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In this lesson of Advanced Basketweave I will discuss a basic use for the technique: for backgrounds. The lesson covers some general comments and then how I used the technique for the background of my portrait of Elizabeth 1. For reference I have added a photo of my Portrait of Elizabeth 1.
For this example I used 1 ply of Soie d'Alger, without doubt my favorite thread on congress cloth.
The Problem with Backgrounds
Many times backgrounds are the largest single space on a design and therefore the temptation is to use a complex stitch on a grand scale, commensurate with the size of the background area. After all, this is one of your only chances to use such fun large patterns.
Choosing a suitable stitch for an area is a much more complex issue than looking at the size of the area. The choice depends on whether you want the pattern to recede or come forward, on whether it is the focus of the design or a supporting element.
If you use a large complex stitch in the background of a delicate design, the background can so easily
Is anyone ever Advanced? Advanced always implies to me someone who knows it all. Now I know some people who think they know it all, and likely you do too, but I know I don't know even a substantial amount of what there is to know.
Rather than think of myself as an Advanced Student, I think of myself as an Advancing Student. I learn a bit here, I figure out a bit there and the days move forward.
These lessons include some snippets of what I have learned and figured out, snippets that have helped me move more of the days forward.
When I discovered Advanced Basketweave, I discovered a happy solution: I stitched the background in Basketweave and then I stitched the pattern in 1 ply of silk on top of the Basketweave. In the case of Elizabeth, I chose the same color for the Basketweave and for the background pattern on top of the Basketweave (and for interest I added touches of Kreinik braid).
Have you ever stitched a little block of Basketweave and then a little block of pattern next to it, say a simple upright Gobelin in the exact same color? Have you ever noticed that the color used in the Basketweave stitches looks darker than the color looks in the Upright Gobelin? Here's the reason: a shadow always falls on the beginning of a stitch and on the end of a stitch. When the stitch is as short as a Basketweave stitch, the shadows occupy a greater percentage of the stitch; when the stitch is longer, say an Upright Gobelin over 4 meshes, the shadows are there but they occupy a smaller percentage of the stitch, therefore the longer stitch looks lighter.
In a background of Advanced Basketweave where you use the same color for both layers, the shadows cause a happy happening: even though the color is identical in both layers, the Basketweave looks slightly darker while the longer stitches on top look slightly lighter. This causes the undercoat to recede slightly and the overcoat to come forward slightly and this happy happening gives the background a bit more depth.
My guess is, this is more than you ever wanted to read about Basketweave Stitch and whoever thought that Basketweave Stitch was Advanced anyway. This brings me to the main point my lesson makes, a point I hope will stay with you for a long time through your stitching journey.
Learning how to work Basketweave is indeed a beginner technique. Learning the complexities of the many ways to use Basketweave effectively is indeed for the Advancing Student.
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overpower the design so that all you see is the background pattern. What you want to see is the background to recede and support the design but not overpower it.
The Problems with a Background for my Portrait
For my portrait of Elizabeth, I needed to use white canvas, but in keeping with the style of painting way back when, the background needed to be dark. How do I make an effective dark background on a white canvas, one that is dark but quiet, one with some interest but won't overpower the delicacy of the figure.
I could use 3 ply of the silk and hope that the dark silk covered the background adequately.
Not a good choice: the three ply of silk would look so chunky in scale by comparison with the figure.
I could paint the background to hide the white canvas. I used to paint designs on needlepoint canvas and perhaps Elizabeth could have been a painted canvas. Or could she?
If you look at the design as I stitched it, how could I paint all of the details of the jewelry and gold details. Of course I could paint them, but then when I stitched the design, I would have to stitch over all the painted details, then go back and add them in again on top of the under-layers of stitching. All that work to paint them and then they would disappear.
In this case, because of the complexity of multiple layers, I decided early on she made a better counted design. With counted instructions, I could tell stitchers: stitch this layer, then add this to it, and then the next layer and so forth.
And if I had painted the background, the paint would have always peeked through whatever background stitch I chose. In some cases this is an effective design element, but I did not think it would work well on Elizabeth.