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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mystique, Lesson 3 Completed

I’m still having a lot of fun working through Carolyn Mitchell’s Mystique in the order she used when it was taught as a mystery project. Here’s how it stands now that lesson 3 is done.

This lesson consisted primarily of lots of smyrnas (in the four large outer blocks) and basketweave (in the outer rectangles and inside the smyrna circles). The only other areas included in this lesson were the borders of the East and West blocks, which were filled in.

This project really is fascinating. The finished piece, at first glance, appears to have identical North, South, East, and West blocks. In reality, though, they’re all unique. In this lesson, you can see the differences start to emerge. At this point, the sides opposite each other still match.

Stay tuned…

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Easy Way to Control Color With Multi-Color Threads

Overdyed. Variegated. Hand-dyed. Whatever you call them, these lovely threads sometimes intimidate stitchers, especially when they’re used in geometric designs when the balance of color may be important.

There are two schools of thought on using multi-color threads in designs such as these. I call them the “Don’t Cares” and the “Cares.” If you’re a “Don’t Care,” you’ll let the colors fall where they may. But if you do care, this can be a challenge.

I usually fall somewhere in the middle. On My Way, just a hint of overdyed thread was used. For this, I let the colors fall where they would, but I made sure just a hint of the yellow portion of my Watercolours thread showed up in each block. This color wasn’t used anywhere else in the piece, so it added a bit of interest, but it wasn’t glaring enough to completely distract the viewer.

On some projects, though, I work more in the “Cares” camp. I’ve found that when working a symmetric geometric design, controlling the color is easiest if you can find four lengths of the multi-color threads. Then you simply stitch each of the four sides starting with the same end of the thread.

As an example, I pulled a card of Rainbow Gallery’s Encore from my stash. To get a good run of color, I cut a fairly long length.



After separating the strands, I prepared each with a waste knot, trying to keep the tails roughly the same length on each strand.



Since my stitch of choice covered the back well, I decided to start the thread “in line” with my stitching, so I could just stitch over the tail, then cut off the knot when I reached it.

By repeating this on each side, trying to keep the waste knot the same distance from the start point, you can get consistent runs of color in your stitching.

You can see that I decided to try this on Mystique. Check out the overdyed silk (in this case, Caron Waterlilies) on this block.

This can be done with any multi-color thread, but sometimes you have to hunt to find four equivalent lengths of thread. I find that’s often too much work. Why bother, when some threads are perfect for doing this because they divide easily by four:

  • Bravo!, from Rainbow Gallery – 4 strands, pearl 5 weight
  • Encore!, from Rainbow Gallery – 4 strands, pearl 8 weight
  • Overture, from Rainbow Gallery – 4 strands, pearl 12 weight 
  • Waterlilies, from Caron – 12 strands, silk floss
  • Silk ’N Colors, from The Thread Gatherer – 12 strands, silk floss

Can you think of others? Please share!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mystique: Lesson 2 complete

When Carolyn Mitchell originally taught Mystique to stitchers in her local area, it was a mystery project. As a result, the instructions are broken up into several lessons.

The first lesson consisted of all of the borders, and we completed this as prework for the class.

Since the class, I’ve completed lesson 2.

This lesson included the long rectangles around the center (with a few blank spaces for future beadwork), the gold X’s in the corners of the large North, South, East, and West boxes, outlining the border regions of those same boxes, and filling this region in North and South.

As you can see, because this was a mystery sampler, the lessons skip around the project quite a bit. A few of my classmates have been trying to finish the North block, and have found that they have to diligently read through lots of instructions to locate all of the details of this block.

I decided I didn’t want to work that hard on this piece and would rather be stitching instead of hunting for “What stitch goes here?”. My stitching time is too limited right now to spend it that way, so I’m going with Carolyn’s recommendation that we just work through the project in the order listed in the instructions.

I’m curious. How would you do it? Would it drive you nuts to leave a block almost complete like the North block on my piece?