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* Do you feel that when
you stitch a design you must use exactly the colors and stitches that the
* If the
dyelot of the thread you purchased isn't precisely the same as what it
appears to be in a photograph for a cross stitch pattern or on a needlepoint
canvas, do you think the end of the world is at hand?
* Do you think you don't have the ability to be creative
on your own?
* Do you think that you don't have any original ideas?
If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions you
are caught in a creative traffic jam and are on the road to Design Jail.
I hope our Design Contest will show you how much enjoyment there is in
following lesser known paths. You'll still arrive at your destination,
but you'll have more fun along the way. Or, perhaps you'll discover something
new by exploring different routes and following your own instincts.
With each Design Contest we will provide a small motif as inspiration.
From this you will create an entirely original design. Some of you are
probably frozen in your tracks at the very thought of taking such risks!
Take a deep breath and relax. The following exercise is a fun and non-threatening
way to explore the fascinating world of design. You'll soon be hooked and
will end up with more ideas than you know what to do with. Even if you
decide not to enter our contest, take up the challenge for your own amusement
How do I start?
The motif you are to use is charted on the Design Contest page. Duplicate
it, arrange it, turn it, take parts of it and/or add to it until you come
up with something you think might work. Our only requirement is that the
motif must appear in its entirety somewhere in your design. When you have
a promising idea, print out the chart -- or several copies of it.
Now decide on an approach to your design. Do you plan to stitch it entirely
in cross stitch? If so, will it be on Aida or on evenweave linen? If on
linen, will the stitches be over one or two threads? If you're a needlepointer,
what mesh canvas do you need to work on to make the design the size you
want? Will you be using decorative stitches and, if so, how do they fit
into the overall scheme? Perhaps your true love is crewel embroidery --
or hardanger, or darning patterns. Can you find a way to adapt your idea
to your favorite technique?
I've got an idea, but how do I choose colors
One of my favorite ways of designing is to choose colors and/or threads
at random. This doesn't always work, of course, but a surprising number
of times I end up with something far superior to what I would have had
if I carefully planned the color layout.
If you're too timid to try this just yet, think in terms of what your
major color is to be, what areas of your design you wish to emphasize and
whether you want a dramatic impact or something soft, subtle and soothing.
Is it a feminine or masculine design? Unless your design is entirely monochromatic,
you'll need at least a little contrast here and there. Ask yourself as
many questions as you can think of and list them in order of priority.
Gradually you'll be able to pick colors and threads which will give you
the results you're trying to achieve. When in doubt, less is better. We've
given you a limit of six colors, chosen from any of The Caron Collection
threads, but you'll see that we use far fewer in our examples.
I have the beginnings of a design, but I'm
still not satisfied.
Not all ideas will come to you at once. Leave your sketch alone for
a couple of days. When you go back to it, you'll see it with a fresh eye.
Once you start stitching, your original idea may be transformed many more
times before you complete it, especially if you use decorative stitches,
which often suggest intriguing new possibilities as you see the patterns
they form on your fabric or canvas.
I want to use decorative stitches, but I don't
know where to start. I don't know many different stitches.
There are lots of good reference books. Stitches for Effect is
a recent publication which is an excellent starting point. Many of the
designs now being published in magazines are using more and more stitches.
Glance through these publications for ideas. Your library is probably the
richest source of reference material. A great number of wonderful books
were published in the 1970's and they should be available in most libraries.
Personally, I like to let the design tell me what to do. By looking
at the chart or doodling on my fabric or canvas, I can usually come up
with something that fits the space and gives the appropriate effect. See
the examples below. I don't worry about whether the stitch exists, or if
it has a name, or even whether there is a "correct" way to construct
the stitch. This does lead to problems sometimes when I need to write instructions!
I've started stitching my design, but I'm not
sure I like what is happening with it.
In general, follow your instincts. Often, an idea in its initial stages
will look awful. Stick with it for awhile. Chances are it will start turning
out OK as you progress further. Sometimes, though, once you begin you know
you've made a bad choice and have to try something else. Other times, your
beginning idea will evolve and change as you go along and you might end
up with something totally different than you expected when you started.
Many times, work in progress will suggest other ideas. Incorporate them
if they fit with what you're doing, or start an idea notebook for later
experimentation. Many of my designs are the results of "What if..."
To give you a few ideas of how to proceed, I've taken a simple motif
(different from the one in our contest) and developed it into a variety
of patterns. Click on the grids with borders for
a stitched version of the chart.