Variations of a Theme
Create Your Own Stitch Variations by Gayle Bicknell
Originally published in Needle Pointers, Volume XII, Number 1, Spring 1984
Gayle Bicknell of Greensboro, North Carolina is a needlework teacher, designer and shop owner. She holds Certification from the Valentine Museum on Levels I, Il in Canvaswork and in honors. For the past two years, Gayle has written the Fiber Footnotes column for Needle Pointers. Her new column, "Variations of a Theme," will give instructions and illustrations to help you create your own stitch variations.
Playing It Straight
Are you ready for some fun? With paper and pencil in hand, and graph paper in front of you, take just a few minutes to analyze any of the many "base stitch units" (chart 1). Then begin the process of stitch variation by increasing (or decreasing) the length of a long stitch within a unit (chart 2). Next, increase the number of stitches within a unit (chart 3).
|Chart 1||Chart 2||Chart 3|
Now try combining the above two suggestions (chart 4). Add a border of stitches around a completed unit (chart 5). And off you go on a magical journey in search of almost endless stitch variations!
|Chart 4||Chart 5|
Of all canvaswork stitches, the family of straight stitches probably offers more opportunity for exciting stitch variations than all others.
Let's start at the very beginning. Florentine (bargello) patterns are nothing more than a variation of the number of stitches and the vertical drop within a row of satin stitches. Once the pattern is established, it is then repeated across an entire row of stitching and, in some cases, throughout the entire area of work.
In Florentine work the variations are literally endless and so very easy to create. If you're uninspired simply close your eyes and draw an undulating line on the graph paper. You've created a design line! -- now graph it!
Overall Florentine patterns usually demand the use of several values of one color or several different colors to provide eye-pleasing interest. However, if they are to be used as a background or a filling stitch, the use of just one color or value can be most effective.
When other members of the straight family are explored, it is easy to see that repeat as well as diaper patterns can be created with little effort. Repeating the stitch unit in several values or colors is often all that is required.
Let's take a look at the Hungarian stitch. What can be done to vary it? Elongated diamonds? "Circles on a string"? Now add some colors or values. Ginghams, plaids, checks, stripes-all pop into existence! And it's so easy!!!
One very important facet that should be kept in mind when designing with straight stitches is the miter line. Since the miter line climbs a 45º angle on any evenweave ground material its use is significant in the creation of diagonal patterns. For instance, the stitches as graphed in the illustration form a true diagonal in all four directions (northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest). Not only is this a necessity in "Four-way Florentine" work, but it is of utmost importance in true diaper patterns.
Often diagonal patterns are so powerful and dynamic that the introduction of a second value or color is unnecessary and can sometimes become disruptive to the rhythm of the pattern.
Back to the Hungarian stitch. Let's take things a step further. Why not start with the unit as graphed? Let's encase it with diagonal units to form a large diamond-shaped unit.
This large unit can be repeated to form an excitingly striking background pattern-a pattern which while not requiring it, is not necessarily disrupted by the introduction of a second color or value.
Another bit of icing for the cake! Why not experiment with a change in the stitch direction? By so doing -- particularly with a thread that has light-refracting capabilities -- you are guaranteed a subtle change in color value that is always very pleasing to the eye.
Is there more that straight stitches can do for you? Sure --a lot!! How about shading? "Straight is great!" Encroaching and Split Gobelin stitches are high on the list of shading stitches! Try either stitch using four values of one color. Start with the lightest value and graduate the rows of stitching to the darkest value -- not bad! Why not take things a step further and mix the values in the needle?
Since we all know that Mother Nature is not at her best in rigid rows, take yet another step toward reality by varying the lengths of the split or encroaching stitches as you work across each row. It's super! It's fascinating fun-and it's foolproof