Designing my own Hebridean range of yarn opened up a whole new world of possibilities with all of my work in wool. In terms of needlepoint it meant that I no longer needed to constantly work in tiny areas of one solid shade and then another to create the patina effects that give depth and life to my designs. My Hebridean yarn is created by dyeing many colours in the fleece and then very carefully blending the fleece shades to make the final colour. This gives life and depth to the yarn itself and means that I can work the same shade over large areas and create a rich and glowing patina. It speeds up the process greatly and so working large panels on fine canvas – such as the Tree of Life and Canis Major – become not only faster but much more enjoyable, and the results are infinitely superior.
All of the works shown here are made using our Hebridean 2 Ply yarn.
Shown above is Jade's Elizabethan Jacket pattern, stitched into this panel using the 2 Ply doubled on 10-point canvas. She stitched the pattern in horizontal bands of Golden Plover and Whin on a background of Kittiwake.
Shown below is my Celtic-style Tree of Life with Beasts, stitched with 2 Ply single on 14-point canvas using Golden Plover, Corncrake and Machair for the tree and branches. I worked the beasts in Red Rattle and Sundew, and the background in Mara.
The Dog Star Panel (below left) is my interpretation of Canis Major which I have the good fortune to be able to view from my window on any clear winter’s night. It pulsates colours like no other heavenly body in the night sky and is a constant source of wonder. The dogs racing eternally around an infinite knot represent the star through name and movement and I worked the colours to enhance that sense of motion. The central knot varies in tones of golds and greens on red, while the dogs are depicted in fiery shades on green. Like the Tree panel, this panel is worked with a single thread of 2 Ply on a 14-point canvas.
The abstract panel (below right) worked with 2 Ply doubled on a 10-point canvas was my attempt to capture the colours and motion of Abhainn Lidh (the Painted River) near my home; its bronze peaty water flows from the heart of moor on to the pale sand of Tràigh Mhor and into the sea. On a bright sunlit day it forms an astonishing and ever-changing ribbon of colour as the bronze fresh water and running patterns of the river mix with the clear salt waves of the Minch. I wanted to capture the complexity of deep, rippling colours in as simple and graphic a manner as possible.
The tile, pincushion and square panel, Sulaire, all feature bird shapes. In the tile and pincushion I made these more formally decorative in the Celtic style, whilst in the square Sulaire (Solan Goose) panel I abstracted the forms to create bold curving shapes reminiscent of gannets appearing in wild waves. In all three pieces I used sea and sea bird colours.
A Celtic key pattern is a wonderful and simple graphic means to play around with colour. I made this little coaster by working the key pattern outline in the pale Spindrift shade and then filling in the spaces with sunny summer shades of Red Rattle, Sea Anemone, Clover, Wild Orchid, Machair, Strabhann and Whin.
The Boar is based directly on Pictish stonework. I love these ancient depictions of animals as they show by their shapes and attitudes just how sharply observational these artists were and how closely they were involved with nature. It is very likely that some Pictish stonework was coloured and I wanted to create a colourful image of the beast. The metamorphic rock of the Isle of Lewis displays the effects of awe-inspiring forces that created the planet; different rocks were fused together to produce fantastic colours and textures. I therefore stitched my Red Deer and Golden Plover boar on a Lewisian Gniess “rock” background.
The three-dimensional quality of Celtic stonework was the starting point for this design. Though needlepoint is worked on a flat canvas is possible to convey dimension just as in drawing and painting by shading the colours. Here, I outlined the ”carved” design shapes in the darker Crotal colour, then shaded to light Spindrift and also speckled in some Driftwood to add the texture of rough stone.
I stitched this piece directly from its inspiration – a perfectly egg-shaped pebble from the shore. I worked on a Limpet background to create the effect of a body isolated in dark space.
Needlepoint can be a fun way to “sketch” an idea. Jade stitched both of these panels entirely unplaned as an exploration of colour and pattern. The central motif of the vertical panel was inspired by a compass rose, and as the design progressed a geometric North Star appeared above, and a Kelpie and boat below.
The horizontal panel featuring winged harpies who have enlisted a swan to pull the sun across the sky was altogether more whimsical.