Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Beauty of Blackwork

Image by Nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I love stained glass. On vacations and visits to new places, I like to stop in to any old churches in the area - preferably while the sun is shining, so I can get the full effect of the colours - just to see the stained glass windows. And I love sun catchers made with stained glass. There's just something about the way the sun shifts through the coloured glass and makes these wonderful prismatic designs that amazes me :) The craft is one I'd like to try my hand at one of these days, although I know it's far from easy.

What does this have to do with cross-stitch, you may ask?

Everything, because I recently fell deeply in love - at first sight, no less :) - with a beautiful stained-glass inspired blackwork design over at the Byrd's Nest, home of designer Jeanne Dansby and her wonderful WyrdByrd Designs line. Regally named Monarch, this elaborate geometric design uses specialty stitches with coloured floss to transform the black lines of a traditional blackwork into something altogether different and very special. You can view the design and the original post here, and I suggest you do, as you'll better understand my enthusiasm if you can see how very innovative and beautiful it looks. 

So, I left a comment on that post, telling Jeanne how much I liked it. And I started following her blog. What I didn't realize was that Jeanne had a generous reward for new followers that week, offering them a choice of four lovely patterns from WyrdByrd Designs for free. And, to my surprise and delight, Monarch was one of the patterns available!

Not only that, but Jeanne had added an additional extension to the original design, and this variation was included with the download! The variation can be viewed here. There is no colour added to this one, as Jeanne encourages stitchers in her pattern instructions to try their own colour combinations and materials. And that's what I've been working on all week!

In my defense, I didn't mean to start another WIP. I'm not usually able to juggle between different projects. I tend to get so absorbed in what I'm stitching that time away from that project feels more like a distraction than a pleasure for me. But I got inspired, and when I started pulling possible floss colours and combinations, I was so excited about it that I couldn't wait to start! That actually turned out to be a good thing, as my other WIP - Twilight Angel - has colours that are very close together (at least in the overskirt) and is better stitched in natural sunlight, which there hasn't been a lot of where I am lately.

Here are some pictures of my progress:

This is the center medallion and first three borders

This is the finished Monarch, with the first two sections of the diamond Variation

And this is where I am right now, with three sides of the Variation done!

For my work, I am using 14 count Aida in black and 1 strand of DMC Pearl Cotton #8 in white. While it might seem strange to invert the traditional white background/black stitching, I am intending to use metallic flosses for the specialty filling stitches, and I hope that the dark fabric will show off the sparkle and shine a bit more.

These are the colours I'm thinking of using for the filling:

From the top: Janlynn Purple, Janlynn Turquoise, DMC Jewel Effects and DMC Gold.

I have the two Janlynn colours left over from an old project, and decided to use them since they coordinate well with the Jewel Effects, which is the darker of DMC's two variegated metallics, having hints of red, gold, silver, turquoise, purple and lime green in its strands.

The Monarch Variation is a pleasure to stitch, and it's been so long since I worked on a blackwork design that I totally forgot about the near-instant gratification factor, as it stitches so much faster than whole cross-stitch! For other stitchers who would like to try their hand at this technique, Jeanne offers a large collection of beautiful free blackwork patterns at WyrdByrd's Nest - direct link here. All are downloadable instantly as .PDFs, and there is a slideshow that enables you to preview the designs before selecting. Also, there is a "View" option next to the download link which will bring the pattern up in your browser quickly so you can see what it's like before you download, which is great.

As I try out the colour filling, I'm hoping to post more regular updates. So check back for more Monarch! I'm very excited to see how this experiment turns out!

DISCLAIMER: When I logged in to write this post, I learned that Jeanne had posted a lovely recommendation for the Cross-Stitch Resources section of my blog (the post is here).
Thank you very much Jeanne! I love your site and your designs, and I greatly appreciate your post! I am hoping to expand the content of the Resources page in the near future, and it is an ongoing project, so there will hopefully be more interesting sites soon!

Please note that this complimentary review of my site does not have any bearing on my comments about stitching Monarch, nor does it influence my enthusiasm for this project.


CrazyStitcher said...

Your Work In Progress looks fantastic! Very intricate and eye-catching, and almost like lace. x

Rainy Day Crafter said...

This piece is just stunning, and it's going to be even more so once you've used those beautiful metallic threads for the filling! :) I'm looking forward to seeing more updates about it!

Aurelia Eglantine said...

CrazyStitcher - thanks so much for your lovely comment :) I like the lace comparison a lot - I didn't see it until you said so!

Rainy Day Stitcher - thank you for your kind words :) I really appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to visit. I'm really enjoying working adding the colours!

Karen said...

Monarch is a beautiful piece! I look forward to seeing it filled in with the sparkly threads!

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks very much for your lovely comment Karen! I too love sparkly threads, the more the better! :)