22 February 2017

Alchemy, Part 5: Getting Comfortable with Color






Yes, you do. If you stitch with DMC and you don't have a color card, your stitching life is not as easy as it could be and we must fix that. Trying to do a color conversion without a color card is like trying to find your way to somewhere you've never been without a map. It can be done, but it's a lot harder and takes a lot longer. Even if you're not a color changer, there will always be times when you need a quick substitute for a color you don't have on hand. And I suspect that once you have a color card, you may find yourself saying, "Hmmm. That color just doesn't work for me. I wonder..." And then we've got you! (DMC color card is available here. Make sure to get the one with the actual thread samples.)

Speaking of maps, this post from a couple of years ago explains my approach to color conversions and my concept of making a color map. I won't repeat here everything I said there, but I do want to expand on something I mentioned in that post: the color wheel.

These little color wheels can be found in the art department of any craft store. They're especially handy for people who don't feel like they're "good with color." When paired with a color card, they can make exploring color combinations much easier. Here's a short video that explains how this type of color wheel is used to find two, three, and four-color combinations. 

Here's an example of using the color wheel with the color card to find a two-color combination. I started with DMC 340, a bright periwinkle blue, as my primary color. It closely matches the 3 value in the blue section. For a two-color combination, I match the black arrows. The other black arrow (at the bottom) points me to an orange section. 

The color marked "3" is the same value as the periwinkle blue I've chosen.

And here's the two-color combination. 

For a three-color combination, I pointed the red triangle at my chosen 3 value blue, and then  followed the other two red triangles to the two other 3 value colors.

Doing the same using the orange triangle gives me this:

Using the green rectangle for a four-color combination gives me this:

And using the purple square gives me this:

Now, you may look at these color combinations and say, "Nope. Don't like any of those." There are a couple of important things to remember when using tools like these. First, you're seeing all the colors in equal proportions, which is rarely how they would be used in a design. Normally, one color would dominate (perhaps the blue), and the other colors would be used to accent it. Second, you're seeing all the colors in the same value. In my example, they're all pretty bright, but if I had chosen a 1 value, they would all be very pale. Here is where a color card and color wheel really help. These tools make it much easier to "calm down" a color, or to intensify one. Using them together is great because it gets you into the ballpark of what combinations work (whether you like them or not!) and gives you a jumping off point for making adjustments to suit your preferences: keep the blue and pink, tone down the green, and use the yellow sparingly, etc. 

Another fun way to play with color is by using Google image search. Granted, I'm a color nut, but when I say fun, I mean I could waste (waste?) an hour just plugging in different color combinations and being amazed at what pops up. It's a super easy way to explore color. Just remember, when you're putting in colors, the names for the colors makes a BIG difference. For example, here's what I get when I put in "green and purple."

Here's "sage green and lavender."

And here's "mint and lilac."

All of those are essentially green and purple, but you can see what a huge difference the search terms make. How about a few more? Because this is fun.

Blue and orange:

Or the fluffier periwinkle and peach:

And a few more of my favorites. Pink and grey.

Copper and teal:

Red and turquoise:

Taupe and aqua:

Okay, I'll stop now. But isn't that cool? You can just play and play and play. Of course, there are tons of resources online if you really want to get heavy into color theory and such. I hope this series of posts has been helpful in some way, and at the very least has been an encouragement to take a moment and appreciate how wonderful color is.

Happy Stitching!

21 February 2017

Alchemy, Part 4: Fun with Freebies

Changing thread colors and fabrics, and adding to and subtracting from designs doesn't come naturally to everyone. If you'd like to try your hand at it but you're not confident in your choices, I suggest practicing on some freebies. There's really no risk of failure: they're free, they're small, and you can use what you have in your stash to experiment with. Freebies allow you to really get comfortable with making your own color choices before tackling a larger color conversion.

These freebies from The Stitcherhood are excellent to play around with. Print them out and go crazy on fabric, thread, and embellishments. 

Here's a little Lizzie Kate freebie that can be stitched to match your kitchen.

Polka dot fabric and a few beads are the only changes to this pretty pumpkin freebie.

This is an old freebie that doesn't appear to be available anymore. It was charted in two colors, a brown bunny with blue scissors. I decided to make my bunny a Dutch, with pink scissors. I love that stark black and white against the soft green and pink.

Freebies are perfect for color experimentation. Print out a bunch and give it a go!

20 February 2017

Alchemy, Part 3: Renovations

"Renovations" is my term for designs that I've made structural changes to. I haven't done many of them, because I'm really more interested in fiddling with colors, but sometimes I want a different focal point in a design and there are a couple of easy ways to achieve that.

The first way is to "edit" or leave off parts of a design. For this Little House Needleworks design, I wanted the focal point to be the tomb, and I wanted a more stark look. I didn't stitch the angels or the star above the tomb, and I replaced the bright pink flowers with the purples used in the angels. 

The other easy way to change the focal point of a design is to "zoom in" on a small section. This is Snowy Foxes by Country Cottage Needleworks...

...and this is my "cropped" version of the design, focusing on the foxes. It almost looks like a completely different design, but nope! It's just zoomed in!

If you start looking at your stash with these ideas in mind, you might see a few designs that you could stitch up more quickly than you thought, simply by editing or cropping your favorite parts. 

19 February 2017

Alchemy, Part 2: More Color Conversions

Welcome back! If you missed yesterday's post, check it out to get caught up. We're talking about color conversions and other ways to transform a design!

Here's an example of how doing a color conversion of only one element of a design can make a big impact. Apart from the fabric color, the only other major color change I made was to convert the house from red to purple. I was going for a gloomier look. This is Judith Kirby's Victorian House #9.

This is a red-to-brown conversion of a design from the 2015 Just Cross Stitch Special Halloween issue, for a more aged look.

This is an example of intensifying colors rather than completely changing them. I didn't stray too far from the original colors in this design (except for the border), but instead just brightened them up a bit. This is also from the 2015 JCS Halloween issue.

I stitched Just Nan's Honey Bunny according to the chart, and then stitched a few more in other bunny colors.

Green fabric instead of red, and a red/white swap: white letters and red squiggles flipped to red letters and white squiggles. Small changes that make a big difference.

Finally, this is Super Honeybee, my version of this DMC freebie of Super Emma the Super Stitcher. As you can see, I made all kinds of changes to customize her, including pants (I'm a big fan of pants), and a cut & color job on her hair to make it look like mine (my hair color is DMC 4145). Pretty cool little project, stitching a super hero in your own image!

Tomorrow I'll get to "renovations."

18 February 2017

Alchemy, Part 1: Color Conversions

Few things in this world are as transformative as color. If you want to better understand what I mean by that statement, watch a few of these videos of colorblind people seeing color for the first time using special glasses. And be sure to have the Kleenex on standby. 

Color perception and preference are unique to each of us, and our preferences probably have a lot to do with our perception. Color acuity tests  can give us insight into which colors we perceive accurately and which colors we have difficulty with. 

One of the things I love the most about stitching is the freedom to play with color.  Modern stitchers have an almost unbelievable range of color to experiment with in both threads and fabrics.  A thousand stitchers could stitch the same design a thousand different ways. To me, that creative freedom is invaluable, and it's why color conversions are one of my favorite stitchy things. I know there are some stitchers who feel that changing a design is somehow disrespectful of the designer, or who don't understand why someone would buy a design they intend to change. I wouldn't try to argue anyone out of either of those views, but I would say this: being comfortable with changing colors or design elements in a chart makes me more likely to buy a designer's work. I never dismiss a design because I don't like the colors used.

Over the next few days, I'll be showing a bunch of my color conversions. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll recognize many of them, as I've already blogged all of them. However, for this series of posts, I've rephotographed my finishes along with the original models to better show what a difference changing colors can make. These are not right/wrong photographs, or even before/after photographs; I like to think of them as chocolate/vanilla photographs... both good and just a matter of preference!

      My first example is my WIP of the Plum Street Samplers Twelve Days of Christmas sampler. The original, which you can see here, was designed to be stitched in three colors. I'm using... more than three colors.
    This is Just Nan's Snowfire Christmas. I changed the floss, bead, and fabric colors, and converted it to my wedding sampler.

    Here's a Christmas ornament from the 2015 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament issue. Mr. Wonderful chose it, but wanted more traditional Christmas colors.

    A blue-to-green conversion of an old Passione Ricamo freebie.

    Another blue-to-green conversion of Hinzeit's Warm Wish.

    And here's a little project that really doesn't even count as a color conversion, but I'm throwing it in to show how very small changes can really transform a design. In this case, I wanted a wintry look, so I just stitched snow instead of grass, used a wintry blue fabric, and added a snowflake. 
Come on back tomorrow for more color conversions, and stick around this week. I'll be talking about what I like to call "renovations" and I'll also have a few suggestions for getting comfortable with changing designs.

06 February 2017

Stash Update

Lovely people have been sending me stuff again!

Patti in New York sent this cute little kit to make a small  perforated paper box with a fox on the top, a chicken coop on the bottom, and chickens on the side. It's adorable. Thank you, Patti!

And Ann in Ohio sent these beautiful Judith Kirby charts. Thank you, Ann!

I made a quick trip to my LNS on Sunday afternoon for their Super Bowl sale and picked up a few things. This Little House Needleworks design has been on my wish list for a while, and I found a needle minder to match!

Just Nan, Winter in the Meadow.

And a few ornament cuts of fabric. Because I can't resist fabric ever. I'm weak.

Today was a beautiful day here on the East Coast. It was in the upper 50's and nice enough to open the windows! Tiger Lily enjoyed some fresh air.

The next couple of days are supposed to be gorgeous, too, and then Thursday it's supposed to... not be gorgeous. Can't complain. It is winter, after all. Tiger Lily and I plan to have the windows open the next few days and enjoy as much fresh air in the house as we can before winter returns. I think fresh air breezing through the house is my favorite smell. It's a rare treat to get to enjoy it in February!

05 February 2017

My blog books are finished!

I couldn't be happier with how they turned out! If you're wondering what this is all about, check out my previous post, which includes a link to the service I used.