Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Naked Stitchscape Kit

For the last couple of weeks work has been continuing at quite a pace on my Naked Stitchscape Kits. I have spoken about these before, but the premise is that rather than my sewing a stitchscape and writing down everything I did, drawing around my cut fabric pieces and counting every centimetre of thread used for you to replicate, these kits are more inspirational starter packs. They include most of the things that my other kits have; hoop, backing calico square, five pieces of co-ordinating fabrics, cut and labelled threads etc but rather than draw a picture in the printed suggestion guide, I have written and diagrammed my go-to stitches for 'scapes, and included a couple of pages on different ways of embroidering the different types of print pattern you might get. For example, how to turn a polka dot into a check or a stripe, or just to keep it as a spot fabric.

The guide has been written and printed for ages, but the fabrics were holding me back as they weren't anywhere near ready. Finally a couple of weeks ago, The Mother and I traveled to Brighton, to one of our favourite shops, and purchased lots of different colours and patterns of fabric to add to the stash that I have been quietly building. One stormy day last week where the cat was so depressed, all he wanted to do was lie despondently on the ironing board (a preferred place to sleep if available), I cut ALL of the fabrics into strips. It took a full day to neatly divide my metres of fabric into regimented rows of 2.5" but I eventually got there.

Once they were all cut I then started collating together five fabric patterns that inspired me, or looked lovely together, and asked The Mother to choose some selections as well. These strips were then cut into 20cm lengths and laid out to look pretty.

My calico squares were cut and pressed, and my Anchor threads laid out against the different packs for five colours per kit to be chosen. There is a quarter of a skein of each colour, which roughly translates as 2 metres, so in total, the kits include roughly 10 metres of thread.

A length of ribbon/cord/braiding was added to compliment the fabrics, and the final part was finished on Wednesday as each kit now also has a small selection of mixed beads. I had a lovely afternoon in the sunshine putting the final flourishes to the kits, adding in the 12cm hoop and sealing up the packets! There is a real feeling of satisfaction when you rip off the little bit of plastic on the self seal bottom and see everything laid out so prettily in its casing.

In total I have currently made 47 Naked Stitchscape kits, and in some cases there are up to five of each colour way. Some are total one offs and others will be slightly different if I had to put in a different type of fabric as a variance. I am not planning to necessarily repeat combinations and will try to really mix things up a bit to make sure that the kits are as unique as possible.

Lots of the kits are now in my Etsy shop and I have given some of the colour options names to make it easier to let me know which one you have fallen in love with and been inspired by. I really hope that you will be inspired to have a go yourself. During my various craft shows, I get lots of comments about the stitchscapes which revolve around 'oh I could do that if I wanted to', 'I would like to have a go but wouldn't know where to start and don't want to follow a kit', or, 'my mother used to do this sort of thing but perhaps it isn't really me'. All comments get taken on board, and this is my solution to those comments. It's a kit with a difference, the naked components just waiting for you to make them into something beautiful!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Since Barnsgate Manor

My most recent craft fair at Barnsgate Manor was of mixed success. I was really pleased with how my stall looked, and they were certainly generous with space!! Two whole tables to myself, plus an additional half table at the entrance as a sort of enticement of what's inside. I could have taken some more frames really as it looked slightly sparse to me. However, sadly, not many people came to the fair itself which may be in part because it was such a nice day and they all trundled down to the beach instead, but may also be because Barnsgate aren't particularly good at advertising the event. Working to bring up hype before an event is really crucial- especially now when people don't necessarily need to leave their homes to experience things. Online advertising is key but there wasn't a lot from the venue itself as reflected in the turnout really, which is a shame because it is a really lovely place to visit and they do a cracking cream tea. (I can vouch for the cakes!)

Still, in between chatting to the other vendors and the occasional customer, I managed to start two little stitchscapes which I intend to put into a 10cm white frame. The beach huts one I have since finished and is now framed, but I am still working on the other which is muted green mountains. I really love the cheerful little red huts against the sand and blue frothy waves. It is a simple little piece but quite effective I think. The top layer has simple rows of single strand back stitch, with a whip stitch to the top, the plain blue layer has running stitch just to give it some texture. I now have two different sand print fabrics, as mentioned in a previous post. The top one is pebbles only and I've followed these with some little satin stitches and tiny french knots. The lower sandy layer is the print with feet in although there is only a bit of it in front of the larger hut, the rest of that layer I have left pretty much blank other than the french knots to the top. Around the edges of the beach huts I have worked blanket stitch, with french knots inside the polka dots, and whipped back stitch in the corded pattern. One of my favourite parts of the piece is the fly stitch green wispy stems, there is something about adding just a splash of greenery to a seaside 'scape to really bring it to life!

The waves are a mixture of satin stitches, french knots and straight stitches. I have also played with my bullion knots for the top layer, couching them down into a slight 'v' shape so they look a little more like waves. They are so cute! Don't you think?

In the studio last week I also managed to frame up my Hedgerow Fizz stitchscape, and hopefully prints and greetings cards of this one and a couple of others will be printed from tomorrow, ready for the Bridge Arts in Uckfield event happening next weekend. I am hosting a mini little workshop on the Saturday- just 45 minutes to create something little and pretty. I plan over the weekend to make up little packs, a bit like my Naked Stitchscape kits, that people can choose their colour selection from rather than being faced with a basket of jumbled fabrics, in the hope that it will speed up the sewing process.

I got a little above myself last week and came over all enthusiastic about filming myself stitching!! Whilst in the flow of things I also managed to start a Dotty Textiles YouTube channel where you can see me (and hear me) explaining how to make some of my favourite stitches. I will add to it when I get more time, but for now you can learn about French knots, bullion knots, back stitch, whipped back stitch, fly stitch and detached chain stitch. You're welcome. Maybe. It isn't very glamorous and I felt very odd sitting in the garden with my less than Hollywood filming set up, talking to myself.

I hope you don't mind my periodic rambles on here. I am enjoying these almost two weekly blog posts where I essentially just list everything that I've done since last posting. Some days I don't feel like I'm doing very much, and they can be quite disjointed, walking up to the studio to package an order, then down into town to post it, then back home again to carry on with various projects. The list of things I want to do is endless!
A couple of days ago I had my first stitchscape class at Closs & Hamblin, something that I am keen to do some more of as it went really well and most of them were quite advanced with some fabulous looking stitchscapes by the end of it. I had to make lots of example layouts which I've now got to actually stitch at some point, and I also started on some more complicated stitchscapes for which the ideas arrived at about three in the morning!! Windmills! I thought. That is the way forwards! Daft I know but I now have the basis for not only a large windmill themed piece, but also a lighthouse which I hope to start soon.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Studio Sunday

I had a very productive day in the studio on Sunday. My two colour burst mini stitchscapes were framed in their black frames which I am totally thrilled and in love with! Two other mini stitchscapes were also photographed ready for their grand appearance in Etsyland. My In The Pink Stitchscape was framed, Hedgerow Fizz was mounted but not framed as I accidentally left the frame at home where it had been delivered to and didn't take it with me to the studio (I'm blaming the heat for this lapse, it was a scorcher of a day, the previous evening's storm doing nothing for the humidity!), and I labelled and priced up all of my prints, cards, embroidery kits and stitchscape pebbles ready for the Barnsgate Manor craft fair that happened on Monday.

I very teasingly didn't show you the finished article of my seaside themed colour burst 'scape in my last blog post, so here it is!
It's very simple for me. I have been thinking about my timings and how much effort I put into my work. Following a discussion with the lovely Saira at the-stitchery, she said how much heart and soul I put into my stitchscapes, every one of them has a little bit of me in it (especially if I forget myself and sew my finger to the 'scape- it has happened several times!!) and they have to be perfect. I am not often willing to compromise the quality of my work, and I am pretty unbending when it comes to how I want these things to look- from my branding, to packaging, to print paper. If I don't like the look, or the quality of it, I don't sell it or promote it. However, because the embroideries take so long to do I am trying to find ways to speed the process up a little and make it slightly more commercial. The large pieces I don't think I will be able to compromise on how much effort goes into those - I do consider them an art form - but the little ones could have slightly less in them. Slightly.

So rather than go mad and stitch on the tiny single strand, one twist french knots I was planning to build up texture within the sand print, I have left it as satin stitches in the pebbles and stem stitch around the tantalizing section of foot. The little dry grasses help to keep the fabric down, as do the cross stitches, and then the french knots at the bottom of the grass help to bed that in. I am really pleased with this piece, and especially love the surf bubbles!! Love that transition between water and sand. In fact, I may have to do another piece straight away with that theme in mind.

With the depth in colours, these two look rather lovely against the dark frames, and it has me wondering how my green sheep would look against black as well- perhaps I should do some more green ones and set them in black? A step away from my almost trademark white frames!

Most of my work I prefer in white frames, and I have actually just re-framed my Cow Parsley Stitchscape into a white box frame as I no longer liked it in the black one I had originally framed it in. It now looks so much fresher! My In The Pink Stitchscape is now all bedded into its very own frame and looking rather lovely, and my Hedgerow Fizz has had its photoshoot ready to be turned into prints and cards which I'm hoping will turn out well. Next time I am in the studio this one will also be framed. Someone once told me that although they could see the techniques I used and the layering that goes on in these scenes, they couldn't actually see the full picture and appreciate it as a landscape scene until it was put into a frame and squared off. I guess I prefer seeing them all tidied up as well, whether that be in a square frame or a round hoop. What's your preference?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Slow Saturday

I think the cat's position pretty much sums up Saturday. Slow, lazy, relaxed, hot, sunny, sleepy.....his favourite kind of day. His itinerary included; snoozing in the garden, cleaning his right paw, snoozing in a different part of the garden, cleaning his left paw, meandering in for a quick snack and to check on the humans, choosing a new part of the garden, stretching, another snooze....and then because all of that was so exhausting, sleeping it off under a bush somewhere before tea.
I did manage to stay awake and actually was highly productive in a relaxed sort of a way as I managed lots of sewing and finished off two little stitchscapes. Unfortunately I was so engrossed in my stitching I am now sporting a rather lobster-like sunburn on my arms but it was all worth it.

I'd had an idea to try and make colour grouped landscapes, and as I had some black 7.5cm frames to hand, thought that the brights of orange and yellow would look super against a black frame. I've managed to squeeze seven fabric strips into this little square so it's a bit of a sunset explosion!

I like how much texture can be crammed into one little frame and each fabric strip is like a snapshot of the pattern. At the top there is back stitch following the lines of pattern, then just french knots going crazy a layer down, satin stitch circles, back stitches again following the faint wishy lines of the space dyed fabric and a two strand (so slightly thicker) back stitch around the edges of the batik fabric. It reminds me of when you get rolls of cloud that are tinged with gold at the edges and do create this layered effect.

I wanted the bottom layers to be a stark contrast against the yellow to really help it POP so went with mainly black fabrics. The bottom one was a white polka dot on black, but as I have worked back stitch cross hatching across it you can't really tell that it was a spotty fabric before. The upper dark layer is definitely spotty, and rather than keep this black as well, I have highlighted it with a silvery grey which has a kind of dappled effect. The bottom of course, would not be completed without a few bullion knot flowers!

My next colour theme was blue as I wanted to try out a previously un-used (what a momentous occasion!!) sandy beach print. It is the second print I own based on sand, but this one was a justified purchase as it has footprints in- which makes it different to the other one and therefore necessary...
The blues are just gorgeous and I am really pleased with how this one turned out- but I'm going to keep you waiting for another blog post to show you. Muwhaha!

Of course, later on that evening we had a terrific lightning show. From the view beyond those trees there were constant streaks of light dashing across the sky and flashes within the clouds. It didn't seem to hit the ground anywhere (not like Stansted airport's fuel depot- what a palava!) and we didn't have any thunder, or much rain particularly, but it was very awe inspiring nonetheless.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Hedgerow Fizz Stitchscape

Last week I managed to get out a stitchscape design that has been fizzing around in my brain for a little while, channeling thoughts of wheat fields filled with delicate flowers, and hedgerows overflowing with Cow Parsley, Foxgloves, Daisies and Cowslips. The two ideas don't necessarily go together in nature as most of the flowers are early ones and wheat won't ripen until late summer, but the two make for an enchanting image I think- and I get some artistic license!
I have quite a few linear prints in a yellow/gold colourway which were all perfect for this 'scape and I teamed them with some green prints that also had a vertical stripe thing going on which all hint towards growth and stems (it's in the tiny details you see).

I worked on it over the weekend, including over the Royal wedding- congratulations by the way to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, you couldn't have a better area of the world to have as your Dukedom. (Not that I'm biased in any way....) The bottom layer was left until last as I wanted to do something special to bring it alive but wasn't quite sure what it was that I needed until I was trying to find something for another project and came across my packet of Shrinkles!
I had used this stuff last year to make my Hollyhocks stitchscape and there were a few sheets left over for me to make some of my very own sequins. These are so easy to make, you just hole punch the shrinkle plastic and then colour in a circle about a centimetre around it. Cut these out and bake them in the oven on 180c for, quite literally, seconds until they stop moving and shrinking then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

The colours deepen as the plastic shrinks, and they will go to about a third of the original size. It's so exciting!!

I also had some flower stems in my craft box which I used when I used to make ribbon flowers, and I thought these would look very pretty muddled in with the rest. They remind me of unopened Daisy flowers.

So, here we have the finished stitchscape!!! I have called it Hedgerow Fizz, mainly because the hedgerow at the front really stands out, and it had been fizzing in my head for so long- I believe the title is also the name of an alcoholic cocktail if you wished to look it up.

The shrinkle sequins have been stitched down by trapping them with a bead sewn through the centre, and have been bedded in with some detached chain stitch leaves and two strand, three twist french knots. I have also included my customary bullion knot flowers, and three strand, various twists (to get the tapering) french knot stems. The green grasses behind the flowers have been stitched using two colours of Stylecraft Acrylic DK yarn which give a slightly fluffy appearance. It's a nice myriad of colour and texture I think. Very hedgerow-esque.

So the stitch run down for this piece is as follows: whip stitch, detached chain stitch, bullion knots, french knots, satin stitch, fly stitch, straight stitch, couching, seed stitch, cross stitch and running stitch. All the regular favourites!!