18 February 2013

Playing with Colour Charts

I am really enjoying stitching the SDW sampler with our SAL, so when I heard that a larger group were planning to SAL on the new Scarlet Letter Manifesto sampler I was really tempted :) Isn't it beautiful? you can see close ups on the SL website HERE While waiting for my chart to arrive, I have been planning how I could fit this project in :)
I already have one large stitching project on fine linen in silks (SDW) and I didn't really want to add another, what I really wanted to start was a needlepoint project to go in our Arts & Crafts style living room, so I began to wonder, could I make this work as a needlepoint? I then read Marsha's description on the website, the original was an 18th century tent stitched picture, perfect of course it would work!

I began to plan how I could convert this from DMC into wool. I had a DMC colour chart and I quickly ordered one for Appleton's Crewel Wool. I love these fibres! The Appleton Brothers have been making crewel wool in London from British wool spun and dyed here for more than 150 years, their crewel and tapestry wools were used by William Morris. The colours are fabulous although the piece will have a more muted feel than one stitched of silk or DMC.
It is easy to find a number conversion from DMC to Appleton's online or simply by looking at the colour charts, but this can result in selecting colours from all over the place :) what is difficult is coming up with a palette of colours that look good together in the same project. Several hours and a headache later! I realised I was approaching it the wrong way and started to look at it as I would a quilt project. I have tried to restrict the number of colours and have chosen light, medium and dark wools from the same or similar colour families. They may differ from the DMC colours slightly but I think the end result is a harmonious palette of colours. I don't plan to use all of the shades of each of these!
Next came the problem of fabric and quantities. I have decided to use penelope 10/20 canvas as this is what is traditionally used in needlepoint. It is a double thread canvas, giving the option of stitching between the lines, the equivalent of stitching over one for 20 count or in the larger holes for 10 count. If I use a combination of petit point (small holes) for the motifs and gros point (large holes) for the background, then the finished size will be approx. 19" x 30" the same as stitching over 2 on 40ct linen. Petit Point also known as continental or tent stitch, is traditionally used for detail...
and basket weave stitch for the background, both look the same as half cross stitch from the front...
The difference is in the back. Petit Point can distort the canvas a little, Basket weave produces a very hard wearing canvas, especially suitable for cushions or chair covers etc and it does not distort the canvas to the same extent, especially if you stitch with a frame. As this piece will hang on the wall, I will probably just use petit/gros point for the whole lot.

After a little experimenting I found one strand of crewel wool for the petit point detail and three strands for the gros point background gave the best coverage.
Next I tried to estimate how much wool I would need, not easy! I have assumed quantities given in the chart are calculated based on using two strands of DMC which means an 8m skein of DMC will give three lots of 2 strands per cut length = 24m, which is about the same as a 25m skein of Appleton's using one strand. I have assumed I will use three times more wool than DMC for the background as I need 3 strands of crewel wool. This calculation is very crude, but I will start with one skein in each colour apart from the backgrounds, I can quickly get more if needed. I am not too concerned with dye lots, although I have ordered hanks of the background colours to try and minimise differences, the motifs stand alone and as I am using three strands I can blend any old/new dye lots in the background easily.

Project Notes:
stitch count: 600 x381
finished size: approx. 30" x 19"
fabric: penelope 10/20 needlepoint canvas
fibres: Appleton's crewel wool
motifs: over one with one strand and size 22 needle
background: over two with three strands and size 18 needle


  1. I'm looking forward to following your progress on Manifesto done in needlepoint.

  2. This was a fascinating read Elaine. I think Manifesto will look amazing as a tapestry. You could do the petit point bits in silk/DMC as they used to do in old tapestries and then you have the contrast.

  3. So cool!!!! I have to say I hope you stick to your plan of creating this as a tapestry. It would be so fun to see it in this style of stitching! I bet Marsha would have info about the mixed used of DMC and wool. (I was reading your blog post on the SL year.) I love your other projects as well! SDW is a fun stitch! And the Caswell quilt. Oh my. Gorgeous! Love Dear Jane -- but will never have one of my own. lol!

  4. Oh, that will look amazing!

  5. A very enjoyable and interesting read. This is a new field for me and I am going to be following closely.

  6. Loved your post. I do needlepoint. I have a Elizabeth Bradley's to project and thats where I learned of Appleton wools (they are soft and lovely to stitch). Did you know that DMC has or had Laine Colbert tapestry wools. I have their fold out color chart. After looking at it the numbers are different than that of DMCs regular floss numbers. I still prefer Appleton's wools by far.
    Your Manifesto - I think doing it in needlepoint will be Lovely.
    love Annette

  7. Wow a big undertaking, I have not done that in years.. Enjoy. Will look forward to the finished canvas. Bunny

  8. I look forward to watching your prgoress on Manifesto using your colour palette.