ends laid uniformly before using this method.
There are many other types of seed beads, some that are triangular, some square, some with different shaped holes - again, go to a bead store and explore.  It's a lot of fun!

There are many other types of beads you may use on needlework besides glass seed beads.  There are crystal beads, stone beads, metal beads, shell beads, and wood beads, and more.  For crystal beads use beading wire when sewing them on your needlework.  The 8 lb weight of Fireline is good for this use.  The inside of a crystal is rough and will cut through every other type of thread, but Fireline has a wire core, which will withstand the sharp edges of the crystal.  I would also use the beading wire on stone beads.  When in doubt, you can test how rough the bead is on the thread by placing the bead on a piece of thread and moving it back and forth a little.  Any wear on the thread should indicate caution.
Now for needles.  If you are like me you hate having to thread a beading needle with that teeny tiny eye.  I also don’t like sharp beading needles.  If I have to use a beading needle I use the John James size 10 blunt beading needle.  It is not that hard to thread.  However, you may not even need to use a beading needle.  This is joyous news to many.  The John James size 26 tapestry needle will go through TOHO and Miyuki size 11/0 seed beads and 11/0 delica beads.  The John James size 28 Cross Stitch needle (which is just a tapestry needle, I don’t know why the different name) will go through most 15/0  TOHO and Miyuki seed beads and through all 11/0 TOHO and Miyuki seed beads.  Your chances of either of these needles working with Mill Hill seed beads I can’t answer.
The reason that you will like the tapestry needles much better than beading needles is the size of the needle’s eye.  Those beading needles have the tiniest eyes, but tapestry needles have elongated eyes.  The John James tapestry needles seem to have a thinner eye than other tapestry needles, which allows them to pass through the beads.  You may find other manufacturer’s tapestry needles work as well, but I know that these needles definitely do work.  It’s all I use.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beads on Canvas - Part 1

When you place your threads on the canvas you are very careful that they lie nicely for the best effect - whether it is light play on the laid threads or the threads lying neatly side by side, or whatever the look for which you are striving.  However, many people put a bead on canvas without realizing that they should be just as careful so that all the beads look the same - they all lie the same way, there is no wiggling or wobbling, etc.  Unless you are looking for a completely random effect, you want to attach the beads to the canvas in one of the following three ways.

The thread passes through the hole in the bead twice for the first two bead attachments.  (The dotted line represents the thread inside the bead.)  The third bead attachment uses 2 strands of thread and the first stitch passes through the bead, while for the second stitch the thread is separated and the bead is placed in the middle of the two threads.  When you pull the thread taught it will keep the bead in place.
What happens when the bead is to be placed over the intersection of two canvas threads?  This type of attachment is shown below and causes the most problem for people because the hard bead is placed on a raised canvas thread.   The cross stitch will prevent the bead from wiggling.

Now for a discussion of threads.   What type of thread should you use?  Seed beads are made by cutting a long, thin glass tube or cane into short pieces.  This means that the edges of the bead may be sharp, not to your fingers, but to a piece of thread that is going through the middle of the bead.  
Cotton floss is not strong enough for attaching beads to canvas.  I suggest using either the nylon beading threads (C-Lon, Nymo or Silamide) which come in a range of colors, or use polyester sewing thread, which comes in even a wider range of colors.  I personally use the sewing thread for any piece that is a picture.  If I am going to wear the piece, then I use the nylon beading thread.  I think the nylon beading threads are a little too thick for most of my purposes on canvas.  You may or may not agree with that, which is fine.  Just don’t use cotton floss.  I also have used Invisible Thread, which I will get to in another blog posting.
As for waxes and conditioners (like Thread Heaven):  I don’t use any.  I know that people say that they make the beading thread stronger.  My understanding of wax is that it coats the thread to protect it from fraying and resistant to unintentional knotting, and in some cases, strengthens it.  Thread Heaven reduces knotting and fraying.  I just don’t use either.  I hate having to pick dried wax out of my needlework, I don’t have problems with thread knotting if I am careful when I stitch and if the thread starts to fray, I begin a new piece.  When beading I place a couple of buttonhole knots on the back after every 5 beads or so, just in case the thread breaks after I am finished stitching the piece.  That way I will not lose many beads.  It works for me.  Do what you think is best for you.
Now, the most important part of thread: the color.  There are those who advocate the thread you use should match the color of the bead.  I am in the camp that believes the thread should match the color of the underlying material (canvas or the stitched thread, depending on where you attach the bead.)  Here is an example of what each type looks like when stitched on canvas:

The top row of beads is stitched with a thread similar in color to the bead, the bottom row of beads is stitched with a thread that is the same color as the canvas.  Which do you like better?  It depends if you want to see that thread or not.  I prefer not to see that thread.  Which do you prefer?
Notice that the second bead in each horizontal row is at an angle.  This is a nice variation for how the bead will sit on the canvas and comes from using an Upright Cross Stitch to attach the bead.
In the next blog I will discuss different types of beads, attaching scattered beads (i.e. where to hide the traveling thread), and different types of needles.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How the Thread Lies on the Back of the Canvas Affects How the Stitch Looks on the Front

Consider two different ways to stitch a vertical gobelin stitch.  The first way (Version 1) the thread wraps around the canvas threads on the back of the canvas and you always bring the needle up in the bottom hole.  The stitch diagram looks like this:

And the stitch looks like this:

18 ct canvas, 2 strands Impressions

Now, if you stitch the vertical gobelin stitch to use the least amount of thread possible, where the thread comes up in the hole next to where the thread went down into the canvas, the stitch will look different (Version 2).  Not only will it look different, it is harder to stitch it because the thread always twists when you bring it to the front of the canvas.  I had to fiddle with it much more to get the two strands to lie next to each other neatly.  The stitch diagram looks like this:

And the stitch looks like this:
18 ct canvas, 2 strands Impressions

The pull on the back actually causes these stitches to slant a little, like this diagram shows:

Which do you think looks nicer?
Not only does the first version look nicer, but the way the thread is lying in the holes will make it easier to stitch another stitch into the same hole.  In fact, you probably have heard somewhere that you should always come up in a clean hole (i.e. one in which no stitch is stitched, therefore, no thread.)  In general this is a good practice, but not always practical.  With the way the vertical gobelin has been stitched in Version 1 - if you bring a thread up in a hole already shared with this vertical gobelin stitch, you most likely will not have any trouble keeping the next stitch out of the thread of this vertical gobelin stitch.  The same can not be said for Version 2.
Have you ever stitched in the Version 1 way and have just a little more to go and you are running out of thread and so you switch to stitching the Version 2 way?  I must admit I have, and the results are different and not as satisfying.
The Version 2 way of stitching is typically seen in laid fillings or trame work, in which the long laid threads are placed vertically or horizontally.   In this type of work, the threads are typically placed wider apart and are much longer in length and the shortest path is sought between these long laid threads.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stitching with Perle Cotton

Do you think perle cotton is an easy thread with which to stitch?  There is no need to use a laying tool, so that makes it easier.  And there is no concern that the thread will knot up when you pull a strand from a cut skein.  Right?  And you don’t have to start and stop a lot because the thread is nice and long.  What could be easier?
I’d like to show you how perle cotton may not be as easy to work with as you think and give you some tips on how to use it.
Here is a picture of straight gobelin stitches on 18 count canvas with #5 perle cotton.  I am skipping a thread between stitches so that I can return and put in the stitches at the end of the thread on my return trip.  As most people do, I cut the skein of perle cotton in half at the knot and pulled one strand out and started stitching.

Now, as I get to the end of my thread, I am going to stitch in between those stitches from the beginning part of the thread.

I have marked with arrows the last stitches I made with the thread.  Do you see a difference?  I see that in the stitches at the end of the thread, which is the part of the thread that has rubbed against the canvas and other stitches, the thread is fuzzy.  If the thread is fuzzy it will not reflect the light the same way as the non-fuzzy thread.  It will look like it has less sheen to it.
Sometimes perle cotton untwists, this can happen with the looser twisted size 3 perle cotton.  This untwisting will also affect how the light reflects off of the thread.
So what should you do?  Give up on perle cotton?  No!  Just take precautions.
Here are some suggestions:
1.  After you cut the skein of perle cotton in half, cut it in half again.
If you cut the skein in half and pull out a strand to stitch with, do you know how long that strand is?  It is 1 yard in length.  That is a long piece of any type of thread to stitch with, especially if you are going into and out of the canvas holes a lot.  So, cut that thread in half.  This means that you will need to start and stop a lot more, which many people want to avoid, but consider that you will produce a nicer looking stitched area.
Some people may say that you can compensate for the twist of perle cotton loosening by giving it a twist as you stitch.  I have never been able to match the original twist of the skein to my satisfaction with this method.  If you are able to do that, great, but not everyone will be successful.
2.  Use a larger needle.
Use a size 20 or 22 tapestry needle for #5 perle cotton, for #3 try size 18 or 20.  The purpose of the needle is to open the hole in the canvas enough so that the thread will slip through while reducing any wear on the thread from rubbing against the side of the canvas threads.  If you tend to use smaller needles with thicker threads you will need to stitch with very short lengths because canvas is rough on threads.  Too large of a needle will push the canvas threads apart farther than the thread requires, it creates too large of a hole.  If you feel that you are tugging awfully hard to get the needle through the canvas at the eye (where the thread is doubled over) then use a larger needle.
(The number for the size of the needle, i.e. 20 or 22, gets larger for smaller needles.  So a size 28 is a very small needle, while a 16 is getting rather large.)
This same advice goes for using Watercolours.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Open Stitch Pattern Difficulties - Part 3

Step 3 of the Canterbury Cathedral Aisle Vault Pattern
The last set of stitches are again stitched in the backstitch/running stitch style.
Here is Step 3 of the pattern:

Notice that the last stitch on the vertical descent goes down in the same hole that the first stitch on vertical ascent takes place.  I have it diagrammed this way so that you will always be crossing behind the  stitches from Step 2 (between numbers 8 and 9 and between letters h and i), otherwise you will see the thread travel on the back.  If you find that you need to turn from downward travel to upward travel at the same place on the canvas, take a tacking stitch outside of the motif (if it will be covered by other stitches) or take a tacking stitch on the back through a previously stitched thread.  This will allow you to re-enter a hole that you just placed your last stitch in.
To travel from one vertical channel of cross motifs to another you may do one of two things: bring your thread outside of the pattern area or travel on the back, behind stitches on the front, inside of the pattern area.  If the area around the pattern will be covered by another stitch, then you can hide the travel threads there.  Use two pin stitches to maintain the tension after stitching one section and before stitching another section.  This technique was shown in the previous blog.