Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fabric & Floss

These last few days I have done some editing of the Heart Note Alley chart, changing a few bands that weren't working for me. When I first put them together it was more to get an overall feel for the piece and now as I'm getting ready to put floss to fabric it is time to finalize the design. Though there will doubtless be some changes as I stitch the particular bands, I think I can safely say that the design is as final as it can be at this point in the process. And this is what it looks like.

I also spent a fair amount of time looking at silk floss considering possible colors. In our very rural area there are no brick & mortar shops I can go to to actually see floss so I ordered some online, hoping that the actual colors were close to what my monitor was showing. Thankfully, most were and after trying many combinations of possibilities, getting rid of the 'disturbers', I've decided the color palette.

For fabric I'm using Zweigart's 18 count Aida cloth in ivory. I've tried many types of fabric over the years and I come back to such an evenweave because I simply enjoy how it feels, looks and stitches. I have friends who do gorgeous work on linen and this design will hopefully work well on whatever type and count you might prefer yourself.

The floss I'm using is silk. Since first trying silk floss I haven't used anything else, again it is just what works for me. This time I'm using silk floss from both Vikki Clayton's Hand-Dyed Fibers collection and some from Carrie's Creation Threads

The palette will be three shades of green, three of mauve and two purples.
From Carrie's Creation - Wild Orchid (dark mauve), Violet (medium mauve) and Garden Green (dark green)
From Clayton's HDF - Wrasse #3315 (medium green), Wrasse #3313 (light green), Ultra Violet #2121 (light mauve), Sue-Purple #6115 (dark purple) and Sue-Purple #6109 (medium purple)

I began doing some sample stitches to see which color I want to use for the border, hopefully you can get an idea of what they look like in the photo below. The second group with the medium green won and will be the border.

As soon as I receive full skeins of the selected colors I'm more than ready to get started!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Those Tweener Bands

While the larger images are usually your inspiration and set the theme of the piece, it is those in between bands that can add a lot of interest to a design.

In designing Northern Nights I began to see that the narrower bands reminded me of something else from my quilting days, a favorite fabric, ticking! Not just the simple ticking of pillows and mattress coverings, but decorative fabrics that were made up of rows of varying types of stripes, many resembling ribbons.

Here is a lap quilt I made years ago and you'll see the block of fabric that displays this ribbon quality.

If you take a close then distant view of different patterns in your designing palette you'll find quite a few that can be cut from a larger whole and then repeated to form something that can give you that ticking/ribbon effect. You can add tumbling flowers or geometric shapes that can bring that sense of movement to your design.

Placed between your larger bands for division and symmetry, those 'tweeners' can really affect the overall design.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Balance, Proportion, Rhythm, and Scale

Heart Note Alley began with an idea of the colors and the feeling I wanted to create in a band sampler. The next step was accomplished when I found the floral image that captured the sense of flow and movement that I was seeking.

Now it's time to begin gathering and crafting the images and lines that will help to balance the design and give it proportion and rhythm.

Years ago I took a beginners quilting class. I never made many quilts, due to it involving one of my mortal enemies - a sewing machine - but I did learn some important principles. Beginning with the importance of choosing the right fabrics for your design. Quilting inspiration can also begin with color but it is most important that the choice of colors contain contrast. Varying intensity of shades, a light, medium and dark, not necessarily of the same color, is what will give the design interest.

The other important ingredient is scale, everything can't be the same size. A really great quilt will have patterns of varying sizes. These will all relate to each other - shades & patterns, but they need to balance and compliment, not war with each other.

I have a friend who I believe is truly the most talented quilter in the world! She wins all of the prizes at the county fair and anyone who has seen her quilts are in awe of her abilities. What makes her quilts so remarkable is not only the obviously excellent stitching, but it is the sense of motion that she creates. They are positively dynamic! She achieves this by her exceptional ability to combine the right colors and the right scale of the fabric and then place them in ways that make your eye move from one part of the design to another and back again. Their rhythm is something to behold.

You are seeing Heart Note Alley midway through its evolution, it has already gone through multiple revisions as I placed the bands together, and may still change before it is completed. After each adjustment I hit the image reduction button so I can see the whole piece from a distance and that is what helps me know if the scale is working for me.

The image to the left shows one of the main bands in Heart Note Alley containing the iris, initials and date as I first put it together. However, as the design grew this band felt out of proportion and so I've changed the band increasing the number of iris and changing the size and placement of the date and initials. It now works for me and I hope you can see below how such a change improved the balance of the design.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Adding Images to Palette

I'm using Needleprint's Infinity design software and there are some charts that come with the program and some you can purchase and add to it. However, there is a way to create new images to add to your file palette by very simply 'cross-stitching' it onto a chart.

For example, the floral images I mentioned in the last post. I saved their images in jpeg files in My Pictures. I then edited them in the windows image edit function, encircling the part of the image I wanted as my basic piece. I then used edit to cut the rest away and printed that piece.

Using that print I called up a new chart in the software and with the painting feature I went back and forth from the printed image to the chart making my 'stitches' using my cursor. When it was complete as you see it on the left I saved it to my software's file. From that point you can repeat it on the chart by simply copying and pasting. As I did with the image to the right.

You can then encircle that right image, flip it vertically and drag it to the left to join with the first piece to make a swag continuing as many as you wish.

After doing this with the two 'anchor' images I wanted for the design, it was time to think about layout, and what I wanted to surround these with.

This brings me to the next post and what I believe is the most crucial part of design, scale.


At this point I know I want to do a design in shades of three colors - green, mauve & purple, that reflects more of a spring floral feeling. How do I find images that will express that?

First, I look at the downloads from Needleprint of the Beatrix Potter, the Ackworth School and some older European Borders. I found in Northern Nights that taking a piece here and there and then recombining them often gave me just what I was seeking. And when I've exhausted those, I turn to other sources.

Old crochet or filet patterns have a wide array of types of images that translate perfectly to cross stitch and there are some great ones you can find in old book stores or on ebay.

There are also some wonderful online sources for antique patterns. Two everyone should visit are - Antique Cross Stitch and Pattern Maker Charts

At the Antique Cross Stitch site I came across the two floral images that gave me that next step in inspiration, the shapes and scale, and I knew I had the pieces to begin the actual design.

The software does not allow me to simply import this image so it meant having to 'draw' or cross stitch onto a blank chart a portion of each of the florals then I used the software to extend the piece into a band length. We'll take a look at that in the next post.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Heart Note Alley

As I was designing and stitching Northern Nights another shape kept crowding my brain. This time it took the shape of another passion of mine, fragrance! Scent is a sense that is so immediate, going right to our brain affecting us like color does almost before we can think about it.

If you aren't familiar with the world of scent, fragrances are usually built in a pyramid and the notes are designated as top notes - the ones you smell first, the lightest and shortest in duration. The mid or 'heart' notes are those in the middle and are what the scent is most often known for. The bottom or 'base notes' are the foundation that holds up the fragrance, gives it it's drydown scent and is what helps to classify the scent as an oriental, chypre, gourmand, woods, etc.

The heart then is very often floral and yet you also have to have structure to support those notes, so I 'saw' a design that was both floral and geometric and flowing as if wafting out its aroma. So where does the 'alley' come from? From my favorite fragrance forum, Make Up Alley's fragrance board. I also like the feel in band samplers that you have of paths, so paths became an alley for this design.

That explains why it is called what it is and why it looks the way it does, at least I hope I explained it so you can see it somewhat as I do. Keep in mind that this chart is still in the designing process, I may move/change some bands and the colors are preliminary, those I know I'll move about as I actually begin stitching - which I hope to do soon, just waiting for some floss to arrive.

Next post - Finding/Creating Images

Sunday, December 19, 2010


What moves you?

If something moves you, it can inspire you. Now to capture that inspiration and turn it into a design, it doesn't have to be an exact representation, in fact it is often more interesting if it isn't.

With Northern Nights it was my love for winter and home and hearth that brought images to mind and while some of those actual things made their way into the design, cats, teapots, snow. It was also how those things feel that I wanted to express and I think color is one of the most powerful ways to accomplish that. I wanted the cold of the blues and the warmth of the golds to be felt before the parts of the design would be recognized.

Color is so incredibly powerful. I was reminded of this recently watching a dvd of one of the BEST examples I've ever seen of the use of color in a design. If you'd like to see what I mean, rent a copy of the Eugene Onegin opera filmed at the Metropolitan Opera, starring Renee Fleming. The set designer used a very minimalist style, but the Colors are astounding! They express the time, the place, the emotion of every scene. The use of the vibrant autumn golds, the purples and blacks, the green and browns of background and costumes are all a key part of what makes this one of the most highly recommended operas on dvd. Those colors pierce you and move you directly into the story and the glorious music.

And it is color that led me to the next design. After Northern Nights, I wanted to try creating something that brought spring to mind. We live where lilacs grow abundantly and I thought of shades of green, mauve and purple. How could that then be expressed in a design?

Next post - Heart Note Alley

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why Band Samplers?

Why band samplers? Simple answer, Wachet Auf, a Long Dog sampler I fell in love with at first sight! I love it's flow, the William Morris type art nouveau feel of some of the bands, the combination of geometrics and florals are just so appealing. I also love the fact that bands like motifs give you smaller areas to accomplish at a time. One thinks, I'll just keep working and be done with that motif, that band, then I can stop. Suddenly a large piece is done!

After completing the sampler I happily jumped on the internet looking for something similar. Nada, zip, nuttin similar.

What to do? I HAD to do another one.

Do I have to make one myself??? Evidently.

Off, tremulously, to find some cross stitch software. I am NOT a computer savvy gal, by a longshot! Is there an idiot proof program with someone to personally answer questions? I mean a 'real' person.

After lots of reading about programs and finding my way to Jacqueline Holdsworth's Needleprint Infinity charts I took the plunge. In a very short time after buying the software I received downloads of the program and some of the extras I'd also purchased. Soon I was emailing Jacqueline - why did this happen? how do you do that? is this my fault? (it usually was) and I'd always get back a very kind cheery and most encouraging response as I got my feet beneath me and began finding my way around.

After a few days I had a design, a chart even. And although it was really primitive I'd learned the basics and it was time to take that 'thing' in my head and put it into being. That was in June and now in December Northern Nights is hanging on my wall and staring at me from this blog.

That was it! I was hooked, addicted, obsessed, hook line & sinker. Now here I am with a stitching blog! Me, of all people! Well all I can say is if I can do it anyone can. And I hope some will be inspired to give it a try.

Next post, inspirations and how to begin.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Invitation~

I've bumbled, stumbled and grumbled my way through creating my first cross stitch design and I can't believe how much I've loved doing it!

Now that the first design has been completed and received such kind reviews, I'm emboldened to think that some might like to go on a journey of design with me in bringing the second design to life. Fair Warning!! It is addictive!! There seems to be no off switch to the designing madness, and when you are lying awake at three in the morning with it going full steam it can be a bit of a nuisance.

So you are fairly warned and now invited to step aboard as we begin the creation of my second design, Heart Note Alley

First, you see a photo of a working draft. I found in creating Northern Nights that the designing wasn't done till the last stitch was made! So it is quite likely that by the time this next piece is done it may look significantly different than it does right now.

I'll bring you up to date in next post, how it got to this point.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Updates to Northern Nights Chart Keys & email for PDF Requests

Since there was a bit of confusion about how to receive the chart and it's differing keys, I thought I'd recap a few things here to clarify.

First, you can either download the chart at the Needleprint Infinity site or you can email me at and I can email pdf copies of the original chart in both color and symbol charts.

Jacqueline wisely changed some symbols when she posted the symbol chart, due to how some of the symbols print on some printers. If you use that one, the key is -

Downward pointing triangles - Light Gold
Right pointing triangles - Medium Gold
Left pointing shorter triangles (almost a bar shape) - Dark Blue
Left pointing triangles - Medium Blue
Triangles pointing upwards - Light Blue

If you request the pdf charts, with my original symbols, the key is - (I've also listed which hdf floss I used)

Symbols Key -

% - Light Gold, hdf Gold Rush #4229
4 - Dark Gold, hdf Gold Rush #4231
Solid Triangle - Light Blue, hdf Faded Denim #2229
X - Medium Blue, hdf Mermaid Blue #2317
Solid Square - Dark Blue, hdf Mermaid blue #2329

Hopefully, everyone will be able to obtain the chart they would prefer.

Chart Problem Solved!

Ok, it seems that Jacqueline changed the keys to the chart due to how certain symbols may print. That makes perfect sense, thank you, Jacqueline. Now I know to use particular symbols to make such things easier next time.

If you use the free download from the Needleprint site, THIS is the correct chart -

Symbol key for free download Northern Nights Chart

Downward pointing triangles - Light Gold
Right pointing triangles - Medium Gold
Left pointing shorter triangles (almost a bar shape) - Dark Blue
Left pointing triangles - Medium Blue
Triangles pointing upwards - Light Blue

Sorry for any confusion, the other key is for the printed or pdf charts I can send you.

Chart Download Not Working Correctly

Right after posting about the free download Stitchin Kat commented that her download's symbols weren't correct. I've sent an email to Jacqueline about the problem and hopefully we'll have the problem solved soon.

I can send you an email pdf attachment of the chart. Just email me at with a request.

If anyone would like me to send a printed chart, both colors and symbols, I'll be happy to do so for the cost of supplies and mailing - $6.00 in the US and $8.00 internationally. You can order the charts through paypal to email account, or you can send a request to me with your information and I'll send you my mailing address.

Sorry for any inconvenience I'm not only new at designing but blogging!

Free Download and Chart Key

To say I've been overwhelmed by everyone's encouraging comments would be a vast understatement! I'm very happy that others like the design and have felt what I was hoping to convey. It gives me great encouragement and I'm already working on the next designs.

Jacqueline Holdsworth has been so very kind as to post the chart along with the free download at

Northern Nights
Chart Information

Stitch Count - 131 x 305

Model done on 18 count Aida cloth with 1 strand of Vikki Clayton's Hand dyed silk floss

Symbols Key -

% - Light Gold, hdf Gold Rush #4229
4 - Dark Gold, hdf Gold Rush #4231
Solid Triangle - Light Blue, hdf Faded Denim #2229
X - Medium Blue, hdf Mermaid Blue #2317
Solid Square - Dark Blue, hdf Mermaid blue #2329

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Northern Nights - My First Design

I've just completed stitching my first cross stitch design!

Using Needleprint Infinity Chart software I've had great fun being able
to finally bring some of my cross stitch design ideas into reality.

I love band samplers and found that the selection in charts is somewhat small and began searching for some software to try with my limited computer skills. Needleprint's Infinity was perfect for me, especially with Jacqueline Holdsworth's patient and kind responses to my many requests for assistance while learning how to use the software. Thank you, Jacqueline!

Northern Nights was inspired by my love for cold winter nights here on our little place we named Gracewood in the northern Rocky Mountains. I wanted to capture the feeling of those frosty nights with shades of cold blues, with the warmth of hearth & candlelight through windows in shades of gold.

The howling dogs represent our two Anatolian shepherds, Zach & Jubal, who love to do just what you see on a snowy night. (Sadly, Zach died just before the piece was finished, making this an even more personally memorable design for my husband, Terry and I).

I used Victoria Clayton's wonderful silk floss on an 18 count ivory Aida. The chart count is 131 x 305 and the finished piece measures 7 3/4" x 18 1/8"

The frame has been ordered, but I couldn't wait to post a picture of it so here it is unframed. Wish my photo skills were better!