Up Right and Taking Nourishment: The Evolution of a Traditional Cross Stitch Sampler

A little bit of creative process for you today. I will most likely be posting the finished sampler chart up later on this month. I wanted to share with you how a chart design can evolve.

Bit of background:

The 'rents live in Portugal and I have managed to miss two significant birthdays and one significant wedding anniversary in terms of cross stitch commemoration.

As such I felt it appropriate to finally make them a sampler and will be giving it to them this Christmas. Score cheap handmade gift! But it is a false economy. The time I take stitching my charts is time away from designing charts and I cut this deadline rather fine! But not so fine that I could take the time to add some neat detailing and then block and frame it properly.

But it did take me a while to get it say what I wanted it to say.

I wanted it to be colourful because Portugal is a very colourful place and they have embraced that culture. I started out with red and blue as you can see in the first image here. I also wanted there to be some more traditional motifs. Because I like them and they are also more suited to the Portuguese culture where the 'rents live than more modern designs.



The image above is not even my first go at it. It took some experimentation to get the lettering right and the scale of the human figures.


I then decided that I didn't like the red and blue. As you can see here I switched the blue out for a softer green colour. The design is exactly the same. And what a difference it makes!

Once I got the colours right it was easier to decide that I didn't like the borders. Too plain. And the design still lacked a lot of detail and symbols of life in Portugal. I have trouble with borders. Well, I am rubbish actually. Really stretched myself with the one you see below.


At this point I am getting happier with the design. Happy enough to start stitching. The lettering, figures, flowers, and green inner frame were done before I designed the outer border.

It is meant to be bougainvillea. A wonderful and profuse vine that puts out huge technicolour bracts with tiny white flowers. Mom and Dad's house is covered by this and I thought that it was a good thing to represent. It is so vivid and added more colour to the design,

I stitched the top and bottom and was about to start the sides when I decided I wanted more colours and details. Their life is full of flowers and fruit in Portugal. Lemons, oranges, figs, and pomegranates are grown everywhere. I changed the side border to incorporate these fruit motifs. Their orderliness reflects the orderliness of the many family orchards in the area.


Once I was happy with the borders I turned my attention to adding more detail to the main design. This includes the snails (a very popular creature in southern Portugal) and the little owl. There are owls living up in the hills and you can hear them there at night.

I used these motifs to bring some of the colours of the fruit in the border into the main design.



Finally I put in some more back stitching. It helps to focus the eye and makes everything look finished and neat.

I will post up the finished article when I sort out posting the chart. It will probably be going on Google Docs.

You might be wondering what the text is all about.  Well, it is a funny story.

The 'rents are great travellers. They were taking a driving holiday around the southern States and one morning, while they were packing up the car in front of some mom and pop motel, a huge, burly, bearded Texan comes lumbering out of his room. 

He was hailed by some acquaintances, also in the parking lot, who asked him how he did. And he said:

"Well, I'm up right and taking nourishment."

And since then it has been come a sort of catch phrase in our house. Especially on birthdays when I call my mom first thing in the morning and ask her how she's doing. And she tells me that she's up right and taking nourishment.

Always a good sign, n'est pas?

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