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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

Online retail needlework show
Sunday, November 1st, 2009


There’s an online RETAIL needlework show coming up very soon, November 5-8. You’ve seen our announcements in the past about the wholesale show, but this one is retail, meaning individual stitchers can shop this show. Here’s the announcement. Note: LNS = local needlework shop, ONS = online needlework shop.

We’re trying something new next week…we’re offering you a RETAIL show online! The show will open at 2pm EDT on November 5th and close at midnight on November 8th. The “location” for the show is:

We realize that many consumers don’t have an LNS or ONS that they regularly use, so sometimes, trying to order products shown during a wholesale show can be a bit awkward. Even if you have an LNS, perhaps the store owner can’t order for you due to minimums and shipping in the wholesale show.

Now, you’ll have the opportunity to place your orders directly with exhibitors! Better yet, since it’s a retail show, many shop owners are participating, too! If you don’t already have “your” LNS, it’s a great opportunity to find one. :D Plus, you never know what “goodies” other stores will be offering, so you can go on a virtual shopping spree.

We hope to make this a yearly event, but that’s UP TO YOU! If you like the idea of a retail show, let the exhibitors know, even if you don’t place an order with them this time. Send them feedback about the products they’re offering or let them know what you’d like to see next time.

So mark your calenders… Nov 5th-8th at

Scarlet Quince will be advertising in the show, although we’re not selling through the show (but as always you can shop through our website). We’re going to have drawings for doorprizes so be sure to visit!

J through R
Saturday, August 15th, 2009

I see I haven’t posted any of the redwork alphabet in over 8 months! Let’s get down to it.
J took 38 days (there was time out for the Hardanger cube in there. This was the first letter with red top-stitching, but it doesn’t amount to much. I don’t really care for J.

K took 20 days. All those little chicken scratches were very finicky to do, and it was hard finding good paths through. It’s also hard to anchor the floss under it. I had to try to start and finish at cross stitching. I like the effect though.

L took 16 days and I’m neutral about it. It’s OK.  

I’ve been taking notes on the pattern pages, and I’ve lost M so I don’t know how long it took.  I’m sure it was awhile, with such a big stitched area.  I am fairly fed up with the grapevine motif.  This is the last of it though. This is another letter that doesn’t match the picture on the chart cover.

N was a headache.  Unlike all the other letters, it is 100 stitches wide but only 98 high.  This REALLY doesn’t work for my grid of letters.  Fortunately I was able to extend the pattern and it is actually more symmetric than if I had stitched it as charted (that last double line at the bottom of the legs of the N was charted as a single line). 

O is just weird.  Those are EYES.  What’s up with that?  Is this some kind of French pun?  I think the word for “eyes” is “yeux” which I pronounce “yose” (rhymes with hose) but maybe the y is supposed to be silent, and it’s really “ohs” (but what are the chances they call the letter o “oh”?) On the other hand, what else would you call it? Did I mention I don’t know French? These each took about 20 days.

I was looking forward to P because I liked the design and because of the red top-stitching.  What was I thinking?  This was the hardest letter so far.  There are a lot of weird jumps like over 5 and up 2 and I had to keep drawing boxes on the chart to figure out what they were.  And I made so many mistakes!  One line I stitched over and over and it just wasn’t ending in the right place.  I counted and checked and couldn’t find any mistakes, ripped it out, and the same thing happened.  I think I stitched it 5 times before I got it right.  But it’s pretty, and so is Q.  P took 33 days, Q 25.  (I’m not getting as much time to stitch as I used to.  I’m only averaging about an hour a night at this point.)

R took almost a month, and no wonder.  I like it though — it reminds me of filet crochet (which I can’t do).  I’m currently about half-way through S which is another mostly solid letter.  There’s a little too much of that if you ask me, although in a way they’re easier than the ones with more blank spaces (less counting).

Sorry all these photos are so whopperjawed but as you know, photographing needlework is tricky!

More red letters
Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

No, not from my redwork alphabet … I wanted to do something special for the friend who kept the kittens most of the time that we were taming them and allowed me to show up at her house daily with little warning to visit them. I had this idea rattling around in my head — her name is 8 letters long, but only 6 letters are unique, and they can be arranged on a cube so that you can spell her name by turning the cube, so I decided to make her a name cube. (I know, weird. I should probably ease up on the word puzzles.)

I decided to do it in harganger. I have stitched hardanger before, following a pattern in a leafletI had, but I have never tried to design hardanger. It’s kind of mind-blowing because the basic units (Kloster blocks) are 5 stitches wide with each stitch covering 4 threads (which is 5 holes), and you arrange them corner to corner so you get squares. The pattern I worked before had each stitch laboriously drawn on graph paper showing exactly where each thread goes. I tried to do that but kept messing up. Finally I decided it would be better not to think too hard about it. I started by designing simple letters in a grid 6 x 5. Here’s my A.

The “pixels” in the letters are going to be the open places after cutting threads, so I moved them apart to allow for the stitching around them:
Then I sketched in my Kloster blocks around them. (Represented by the red lines — just pretend there are 5 instead of 2.)
The remaining spaces between the places that will be cut out have to be needleweaving, indicated by 8′s. If you haven’t done hardanger, trust me: they just do.
I decided I wanted a little more embellishment and was thinking of putting another row of kloster blocks all around, but decided that would look stupid and might not even work. Instead, I substituted a border of double wave stitch. This also made the letters bigger since so far the design is really pretty small.
I planned to do this on some of the Ariosa Fine that is left from my redwork alphabet, since it’s 22-count. (My hardanger booklets recommend 22-count fabric with #5 and #8 pearl cotton.) The thing I forgot, though, is that it has a rayon content, which means that the cut ends get kind of fuzzy. 100% cotton or linen would be much better. I played around a bit with colors for the stitching but there aren’t too many colors that come in both sizes of thread, so I settled on red for the Kloster blocks (#5) and needleweaving (#8), and gold (#5) for the outline. Once I had made that decision, I thought gold beads would be a nice addition. I ad libbed them but here is my basic approach to the bead placement (dots on the diagram).
Here is the finished letter A. I backed it with gold tissue lame. (I took a finished letter to the fabric store and tried different backings. I had thought about black, but liked this better.)
MRA kindly cut squares from mat board which is very hard and stiff and he got them all the same size, which I wouldn’t probably have managed. I glued the letters to the squares and also turned the corners in and glued them. I bought some special fabric glue while I was buying fabric — it was supposed to dry clear — alas, not so. (The red square isn’t centered on the mat board because despite much counting and measuring, the letters never came out really centered in the fabric squares I had marked.)
Next I stitched the squares together into an unfolded cube. To finish the cube, I had to fold two faces together at a time and slipstitch from the outside. To keep the fabric taut while I was doing this, I first basted opposite “seam allowances” together on the inside, making long stitches across the back of each square.

Here’s the finished cube. I was very pleased with it although I could do a better job if I were to make another one, which I have no plans to do. My friend would probably rather that I had taken her to lunch, but I had fun doing it.

Large patterns vs small — what’s the difference?
Monday, December 8th, 2008

Several of our patterns are available in two sizes (two stitch counts, which makes the finished piece different dimensions). Many people ask, “How are they different? They look the same.”

In general, we make our patterns as small as possible (believe it or not!) while still preserving the important detail of the original work. Sometimes, though, it’s possible to make a somewhat smaller pattern which is not quite as detailed, but still very good, and a lot fewer stitches. Think about it: a 200 x 200 stitch count pattern is 40,000 stitches. 180 x 180 doesn’t sound much smaller, but it’s only 32,400 stitches. A 9% decrease in the sides (width plus height) results in a 19% decrease in the number of stitches!

So how are they different? Here are a few examples.

Take the Fair Face of Woman comes in two sizes, 197w x 250h, and 315w x 400h. On the pattern pages they look the same. If you click the pictures to see the fixed scale views, you can see that one is larger and one is smaller, but you still may not be able to see any difference.

Compare the eyes.  In this case, all the same features are there, the shading in the eyelid, the lighter blue below the pupil — it’s just that they are larger in the larger version.

An area where a bit of detail is lost is in the beaded bag. Most of the beads are there in both bags — but the one that the fairy’s finger points to is mostly missing in the smaller bag. (It helps to get back from the screen a few feet to see this.) The beads in the larger bag also have a little structure (darker spots in the center of the beads) which is missing from the smaller bag.

As you can see, these are not very momentous differences.

We are also working toward having all of the Lady and Unicorn tapestries in two sizes. Here the differences are quite subtle (given that the original tapestries are so large, many of the details such as the flowers are rather impressionistic even in our larger pattern). Compare two dogs from Lady with Unicorn: A Mon Seul Desir (this is the dog near the upper right corner).

The biggest difference in the two dogs is that the smaller dog’s ear nearly disappears. The smaller dog is a little blockier, too, as there’s less room for shading stitches to fill in the curves. The flowers are almost the same. Consider, though, that there’s a 15% difference between the two charts in width plus height, and the smaller one has 30% fewer stitches!

So: if you prefer a smaller finished piece, or just want to do fewer stitches, you shouldn’t hesitate to do the smaller version of any of our charts. If you really love the picture and want all possible detail, or prefer a larger result, do the larger one. Either way, you’ll get good detail.

‘Tis I
Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Letter II forced myself to finish the letter I before starting another letter just to see how long it took to do this relatively small letter. It took 13 days, but that’s elapsed time, not stitching time. There was a jigsaw puzzle in there, and not much else happens when I’m working a jigsaw puzzle. (This was a Christmas tradition in my family, which I have allowed to bleed over into New Year’s. I think this is the first year I’ve had one at Thanksgiving. It’s a slippery slope. Next it will be Columbus Day, then Labor Day, Flag Day, Arbor Day…)

Anyway, I like “I” much more than I thought I would looking at the chart. (I should look at the cover picture more often.) The decorations sort of remind me of something, although I can’t think what.

Just for the record…
Thursday, November 20th, 2008

And I mean that literally!

I just posted a picture a couple of weeks ago, but I finished the second row of letters last night, and by posting again I will know later on when I got to this point. I don’t keep a stitching diary — why? I certainly wouldn’t record what I did every day but it would be good to have a single place to note when I start and finish the pages of a chart. Sometimes I write it on the page itself but I’m not very consistent about that and it isn’t something I can really go back and review.

It has taken about 5 months to get to this point. H was a lot of stitches but I really like it. In fact, I like D, G, and H. Seems to be an unfortunate pattern there. I, coming up, is not a lot of stitches and will go quickly.

Can’t add, can’t count, what can you do?
Sunday, November 9th, 2008

You may not have noticed in the picture of letters D-H that there’s a mistake, but it’s there. (It’s a small picture, but if you know where to look you can see it.) It slowly filtered through my brain as I was working on borders. These squares have a variety of borders, so if the horizontal lines don’t line up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there has been a mistake, but D and E do have the same border, so the lines at the bottom of those letters should line up. And I realized one day that they didn’t. Arrrgh. Yep, I’ve now added counting to my list of un-talents. The E should have 3 unstitched rows inside the top border above the figures, but I left 4. So this makes the bottom border 1 row too low. I picked out the bottom border stitches while I thought about what to do. The E didn’t take that long to stitch so I briefly considered redoing the whole thing, but it was so much work (because of the way I’m stitching) to rip the border stitches out that I quickly decided against that. I also considered just moving the border up, but there should be 2 rows between the figures and the border, and if there was only 1 row, I decided it would look too squeezed. Here’s what I did instead. The left side is the original, the right is my redo.

I picked out about the rowest 3 rows of stitches in the swirly things, then replaced them with 2 rows of stitches that taper off faster. Some of the figures are now on the flat side on the bottom, but I don’t think anyone will notice. This pattern has odd places where things aren’t symmetric where you would expect them to be, and some of the curves are much jaggier than they really need to be. (Sometimes I have smoothed out the curves; sometimes I’ve followed the chart.) I don’t really have a lot of emotional investment in this particular piece, so I’m satisfied with this solution.

By special request — D through H
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Someone asked, so even though these aren’t finished yet, here is D through H.

D, E, and G are finished except for the borders. The letter F itself is finished, there is just topstitching to do. Most of the vacant area to the right of the F will be filled with this stuff. Recall that this is 22-count fabric so the little leaves are REALLY tiny. I had to figure out a good order to do these little figures so that the stitches support each other instead of pulling under the threads in the fabric. Obviously there’s a lot to do on the H, but I feel very happy with my progress. I started this in late June so this is a little over 4 months and it’s a LOT of stitches.

Coming up are some letters that will have some red topstitching over white crosses. I haven’t figured out yet what the closest shade of red is. J has just a little but P is almost solid white with a feather topstitched in red. I’m looking forward to that … not because I like topstitching, anything but, but it will be different.

ABC Progress
Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I’ve finished the top row of blocks in the blackwork (redwork? whitework?) ABC. ABC progress
I apologize for the mediocre picture but as usual, I took the pictures, moved them to the computer, and looked at them later to discover that the focus could be better. I would have started over but unfortunately I left the camera on so the batteries are dead (the camera shuts off automatically but apparently not when it’s connected to the computer). AND although I have 4 or 5 battery chargers and several sets of batteries, some of which I think don’t work, I can’t even find most of them right now. I probably just need to start completely over with new batteries and chargers. I think one charger got zapped and has destroyed whatever batteries I put into it subsequently. Some of them seem to charge in other chargers (at least the lights eventually go from green to red) but they don’t work in the camera. Anyway — if I ever get some more batteries charged I’ll try for a better picture.

Here’s a detail of some of the topstitching.
Topstitching detail

Mansard RoofI am tempted to put this aside and start working on another Scarlet Quince for a while, but I can’t decide what I want to work on next. I’m leaning toward Hopper’s Mansard Roof at the moment.

Splendid I was also thinking about “Splendid”

or “Still Life with Fruit and Pocket Knife” but I feel like I have done enough fruit or a while. So temporarily I’m racing ahead to the letter D while I try to make up my mind. I know some people have a good system of rotating from one project to another but I suspect if I start something else, I’ll finish it before I come back to this — so maybe I should just finish this!

Why black-and-white is not black-and-white
Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

We’ve recently added a couple of charts for pictures in black-and-white (or more accurately, gray-scale). They appear to be black and white but they use upwards of 20 colors (black, white, and shades of gray). The Burne-Jones woodcut, “Souls being Received into the Heavenly Paradise”, in particular, doesn’t seem to have a lot of subtle shading (especially compared to “All is Vanity” which was a charcoal drawing), so the question arose, how would this look as blackwork (stitching entirely in black and leaving the white areas unstitched)?

Traditional blackwork deals mostly in silhouettes, geometric areas, or fancy fills. It’s not impossible to have a detailed representation of a face or a flower, but it has to be big enough so that the detail can really be spelled out. Our version of the woodcut cheats, in a way, by using shadings to suggest detail that isn’t really there.

Here is a section of our pattern in three versions: 2 colors (black and white only, left), 4 colors (black, white, light and dark gray, center), and the pattern we actually published (23 colors, right).

You can see that the 2-color version is very blocky, and some elements are completely missing (compare the stars in the upper right to the other versions). The 4-color version is much better, but curves are still blocky — look at the wall, and the angel’s wings. (Try getting back from the screen for comparing the pictures.) In the 23-color version, the curves are much smoother, and the girl’s hair suggests actual strands instead of just being a jumble of various shades. It’s hard to tell from this small sample, but the plants around the figures have a lot more detail in the 23-color version. In the 4-color version, the plants in many areas degenerate into gray patches and you can’t actually make out stems, leaves, etc.

But isn’t 23 colors overkill? If 4 isn’t quite enough for good detail, how about 6 or 8? Surprisingly, no 2 of the 23 colors are close to each other — that is, if you laid out all the colors, they would all be easy to tell apart. That’s an indication that all of the colors are important for the level of detail.

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