Sunday, 6 November 2011

Elephant No. 35: Petit Point

Today I thought I'd do something quiet and not too messy, so I settled on petit point.

Petit point is a type of cross-stitching with stitches that are smaller than usual. In today's elephant, as you'll see, the stitches are exceedingly small. I honestly don't know what possessed me.

The art of cross-stitch involves creating a pattern with a series of x-shaped stitches. Cross-stitch was traditionally used to dress up household linens, dishtowels and clothing, but is now used to make everything from cushions to wallhangings. It is one of the oldest forms of embroidery in the world, and is found in many different cultures—particularly in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Cross-stitch fabric usually has a recognizable grid pattern woven into it, making it easier to follow a printed chart, and to create nice, even stitches. The thread is a six-strand mercerized embroidery cotton that comes in a wide range of colours and shades.

Although I like doing needepoint, I've never liked cross-stitching very much, despite the fact that the principles—chart, stitches, grid-like fabric—are virtually the same. I really like the cross-stitched gifts people have give me, but somehow I don't like cross-stitch as an activity. Except, for some reason, when I can work on something tiny. Although I've done a few tiny cross-stitch things before, I've never attempted anything quite this small.

Because I wanted to work small for today's elephant, I bent some of the usual cross-stitch rules. First of all, instead of using cross-stitching cloth with a recognizable grid, I used a piece of unbleached muslin. In this case, the grid would be the cross-shaped intersections of warp and weft threads.

For the thread, I used standard embroidery cotton. However, because of the tiny grid, I separated it into single-ply strands.

For a chart, I used this baby elephant, from the book Needlework Animals by Elizabeth Bradley.

I had to use reading glasses with a magnification of 1.50 to see what I was doing, although I don't need glasses for reading. Even then, it was hard to judge where the intersections in the fabric were. Also, I think the thread—even separated—was a shade too thick to fit into single rows of the fabric's fine weave. I'm sure there were places where I went over two rows of warp or weft, rather than one. I also got one heck of a headache.

The lighter colour took me nearly two hours, partly because it's a bit time-consuming to count the squares on a chart then go back to the design and fill them in with thread.

The darker colour took about an hour, largely because most of it—in this design, anyway—involved simply filling in the empty spaces around the lighter grey.

When I was finished with the elephant itself, I thought it could use a dash of colour, so I added a freehand red balloon. The balloon and its string took me about fifteen minutes, probably because I had no chart I had to follow. I thought briefly about adding a couple of other coloured balloons, but I'd had enough cross-stitch for one day.

Kind of cute, but if you're thinking of doing this, have some powerful reading glasses handy. And be prepared for a headache.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Elephants are capable of mimicry, like parrots and dolphins. A few years ago, National Geographic and Scientific American reported that an African elephant named Mlaika could make sounds uncannily similar to those of a truck. Mlaika was part of a herd living in Kenya's Tsavo National Park, near a busy highway. Having heard motorized vehicles all her life, she had picked up the sounds and had used them to create a new set of elephant calls.

Elephants also mimic one another. African elephants and Asian elephants speak very different "languages"—with the exception of bilingual elephants like Calimera. Although he was an African elephant, Calimera spent spent 18 years next to two Asian female elephants in a Swiss zoo. One day it was discovered that, instead of using an African elephant's normal series of grunts, Calimera was using the traditional "chirps" of Asian elephants.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation

No comments:

Post a Comment