Friday, 5 June 2020

Staying At Home

I'm generally a homebody, happy to stay at home for long periods of time and busy myself with various projects. My family are hoarders (sorry Mum but we are). Hoarders of activities, crafts, projects, knowledge, interests. We have a love of music, history, archaeology, arts, crafts, textiles, computers, games, fossils, sports....and this manifests in our house in the form of 'stuff'. It's a lived in house and, whilst not necessarily messy, we don't have enough proper storage for it all so generally we end up with piles or corners of interests which get moved around to suit what's going on in the house.
That being said, I'm also a country girl who relishes being outdoors in different places. I love travelling, finding new views and spotting startled wildlife who scurry away as I approach. I love breathing in the smell of the sea and staring out at all that blue, hunting for sea glass as the sand squidges and crunches between my toes.
All in all, being in lockdown due to Covid-19 hasn't been that hard - not as hard for us as it has been for others. Our family have been safe and we've closeted ourselves away in our little home bubble, working on new routines and being very thankful for our house of 'stuff'. However, I must admit, now it's starting to grate on me, the four walls are closing in and I catch myself being unfairly irritable to other members of the household but not able to hold the irritation and frustration in.

Considering that we haven't really gone anywhere for the last 10 weeks (? I think it's 10 - it all blurs together), a lot has happened. I've crossed off so much on my calendar, but added new things too.

❤️ We've had two babies born; one to my sister (I'm an Auntie for the first time!!) and one to a close friend. The Mother has become a virtual nanny, offering nanny-ish advice via FaceTime at all hours of the day and night.
❤️ We now have a very specific Friday afternoon routine - homemade pizza (an absolute must, Friday night is Pizza night and that's that!) followed by a Zoom quiz with my lovely friends, offering a much needed giggle and escape, even if it is whilst sitting on my bed rather than in a pub jostling around the slightly sticky table.
❤️ Saturday night is a family Zoom quiz, which started as a way of demonstrating the wonders of Zoom to some slightly un-educated family members - it seems to have stuck.
❤️ We've had three birthdays in this house (including the cat's) which required homemade cake and presents provided by Amazon and Etsy. One had a surprise Zoom party with his friends, with some highly dodgy singing over the inter-waves.

I think part of our luck and ability to cope with the situation is down to having two key-workers who have a Monday-Friday job working from home. There is still a routine for them. Dad organises traffic lights and various aspects of roads, crossings and bus lanes etc so he has been continuing to develop and improve roadways whilst they are mostly empty. He gets up at the same time as usual as if he were off on his 50 minute commute, made quicker by only having to go down the stairs, and finds it easier to get remote access to his office before the rest of the office world wakes up and clogs up the system.
My lovely other half, Reece, gets up at 7.30am for a shower which means that I get a half hour lie in before I also get up to sort out our breakfast at 8am. He's a computer technician, helping the nation to do what Dad now does, work from home and operate their various computers, laptops, technical devices and phones in perfect harmony.
With one home-worker taking over the kitchen table and the other on a desk in the sitting room, the rest of us have to be as quiet as mice so that we don't interupt Zoom meetings or client phone calls and the space is very limited with five of us knocking around.

The garden is a good place to escape to, and is a project that Dad has been working on with great gusto! We now have a vegetable patch at the bottom of the garden, it having been rescued from the patch of weeds and grasses, and thanks to home deliveries of compost the plants are happier than even to be attended to so regularly. I've mentioned before about how the colour of a garden changes at the beginning of the year starting with yellow (Daffodils and Primroses), on to blue (Forget-Me-Knots and Bluebells) and currently we are on purple (Aliums, Clematis, Foxgloves, Cat Mint and Chives.)

The weather has helped as well, beautiful sunshine is so much more pleasing than endless days of rain.

I started out lockdown with great gusto, using the time well to work on projects that had been overlooked or pushed to one side, working on and developing new kits, making up more of those that sold out and generally being amazed at the amount of stationery I was getting through posting out the orders that were flooding in! I will always be very grateful for those orders as they kept me, and The Mother with her thread card making, very busy in those early weeks and fairly consistently since.
I have started redeveloping the ladybird kit originally designed for Saira at the-stitchery but I must admit I am flagging and feeling less motivated to continue with it.
I find myself saying that "tomorrow I will do this or that" and by the time tomorrow comes, the feeling of 'bleurgh' or 'meh' descends and I can't make myself do whatever it was, finding ways to procrastinate until it's too late to start something new, or would be inconvenient to the household to get that particular project out.
Much as I love having Dotty Textiles and the Stitchscape business, I haven't been able to escape it for over two months. I won't show you photos of our sitting room or my bedroom as The Mother would not be pleased (I refer to you the first paragraph of this post) but I am quite literally living, eating, sleeping, dreaming in a quagmire of Stitchscape paraphernalia! It's all been brought home from the studio and there is no way to switch it off. I fear a little resentment is starting to creep in. I am seriously considering throwing a blanket over the boxes and having a little holiday from it all to try and get my mojo back.

I think I am more worried now about what's going to happen in the future than when lockdown started. You knew where you were with the 'stay at home' instruction. Now it's all becoming a little hazy - stay at home, but not if you have to work, but if you can then do. If you have to use public transport to get to work (I do, three days a week usually) then don't go to work, but if you do get on a bus then you must wear a mask, but ideally don't get on in the first place.
I am currently still furloughed and my bosses don't seem to know when they will want me back in - it depends greatly on what happens when the shops open I think. I imagine they are hoping for a rush of customers sweeping in and ransacking the shelves after so many weeks of not being able to access half of the stuff, but I really doubt that will be the case. People are so wary.
Well, most people are. I struggle to avoid some people on my walks to the Post Office - they don't care whether they are within the recommended meterage of you and are too thoughtless to think about how you may feel about the situation. It's hard to avoid these people and we can no longer leap nobly into the roads to keep distance from them because the traffic is nearly back to normal.
There is no foreseeable end to this weird world of being scared of touching people and it concerns me greatly.
Workshops where I would usually sit next to students to demonstrate stitches are now being considered being done behind masks and screens and I appreciate we must make it work but it saddens me that it can't go back to the carefree, happy environment it was.

But for now I am grateful for the little pleasures we can find. I haven't been able to get to the shops to buy bunches of happy flowers (which I love getting, especially at the beginning of the year) so I snipped a few blooms from the garden where there were lots and made a tiny posy for the table - it lasted a pleasingly long time.
I also came across a company who were offering home delivered afternoon teas so I treated the family to one last weekend. The scones and apple cake were utterly delightful!!

This week when I didn't feel like doing anything I finally tackled the bag of workshop threads which was looking very sad and scarily tangled. I sat out in the sunshine all afternoon (getting my tan/burn on) and patiently untangled everything, threading the used skeins and little lengths onto thread cards. I end up with lots of offcuts of thread cards as I buy them in at a set length and trim them down for each kit. It seems a shame to throw them away (especially as thread cards are expensive to buy pre-punched!!!) so I've just been keeping them, not really knowing what to do but I think this is a great solution as I can also write the thread colour brand and number so workshop goers can purchase more of a particular colour if they like it.
This weekend I think I will be kind to myself and work on a totally non-Stitchscape related project - like sewing on badges to my camp blanket or picking up a crochet blanket that's been half finished for the last two years. Next weekend we have managed to book a timed slot at Scotney Castle, a National Trust property which is one of a select number they have reopened the gardens of. You have to book in advance and it sells out within minutes when new dates are released, we had three of us on the website trying to get different places! Something to look forwards to as I have so missed being able to visit these gorgeous spots.
Be safe and keep smiling!! xx

Books & Postcards

This week hasn't seen a lot of stitching happening. There has, however, been quite a lot of things happening with digital products and projects as that's an area that's been ignored for quite a while. You may remember when I first started out selling Stitchscapes and related items that I invested quite a lot in mounted prints and greetings cards. The cards sold fairly well at craft fairs but not online, and the prints (in two sizes) didn't really sell at all! I have lots of them left over that are trickling out slower than a snail with no foot.
With the pandemic, greetings card packs and postcards stepped up a notch as people wanted to stay in contact with their loved ones and send them a bit of a hug in an envelope but it's not a massive area for me. I do like to keep on top of the postcards though and have just switched up my range to a very limited eight designs, all focusing on textured areas of my most recent embroideries.

I love the quality of these postcards - they are ordered through a company called Moo who are fairly expensive (costs me 52p per postcard - not a huge amount left for any sort of profit whilst still being affordable for my customers) but do have a beautiful print quality. It's hard to describe but the colours of these cards is sort of luminous, especially the Bluebell Garden card, and the shells card is so beautifully detailed.

I've also designed a paper wrap to collate these postcards into a set. Previously they were put into cellophane sleeves but I'm trying to do more to go plastic-free. The only plasticy thing with these cards is my clear sticker circle but that's a by-product of my thread card labels where there are gaps at the side that are wasteful to just throw away. I put a load of circles down the edges and have collected a fair few now!

Hopefully you'll like these postcards too, they'd look great in a skinny frame as a colour set! If you fancy a pack for yourself, click here to go to my Etsy shop.

I've also updated my Little Book of Stitchscapes with a new fresh look. There are only a few left of the previous volume and I try not to reprint the same book twice (only about 10 editions of each are printed) unless one is immediately snapped up. These are printed through an online company called Snapfish and I only print them when they are having an offer on as again they are quite pricey and don't offer me much of a mark up to actually earn anything from them. It's a lovely product to have though and I think well worth it.

The pages are sort of a chunky postcard quality, nice and thick, and it includes 20 pages with different Stitchscapes in. This one has lots of close up images as well as more stylised photos and some shots of the reverse of the embroidery so you can see the mess behind!

If you've had previous Stitchscape books there may be some cross over as I probably won't have produced enough Stitchscapes between times to have a completely fresh set of photos, but this has quite a few new ones as I've been fairly productive on the stitching side of things this year. The nice thing for me is that this book matches my new postcards so they are almost a set in themselves.
If you'd like a little book then click here to go to that Etsy page.

I'm trying to boost my Instagram page as well so my Insta tag is now appearing everywhere - including on the back of my new books! If you don't follow me, please do and share with your friends! I'm sure they'd also love Stitchscape spam popping up on their Instagram feed. Click here, or find me under @power.beth

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Waterlily Stitchscape

Last week I fell down an online fabric buying rabbit hole. In fact it was probably more of the whole warren of rabbit holes as I spent ages drooling over my laptop screen with all the loveliness that was appearing (this is what lockdown does to a fabric addict!). I was trying to find a specific Lewis & Irene pattern, although I can't remember exactly which one it was now and I'm not entirely sure I ended up actually finding it anyway! What I did find was this gorgeous Lewis & Irene Waterlily print which I totally fell in love with.
Waterlilies are up there amongst my favourite flowers, the waterlily house at Kew is the best one and I love visiting Sheffield Park during the waterlily festival - the reflections in the water are magical and they just look so serene bobbing gently atop the surface of the water.

I decided that as a treat for completing my Bluebell Garden kit, the purchase of several new and fabulous fat quarters was totally justified, as was the several full days of stitching at the end of this week. I haven't really done much other than sitting in various places around the house/garden and sewing. Utter bliss.
Before lockdown I bought a couple of 20cm embroidery hoops with the intention of making new Stitchscapes to add to a hoop wall. It's my new favourite way of framing Stitchscapes because it's light, versatile, cheap, easy and, as they are stitched within the confines of a circle, makes sense. I'd forgotten all about the hoops, tucked away in a drawer so it was a good time to rediscover them as I've been working a lot in smaller hoops lately and it's nice to go bigger once in a while.

My vague idea for this piece was to create a pond; waterlilies at the front leading to deeper waters further in, off to a nice little decorative fence or sand back type situation and then maybe a field of blue iris flower type things and a few hills. The clear part in my mind was the pond and after that it all got a bit hazy so I just had to find fabrics from my stash that complemented the water in terms of colour.
The trick with choosing fabrics for Stitchscapes is to look beyond what is physically printed in front of you. The highly geometric fabric is one I love but it is very at odds with the soft waterlily print when you first look at the original fabrics, however, if you look closer the balance of colours is correct. There are tones of green that are shared between the triangles and the lily pads, the blue is reflected in the sky and in the water and the white is in the lily flowers. It's all nicely balanced and if you have sections which aren't quite as co-ordinated, these can be covered with embroidery threads to help even things out. In this case, some of the brighter greens were brought down into the lily pads which have seven different greens in would you believe?

I filled in all of the slightly more wishy-washy lilypads which are in the original print so all of them are solid shapes and some are slightly brighter as well to make the bottom near-match the zestiness of the top. (It's not often you get to say that in a sentence!!)
The flowers were also given two tones of pink to make them appear more naturalistic.

These cute little dragonflies were the last things to be embroidered, following an excellent suggestion by The Mother. They have been made with a couple of lines of straight stitch for the body, three closely stitched straight stitches for the head and some stitches in metallic silver for the wings. Nothing complicated but just enough to give the appearance.

The lovely bright blue layer was the most complicated one and I just couldn't think what to do with it so it was left until last. I knew I wanted a chunky seed stitch for the layer below, and I found a lovely variegated yellowy/green floss which fitted perfectly with the mottled space dyed fabric. I mixed this thread up further by using two strands but swapping their ends so that the colours didn't match all the way along .
For the blue layer I eventually hit upon the simple and tried and testing method of working a running stitch across it, which I have done in blue, and then a vertical whip stitch randomly throughout the layer to give more texture and break it up a bit - which actually works really well with the jagged nature of the print itself. I've been a bit playful with the blue thread and again this is using two strands, but I've used a single strand of two colours at once because I couldn't decide on which one I liked best. I've kept this colour mix for the french knots edging this layer so you can see the combination a little clearer here.

No watery Stitchscape is complete without a touch of sparkle and although I didn't want to massively stitch waves or ripples into these layers, the bullion knot rushes were a little awkward just plopped on top of the water and needed something to hep blend them in. I've combined a single strand of a metallic sparkly ice blue, with a single strand of the blue from the deeper water layer, and worked a one twist french knot wherever I fancied at the bottom of the reeds and also at the bottom of the lace edge where it was just a raw finish.

I'm quite in love with this geometric fabric. The number of colours in it are amazing, although now I've gone over it I've taken out quite a few colours to tone it down slightly with the lily pads. I love that the triangles are worked in different directions because they really catch the light differently and almost appear to undulate across the landscape.
I could have done the blue and white triangles in a satin stitch as well but I didn't want to particularly highlight them so have instead tried to tone them in a little bit with a single strand of seed stitch. At first it was just going to fill these areas but that looked a bit odd so then I tried taking them over some areas of the satin stitch to help blend them. It was going to be an all over seed stitch but I liked the contrast between the clean edges and the burred ones so it ended up being a sort of patchy affair which has great texture.
The pink from the lilies I've brought up onto these hills with little clusters of two strand, one twist french knots in the blue and white areas only. It has really prettified this section and I love it even more!

So, the stitch round up for this hoop is; running stitch, straight stitch, back stitch, back split stitch, fly stitch, satin stitch, detached chain stitch, bullion knots, french knots, seed stitch, whip stitch (vertical & horizontal), fly stitch and couching....I think that's it?

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Stitchscape Kit Update

I was adding my new Bluebell Garden kits to my website and suddenly realised how many kits I've designed now!! Amazing to think that in the last three years I've designed thirteen different Stitchscape kits!! I thought it would be a good time to go over a quick potted history of my kits (mainly so that I can look back and remember as this blog is often used as a diary to find out what I was doing in previous years, and a way of remembering how far my little kitchen table business has grown).

No longer available/sold out kits:

 Summer Sweet Stitchscape Kit :: my first ever kit! Now completely sold out having been running since August 2017. Sadly I wasn't able to find any more of the lovely floral fabric I'd used at the bottom, and the supplier wasn't able to help me as they'd only bought it in as a fat quarter. Since then I've learnt not to use fat quarters in my kits as it turns out people really like them and I have to make lots of them!

 Summer Sweet II Stitchscape Kit :: the second version of the above which was released as a special edition in March of this year. I'm currently looking into sourcing some new fabrics so that I can create a longer running Summer Sweet III but that's on a back burner for the moment as I have several other kit projects which are higher up in the queue.

Orange Glow Sunset Stitchscape Kit ::one of two designs that were created in partnership with the-stitchery in Lewes, and my lovely friend Saira who owns the business. This has now been re-worked and re-launched as one of my best sellers, Fire Flower. (You can still buy my Stitchscape kits through her shop as she is one of my fabulous stockists! Plus her lovely premises is stuffed to the gills with gorgeous things - although currently it's not open due to the COVID-19 shut downs, she's still online and designs her own kits for all sorts of different creative things so well worth a look!)

Spring Ladybugs Stitchscape Kit :: the second design for the-stitchery which took longer to sell through than the sunset piece but uses a really sweet ladybird polycotton fabric. At this very moment I am awaiting a delivery of fabrics so that I can re-work this kit in time for the summer holidays. (That's the plan anyway.)

My currently available kits are:

 #inthehoop Spring Stitchscape Kit :: which suddenly came into its own at the beginning of this year and flew out of the shop! Pretty, dainty and ladylike with a fun jute trimming.

Christmas Hoop Stitchscape Kit :: which is now discontinued with the fabric selection currently available. A new version is ready and waiting to be released later on in the year, but for now the first edition is down to its last 5 kits. 

The Naked Stitchscape Kit :: a kit that is always evolving and changing with new fabric collections and 'bits 'n bobs' included. I've just updated the booklet for this one and swapped a couple of bits around. There is also a PDF downloadable version of this in my shop if you have a stash to hand already. The download includes extra stitches and images to the physical booklet. 

Stitchscape Pebbles Kit :: also a kit that keeps changing, usually in line with the Naked kits as they tend to be done together. Choose your favourite fabric selection and either follow the diagrams in the booklet or design the pebbles yourself! There is also a PDF downloadable version of this kit as it again uses up small scraps that you are likely to have at home. 

Button Mountain Felt Stitchscape Kit :: one for the small stitchers in your life this kit uses three stitches and is made with felt and buttons. It's an easy one to start them off on a creative journey and has lots of diagrams and pictures to follow. 

Woollydale Stitchscape Kit :: is my all time, best selling kit! Slightly more challenging with lots of french knots to create woolly sheep, this is definitely worth it and it doesn't matter if you aren't neat with your knots - your sheep aren't entering any competitions for being well groomed!

Fire Flower Stitchscape Kit :: this is the re-worked version of Orange Glow sunset and uses the same template pieces and a couple of the same fabrics but different stitches. It's a hot little number that's really quick to stitch up!

Bluebell Garden Stitchscape Kit :: is my newest kit and the most complex (although I still wouldn't say it was hard, just slightly more challenging). There are two options with a different trimming for you to choose from and focuses much more on you adding your own input, whilst still being a fully templated kit. 

Felt Flower Garden Hoop Stitchscape Kit :: is a downloadable version only and slightly different to a full Stitchscape kit. This is again aimed at small stitchers and uses small scraps of felt and buttons to create a lovely little flower scene. Great for a weekend project and has templates to use if you have a printer at home. 

Future kit ideas:

So, future kits then! Currently in the pipeline is the new ladybird kit once I've sourced all of the fabrics and trimmings for this. I've got the polycotton ladybird fabric, the blue sky, a lovely Makower linea green print and a green polka dot and I'm just waiting on two floral fabric options to arrive in the post for me to choose from. Then I need to find some trimmings to accompany it all and stitch it all up!! The plan is to re-use the templates from the original Spring Ladybug kit so hopefully this won't take too long to put together, I will just need to re-write the kit booklet to reflect the new techniques. 
I've also designed and sourced everything for the next little Christmas decoration hoop, this just needs writing up properly into a kit booklet and everything cut up and put together - that might be something I can get The Mother working on actually whilst we are still in lockdown......
Summer Sweet III is causing me a bit of a headache as I can't find the fabrics that I want so I shall mull that one over until I find ones that I fall in love with - I do have one bolt of an unused green batik fabric that could be a potential but I'm not sure on the colour with the summery floral I already have remaining from Summer Sweet II. 

Then there are all of the other suggestions that come flying in from various places - The Mother has now suggested a beach hut kit which would also include using bondaweb (to add another skill to your tool belt) to attach the huts themselves. It's a good idea, I shall ponder on it. 

Have you been working on any Stitchscape kits? I'd love to see what you've been up to!! Please do share on my social medias, you can find me on Instagram @power.beth, or on Facebook at Dotty Textiles. If you are on Facebook, why not also join the Dotty Textiles Stitchscape Group and share your work with the other 'scapers? It's a great environment full of inspiration and encouragement.