Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wrapping Up My Month-Long Series, 'For Beginners'

As March comes to a close, I am wrapping up my month-long series of suggestions for beginners. A number of people have written asking if I would leave up the series on my website. I will leave it up for a while, but ultimately I will take it down because of Website Real Estate. Not enough to keep up everything.

However, the month doesn't mark the end of the series, and I will, from time to time revisit the themes, particularly the themes of the last three posts which weren't truly beginner subjects. They apply to all of us in needlework. The themes of a little restraint, of judicious choices in thread and stitch to enhance the design, that sort of topic.

My big needlepoint Springtime Extravaganza started today with a sort of 'Pre-Start' which will tide me over till I am back from teaching and I have a chance to start in earnest. This Springtime Extravaganza will last for the whole of April and when it finishes, I have a genuine treat, a photo of a new piece from one of the iconic needlework teachers who has indeed taken up her needle again.

Surely as soon as I post the photo of her newest piece, I will have to revisit the themes I mention above, for she is a master of choice of thread and stitch to service the design. So soon as I take down my series for beginners, I will have to re-post some of it all over again.

See what I mean, it may not be there all the time, but it will definitely return, time and again, as the occasion suits.

Meanwhile, I planned to write a wrap-up for the month and I ran out of time.
I will write it when I am home again.

Gay Ann and click on 'For Beginners' to visit my series.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Compensation: not in money but in needlepoint

For all of March I have been writing posts on my website for beginners. Day before yesterday I tackled the basics of compensation, then decided I couldn't stop with only a definition. Yesterday I wrote more on compensation and touched on the subject of how compensation and stitch choice are inextricably bound together.

Compensation is basically using parts of a stitch to fill in a design element when the whole stitch unit won't fit. Stitchers get all caught up in the art of compensation and sometimes it seems to me, one compensates just for the sake of making it difficult.

Alas, I have seen bad stitch choices where 50% of the stitches are compensating stitches. I know many stitchers think this is a sign of expertise, but all it does essentially is goop up the piece.

I was pleased with my post yesterday because I used illustrations to define compensation, then I changed the compensation and eventually I changed the stitch choice. In the illustration of my final stitch choice, there was hardly any compensation, mainly because the stitch fit the shape so well.

Stitch selection is all important in all ways including compensation. If you have to do too much rigorous compensation, my guess is you are using the wrong stitch. Start working on another choice.

When you look at a design, look at the shapes involved and try to figure out stitch patterns that reflect the shapes. A shape isn't something to be filled with any old stitch pattern just because you like the stitch pattern. The stitch choice should play into the shape and enhance its line. More often than not, if you find a stitch that mirrors the shape in scale and in line, you will find you don't have to struggle much with compensation.

Gay Ann

For my articles on compensation: www.GayAnnRogers and click on "For Beginners".

Thursday, March 10, 2011

About My Series of Posts for Needlepoint Beginners

On the first of March I began writing a series I have always meant to write: my own guidelines for beginners.
This morning I just posted my fifth post.

I knew it would be difficult to do, in a large part because I haven't taught beginners for at least 30 years.
Whenever we are in a field for a long time, we use too much jargon, so one of the jobs of writing for beginners becomes the definition of terms we avid stitchers take for granted. It isn't difficult to define the terms; it is just surprisingly difficult to recognize that they are indeed the jargon of needlework.

I have had a good time thinking about beginners and how I would advise them to start. I am hoping, as I continue writing posts, that I am able to incorporate the elements of design and color right from the start. Even though people always say 'learn the rules' then you can break the rules. I am not certain that I agree with this; in a creative field I am not certain that 'the rules' are a good thing.

Recently friends came to visit and we spent a considerable amount of time stitching. My own personal style of stitching is very idiosyncratic, and for the umpteenth time in my long needlework tenure, my friends called my attention to several of my idiosyncrasies. I look on my idiosyncrasies as a part of my style, a part that evolves hand in hand with my sense of what to stitch and how to stitch. Take away those idiosyncrasies and I will not be the same stitcher at all.

This week I feel the issue even more strongly, as I learned about the death of Judy Harper. I never met Judy in person, but I 'met' her online and we had some wonderful conversations. When I wrote a post about 'Goop' on painted canvases, Judy wrote to me and cheered me on. When I first started exchanging emails with her I didn't realize she was an iconic canvas painter from my youth: she did a painting line called 'Creative Needle' and I remember in particular her beautiful Imari plates.

As I have been writing posts for beginners, I have been thinking about Judy and all that she wrote to me about design in needlepoint. I am trying to find a way to incorporate the ideas we discussed into my series, so that fledgling needlepointers learn there is more to needlepoint than the sum of a stitch library.

It isn't how many stitches you know how to do; it is all about what you do with the stitches that really matters. So the most important challenge in a series for beginners becomes, how do I incorporate the importance of personal choices right from the start? How do I explain the basics to beginners, yet reserve and preserve the importance of developing a personal style? How do I hit a balance between technical skill and artistic judgments?

So far I am five posts into the series; it remains to be seen if I can indeed do the job.

Gay Ann