Tantalizing Trees!!!

Leslie Ehrlich © 2008

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Pinion Tree

Trees are one of my favorite motifs to add to projects. They add a sort of organic, naturalizing appeal that is both pleasing to the eye and life affirming. In dream interpretation, trees can symbolize life and health when in full bloom and leaf! To me, trees represent strength, endurance and flexibility which adds a hidden message that I enjoy adding to my work.

As I walk or drive around the countryside, I try to pay attention to my surroundings and capture the shapes, sizes, colors and textures of the plants, flowers and trees so I can recreate them in stitches. The heart of the tree is, of course, the trunk, so it is important to determine what type of tree you want in your project as this will effect the shape, size and color of your trunk. It will also affect how the tree is stitched. (Such as: Outline, Chain, Split, Long/Short Stitch, etc.) While the basic elements may vary from species to species, the trunk is still the core element upon which you will build the remainder of the tree.

So, to begin, I draw the shape that I would like for my trunk on my block. I do this primarily free hand and use either a liquid chalk or air soluble fabric marker. I have provided some shapes here for those of you that don’t enjoy drawing. All you need to do is choose your favorite transfer method.

Pinon Tree Trunk Bristlecone Tree Trunk
Willow Tree Trunk Wisteria Tree Trunk Aspen Grove

Copy the trunk design over to your patch. (Photo 1) Once this is accomplished, select several complementary colors for your bark. In this sample, (Photo 2) I used Edmar Glory, 210 and 226. In actuality, I used three different colors; it just happened that I chose two different dye lots of the 226.

To begin, I chose a medium tone and began to Outline Stitch the tree pattern. (Photo 2) This allows me to determine if it is the correct size and shape for the piece that I am envisioning. Once you have made any necessary adjustment you will then begin to fill in the shape. There are several ways to do this. Chain stitch, Outline or Stem stitch, Long and Short Stitch, etc. I prefer to use the Outline Stitch as it is easy to incorporate the textures and shading of the tree bark into the overall piece. As you can see in this picture, (Photo 3) I have created some swirls and waves which are meant to provide visual texture. As various colors are added it is important to keep in mind the highlights and shading of the trunk. In my example, the shade is on the right hand side of the tree, the lighter color primarily in the middle to give the trunk dimension, and the mid tone blends all of this together. (Photo 4) Once my shape is filled, I will go back and add French knots, Bullion Stitches and Straight Stitches to denote branches, knots and burls on the tree. (Photo 5) In the Bristlecone pine tree example below, I have Chain Stitched over the fill, then woven heavier threads through the chains to gain extra dimension.

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 Photo 4 Photo 5

Once the trunk is complete you are ready to add the top leaf or blossom portion of the tree! In the pictures below you can see different methods that I have tried so far. The Cherry and Wisteria trees are done with French Knots. The Oak tree is done with ultra suede blocks that I shaded with Adirondack Alcohol dyes, then Buttonhole Stitched them onto the block. After I completed that, I felt that I wanted more dimension, so I added French Knots on the outline. This provided the visual depth I was looking for. With the Willow tree, I did the Chain Stitch for the branches and then added Cast-on Stitch “leaves.” Finally, the Bristlecone, which is done entirely with Cast-on Stitches. It is important to use variegated threads or several colors within the same family to allow for the depth and textures that you normally see when looking at a tree. With variegated threads, it is important to scatter the stitches around the piece like seeds so that you can achieve a separation of colors. One of the disadvantages of some variegated threads is that the path between two tones can be too long and you will get too large of a cluster of one color in a specific area.

Cherry Tree Willow Tree Oak Tree  Bristlecone  Wisteria Tree

I hope you enjoy adding your bit of nature to your creations as much as I do! Explore and experiment with your stitches and techniques and above all, share pictures of your stitching!!!

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