Sunday, 12 November 2017

Collioure Commission Stitchscape

A couple of weeks after completing this commission, it has been gifted to its new owners and I can share the images of it with you! This little stitchscape has been in the pipeline since June as a friend approached me having seen my stand at the Bridge Arts show. As a gift for her parent's 60th wedding anniversary, she wanted a special present and asked me to create a very specific stitchscape of a favourite family holiday destination. Her family regularly visit Collioure in France, and as they were going in September, she decided to take some images when there for me to work from.

The must-haves included; The Church of Our Lady of The Angels, the boats and the houses along with the blue sky and the sea!

I think I have managed to pluck the most essential parts out of the photos and into the hoop. It was a slightly rocky start as the fabrics I had initially laid down for the buildings weren't capturing my friend's imagination so I had to get creative. For the church, I had started with a patterned vintage cotton print which had letters and numbers printed in a sort of cross stitch font, and rather than pull the fabric out and select a different one, I worked a thick brickwork backstitch horizontally across the bottom of the building, petering out at the tower. Over this, to blend the lines a little bit, I stitched tiny little seed stitches in a different coloured thread to make the appearance of old stones. The clock absolutely makes this tower I think (satin stitch face with back stitch definition and straight stitch hands).

Similarly, the fabric for the buildings, originally a triangle patterned fabric (the same one used for my beach hut in 'Incoming Tide') then didn't fit with the rest of the 'scape, so I gave it the same brickwork backstitch treatment, but vertically this time. The windows were added in satin stitch, and I also added in shutters and balconies with straight stitch. Extra buildings, such as the church, and further roof tops were also added in in satin stitch.

I really love the sea in this embroidery, Fat lines of mixed blue threads chopping around to create movement and waves, frothing ever so slightly with beaded bubbles and french knots. It is a little rougher for the boats on my harbour water than in the images sent over by my friend, but I think it helps you to imagine the boats bobbing up and down on the water surface, and allowed me to use my lovely water print fabric (also used in the 'Incoming Tide' stitchscape).

The masts of the boats were made by twisting several strands of brown embroidery thread together to make a cord which was then couched down. The top of the cord was then covered up with layers of thread to secure the snipped ends. The rolled up sails are two lengths of full embroidery thread (as in all six strands), couched under a support of chunky whip stitch, and the extra ropes are just long lengths of pale grey, stitched where the photos showed they attach and support the mast.

Funnily enough, after taking these final photos of the framed stitchscape, and packaging it all up very prettily with the bubble wrap and turquoise tissue paper, and the logo sticker, something was niggling at me. It was actually keeping me up at night feeling that something wasn't quite right with the 'scape, and I finally figured out that it was the selvedge visible in the top layer of sky! If my friend hadn't liked the lettering on the church, she probably wouldn't like the visible selvedge edge which hadn't been visible when I'd shared a finished photo of the embroidery still in it's hoop to make sure she was happy with it.
So, after these images were taken, I ended up unwrapping the stitchscape and trimming the selvedge off before re-wrapping it ready for the big day! I hope that it was worth it and that they love it!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Seasonal Studio Saturday-ing

It was an exciting day in the studio today! As it was lashing down with rain outside, it was warm and cosy and bright inside with my tree of Christmas stitchscape hoops sparkling in the light from my hand stitched lamp. My packaging skills were out in full force as I stuffed (carefully laid) envelopes into cards and slipped them inside cellophane sleeves ready for going on sale at TWA or at my next (and last of the year) craft show on the 18th November at Uckfield Community Technology College, or perhaps some might be sold through Etsy- they would make lovely and unique presents for someone in your life for sure!
There are three new card designs ready to go; Frost Fields, Summer Sweet and Spring Comes Softly.

I finished these final two Christmas hoops pre-studio this morning, and absolutely love the berries and fir tree branches at the bottom of this one. It's a mass of straight stitches and satin stitches with little white french knot snow flakes. If this doesn't sell I shall definitely be putting it on my own Christmas tree!

The two main Christmas cards made for this year are Winter Kisses and Frost Fields- the original of which is all beautiful and sparkly with little white beads and sparkly metallic flowers. I would have liked to do more, but because of the length of time it takes for me to complete one and prepare it for photographing, then edit the image and take it to the printers- all in my 'spare' time- I have limited myself to two, with hopefully more being ready in time for next year.
Whilst I think on it, one of my customers from last weekend at the Barnsgate Manor Christmas craft fair, paid my photography skills a great compliment by picking up a selection of cards and trying to feel the stitches through the cellophane sleeve. She was completely baffled at the fact the texture was flat and I had to explain to her that the image was just a photograph of the embroidery, not the embroidery itself. I promise you that if you see these in real life, they do look like the real thing- and in some of the larger prints it can be quite confusing!

My new guillotine was zipping along for several hours this afternoon as I had a lot of prints re-printed this week which also needed trimming, mounting, signing and bagging. I had to stop in the end because I ran out of mounts (never fear, more are on order!).
The Christmas images are also available in my two sizes of mounted print (12" and 8"), along with pretty much all of my stitchscape designs, which can be bought either on Etsy, or by requesting a print on Facebook messenger. It couldn't be easier!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Barnsgate Manor Christmas Craft Fair

The Mother and I spent a rather chilly but pleasant day at Barnsgate Manor in Herons Gyhll, East Sussex. It's a beautiful setting looking out over fabulous countryside, and as it is also a vineyard, surrounded by rows of grapes and fields of livestock (goats, horses, donkeys etc) who call the manor their home.
It was their Christmas Craft fair and was reasonably well attended- before and after lunch time was busiest but the beginning and ends of the day were a little quiet. Happily we were among good friends of the crafting community (and some work friends from my day job too) so things weren't boring and we had a good laugh.

We had some new ideas for ways of displaying the work, as well as some golden oldies. This time the table was a generous size and we added a small square table which was perfectly sized for my tree with embroidered Christmas hoops. I'm pleased that these were received very well, as we had lots of lovely comments about them. We also turned the festivity up a notch with some faux holly and twinkly lights. I might keep the twinkly lights all year round as I really liked them.

What worked really well was using my print stand to display my larger 12" prints. I haven't used it before as there was a hole at the bottom, but a fold of spare mount board solved that and actually it drew quite a crowd. People love to flip a print it seems.
Not having these on the table also gave me more room to spread out and layer my framed stitchscape minis on display. Usually there is such a limited space that all of my printed products are out but none of the embroidered work that I actually want to promote; really the printed items only help me to justify the prices on my original pieces. It's hard pricing everything up, especially the items that take the longest time because I can't charge as if I were working per hour.

As well as my own table, the ladies opposite me (Snobb Ltd- check them out!) had set up a showcase table in the doorway as we had the entire entrance hall to ourselves (cold though it was), which also happened to be next to the coffee machine. Free coffee for stall holders- woo! This meant that I had a little extra space to put my remaining stitchscapes, and actually there was loads of room and I could have brought more! It's so difficult to judge how much to take, usually I have loads of 'scapes stuck in their boxes under the table! I think we will definitely work the Barnsgate craft fair circuit again. (But maybe take a few extra layers just in case we are put in the same entrance hall.)

As we were packing up and leaving, the sunshine was turning everything golden across the valley and I had to stop and take some photos. I love this part of the world and I hope that through my photos you can see why. There are so many ways to fire up the inspiration engines!

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Dreaded Dentist

I had the dentist on Monday. It is not at the top of my 'fun things to do' list, and means that I have to take the entire day off of work because of the post-dentist recovery time required. This time my usual dentist was off on maternity leave, so I had a fresh faced, keen and smiley cover dentist instead who insisted that unless I buy an electric toothbrush and special floss sticks, and go back for a deep clean that week that I would get gum disease. I'm still not sure if she really meant it or was just promoting electric toothbrushes.
Anyway, I am now the (slightly un-)enthusiastic owner of an electric toothbrush, and a variety of tiny brush-like tooth-pick floss things that I don't find does anything that the toothbrush doesn't do. We'll see how it goes but I really don't like the toothbrush whirring away, I hugely prefer the manual toothbrush- and I don't dribble so much!

After the bad dentistry news, I sought out my special place of solace in Southover Grange Gardens, just a short walk down the hill. As soon as you enter the gate to the garden it is like you are enclosed in a bubble of calm and tranquillity. It's one of my favourite places in the world, and with a coffee in hand and a little stitchscape to work on, I can quite happily sit there for hours.

I currently have eight completed little Christmas stitchscapes which are going on sale tomorrow at the Barnsgate Manor Christmas Craft Fair. They are framed nicely in their own little hoop, backed in white felt and have a loop of lace through the screw so that it can hang on the Christmas tree. Sweet! I am looking forwards to this fair, and have lots of new ways of displaying my work to keep things fresh. For the Christmas spirit I have sprays of holly (not real in case it stains anything, or causes bleeding), twinkly lights and a sort of Christmas tree to hang the bauble 'scapes on. I'll take some photos so you can see what it turns out like.

Embroidery is such a soothing thing to do. Sat in the sunshine on my little bench, I let my mind wander and drift- sometimes a to do list would appear, and sometimes there was nothing there. It's quite a busy little park, full of mums and their little ones out for a bit of fresh air, or meeting other mums for outdoor play dates.
The gardeners were out in full force changing the garden over to the Winter season, cutting down trees and replanting the beds with Pansies, Wallflowers and Primroses. One particular gardener who wheeled his trolley of flowers over near my bench, was working on a flower bed in part of the set garden, marking out where the flowers should go according to a pre-arranged arrangement on a piece of paper. He managed to plant the entire bed whilst I sat and finished my 'scape.

There are still some fruits on the trees in the garden, figs and apples aplenty. Other than the lack of fresh flowers, it didn't seem to really be affected by the changing seasons as there were still lots of green leaves on the trees.

There is a water way that runs through the garden, which for most of the year, is completely empty of water. The Pampass Grass grows right along the edge of the 'water' and look absolutely incredible with full feathers waving in the breeze.

There are still a few late roses in the Rose Garden, little reminders of the summer just past.

Sadly for me, even though I spent such a pleasurable few hours 'recovering' from the dentist. I had to go back later that afternoon for the 'deep clean'. Two words guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of many- all that scratching and scraping and squeaking and polishing and poking. Sitting up and working through the rinse and spit routine. My teeth have been pretty tender all week!