Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review - Chinese Lattice Designs CD-ROM & Book by Dover Publications, Inc.

Chinese Lattice Designs CD-ROM & Book by Dover Publications, Inc.
Softcover 2008.  $16.95

Chinese Lattice Designs is a compilation of 191 royalty-free images of centuries old Chinese window grids.  While some patterns have a distinct oriental feel to them, others do not.  Many of these patterns may be seen today in stained glass windows, architectural ornamentation, mosaic tiles and in textiles of all kinds.  The needleworker may look to these intricate and harmonious patterns to provide inspiration for embroidery.

In 1909, Daniel Sheets Dye traveled to China in order to establish a medical school.  In his spare time, Dye traveled throughout western China and recorded the geometric shapes he saw in the windows of Chinese homes, temples and businesses.  Dye spent more than two decades collecting over 1000 designs from windows constructed between 1000 BC and 1900 AD.  These windows, made from a decorative wooden lattice with a sheet of rice paper glued to the inside, let in light, but not the sights - there were no glass windows.  Carpenters created these lattice windows from folk designs passed down through generations, and as such they were not considered art.  However, these windows testified to a Chinese craft design which excelled in creating a balanced geometric space.  

Dye’s ability to see the beauty in the abstract shapes in Chinese windows and his passion to record the designs provides us today with a wealth of inspiration as needleworkers.  Many of the designs may be directly translated into a stitch pattern.  The lines may represent vertical or horizontal stitches, as well as diagonal stitches.  Other patterns may provide a whole design area that needs to be filled with stitches.  From simple to complex, the needleworker may use these lattice designs to create a stitch pattern or a whole design with an oriental style. 

Dover Publications has a wealth of books with patterns and designs in many different styles.  Needleworkers may peruse their large list of books as a kick start to creativity.  It is interesting to note that similar patterns are viewed as folk designs in many different cultures, perhaps springing up independent of each other.  For instance, the interlace pattern found in old Celtic artwork is similar to the Chinese interlace designs.  Did one culture influence the other, or were they created without interaction between the two peoples?  These answers may never be known, but is an interesting conundrum to consider.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stitch Compensation Cautions

This post is a small departure from the discussion of compensation of specific stitches and is more of a caution than anything else.

Here is the background:
I’m trying to design a needlepoint piece using Frank Lloyd Wright patterns found in stained glass windows - for ANG’s seminar in Chicago in 2014.  Here is one of the patterns:

Looking at Compensation of Cross Stitch Variation
The red arrow points to the first Cross Stitch Variation, the blue arrow points to where a compensated version of this stitch needs to be placed.  

Here is the stitch diagram:

Cross Stitch Variation

The compensated stitch would only be two threads wide, not the six threads that make up the whole stitch.  I tried every trick I knew to determine where to place the threads and it would not work.  UGH!!!

So what did I do?  I put this piece aside for now.  It will have to be rethought and redesigned and will not make the Chicago seminar.  

Compensation can be very difficult and may not always work out - which is my caution for today.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Herringbone Stitch Compensation

For this blog posting I am going to concentrate on the Herringbone Stitch.  There are many variations of this stitch, depending on the slant of the stitch, the width and the height of the stitch, as well as the numbers of threads in the separation of each “v” of the stitch.  Compensation must take into account all of these variations, there is not one way to do it for every variation of the stitch.

Let’s look at the Herringbone Stitch that is two threads high and two threads wide:

Herringbone Stitch - 2 wide x 2 high

The red lines show the compensating stitches.  Since this stitch follows the 45 degree diagonal of the square grid, the compensation is straight forward and no guessing is needed.

Here is a stitched sample:

Herringbone Stitch - 2 wide x 2 high

Looking at the back of the canvas:

Herringbone Stitch - back of canvas

There is not much thread on the back of the canvas to weave in ending threads.  In fact the stitches on the back of the canvas are over one thread. 

Let’s look at two difficulty issues that the Herringbone Stitch may cause:
  1. It is hard to end threads on the back of the canvas.
  2. The step back stitch (as in going from 2 to 3), the thread goes back one canvas thread and many times it can be pulled under the thread that is supposed to separate where the needle went into the canvas (at point 2) and where it is brought out of the canvas (at point 3.)

For Point 1:
The first piece of advice that I can give about weaving in ending threads is :  get a sharp needle - a crewel needle or an embroidery sharp needle is better than a sewing needle, but that will work too.  The embroidery sharp needle is the easiest to use because the eye of the needle is as large as a tapestry needle.

Let’s look at a stitched Herringbone Stitch sample:

Herringbone Stitch ending threads showing through to front of canvas

The arrows are pointing to ending threads showing through to the front of the canvas.  Let’s look at the back:

Red arrow - ending threads diagonally on the back of canvas
Blue arrow - ending threads horizontally on the back of the canvas

This is the back of the sample and you will notice that you do not see the ending threads on the left side of the stitching where the ending threads are woven into the stitches on the back (and I had to use a sharp needle because there is not much thread on the back of the canvas.)  Notice that ending the threads horizontally means that the ending threads show through to the front.  It is much better to end the threads on a diagonal on the back, meaning you have to weave through a top stitch, then a bottom stitch, then a top stitch, etc.

Other options for ending threads - weave them into stitches next to the Herringbone Stitches.  This is an option, but unless I absolutely have to (like for darning stitches) I always try to end threads behind the stitches that the thread was used to stitch them.  Why?

First, I don’t have to worry about thread shadows showing through stitches with lighter colored threads.  Second, if I have to rip out stitches, I don’t want to disturb stitches in surrounding areas - this just makes it easier for me.  If you’ve ever ripped out stitches and had all these ending threads in them from other areas you’ll know that this can really be a problem.  Maintaining stitch tension on those stitches from surrounding areas is nigh impossible.

Now for Point 2:
Having threads slide under the intersection of the canvas thread is a pain.  Let’s look at the canvas:

Canvas thread on top is vertical

When the top thread is vertical, any stitch over one horizontal canvas thread (as in the Herringbone example above) may slip under that vertical canvas thread.  This usually happens when the area you are stitching in has been disturbed (as in ripping out stitches and stitching over the area again.)  Canvas has some starch in it and that makes the canvas threads “stitck” a bit to each other when you first stitch on the canvas.  However, if you break this bond, then threads can easily slip around, as well as disforming the canvas threads with tight stitching tension.

This is a problem with a linen ground fabric also.  People who work on linen have to take more care in their stitching tension than canvas stitchers.  So watch your tension.

Try not to start a horizontal run of Herringbone Stitch that has an over one canvas thread stitch across the back of the canvas with a vertical stitch on the top.

If you are stitching Herringbone vertically, the opposite is true, don’t have the top canvas thread be a horizontal thread if you have an over one stitch on the back of the canvas.

Canvas thread on top is horizontal

Now let’s look at a variation of the Herringbone Stitch that is not square.  

Herringbone Stitch - 3 high x 4 wide

The important issue with respect to any stitch that is not a a true diagonal - the compensated stitches must have a slant as close to the slant of the original stitches.  I drew the compensating stitches in the diagram in red using the same angle as the original stitches to find where they would enter the canvas.  Let’s look at a stitched sample to determine if the slant is correct.

Herringbone Stitch - 4 wide x 3 high - Arrows pointing to compensated stitches

The compensated stitches are executed with white thread so that they stand out.  I will look at the slant of these stitches to determine if they are correct.  With this sample, I am happy with the slant - that is the only way to know if a compensated stitch will work - look at the slant of the stitch and compare it to a previous whole stitch.