2015 ANG Stitch of the Month -- December
by Rozelle Hirschfelt
Stitching the base and final assembly
- The base for the water lily has a lily pad floating on the water. If you looked at all those images from an internet search for water lily pictures, you will have noticed that the water usually looks black, or at least very dark, and shiny. For the water, I chose Fyre Werks Soft Sheen FT11 (black) from Rainbow Gallery. The stitch, called 'Swirl' in The Needlepoint Book by Jo Ippolito Christensen (referenced in the bibliography), works up quickly and gives motion to the water. This stitch is a thread hog! Use very long lengths of thread (up to 36") to avoid lots of tails to bury. Do not stitch the small circle area. This will be covered by the water lily.
- For the lily pad, I wanted some variation in color but without a discernible stripe effect that frequently happens with over-dyed threads. I blended one strand of ThreadWorx 11621 with 2 strands of DMC 470 stranded cotton floss. The stitch is the Diagonal Romanian cross stitch shown below, worked in diagonal rows with 2 journeys. Notice that the portion of the lily pad to the left of the cleft is worked in the mirror image of the right side. Complete the lily pad with a single row of stem stitch around the outside curves but not in the cleft.
Right side of cleft
Left side of cleft
- Cut out and curl the petals
- With sharp small scissors (but not your very best embroidery scissors), take a deep breath and carefully cut out the petal layers. Make every effort to cut only canvas, not the outline stitches. Make a small puddle of glue, one that will dry clear. I used Aleene's gel tacky glue. Dip a finger in the glue and gently rub the glue on the cut edge of each petal. Go as far toward the center as is doable without distorting the petals. I put the glue on 4 petals of one layer, all in a row, and set it aside. You want only a modicum of glue - no blobs, just enough to seal the cut ends of the canvas. Using a finger to rub the edges helps control the amount of glue. DO NOT try to put the glue on directly from the bottle. The risk for getting too much and having it smear over the stitching is too great. It is far better to re-dip your finger in the glue to get more than to have too much. Now glue 4 petals of the 2nd layer. Once the glue on the first layer is dry enough that it can be handled, glue the last 4 petals of that layer. Repeat for the last 4 petals of the 2nd layer. Let dry well.
- To curl the petals, use a steam iron or steamer. Make sure you have a good supply of water handy. If your iron or steamer is a “spitter,” you will want to steam through a pressing cloth. Use the burst of steam button to get maximum steam through to the canvas. I found it easiest to work on two petals at a time. Steam the two petals well and then use your fingers to gently roll the tip inward in a loose roll. I could hold the first while rolling the 2nd. (Doing a third while holding 2 was more difficult. So do 2 at a time. It might take a bit longer but is less frustrating.) Hold these 2 petals for a few minutes while they cool. Hum a few bars of a favorite song or recite the alphabet (it works for kids brushing their teeth ;) Then rotate the petal layer and do the 2 petals opposite. Repeat for the other layer. Now go back to the first layer and do the four remaining petals in the same manner and repeat for the other layer. On my first try, the petals were too curled. So I steamed the entire layer again without rolling the petals and nudged the petals to be more open until I liked them. They will not all curl the same. Neither are the ones on an actual water lily. It is quite tempting to keep playing with them. I am still doing that and it doesn't really make any discernible difference. It's just hard to not touch and adjust, they're like a magnet for my fingers.
- Assembly - box top
- Cut a piece of mat board 1/8” smaller than the opening in your box. Place a single layer of felt over the mat board, trimming to fit without any excess beyond the edges. I used a roll-on scrapbooking adhesive to secure the felt in a few places. Lace the base canvas onto the mat board using a strong thread. I used Coats Button and Carpet Thread. The water lily will be sewn onto the base. To do this, locate the center of the unstitched circle. Make 5 holes through the mat board using either the chenille needle or an awl in the pattern shown below. These holes should form a square 8 threads wide with the 5th hole in the center. Anchor the yellow floss in the canvas on the back of the base assembly. Put a long pin through the center of the petal layers (top layer first) and then through the center hole in the mat board. Holding the pin snug, rotate the petal layers so that the petals are staggered as in the photo. Holding the petal layers in place, bring the needle threaded with the yellow floss up through one of the corner holes. Push the drizzle stitches aside and then take the needle to the back, stitching over at least one but preferably two tent stitches and going through the same hole in the mat board. Repeat this step for the other three corner holes. End off the yellow floss on the back of the base assembly and remove the pin.
View of back of laced base canvas
Pattern for mounting holes
- Alternate finishing without a box
- Before attaching the water lily to the base, cut a piece of felt about 1/8” smaller than the base on all edges and cut the Ultrasuede the same size as the base. Then attach the water lily to the mat board base following the same instructions as for the box. After attaching the water lily to the base, place the felt and the Ultrasuede on the bottom and attach with small stitches as shown in the photo. Leave a small opening for the cord ends to be inserted. This can be at the center of an edge, preferably the edge opposite the side you designate as the front. Alternately, you can make the join at a corner.
- Make the twisted cord. One skein of cotton floss will make approximately 32” of twisted cord (enough for either the 5” or 7” size base) that is produced by twisting 4 strands as it comes from the skein. Here's how I do it. You might want to read this part through once or twice before beginning. Your hands will be too busy with the cord to keep referring back to these directions: Pull out the entire skein of thread and bring the ends together. I find that this step is good incentive to vacuum the carpet as I spread the thread out to avoid knots ;). Put a large corsage or hat pin into an inconspicuous place on an upholstered piece of furniture. I use the top of the back of a chair at a seam. Hold the two cut ends of the thread together in one hand. Place the two strands around the pin and bring the loop end even with the cut ends. At this point you should be standing 5-6 feet from the pinned end. Stroke the threads a few times with tension to even out the tension among the strands. This step will make a smoother cord. Tie the ends together as near the ends as possible. Use a cord winder or a pencil to twist the thread. If you twist clockwise as you are looking at the pin, you will produce a Z-twist thread that is easiest for a right handed person to attach to the finished piece. If you are left handed, you will want to produce an S-twist cord by twisting the thread counter-clockwise. I'm always asked how tight to twist the cord. Twist it very tightly, until you see that it starts to get 'wiggles' along the length, like in the photo here, but before it starts to twist over itself. (This may not be a color you will want for your finished piece.)
Twisted cord with 'wiggles' before doubling on itself
Be sure to keep the thread taut all through this step and the next ones. Holding the thread taut with one hand, use the other hand to keep the thread taut as you move the end you are holding to the pin. Still keeping the thread taut and the ends together (you can remove the pinned end, pin and all, if you think you can keep them together. The hand that you used to keep the threads taut should be holding the thread at the loop formed when you brought the ends together. Little by little, pinch the cord and work the fingers of this hand toward the pin end, like an inch worm, releasing the thread as you go so that it twists around itself. If you let go of too much too soon you will have a jumbled mess. Not to worry. If that happens, you can fix it. When your 'taut maintaining' hand is free, wrap a piece of transparent tape around the ends. If you were successful in releasing the thread gradually, you now have a completed twisted cord. If it got away from you, just tightly hold the cord at the point where the jumble starts, insert a finger between the two parts of the cord and work your way to the end. You can go either direction on the cord, so go toward the closest end. And there you have it. To attach the cord to the edge of the base, insert pins through the cord into the base between the canvas and the Ultrasuede. The sharp ends of the pins should be inside so that you won't be sticking yourself with them as you sew the cord in place. Where the two ends meet, overlap the cord so that the twist looks continuous, tucking the ends in between the canvas and the Ultrasuede. Sew the remaining opening closed and then attach the cord. Here's how I do it: using a sharp needle, insert the needle into the cord perpendicular to the edge and bring it out, catching a bit of the Ultrasuede. The needle should go down in a valley so that the sewing thread will drop down between the twists of the cord. Make a stitch in every valley. See the photo below. For these photos I used white cording and black thread for contrast.
Sewing cording to backing
Thank you for stitching Water Lily. I hope you enjoyed learning about reversible stitching and adding dimension to your needlepoint. Display your lily with pride. I hope you smile every time you see it.