I thought you'd like to be reminded of a remarkably effective needlepoint stitch, quick and easy for projects large and small. However hurried and hectic things seem in the New Year, this stitch has a calming effect, soothing in its repetition.
You work wide (or narrow) bands of straight stitches to completely cover the canvas, giving the appearance of horizontal rows of ribbons. This strong ribbed effect is how the stitch gets its name -- it resembles woven tapestry. One of the most famous places in all the world for tapestry weaving is the Gobelin factory in Paris, founded in the 1600s by Lousis XIV and going strong ever since. When you work this stitch, you can seat yourself in your mind's eye at one of those huge "haute lisse" upright looms.
Looking through the forest of tall warp threads from the back, you weave your design row by row and watch its progress in a mirror in front, just like a fabled Lady of Shalott. Best to do this only in your mind's eye, though, because at this moment the needlepoint version of Gobelin is more portable and practical.
To do the stitch, come up near the top right corner of your canvas, count straight up for four threads, take this straight stitch, then repeat with another stitch exactly next to it. Continue on to the end of the row. Repeat with another identical row below, going down with your needle into the same holes as the previous row. Now you'll find the one disadvantage the Gobelin stitch may have -- between the rows, little "sticks" of white canvas may appear, revealed by the straight pull of the stitches, especially if you work tightly.
Avoid this by coloring the canvas before you begin stitching. Permanent Magic Markers are ideal for this -- use a shade darker than your wool; it need not match exactly. Just draw your pen across the canvas between the threads minutes before you stitch -- it dries immediately. Handbags, pillows, chair seats, rugs are all lovely worked with both design AND background in rows of Gobelin in the same width of stitch -- gives a stylized contemporary look. Vary the number of wool threads in the needle and the number of canvas threads you cover according to the scale of your design.
In the scenic design you could combine Bogelin with the stitches for a realistic effect of sky or sea, for instance. In the sky you could vary the widths of the bands of stitches, starting with the broadest line at the top and working down with narrower bands to subtly represent distance. Or, for a complete contrast, work a whole design in rows of brilliant colors in the same width, interspersing blocks of contrasting shades along each row. this colorful collage will make a wonderful accent pillow. You could heighten the effect even further by padding each row with several threads of rug wool as you go, to give the effect of trapunto or channel quilting.
Last but not least, why not go the whole way and create your own Gobelin tapestry? If you use rug wool on No. 7 canvas it won't take forever. French tapestry weavers, watch out.
Q: I still disagree with you. Tell me why I should go buy more wool -- an added expense -- when they say complete. It isn't complete. Granted our stitches are different, but the needed amount of wool could be given.
I paid $20 for my Fat Cat needlepoint. The face was only a small part. There is a vast expanse of body. It would be useless if I didn't have enough wool. How could I mix colors for that spot? Maybe the background, but in this project it's all white.
Recently I bought a small piece for $2.50, a Toucan done in several colors. I have strands of each color left over. If one company can give you enough, why can't others? Especially in a large project that costs so much. Incidentally, I am a novice at needlepoint but not in sewing. I use my thread to the last 1/8 of an inch. I did some embroiery years ago and still have leftover wool. Come on, now! Get after the companies. We have rights. Stay on our side of the fence. It's our money. If they want our trade, they should treat us right.
A: Believe me, I am on your side of the fence. But to be absolutely fair, I happen to know that no needlework company would deliberately short you on wool. It's not in their interest -- they'd spend too much money answering complaints and sending extra wool to people. I predict that you won't have much of that sort of trouble in the future.
However, just to safeguard yourself against human mistakes, check your wool, as I said, before beginning the kit. If you believe there's not enough, (and it's easy to figure out by working a square inch and multiplying), send it back and the manufacturuer will surely send you a new complete kit immediately. Here's hoping your next Fat Cat will not be a thin one.
q:I find the "new needlework" very challenging and enjoyable. The many stitches suggested go far beyond the old-time basics like the tent, but I do have a selection problem -- what to use where.
For example, are certain types of stitches more "in tune" with flower parts? And what stitches are suitable for the parts of a dog (beagle)?
a: The best stitches for use for a dog might be long and short for shading, or encroaching Gobelin, where rows of satin stitches interlock, giving a smooth tapestry effect. You may outline the shape in tent stitch (the usual needlepoint stitch) first, if your prefer -- or in stem stitch afterward -- to make a clean silhouette and define the shape.