Celtic Summer – finding substitutes for Robin’s Egg Needlepaints, and deciding which fabric to use

I want to make the Lavender and Lace ‘Celtic Summer’ cross stitch picture soon – partly because it’s very pretty, and also because I’m making the whole set of four seasons, plus the Christmas one (eventually).

However, I have a problem.

Everyone who wants to stitch this design has a problem.

That’s because when the designer, Marilyn Leavitt Imblum, was designing it, she couldn’t find the exact shade of grey-green thread that she wanted for the dress, so she had some manufactured, and sold the skeins under the name ‘Needlepaints’. All good so far. But now these threads aren’t available (well, the lilac and purple shades in the range still are, apparently, but not these ones, which are known as the ‘Robin’s Egg’ shades. And Celtic Summer uses all six of the Robin’s Egg shades. So, just substitute colours from other manufacturers’ ranges, right? Well, no, not really. I have looked everywhere for decent substitutions, but I have found that it’s very difficult to find (a) good images online to compare substitutions with the originals, (b) anyone who’s actually got the whole range of the substituted thread to sell to me, and (c) substitutions that actually work.

By the way, it doesn’t help that the chart pack image is not one of a stitched model – it’s a computer generated chart without the grid lines, so the colours have all come out looking ‘hot’, and not realistic at all.

Celtic Summer original colourway

I did manage to find several places online which gave really helpful advice, though.

On the Told In A Garden website (Marilyn’s company)  it says: “The DMC low 500 series (504/3813, 503, 502, 501, 501+500, 500) is not as blue or deep but will work in the designs using the 2100 series of Needlepaints. You might want to adjust the blending to get six shades.”

On Julies’ X Stitch, she has a very helpful chart in colour, showing how a slightly different selection of DMC threads would look, compared to the original Needlepaints:

Needlepaints Robin's egg shades to DMC thread equivalents
Needlepaints Robin’s egg shades to DMC thread equivalents

On the Needle In A Haystack website, there is an image with the Robin’s Egg Needlepoints shown in colour, with Finca brand substitution numbers listed:

Needlepaints with Finca suggestions - 1Needlepaints with Finca suggestions - 2

At first, I thought I’d use the Finca threads, but after buying them, I felt they looked too drab with the other threads for this design. I also thought they didn’t really go well with the purple shades of Needlepaints threads (which I *HAD* managed to buy online).

I then bought the DMC threads as suggested by Julie’s Cross Stitch, but again, I thought these were too drab. So, I got my own DMC thread shade card out, and started from scratch. I decided to use these shades: 3811, 598, 597, 3810, 3809, 3808. These are shown below, along with the Finca shades I bought first, for comparison on the right. The purple Needlepaints threads are along the top.

Summer 5

My selection on the left is much more tealy than the suggestions given when people are trying to make a close match with the Needlepaints, but I’d seen this alternative colourway below, and although there were no thread lists given with it, I loved the sharper contrast between the purples and the teals.

il_570xN_105887336

I saw another version, on a green fabric, and loved that, too:

Polstitches colourway on their silversage fabric GALLERY_celticsummer

So, with the threads decided on, I now had to choose the fabric. Another problem  – I couldn’t use the fabric suggested on the chart pack, as that needed the original grey-toned threads for it to work, so I had to make my own choice. I decided to lay out the threads on various pieces of 28 count evenweave linen that I had in my stash, to see what worked. First up, Zweigart Platinum – a ‘safe’ choice, but a bit dull.

Summer 1

Next up is Cashel linen in ‘Natural’. This is what I am going to stitch Celtic Christmas on. Again, it’s OK, but a bit dull for this colourway. I think it would do if I had nothing else to use.

Summer 2

I had bought this ‘Silversage’ 28 count hand dyed linen from Polstitches when I’d thought I would be able to buy the proper Robin’s Egg Needlepaints from somewhere, but it’s far too greeny-yellow to use with my DMC teal substitutions, although it’s nice fabric for a different project!

Summer 3

This is what I’ve decided to use in the end – it’s ‘Jacaranda Haze’ – a hand dyed fabric from Stitches & Spice, in Australia. Yes, that’s right – to get the right fabric for the project, I had to buy it from the other side of the world! But it is really beautiful – a lilacy-grey, with very subtle mottling. The teals look fantastic on it (the photo doesn’t really do it justice). The only thing I might still have to change is one of the colours of beads – the light green ones, second from the top in the photo below – for something more tealy.

Summer 4

So, that was easy, wasn’t it?! No!!! But it’s important to get the fabric and thread choice right for a project like this, as it’s going to take about 90 hours to stitch it, I reckon. At least I’m ready to begin stitching now.

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The Lavender and Lace ‘Celtic Ladies’ have got me….

A couple of weeks ago, I posted here about the death of Marilyn Leavitt Imblum, the designer of the Lavender and Lace angels and Celtic Ladies, who was also known for her ‘Told in a Garden’ range of cross stitch.

Several times, I have been back to her website during the past two weeks, looking at her lovely designs again and again…

Eventually I got to the stage where I decided that I really *did* want to stitch some of those huge, complicated cross stitch pictures. I’ve done two of the angels before (Angel of Hope, and Angel of Summer), but this time round it’s the Celtic Ladies that have attracted me.

At first, I was just mildly interested in getting perhaps one chart – then I had a quick look on Ebay (as you do), and saw that someone was selling all the Celtic Lady charts, together with all the threads and beads as well.

Well, you can’t pass up the chance to get a bargain, can you? Well, I can’t. I managed to ‘win’ one – the Celtic Spring design. Which is fortunate, really, as, having spent a bit more time researching the colours of threads and fabric, that is the only one where I wouldn’t want to alter something in the pack! I still need to track down the correct fabric to stitch her on – the chart pack suggests Zweigart 28 count linen ‘Willow Green’ – but that seems to be impossible to get at the moment.

So, I then set about finding the other charts. I got Celtic Christmas next. I had most of the necessary threads in my stash already, so the beads didn’t take long to get hold of. The beads and fabric I got from Sew and So (I love that website – huge range, and very quick service). I decided that I’ll stitch the design on the recommended fabric – 28 count Cashel linen, in Natural colour. I’ve loved this design ever since it first came out, about 15 or so years ago!

An almost-finished version of Celtic Christmas, on black fabric – beautiful, but hard to do, I should think

Above is a version that I found online, stitched on black fabric. It’s stunning, but I don’t think I could face doing such a large project on black fabric!

Celtic Autumn chart, but with the threads for the alternative colourway.

The Celtic Autumn design is probably the one I’ll stitch first, as I found a lovely alternative colourway for it on the Lavender and Lace forum.

The alternative colourway for Celtic Autumn
A detail of the alternative colourway

Instead of the original yellowy olive/lavender colourway (a bit weird for Autumn, I thought), I’m going to do it in green and russet shades, which seems much more fitting. The fabric I am going to stitch it on is 28 count Cashel linen ‘Platinum’.

I’ve still to get the chart for Celtic Summer, which is a gorgeous design, but again, the colourway isn’t quite right.

Celtic Summer in the original colourway

I  love this alternative colourway in more teal/blue shades – I’m just trying to track down the actual thread shades now, as, so far I’ve only got an image to go by, that I found on a blog that seems ‘dead’ now.

[Edit 24 Sept 2012: I have recently found out that the reason that these two images above look so different, is that the cover photo on the chart pack appears to be a computer-generated image. That is, it is the colour block chart with the gridlines removed, superimposed on a fabric image background. This would account for the harshness of the colours. When the design is actually stitched in the colours suggested in the colour key, it comes out looking like the larger photo above (although the fabric used above is obviously a different shade).  Celtic Summer, Celtic Autumn and Celtic Winter have all been put on sale with these ‘constructed’ kitfront photos, which is a pity, IMO. A  photo of real stitching would have sold more charts, I think. Still, at least it means that I can now buy the ‘usual’ threads and beads for Celtic Summer, and know what it will come out like. I still have the problem that some of the Needlepaints that this design calls for are unavailable now, but I am going to use Presencia Finca thread instead, as they seem to have close matches.]

The Celtic Winter design, in its original colours

Celtic Winter is another lovely design, but again, I’ve got my eye on alternative colours. The original chart has gold thread around the hem – I think a more blue-toned dress, and silver thread highlights, would work better. And there’s an alternative colourway version that I’ve seen where the hair colour is changed from a very dark brown to a silvery white, which tones better with the pale icy colours of the rest of the design.

[Edit 24 Sept 2012: This lovely alternative version shown below comes from HERE, on Nathalie’s website – where she displays many Lavender and Lace designs that she’s stitched (including all of the Celtic Ladies), many in alternative colourways or with adaptations to the design, and they’re all beautiful!!]

This beautiful customised version of Celtic Winter has the silvery hair and silver thread that I would like to use

I’ve read on a Celtic Ladies Stitch A Long blog that each of these Celtic Ladies takes about a hundred hours to make, including attaching the beads (often around 1000 of them per design). Never one to to be disheartened, I just feel that it’s a long term project. I definitely haven’t got enough wall space left to display all of these at once, if I ever get all five of them stitched. But one stitcher on a blog had the good idea of displaying each one in its suitable ‘season’, so each one got displayed for a few weeks each year.

I’ll probably do that then. All I need to do now is get stitching…..

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