When starting a huge project, I always like to do a little proof-of-concept sample. Am I on the right track? Have I chosen the right materials? Have I discovered any problems with the process or, heaven forbid, the project itself.
You’d think I’d have chosen something extremely easy for my first Gerda Bengtsson-style cross stitch design. Something small and simple like a bluet. You could make a bluet with fewer than forty stitches—and I do plan to include them! But somehow, it felt right to start with Draba. There are a few species of Draba in Texas. They’re small plants in the mustard family, with white, four-petaled flowers, a rosette of wedge-shaped leaves, and flat, elliptical fruits. Draba cuneifolia may be the largest species, topping out about four inches tall.
I began as Gerda would have, figuring out about how large I wanted the plant to be if stitched on the 32-count fabric I have. (Stitched over two threads, that’s sixteen stitches per inch.) I made a sketch of what would actually be a rather large plant so that I could include leaves, flowers, fruit, young fruit, and flower buds. Not having any fresh material to hand, I looked at a lot of photographs and photos of herbarium specimens.
Nothing fancy here–just some scrap copy paper, pencil, and some black ink on top.
I figured the easiest way to make a chart would be to follow Gerda’s method, tracing the design on graph paper. I have an advantage Gerda didn’t. There are several sites online that let one print custom graph paper. I made myself some that has 16 squares per inch, so that whatever I came up with would translate pretty much exactly to the finished product, size- and detail-wise.
Here is my first approximation. I made it by the simple expedient of taping sketch and graph paper to a sunny window on my lunch hour at work. I do have a light box, but not in my office. Sixteen squares per inch turns out to be fine enough to capture a fair amount of detail, but even on this simple plant, there were a number of places where I dithered about whether to zig or zag.
Right off the bat, I could see some things I wanted to change. The right-hand fully-open flower is too large, and the left one is just wonky. The stem needs to come from the center of the rosette, some of the leaves aren’t wedge-y enough, and the fruit could be better.
Here’s a scan of the first revision, with blacked-out squares marked for extinction and a note about how to fix one of the leaves. I still need to stagger the leaves on the stem and do something about those awful flowers, though!