/** Google Analytics script below */ /** end Google Analytics script */

Monday, January 4, 2010

Issues with thread color conversions

If you're like most stitchers, when you've started a project, you've used a color conversion chart to change to a different brand of floss from the one called for in a project's instructions. There are plenty of these conversion charts online, allowing stitchers to change from DMC to Anchor floss, or from Soie d'Alger to Needlepoint Inc silk, or even to switch from cotton floss to silk or vice versa.

These conversion tables work well, at least most of the time. The simple fact is, though, that each brand of floss has its own range of colors. It's rare (perhaps impossible) to find exact matches to the original threads for any project within another brands range. Fortunately, it's not typically necessary to find exact matches. It's more important to find colors that work well together and have the right amount of contrast to each other as needed in the project.

It's this last point where I ran into a problem when trying to finish my How Great the Blessing sampler. In the original sampler, Catherine Theron used Soie d'Alger from Au ver a Soie. The class kit only included the linen, and each stitcher had to supply her own threads. For convenience, Catherine did provide conversions to several other brands of floss, including DMC.

Of course, I wanted to convert to a brand not on Catherine's list. For linens 36ct and higher, I really like using Hand-Dyed Fibers from Vikki Clayton. The nice thing about this is that Vikki redesigned her colors a few years ago to specifically correspond to the entire DMC line. She also has color conversion tables right on her site, so I could type in the Soie d'Alger or the DMC color numbers, and know what color to order from her.

Here's what I ended up with for the reds in my project:

  • Original colors: AVAS 2911, 2912, 2913, 2914, 2915, and 2916.
  • DMC conversion: 3713, 761, 760, 3712, 3328, and 347.
  • HDF conversion: The "Gandy Dancer" series: 1101, 1103, 1105, 1107, 1109, 1111.
Catherine called these colors very very light red, very light red, light red, red, dark red, and very dark red, respectively. (Actually, I think they're more coral than red, but it's easier to refer to them as red.)

This conversion had been a success, until I reached the lighter flowers in the border of my sampler. The flowers call for a border of very light red, with petals of red and very very light red. In HDF, this means I should used 1103 for the border, and 1101 and 1107 for the petals. As seen at right, when I added the 1101 to the 1103 border, though, it didn't have any contrast. (Part of this might be due to the slight variations within the hand-dyed threads, but it wasn't working for me!)

I tried darkening up the border to 1105 (light red), but then I found that I needed to go to 1109 (dark red) on the other petals to get enough contrast between the border and the darker petals! See the picture at left.

Then it seemed that these flowers weren't light enough. To the stash! I found a very pale pink Splendor silk. It's just slightly more pale than the 1101, though that's hard to see in the photograph with only one stitch. Here's how it turned out with all of the light petals complete.

Now, I've just got to make a decision: which of these flowers do I go with? That's a topic for another post!

How about you? What have your experiences been with color conversions? Have they all been successful, or have you needed to play with things? Feel free to answer here or on your own blog!


The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

To tell you the truth, I rarely use the color conversion charts. I mostly pull out my DMC color card (luckily I have the one with real snippets of thread) and choose a color from there, then order a thread over the phone by telling the store I want something in brand such-and-such that is similar to DMC #whatever. I use shops with great customer service that'll tell me if there isn't a good match and will suggest another brand that fills out the range of colors I need better. Since I visit some of 3 of the 4 shops in my area only 2-3 times a year, I mostly shop my stash and over the phone, which means conversion charts are not really useful. But many stitchers want to stick to a certain brand or have a shop to browse and need conversion charts.

Laura said...

I love HDF silk also, and I have used her conversion packages with similar results...mostly fine for all but a couple of colors. It gives us a challenge, doesn't it?

Carol said...

Question about HDS - I have been told that they are not colorfast & that I should soak the thread in water & white vinegar first. Do you do this? Have you had any problems? I'm new to using this type of thread. Thanks.

Jeanne said...

Jane, This is definitely an advantage of being a painted canvas stitcher! The issue of color conversion charts usually comes up when a counted thread (though not so much with counted canvas due to the variety of threads used) designer either (A) specifies the entire color list in DMC when the stitcher wants to use silk or (B) specifies a lesser-used brand of thread without any DMC recommendations. I can't imagine asking a shop owner to do the entire conversion for me, and then I'm likely to have similar problems with not-quite-exact matches anyway!

Jeanne said...

I often don't wash my finished pieces, but I've actually found HDF to be MORE colorfast than several other brands of silk!

If you're concerned about any particular color, you can always run a snippet of that color through cool water (and the soap you plan to use for the final piece, if desired), then lay the thread on a paper towel. If the towel picks up any of the color, either don't plan on washing the piece, or soak the entire skein in the needlework soap (I like Orvus) and water. Rinse it out really well, and let it dry on paper towels. Do this as many times as you need to to get rid of all of the excess dye.

I do know that Vikki uses dyes that chemically bond with the silk, rather than just sit on top of the silk, so you won't be fading the thread. You'll just get rid of the extra dye that didn't fully get rinsed out.

Hope this helps!

Karen said...

Jeanne, this is an interesting post. When I decided to stitch And They Sinned a few years ago, I chose to use DMC rather than the Gentle Arts fibers specified by the designer. She had provided the DMC conversions, but as I began pulling my threads I discovered that a couple of the GAST fibers converted to the same DMC color. I didn't want to use the same conversion for both, so I hunted around on the DMC color card to find another color that would work. I also ran into an issue with one of the GAST golds -- Grecian Gold, I think. I pulled the recommended DMC substitute, but when I began to stitch with it, instead of gold the color was more of a pea green -- yuck! So it was back to the color card and floss stash to find something more appealing.

I remember that I wondered what the designer had been thinking when she came up with some of the conversion colors. I poked around on the 'net, only to discover that the conversions she provided were pretty standard from GAST to DMC; she had just provided what someone else had already "translated". I thought that was interesting.

tintocktap said...

Don't think I've tried quite as ambitious a conversion as yours. But I have gone from whatever silk a design is charted for to DMC a couple of times, mainly using online conversion charts. Of course, there are always colours I need that aren't included in the online conversions, so I convert what I can then do a floss toss to fill in the gaps. Like you, I have found that I haven't always ended up with enough contrast between different floss colours at times, but at the same time, that's part of the flexibility of doing your own conversion.

I like your flower with the darker colours and the paler one too - it just depends on how they compare with the rest of the design and how strong you want the colours to be in that area. Might the darker flower be a bit too strong colour-wise?

Cyn said...

Hi Jeanne,

I work with the different colors directly as opposed to using conversion charts as I've found to many "questionable" conversions especially with over dyed threads.

I may start with a conversion chart, but then I play with the colors to decide how I want to change things up.

I've looked at the two different flowers several times and I think I would go with the lighter flower. I think if you go with the darker flower you might not have as much contrast. Of course, we are looking at this on a monitor and the true test is looking at the actual thread colors on the project. :-)

Now to scroll up in your posts to see what/if you decided to do. :-)

I did enjoy watching your year in review photo slide!

Windy Meadow