I started embroidering some forty years ago with needlepoint ... it was my first love. Though I do far more cross-stitch and surface embroidery nowadays, every now and then I simply have to go back to my roots. What inspired me this time was the grab bag sale of Thread Gatherer's Shepherd's Silk and Sheep's Silk at Needle in the Haystack. Perfect for needlepoint! I ordered a bag of each fiber and a length of eggshell 18ct mono canvas. Once the grab bags arrived, I started casting about for a project. Most of the time, I can be satisfied with one of the lovely Christmas ornaments on the Caron website. But this time, I just had to go for something a bit more ambitious. So take a look at the beginnings of my owl sampler. I love the way the rice stitch in the eye circle worked both in texture and in the variation of color in the overdyed silk! I will finish it as a shaped pillow and hope to have it done for Halloween, 2011, but 2012 would be good, too ... it'd make a great addition to my Professor McGonegal costume. This sampler is being stitched on 18ct eggshell monocanvas with a variety of Threadgather Silk'n'Colors, Sheep's Silk and Shepherd's Silk yarns as well as some Caron Waterlilies. Basically, I am going through all my silk and wool fiber stash and choosing things that fit my colorway. I may even use a wee bit of RG Petite Velvet for the feet. Each section of the design is done in a different stitch and with a different fiber. The chart is from an ancient hardcover book called The Creative Art of Needlepoint Tapestry by Joan Fisher which was copyrighted in 1972. I have kept this book more for the wonderful history of the needle arts and the dictionary of stitches with which it begins rather than the designs which tend to be a bit dated. But I always liked the owl and always intended to stitch it one day. Here is a photo of the design from the book. As I said, somewhat dated. All that striping to give the interest and texture that modern overdyed threads achieve so much more elegantly. In accord with my usual habit, I am playing with the chart and changing things here and there. I'll be eliminating all the stripes within a section, e.g.: the Hungarian stitch at the crown of the head is being done entirely in Thread Gatherer's Silk'n'Colors Chestnut and the large eye rings in rice stitch are being done in Caron Waterlilies Burnt Toast. Those dreadful eyebrows are being banished entirely. I've pulled another of my Waterlilies skeins from stash, Tobacco, that I'll probably use for the breast of my owl. Some of my new Thread Gatherer's Sheep's Silk will be used for the upper and lower portions of the wings. I haven't figured out all the variations just yet. I have been toying with the idea of doing the beak in a Queen stitch which will change the shape just a wee bit and move the right eye ring over a thread or two which in turn will have an effect on the width of the crown of the head. I tried it first with a WDW perle cotton ... as seen in the photo. This will be frogged shortly. Instead of a smooth elegant finish it is lumpy and grotesque. I am going to go stash diving again and see if I can come up with a silkor wool. Four strands of silk or a low ply wool ought to produce the effect I am craving. I love Queen stitches and they are so much easier to do on canvas than on linen so how can I possibly resist including some? This is why I could never be a model stitcher. I view charts as suggestions, gentle hints, jumping off points ... It is true that sometimes, barring the ever so rare mistake, I stitch a chart faithfully - Teresa Wentzler's charts spring to mind here. Even I wouldn't dare mess with a TW chart. But more often than not, I make changes, most commonly with colorways and/or fiber and fabric selections but frequently even with the actual design elements. I think it is the aging hippie mindset: I rarely do exactly as I am told.