Sorry for the unexpected absence! I can't blame my poor modem this time :) I've just been feeling a little under the weather. But I'm happy to report that I have lots of news to share, and I very much look forward on catching up on all the new stitchy blog happenings soon (although it might take a little while, so I'd greatly appreciate your patience)!
My Mother just passed a personal milestone and I wanted to make her something special to celebrate. I had a pattern that I knew she liked in my WTS (Waiting to Stitch) binder, and so last Thursday, I pulled together all the threads and went at it! And I am very happy to report that I finished it yesterday, and it has been delightfully received! It is not framed yet, but Mom likes to frame things herself (and is very good at it!), so I have gifted it as is with that in mind :) Hopefully she will find a special frame soon!
On to the stitchy goodness! This is the pattern I started with:
This pretty little design combines two of my favourite things - china and flowers, which happen to be two of my Mother's favourite things as well :) The great news is that this freebie is still available, at least for a little while! Cross-stitch designer Donna Vermillion Giampa runs The Vermillion Stitchery, and publishes a free series of designs annually, usually with a theme. For example, 2011's is "Teacup Posies" (flowers in teacups).
This simply named "Teacup and Doily" design is from the 2007 Design Potpourri Series, which is not typical of the VS series in that it had no overarching theme, and so the motifs are all very different. This is the only teacup in the collection. Now, on the VS website, all free series before 2009 are listed as "Formerly Free", but this chart indicates that the 2007 series has not been charted for retail and is not available for sale at this time. A simple Google search turns up the 2007 series, and all the links are still functional, so as far as I can tell this design is still a freebie for the time being. To download, visit this page.
I had originally downloaded this design in 2007 (!) so I was surprised and pleased to find it still available. The pattern is available in three formats: a black-and-white chart, a colour chart (the one I worked from), and a file for machine embroidery. All are .PDFs.
When I stitch, I tend to make alterations, and this design was no exception. My Mother was never keen on the doily, and although I started stitching with full intentions of adding the doily, I finished the teacup first and was glad I did. The longer I worked with the chart, I noticed more aspects about it that bothered me. The teacup is gorgeous! It is a small design, but is full of such detail and shading that it really has a three-dimensional effect. In contrast, the doily is flat and two-dimensional; the lack of draping or shading gives it the overall effect of lying stiffly over an invisible table, and I think that that is what was making me uneasy with it. Plus, it's charted off-center beneath the teacup. So, no doily in mine!
I also wanted to use a coloured fabric, to make the white of the china stand out. I had originally envisioned a buttery-yellow cream, and it did coordinate well with the colours; however, it also washed them out slightly when I laid my flosses against the fabric. So, I went dark! Navy blue, to be exact. And here is the finished work, that I call Floral Teacup:
While stitching this, I was a bit nervous as I had no idea if I had made the right fabric choice. At first I thought that the contrast was going to be too harsh, but I was really pleased (and, honestly, relieved!) to find that it really brightens up the colours, sets off the white, and really makes the gold metallic details shine!
Floral Teacup was also a stitchy first for me, in that I tried to take a lot of pictures of the work in-progress in order to try making a slideshow! So here is that little experiment:
I hope that it works for you! If you do have any problems, please let me know :)
Quick Stitching Review for Floral Teacup:
As previously mentioned, I worked from the coloured chart, which was very well-laid out and therefore very easy to read. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of a small picture of the stitched design in the lower right-hand corner; it was a nice reference to have.
Besides the elimination of the doily, most of my changes were minor ones. I backstitched the violet flowers in a deeper shade of the colour family, 552 (the flowers were 553 and 554). I found that this helped to give the flowers a rounder look, as the backstitching softens the edges of the cross-stitch. This is a neat trick I discovered while working on another project, and one that I use frequently when working with one-stitch blossoms.
I used Charles Craft Gold Standard 14-count Aida to work on, and so I worked my cross-stitches in 3 strands of DMC, rather than the recommended 2, which is my preference for 14-count for its thicker coverage. This is especially essential, I find, when working light stitches on dark fabric, as I did with this project. For backstitch, I used 1 strand.
The substitution that made the most difference was changing the gold. The pattern calls for DMC Gold metallic floss (5282, following the old colour system before the Light Effects numbering was introduced), and I do love this shade. However, it is a very brilliant gold with a slight greenish cast, and doesn't really have the softness of the 14-karat gold paint typically used for detailing on fine china. So I changed the gold out to something more reminiscent of real china. I had some J & P Coats blending filament that was a good match, and so this is what I used. Although you can use any brand, guided by your own colour preferences, I really do recommend using a blending filament. Although it is more fragile than metallics, and therefore requires more careful working, it doesn't spilt or fray apart as much as metallics do. It does stretch with heavy pulling, however, so I find that keeping your tension a bit lighter and tugging carefully helps a great deal.
Because blending filament strands are thinner than metallics, I used 3 strands of blending filament for the gold cross-stitches, and 1 strand for the backstitching. I also took the time to backstitch the gold cross-stitches with the gold, as the pattern suggests, which seems a bit redundant but does help to even out the edges. I made some other minor changes to the gold detailing: I took off the peak on the top of the cup handle and shortened the long overhang for a smoother look, and I backstitched the entire inner rim of the saucer in gold, as I found that the grey areas just split up the lovely detailing. And I omitted the gold French knot sprays on either side of the central floral medallion entirely, due admittedly to my loathing of French knots, but also due to the fact that three-dimensional gold embellishments are rarely seen on actual china, at least in my experience.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable project to stitch, and I was able to complete it in about five days. There is a great deal of fractional cross-stitches though, most of them combined 3/4s and 1/4s, and so if that is something that you are not comfortable with, I would not recommend this design. The gold leaf border at the lip of the teacup is particularly finicky. Also, the gold detailing on the outer rim of the saucer requires some long stitching (backstitching that stretches over 2 or 3 stitches instead of 1) that is a but fussy, especially since the chart does not outline the starting and ending points of each long stitch clearly.
Still, if Floral Teacup appeals to you, I encourage you to download a copy of the pattern for yourself. Even if you are not a lover of china, the small floral motif in the center medallion is a lovely little design that has a lot of shading for its size, making it look surprisingly realistic. It would be lovely worked on its own. I also think that this design would be easily adaptable, since you could change the colours of the flowers and the blue of the china easily (with a yellow rose on a pink cup, for example!) while retaining the shape and shading that makes this little teacup look so pretty and unique (in my opinion, at least!).
So there you have it! A new start and a finish all in one! ;) It's not often that I can say that.
I hope that you find this project as enjoyable to look at as I found it to stitch! I am still working on my Twilight Angel (Mr. Sun actually made an appearance yesterday! *gasp*) and will be posting some new pictures up soon.