Sunday, 20 September 2020

Vintage House Stitchscape


Having said in my last post that dusky purples weren't really a colour theme I usually go with, it's perhaps slightly odd that I've just finished another one in a complimentary colour combination to Pink Moon! This is one that started out as a good idea and then sort of faded away as I was uninspired by the direction I was taking. Eventually I took this piece out of the hoop to use the hoop elsewhere and this little bundle of fabric and thread was stacked away in a pile, not knowing if it would ever be completed. 

During a lockdown tidy up, I came across it again and felt immediately guilty so found it a new hoop and started stitching during those little pockets of spare time. The house was mostly finished and I had started on my flower 'sun' with some satin stitch plus around the sun with seed stitch but that was about as far as I had got. 

The story behind this piece starts last year when I was asked to run a private workshop for two ladies who had come down from London to attend a workshop a couple of months before. Both were lovely stitchers themselves and had previously attended courses at the Royal School of Needlework (the pressure was high!). I didn't need to teach them how to sew but they were more interested in how to put fabrics together and choose the colours to create a landscape, working on the composition of the pieces. They were really pleased with what they produced during the class and both finished off their pieces afterwards, sending me some rather fabulous photos. One of them I even ended up framing in a box frame for the lady so when they asked if they could come back for a private workshop I was more than happy to oblige. 

The plan for the workshop wasn't to do any stitching but literally put together pieces to take away and stitch at their leisure. Each of them brought bundles of fat quarters and fabric scraps that they were inspired by and we put together two or three hoops each based on different themes using a combination of their fabrics and mine. As a return for using the scraps and taking skeins of matching threads from my stash, they donated a big bag of fabric scraps which had been used to make a themed quilt and the majority of the fabrics used in this Stitchscape came out of this bag as a challenge to myself to see what I could make of it. 

In hindsight, I should have used bondaweb (fusible fixative) for my little house as being lost in a pile of things hasn't done it much good and there are slightly frayed edges up the side. I did go back over the door and window with some texturing straight stitches to hide the frayed edges there and also to give the appearance of wooden frames.

The roof and chimney I really like. They are long stitches that have been woven into a grid, and then every now and then at one of the cross sections I have done a tiny little holding stitch diagonally over the perpendicular lines to help secure these threads and the fabric. The roof is edged with a couched full six strands of embroidery thread and the chimney with whipped back stitch. I toyed with the idea of adding some chiffon or something loose and light at the top of the chimney to look like smoke coming from it but the french knots had already been added above and I think that would have looked better if the house was nearer to the middle as the smoke would be lost round the side of the hoop. Maybe something for next time. 

I was talking about drizzle stitch a lot in my last workshop and the idea stayed with me to add some texture to the bottom of this piece. I started with a spray of woven wheel flowers in different sizes, filled with two colour french knots - already fairly textured and high off the fabric surface - then added some golden drizzle stitches between them to give a wild, untamed garden underneath my wild, grassy, hessian fence. It's great because I wasn't really sure what to do with the fabric pattern underneath, the print is not really all that interesting and I wasn't keen on going around it or embellishing it on its own so this is a good compromise. 

The circles for the woven wheel flowers are all drawn out on the back to give me a pattern to work to, then around those I've added some horizontal straight stitches to act as the ground for them to sit on. There were a couple of parts of the fabric pattern which were picked out to go over in satin stitch but mostly the fabric has been completely ignored and is just there to provide a base colour and interest.

I love the wild mass of stitches, whether it's the swirly drizzles, the pistil stitches behind or the fraying hessian - which was just a strip cut from a length of hessian fabric and some of the weft (horizontal) yarns pulled out. 

If you look closely you can see where I started and stopped on the single strand of seed stitches above the house. On the left side of the flower it's in one colour, and on the right hand side of the flower it's a slightly different colour where I haven't been able to find that exact shade after rediscovering this Stitchscape. The flower itself was a slightly laborious labour of love as it's all satin stitch, and some of the lines are fairly skinny so it is made up of lots of little short stitches. To me it is acting sort of like a sun coming up over the dark hill below. 

The dark fabric layer itself has been enhanced with whipped back stitch in a single strand to keep it quite delicate. I could have done this in more colours to match the areas I was going round but I kept it quite simple and just tried to match the background colour as best I could. Same with the layer underneath really; because it had frayed a bit my focus was getting the edge finished first (which is unusual, normally I would do the edging on each fabric last because that usually helps stop fraying but this had already started) and decided to work a blanket stitch which would help with that edge. It didn't quite work on its own though because of the undulating shape so I ended up working a whip stitch along the top of the blanket stitch to thicken it, and then went over it again in a lighter colour. I love these happy accident type things as it looks really realistic for a fence. (In my humble opinion.) Most of the pattern within this fabric has been ignored as well and I quickly whip back stitched some of the darker pattern outlines, and filled areas with straight stitches. There's so much going on at the bottom of the piece it has actually helped to balance it out and provide some relief from the busy-ness below.

I had obviously started this piece using a scrap of leftover calico so there wasn't very much to work with on the backing fabric when I went to draw it up and neaten it off!! Ideally you'd want to leave a couple of inches all of the way around but I went from a couple of inches to barely half an inch! It's not the neatest but it will do. 

So, the stitch run down for this 15cm piece is; running stitch, bullion knots, french knots, seed stitch, satin stitch, couching, straight stitch, whipped back stitch, blanket stitch, back stitch, pistil stitch, woven wheel stitch and drizzle stitch. A fun little collection!! 

Pink Moon Stitchscape


Pink Moon is finished!! I was sort of losing my way with this one a bit, which I think is because it took me so long to do that it started to get a laborious edge to it. Not that it was any fault of the Stitchscape - my whole weekly routine has changed and suddenly the time I usually have for embroidery has shrunk significantly!! Thanks to the pandemic, I haven't been using the bus to get to my 'other' job three days a week and have been very privileged to be chauffeured to work, literally door to door in half an hour, there and back. Which is fantastic because it gives me over two hours extra a day to potter around, or sleep later in the morning but for some reason those two hours aren't utilised for stitching. Whilst on the bus in my old routine there would be half an hour waiting around for the bus then an hour to sit and sew each way so embroideries progressed much faster. 

As it is I've been using 15 minutes here and there pre-work and at lunchtime, maybe grabbing a couple of hours at the weekend or in the evening so it's been slooooooowwwww. This is a bigger one too, stitched in a 20cm hoop so that's always longer to finish than my usual 15cm hoops.

I'm pleased with how it has turned out though. It's a different colour to my usual themes and this may also be one of the reasons I couldn't get my head around certain aspects. Pushing comfort boundaries is good I think and I've just finished off another piece in a similar colour theme which had the same problem so I'm feeling accomplished!

I especially like my moon because of all of the different colours in it. Previous moon-scapes have had the moon as a single white colour, maybe with a touch of shine but this one has at least four shades of pale pink/lilac in it which really makes it stand out. You can almost see the man on the moon waving at you. Hulloo!!

I took some advice from my social media followers as well, after some nifty photo editing on my part. I thought I had finished but something wasn't quite right and I wondered about creating some more stems to pop up in front of the moon so edited a photo on my phone and popped it on Instagram and Facebook, with a unanimous vote from all who commented that stems were a definite yes! I'm really glad I asked because these stems are fab and I love where they appear silhouetted. I used three single strands of three different colours (because I didn't quite have the right colour), and worked combinations of pistil stitches and just random straight stitches to look a bit grass like. They really pop with the orange trimming which was a bold colour choice in itself!

This fabric layer gave me a bit of a headache and was one of the last to go in because I wasn't sure what to do with it. I could have covered it with running or seed stitches and ignored the motifs, but I'd already used those techniques a couple of times on other layers and it seemed a shame to lose these. I ended up covering the top three petals on each with rough satin stitch, then going round each petal with a skinny split stitch, enhancing the lower leafy strands with little straight stitches and plopped a french knot in the middle. They look a little bit like a planted flower field (like a cutting meadow or something) where they are in such neat rows. 

This whole Stitchscape had been inspired by this Lewis & Irene Hares fabric and I haven't really done much to it other than go round what was already printed on the fabric. If you love something then there's no real need to go completely wild just because you think you should - that's the beauty of using pre-printed fabrics, you can do as much or as little as you'd like. 
For the hares themselves I've outlined them in whipped back stitch using a single strand of thread, enhanced their fluffy bits on their tummies with two strands of seed stitch (going over what was there on the print), and their backs with one strand. Their tails are a rough satin stitch, whiskers single strand straight stitch and a french knot (one strand, two twist?) for the eyes. Not much else is needed as they stood out the minute they were outlined. 

The plants within their layer were printed in black so they were fairly tricky to see - good lighting was definitely required! - but I've worked pistil stitches in some where the ends were more spotty, or long fly stitch in others and a stem stitch down the middle. The Honesty looking plants were covered in satin stitch with three tiny french knots mimicking the print underneath. I'd perhaps have done these in a different colour now I look back but they were stitched on a dark evening and the colour looked different under my bedroom light. 

I love how they are a similar shape to these flat pearl beads and I knew I wanted to use these the second I saw the Honesty in the print. I have mostly used these beads all up now (they were bought in a Hobbycraft sale and I haven't seen them since), they are fairly large but flat on two sides so they sit flush to the fabric surface which is really handy. The lustre of them helps to give the impression that the moon is reflecting some light onto them and they really pop at the bottom of the piece. 

The top layer is actually from the same fabric as the moon would you believe? It's a Moda Gradient and is an ombre from the darkest of pinks to the palest which is fantastic! I've used two different thread colours at the same time to work a running stitch over this layer (one strand of each colour), edged with french knots in the same colour combination. 
The batik layer underneath it has a fair amount going on stitch-wise. I started with the satin stitch in purple which covers a similar colour underneath, then started edging other lines in the print with a single strand of whipped back stitch, and filled some patches with single seed stitch. Just because really. I love that it kind of looks like those wispy clouds you get that pick up some of the light pollution from cities below and eerily shine different colours or add a texture to the sky. I could have put stars in I guess if I'd done the seed stitch in a lighter colour but I like it being slightly more monotone. 

The seed stitch layer under the moon has three colours all covering the different areas of print. The two purplish colours aren't all that distinguishable from each other from a distance but hopefully it helps to add extra depth to this piece in a subtle sort of way. I know that I used different colours even if you can't quite see it. A nice trick is to edge the layer in the same colours as the patches to give the impression of the colour coming over the hill and bleeding down into it. 

The bottom rock layer is also covered in seed stitch and again I have used two colours, although not at the same time. There's a lighter grey for the top edge that could be tinted with light from the moon, and a darker grey further into the rock where it might be cast in shadow. I also left areas bare of stitches to show the fabric print more and add a different texture rather than cover the entire rock face. Whip stitch in both of these colours has been used for the fabric edging. 
My pearl beads sit on straight stitch stems of a gorgeous variegated DMC thread, which I have also used for the french knots edging the hares fabric, and additional single strands of a light silver have been added at the bottom of some of these stems in wide fly stitches. All of this has been bedded in with rough, loose french knots in a dark purple which helps to look like a sort of shadowed moss (kind of). 

So, the final stitch run down of stitches used in this piece is; running stitch, french knots, bullion knots, straight stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, satin stitch, seed stitch, pistil stitch, split stitch, stem stitch, fly stitch, and a bit of couching. All very simple, although with more of an emphasis of mixing colours in the same needle this time. 
I love that on the back you can still see the image, although it is like a washed out version of what's on the front!

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Pink Moon Progress


I've been working, on and off, on this piece inspired by the Lewis & Irene Hares fabric. It's such a gorgeous print and I loved the colours which are very unlike my usual go-to palettes. The purplish tint to them made me think of tinged fields and a bright pink moon - I don't know why, the brain works in mysterious ways but I'm so pleased it did because I am loving working on these colours!

Although it's slow going I'm enjoying the process. I started on the moon itself because I didn't want any fraying (I didn't back it with any vilene so it's all my usual raw edges) and because I was just really excited to start that bit! Amazingly, both the moon and the top dark purple layer are the same fabric. It's a beautiful Moda Gradients print which starts at a purple that's so dark it's like an aubergine, then washes through to bright pink and fades out to this gorgeous baby pink at the other end - a totally justified purchase with many different Stitchscape uses to be had!
For the moon I initially just outlined the obvious colour changes with whip stitch but then wanted to add different textures so had a go at the little streaky shading lines in two different colours over the washes of matching colour underneath. There were still areas of the edging that hadn't been secured so I then added little running stitches on the inside of the whip stitch plus then of course it was edged with bullion knots- lots of texture for one little moon. 

As always, there's a long way to go with this one as the first layer hasn't fully gone down yet and then there's all of the extra details and plant life to go over the top. I have some flat pearlescent beads which would work brilliantly with the printed Honesty seed heads and would just add to that moon-like glow. I could maybe use some silky threads as well which have a slight shimmer to many possibilities!! 
Part of the reason for it being a slow burner is because I'm currently not using the bus to get to work and back so my commute has dramatically changed following lockdown. I'm not sure how long it will last as it relies heavily on The Mother driving me there in the morning and both Parents collecting me when I finish. For me it's absolutely great because I get an additional 45 minutes lie in, a whole hour to get ready and eat breakfast, then it only takes half an hour to get delivered straight to the office front door, through which I go and stay until 5.30pm when I'm picked up directly outside and am home half an hour later! My day's outside work are much longer and it's just a fantastic feeling to have my evenings back. 
The magic this brings does mean that because I'm no longer hanging around for the bus, or sitting on the bus for an hour each way, that my stitching progress is slower and I'm instead fitting it into lunch breaks and pockets of quiet at home. 

Now we're more out of lockdown our weekends are filling up again with socially distant social events and trips out with the family which is really lovely. I did mange to sneak some quiet sewing time one Sunday morning a couple of weekends ago though and had half an hour whilst the rest of the house snored to sit in bed in my jim-jams and lose myself in the stitches. 

Because it's a colour palette that I don't work with often, I also had to treat myself to a handful of new threads! It amazes me that although I have my own personal collection of threads (rather a large one), as well as an inherited thread collection and threads specially for workshops and Stitchscape kits - that I still needed to buy so many to try and match to different areas! Just goes to show how many beautifully coloured fabrics you can buy, we really are spoilt for choice!

Monday, 10 August 2020

New Summer 2020 Embroidery Kits


It's all been happening in my Etsy shop! Since I last posted on here, way back on the 7th July, I have released two new kits into the shop!! Two of them! Such productivity is most unlike me, usually I flitter around all over the place and rarely get anything finished but it's nice to see these out and raring to go. 

I realise that the Christmas kit is perhaps a little early and no one wants to even think that far ahead (especially this year!), but if you are making something for Christmas it's best to start around now and then you have a higher chance of it getting finished and ready - especially if you are making lots of different things. Just think of it as Christmas in July (or August as the case may be). 

This kit is very sweet and is the updated version of my original Christmas kit which was released a couple of years ago and has since run out of fabric stocks. There are about three of the original ones left I think so if you are very quick you could pop both into your basket and have a matching pair! The template pieces are the same as I like the challenge of 'recycling' templates and trying them out with new fabrics and new trimmings. The fabrics in this one are really lovely and include a grey batik from Rhinetex, 'Spraytime' in Christmas Red from Makower, a beautiful silver print star on green from John Louden and 'Yuletide Magic' from Paintbrush Studio. Such a treat! They have been paired very simply with a beaded trimming (not individual beads for those sceptics out there), some silver crochet yarn and the lovely stranded cottons and metallics from Anchor and DMC. 

It's an easy little make so if you are just starting out on your embroidery journey then this is a good one to start with to get to know some basic stitches. As always there are full instructions within the booklet, as well as diagrams, and a pull out template page if you wish to use it. I have included the felt backing but rather than include any lace as in the original version, this time I'm letting you decide whether you want to hang it with ribbon or lace - in the photo on the front I have simply tucked it over the branch of a yew tree in my front garden and actually I think it looks rather nice!! A bit like a bizarre berry growing from the branch rather than something that's been hung from it. 

This would also make a lovely gift for someone if you are starting your Christmas shopping early. It includes everything but sewing tools and the aforementioned optional ribbon/lace so can be given at Christmas to be completed in the post-Christmas-lunch flop and over Boxing Day! If you would like to purchase one or a few, please do visit my Etsy shop or click here

The second kit now available to you lovely lot is my Ladybug Valley kit!! I went into a bit of detail about the origins of this kit in a previous blog post which you can find here, but basically this is another re-design job as the original fabrics sold through and I've taken back the template and changed things around, tweaked, improved and generally played a bit more. I think I've flipped the design as well actually if I recall rightly.
The top fabrics are mostly the same as before as they are readily available, but the bottom two are completely new and I've done some different things with the trimming. 

Hopefully the trimming instructions and diagram will prove to be fairly clear as the trimming in the completed piece looks nothing like what it first looks like in the kit (it's the flat green tape you can see). I've cut it in half, stripped the lengths of hessian out and twisted and stitched and pulled and teased them into a whole new thing! Which seemed like a good idea at the time... 

I'm excited for this one though and I hope people will like it. I find that initially new kits can be slow sellers but they gradually gain momentum and I end up permanently behind in the making up more schedule. It's a bit harder to keep on top of all of these kits now I have so many current designs as well - working part time three days a week does get in the way rather when you need to have a serious cutting out session!! Cutting fabrics for these and preparing them for kits can take at least a day to do and that doesn't include combining them or putting together the thread cards. They are a real labour of love!

If you are interested in snapping up a Ladybug Valley kit then again they are in the wonderful world of Etsy, or you can click here to be fast tracked directly to the page! 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

How To: Make A Perfect Bullion Knot

I get asked all of the time about bullion knots. I don't mind, I love talking about them and helping other people learn to love them too - they feature heavily in my kits because of their versatility and texture. I use them for edging, for straight flowers, curved flowers, shells and little bobbles on the ground. They are great friends with the french knot and look lovely paired together but I appreciate that other embroiderers and stitchers may not love them as I do and, if you are a beginner, you might possibly be cursing me for including so many in my kits!!

So, I thought it about time that I did something about it. Recently I was emailed by a customer who was working on a kit and had some questions about how to make her bullion knots neater, and requesting tips on how to improve. As I was writing a return email it struck me actually how many tips and tricks and things to consider there are! Whilst I don't want alarm anyone about how long my bullion knot guide is, hopefully it can be used more of a trouble shooter if you are having any issues with your knots. A sort of comprehensive guide into the world of bullions!

I have added this guide to my (very small) 'How To' section on the right hand tab of this blog, or you can reach it here. It discusses the best needles to use, what threads work and threads to look out for, how to actually make a bullion knot (the Dotty Textiles way), some things to watch out for whilst you are creating and a trick if you go a little wrong. Hopefully I will have covered every eventuality but if I haven't, let me know and I'll try and pop a solution in there.

Workshop Kit Wheatfield Mini

I was tidying up last week and came across a couple of little kits that I made in 2017 for a mini workshop I was running for a Bridge Arts in Uckfield exhibition. These ones were the leftovers, the un-chosen ones. I never made up one of these little kits myself - which only had a 10cm hoop, calico backing and four co-ordinated fabrics in (threads were provided on the table separately)- so thought I might as well have a crack at it now!!
The purple one then sold on Instagram funnily enough.

This one caught my eye out of the two, making me think of wheatfields or cornfields or some-such. It's funny how tastes change, I probably wouldn't put this green in with these fabrics now if I could avoid it, it's slightly muted and makes the collection look a tad washed out. Something deeper would be better and create more impact. I've tried to put this depth in with darker threads instead although it hasn't entirely worked I don't think.

I started by matching the green, working a running stitch and then a perpendicular whip stitch  topped with couched threads all in the same colour. This didn't really stand out at all so I then tried adding a single strand back stitch just underneath the couched stitches, and some more whip stitch along the same lines. Later on I decided this still didn't work and added a third darker colour which is better but I'm not completely in love with the final effect I have to be honest.

I do really like the effect on the polka dot fabric though, it reminds me of fields that have just been harvested and the neat rows of hay bales that are left behind. I initially worked back stitch following the diagonal grid line through the dots, then added single stitch straight stitches along the horizontal grid line and filled the gaps in. French knots were added on every polka dot and later on you'll see I've also added tiny single strand one twist french knot poppies to this area.

One thing I obviously wasn't thinking about when creating these kits for my workshop was the space required to draw up the back!! I had barely anything to work with which was a challenge but I got there in the end. (A good inch is usually required at the very least.)

I wanted something shiny and a bit more flamboyant for the bottom layer - the upper layers were all dull and muted and that green (...eek) so sequins were definitely the way to go. If you have a piece of work that is looking a bit flat and dull, stitch in a discreet shiny thread or some beads, or something lustrous/shiny/metallic/glittery and you'll get an instant lift. It doesn't have to be full on hot pink glittery spangles, just something that catches the eye or seems to glow from within, like it's been touched by the sun.
Somewhere on Instagram I'd seen a textile artist who plays and experiments with sequins and it seemed to me she was folding large sequins into 3D shapes. I really wanted to have a go at something similar and I have a big bag of steampunk inspired sequins where there are lots of different colours, shapes and textures. These I have folded in half and secured with a bead but it was a developing idea because the first stem wasn't very stable and kept flipping or twisting round which didn't look great. I then worked another stem alongside the first with the folded edges together and also overlapping slightly to help prevent the twisting. The very top sequins, or ones that are going over my jute string trimming, may also have a tiny stitch into the bottom of the sequin itself to stop it from moving. The bottom sequins are more embedded and supported by the french knots which I added in afterwards.

I LOVE the way these sequins are all different colours and textures. Some seem to glow more on the inside, like candlelight on brass pots in an old Victorian kitchen, others are darker and less shiny, some grey, some bronze.... the collection of them all works really well together I think. The redness of some of them fits in well with the red of the poppies, and I had to revisit the layer above the green hill with the seed stitch and french knots to add some of the darker brown colour I used for the french knots among the flowers to try and bring that into balance as well.

These little pieces are certainly more of a challenge, wanting to fit everything in that would normally appear in the larger scale hoops but having to be fairly simple so it doesn't look overcrowded. All of the drama with this one is at the bottom so it's nicely weighted and the folded sequins feel amazing to run your fingers over!!
This one is destined to be on my hoop wall which I've been developing over the lockdown period. I have hoops of all sizes filled with Stitchscapes - some I stitched for pleasure, some that were kits but have sold out, some that I've put back into a hoop after previously mounting onto a square of card and some that are just pretty experiments I don't want to squirrel away into a sketchbook.