The wonderful world of embroidery
By Leslie Clague
I have taken on a major embroidery project. It is a cross-stitch tapestry of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Van Gogh had been declared insane when he painted this masterpiece. Hence my nickname for my work: “Insanity.”
Are you into embroidery? Do you like tapestry and/or cross-stitch? I have an e-site for you to look at. It is called Golden Kite (www.goldenkite.com). The company is run by a family in Sweden and has customers from many parts of the world purchasing their embroidery patterns.
Golden Kite takes art work that is past its copyright date and turns the works into embroidery patterns. Someone on the Kapiti Coast recommended the site to me and my apologies because I can’t remember who.
Starting the craft early
As a brief background I explain that my grandmother introduced me to embroidery as a child. When I was 17 I spent a summer in Denmark and the family I lived with introduced me to count-thread embroidery.
You follow a printed paper pattern using blank cloth. You start in the middle and counting the threads, two by two, you cross stitch. I liked this method and did several embroidery pieces over the years in this way.
Then I found other tapestry patterns that could be cross stitched and did pillows, birth announcements, other bits and pieces.
Embroidering the Van Gogh masterpiece
My daughter Laura told me once that her favourite painting is Van Gogh’s Starry Night. She has a print of it, although not a very good one. Perusing through the Golden Kite site, I found they had a pattern of same. What I neat idea for a gift one day, I thought.
So about three years ago, I went for it. I ordered the pattern, deciding to keep the stitching large enough that I wouldn’t go blind. The embroidery floss used is DMC. Some of the colours I already had. Golden Kite advises you how much floss you will need to complete the work.
There are more colours in this work than anything else I have ever taken on: 103. A total of 85 are worked as solid colours, meaning two strands of the same colour for each stitch. But many of these solid colours are also worked as blended, plus a few that are only used as blended.
Blended means you combine one thread of one colour with a single thread of another colour. This blending makes for very subtle colour changes, particularly significant in “Starry Night.” It gives a sense of thick oil paint, which was the way Van Gogh painted.
Intensive and time-consuming but very satisfying
The pattern is intensive in other ways. It totals 60 A-4 pages. The average page has 35 squares with each square representing 100 stitches. The stitches are in symbols which represent the different colours and blends, provided in a referral chart. A 100 stitch square can average around 30 colour changes!
There are variations on colour changes, of course, dependent on what part of the painting you are working on. The beautiful yellow moon gets embroidered a lot more quickly because of fewer colours.
Unfortunately when I took this project on, several other things came up in my life and I didn’t seem to be getting very far. Now I am working on increasing the number of hours per day/week I work on it. At age 71 I would like to complete it before I die!
I have done the maths and I calculate that if I can embroider for 15 hours per week I will have the work completed in another six years.
I share all this detail not to freak you out about Golden Kite. They provide exquisite patterns and many are not as complicated as mine. I am sure that many of the people who work these patterns put a lot more hours in per day than I do. They may also use techniques to speed their work which I don’t know. I enjoy my own methodology however and each square of stitches can feel like a work of art in itself.
There is a Golden Kite Facebook page where participants share photos and stories about their work. Many are East European and Russian. Golden Kite provides translations of their comments.
I am committed to this work.
I remind myself that Michelangelo spent four years of his life on his back on scaffolding painting the Sistine Chapel.
Mind you, he was creating the art; I am only following the recipe.
Now, back to my stitching!
# # #