The Three Saint Johns

by Andrea Elizabeth

I explained here why I didn’t want to use the cross stitch pattern of The Three Saint Johns, eagerly anticipated here, that also came with a nice photocopy of the original icon.

The problems listed before are not the only ones. I went ahead and purchased the standard version of Pattern Maker by Hobbyware, which converts photos into cross stitch patterns, and now have additional perspective on such conversions. The main problem is in the border. It has very uneven tones, and even with the highest resolution, converting each pixel into a stitch (making this pattern 454×600 stitches) the flowers and especially the wheat pattern come out vague and blotchy. And that many stitches makes the finished product very big, even on 18 count fabric. Not to mention it is very time consuming, and the materials are more expensive.

I am willing to devote such time and expense to The Lady and the Unicorn, A Mon Seul Desir, pictured in my header, because of the many pictures within the picture and the subject matter. But I will say that I’m a little frustrated with the vagueness even with the multitude of colors in the background reds and background flowers. I’m pretty sure the design is converted from a photo. I went back and looked at a traditional cross stitch that I did commemorating my first daughter’s birth, and liked how the flowers only had two colors and were outlined with a back stitch, making them pop out. And there is a certain pleasing geometry to traditional cross stitch designs. The intricacy is in repetition of simple patterns with few colors, rather than a detailed painting’s use of many colors.

So I’ve spent a few hours with the software designing my own version of the border in the above icon to make it more cross stitchy. I only used one color for the purple, one for the lime flowers, one for the wheat, and one for the little flowers with the wheat. It took me a while to figure out how to select my design and copy it all around the border, then to find that I couldn’t size it to fit around the corners, or along the bottom row which doesn’t accommodate two full size, opposingly flipped images. So I had to learn to select a smaller area for the bottom border, and then hand fill in the corners. It turned out well, but I don’t know how to layer it over the original conversion, which I’m using for the icon.

I also decided to use less colors, 51 instead of over 200 that the program picked up from the original. And since I started redesigning the border at 250 stitches across (363 down?), I had to stick with that resolution for the center. This still allows enough resolution for the eyes to not loose too much detail, but some of the shading turned out weird, and the details in the items they are holding got completely lost. So I had to fix that one pixel/stitch at a time. I almost have it how I like it, and hope to get it finished today so I can buy the materials. It’s still going to be 20″ inches long, but that’s kind of standard for an icon anyway.

I had thought about getting 24 count cloth and only using one strand of floss, or doing it petit point where you only do one diagonal stitch instead of crossing them, but again, I had already started on the border, which I can’t change from 18 count. I guess I still could use the smaller squares without changing the pattern, which would make it a lot smaller. Hmmm.

I’m going ahead and experimenting with this in between working on “To My Sole Desire” because I have an equal sense of purpose towards them. This doesn’t have to contradict the title just mentioned!, philosophically and theologically speaking. And designing breaks things up a bit.