Celtic Autumn in alternative colours – 2

This is the Celtic Autumn cross stitch picture by Lavender and Lace that I am working on, after twenty hours of stitching.

Celtic Autumn, after twenty hours of stitching

This is what it looked like after ten hours.

After ten hours

It’s quite obvious that the denser the area of stitching the longer it will take, but even so, I think it’s ‘growing’ quite fast. I really wanted to get the head and shoulders stitched, so that the picture had some meaning to it.

The colours are lovely and rich – 35 shades, altogether. So far, I’ve hardly used the green shades, as they mostly will feature in the skirt, but there are almost twenty shades of terracotta/tan/rust, etc., so the shading is very subtle at times.

I remembered, once I got as far as stitching the pale-coloured shawl, that I don’t really like stitching very pale colours on pale fabric, especially in artificial light! This close-up shows that the shades of white, cream, ecru and two shades of pale stone look great when finished…..but they were a pain to do. There are still some ‘gaps’ in the shawl, which will be filled with gold beads later.

It has made me think that, when I get to stitching the Celtic Winter design, I will definitely use the alternative colourway where the dress is in a cornflower blue, and not the pale off-white shades of the original chart. I think that all those pale colours would either drive me crazy, or I’d give up on it  🙂

The original colours for Celtic Winter – too much pale stitching for me!
An adaptation of Celtic Winter, with much nicer blue shades for the dress

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Celtic Autumn in alternative colours – 1

This past weekend, I made a start on the Lavender and Lace Celtic Autumn design, in the alternative colours. I stitched all the hours I had available, and, including a couple of weekday evenings, I’ve managed 10 hours of stitching so far, and it now looks like this:

This is the Celtic Autumn design after 10 hours of stitching

I’m stitching it on Zweigart ‘Platinum’ 28 count linen evenweave from Sew and So, with DMC stranded cotton (two strands). There are 35 shades in this design altogether, so the shading is really subtle in places, plus gold thread (I’m using Petite Treasure Braid PB03), plus five shades of Mill Hill seed beads. It’s very tempting to add some beads now, ‘just to see how they’ll look’, but I mustn’t get tempted too much, as I’m stitching this with the fabric on a rectangular rotating frame, and adding beads now will mean that I can’t roll the fabric up properly later. When I get to the stage of adding all the beads, I’ll put the fabric onto a Q-Snap frame, which is gentler on beaded fabric.

Using 35 colours of DMC means that the shading in the design can be subtle

I’ve decided to count the hours this takes me to stitch, so that I’ve got a proper record of how long it takes – usually, I make a very rough estimate, but I want to be more precise with this one, as it’s a big project, and I want to know how much of my life I’ve sacrificed to get it done!!

The grid to help me track how many hours I stitch for

To make that simple, I designed a grid in Excel, and printed it out on one sheet of A4, and each time I spend 10 minutes on my stitching, I put a cross in one of the boxes. The grid is divided up into six boxes horizontally by ten boxes vertically. That equates to ten hours of ten-minute slots. I folded the A4 sheet so that only one grid box out of the twelve is showing, so that it’s small enough to clip it to the edge of my floor frame. So far, it’s proving really easy to keep track of how long it’s taking.

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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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The legacy of Marilyn Leavitt Imblum

I’ve just heard of the death of Marilyn Leavitt Imblum, one of the most influential cross stitch designers of the twentieth century, in my opinion. She died on 14th August, aged 66.

‘Angel of Hope’, stitched on 16 count Aida fabric

She was the person who designed the Told in a Garden range of Amish cross stitch pictures, as well as the Lavender and Lace angels. It was the angels which grabbed my attention, back in the early nineties. I remember when I still ‘went out to work’ (before I started my embroidery kit business), when those of us who used to do cross stitch would take our latest project into work and stitch in the lunch hours. And how many hours those designs took!

The first one I did was ‘Angel of Hope’, and I remember it taking all of my spare time, for about six months. But it was gorgeous when finished, and I still display it in my bedroom over the fireplace. The other one I loved was ‘Angel of Summer’, with its flowing ribbons and flowers. That one took even longer, but was, if anything, even more beautiful. Each one I altered slightly, stitching them in Anchor stranded cotton rather than the DMC threads listed on the colour keys, and the Angel of Summer one I decided to do on a powder blue Aida cloth, instead of the more usual cream fabric.

‘Angel of Summer’, stitched on 14 count powder blue Aida fabric

Marilyn had a fantastic way of depicting faces (having tried it myself, I am in awe of how she gave the impression of a beautiful face in quite a limited amount of stitches in her designs). I still have several of her charts in my ‘to do one day’ heap. One day I’ll get around to stitching her fabulous ‘Celtic Christmas’ design. Her website is www.tiag.com , if you’d like to drool over all her wonderful charts.

She influenced very many people with her depictions of women in graceful poses,  gave pleasure to millions, and will be greatly missed.

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