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Cross-pollination in needlework

(Side note before I even get started on the main focus of this blog post:  I was just googling “cross pollination” to see if it was really what I wanted to use for the title.  Because, as you can imagine, this is going to have nothing to do with fertilization of plants or anything in the gardening realm.  🙂  I was actually surprised that secondary definitions of the term – such as I am thinking about it – didn’t immediately pop up.  Basically all of the results on the first page truly stayed focused on the plant world.  I wondered if I was thinking of this term in a correct way – the transfer of ideas from one place to another, influenced by one or the other – really did extend beyond the plant world.  Luckily, by the bottom of the page, where Google makes those helpful “here are some related searches” suggestions, I saw “cross pollination of ideas.”  Phew.  I’m on the right track here.)

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One of the things I love when looking at needlework patterns is when the designer gives some hint as to the backstory or the influence (if there is one) of the design.  It is why I include such information, sometimes to a great extent, with historical research and everything, in the patterns that I produce.

Sometimes, it is obvious:  you see someone cross stitch the Mona Lisa or some famous artwork and you know where that pattern comes from.  In my mind, I assume that the artwork has some special meaning to the person, the idea of recreating it one stitch at a time adds to their pleasure and love of the work.  ( I have a story of a famous painting that I cross stitched for this very reason.) So, crossing the realms from the art world of paint into the needlework world with thread, check, definitely done.

What about some other worlds?  One that I see quite often is the cross over (or, cross-pollination) of the quilt world and the stitching world.  So many quilt patterns have influenced both cross stitch and especially counted canvaswork designs. Yes, I wrote about my own experience with my Red and White Pincushion in my previous blog post. But, I am well aware that I am not the first and most certainly not the last to use quilt patterns in stitching designs.

A world that I have used a lot is the world of lace.  If you have followed me in other places or heard me talk on the podcast Fibertalk, you might be aware that another passion in my life aside from (but related to) needlework is bobbin lace.  Bobbin lace, simply put, is the way that lace was made before machines made lace.  It is a craft, a hobby, an art, a passion, that is enjoyed by quite a number of people worldwide, although not quite in the same numbers as needlework.  Bobbin lace, and indeed, all types of lace, could fill plenty of blog posts.

But for this moment, I just wanted to share how I have used my love and my knowledge of the lace world to influence and inspire some of my designs.  The main piece that I am currently stitching is called Gossamer Lace in Blackwork (available in my Etsy store here as a  paper pattern or here as a PDF). I am absolutely loving bringing this piece to life.  As I have shared previously when I introduced the pattern this summer, the design is based on a filet lace tablecloth I purchased at an antiques mall.  (Filet lace is a type that is made with a needle, not bobbins.)

I loved the design, the motifs, the beauty of the piece and I knew I needed to share it.  How to do this?  Create a pattern, of course!  It completely lent itself to being recreated in cross stitch.  As I was working on charting that pattern (the cross stitch version is available here as a paper pattern and here as a PDF), my mind just began wandering to what else I might be able to do with this piece of beauty in my hands.  I began playing with the idea of not limiting myself to just one needlework technique.  I wondered if I could capture that beauty of the overall design as well as the individual motifs if I also made a blackwork pattern of it.  And so I did.

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This blackwork pattern is not the traditional, very-geometric-pattern that many blackwork patterns are often characterized as being. Nor is it one where the use of shading techniques of blackwork filings are creating all kinds of painterly effects.  No, not at all.  Simply put, it is a design all in backstitching, with only the minimal amounts of filling stitches (and even there, I went with cross stitches, one the simplest that could be used in blackwork).  After playing around with a few ideas, I realized this was exactly the effect that I was going for.

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As of the writing of this post, I am anxiously coming upon the finishing of the bottom half of the stitching!…And then I will be rolling the stitching in my scroll bars, likely turning them upside down to work easiest, and continuing onward to stitch up the top half.  There are other stitching projects, some with deadlines, looming in front of me, and I fear that I may not be able to keep up the same pace with this as I have been.  But, I so badly want to keep going.

Gossamer Lace in Blackwork and in Cross Stitch is not the first design of mine influenced by the lace world.  And, as you will see coming down the pipeline, most certainly not the last.

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