Monday, 17 February 2020
I haven't done much embroidery lately, there was a long break over Christmas as I was so exhausted by the time I'd finished my last seasonal craft fair. There was a lot of work that had to go into creating enough stock and keeping everything going in the online shop and I felt almost like I couldn't look at another Stitchscape and couldn't sleep without feeling guilty at something I should have done or hadn't had enough time to get to.
But slowly the urge to stitch has come back to me, helped greatly by having to make up samples and examples for the workshops I've got booked up for this year. Being made to play with my fabric stash (no great hardship) and come up with new ideas has fuelled the stitching bug again and this morning I finished off this 20cm embroidery, started as an example piece to demonstrate with at the Ardingly Quilt Show this year.
Funnily enough, the batik fabrics in this piece were bought at last year's show by The Mother, to give to me for my birthday, as part of a big bundle pack stuffed with the most delicious green themed batik fabrics! I'd been looking at it ever since opening the wrapping but hadn't had time to do anything with it. There are more lovely pieces to use which no doubt I will be dipping into again soon!
There wasn't a huge inspiration behind this piece as it was a last minute, late evening, thought flash that I hadn't got any prepared pieces to demonstrate with on the following day. I ended up with two hoops ready to go - this green hills one (an easy layout to use), and an autumnal trees piece which I haven't started stitching yet.
What's nice about following your fingers rather than your head with these pieces, and having literally no inspiration, is that whatever it turns out like is a fantastic surprise. There's no pre-meditated vision to follow and try to re-create so there is no pressure and you can have tons of fun along the way. I've been taking this one into work with me during the week and working on it whilst on the bus.
I started by working the hills, following the lines of the strongest batik reliefs in the lowest mountain and either edging them with stem stitch or filling them with satin stitch. The fabric edge is a couched embroidery floss folded in half.
The middle hill is my absolute favourite as it has so many colours within that one piece that reminds me of sunshine and cloud shadows and summer holidays walking along the dales. There weren't so many definitive lines in this fabric piece so the centre has been filled with rows of running stitch and then a perpendicular whip stitch worked vertically across the top (one of my go to techniques for mountains/hills/fields). The more obvious lines at the sides has been worked with whip stitch over back stitch to create a solid line, using a single strand of thread to keep it delicate. This fabric layer has been edged with bullion knots.
The tallest peak has also had a couple of stitch techniques applied to it. Initially the leaf batik shapes were edged with back stitch and then roughly worked around with french knots to fill in the larger gaps between these shapes and to give it a more rocky or bush-filled appearance which is also enhanced with the continuation of french knots to edge the fabric layer.
The fabrics behind the peaks have been worked very simply, seed stitch and french knot edging (green/grey spot fabric), back stitch following the printed lines and couched embroidery thread to the top (grey stripe) and long straight stitches roughly following the texture lines in the, almost plain, natural print, edged with bullion knots.
There's so much going on in the foreground that the top of the piece really needed to have less to balance it out and create some airy breathing space.
The bottom layer has it all going on. It's a fabric that I've used several times before, in the Gold Rush and All The Glitters Stitchscapes to name two, and I love how it goes that extra mile to add sunshine and texture and just a bit of glitz into my 'Scapes. It's a Japanese print fabric with the gold print design really lifting the green colours underneath, perfect for adding metallic golden threads to.
I started by working back stitch in a single strand of the metallic floss (terribly temperamental stuff to work with!) following the printed lines - and running stitch where the print lent itself.
I really like the section of the print photographed above, where little patches of plant life were already 'drawn' onto the fabric. I've lifted these out of the print by adding a rather zesty green over the gold with straight stitches, and underlined them with a slightly darker green stem stitch.
The fancy trimming reminds me of a stone fence and, although rather chunky, lends itself well to this piece, breaking up the layers and adding a place of focus to the piece. I've tried to embed this back in by putting my bullion knot reed flowers over the top and it does sit much better now. The bullions themselves have been worked in two different shades of the lime green to make it slightly more interesting.
Of course, the most noticeable parts of this Stitchscape are the really cute floral sequins which glint different colours depending on the angle, sometimes green or yellow or blue. They have been secured down with a bead at their centre, and surrounded by golden beads that are placed over gold spots in the printed design. Combined with the metallic thread its a magical , sparkling layer!
I've decided to frame this one in the hoop, the largest piece I've done this with so far! Very chuffed with how this has turned out.
The stitch run down for this piece is as follows; back stitch, running stitch, straight stitch, couching, beading, bullion knots, french knots, whip stitch (over running and back stitches), fly stitch, satin stitch, stem stitch and seed stitch. Most of these are the very basics of embroidery stitching but depending on the use of colour, and weight of line, can be made to look absolutely amazing and super effective! You don't need to use the most complicated stitches to create something beautiful.
It's been a while since I last posted on here, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat amongst everything else that has to happen in running a business and life ticks along at a scarily brisk pace.
I've also changed how I take photos; having upgraded to a iPhone most of my images are now phone snaps, immediately uploaded to Instagram or Facebook without needing my big camera to be lugged around with me. Blogging is the newspaper of the online community.
Occasionally I do remember to get the camera out and on a visit to Kew Gardens last year to see the Dale Chihuly exhibition I knew I wanted to get some macro zooms and higher quality images of his amazing glassworks!
My absolute favourite glass house at Kew is the waterlily house. Although it may also be the smallest, the waterlilies are stunning and come in a variety of shapes and colours, casting their reflections onto the mirror-like water below. Chihuly's glass piece in this pool was just as incredible and breathtaking, mirroring the reflections but in dish plate proportions!
In the centre of the garden, there were glass pieces everywhere and I'm sure we didn't get to see them all but it was fascinating to see the way they would occasionally appear to be naturally growing in the shrubberies and then be an outstanding, one-off mad ball of spikes behind a hedge! Although it was an overcast day, the glass was almost lit from within, glowing with exuberance and depth of colour.
It was definitely one of my favourite exhibitions of all time. I've long been a fan of Chihuly's work and have memories of researching him during art class at secondary school over ten years ago and trying to create my own 'glasswork' art using thick wedges of PVA glue and acetate. A privilege to see so much of his work in one place and at one of my favourite places!!
Monday, 9 December 2019
During my summer holiday in Cornwall I had an idea whilst on the beach to collect pre-holed Limpet shells and use them in a Stitchscape. The holes were a pretty specific requirement because I've stitched different shaped shells on before and had to cross over the shape like a shisha mirror because they are mighty tricky to put a tiny little hole in! Holey Limpets are much easier to work with as you can go around them almost like a giant, textured sequin and they look great!
I had great fun trying to recreate a beach texture - the sand and pebble print fabric I have is brilliant and I went over each of the bigger pebble shapes with a rough satin stitch, following the colour of the print below. The larger limpet shells were filled with some quilters batting that was then completely covered with french knots and I found in my stash a brilliant knitted tube yarn which looks exactly like seaweed and can be played around with and pulled in different directions. This is such a textural fabric layer with the hard shells combined with this bouncy yarn, tiny little matte beads, french knots, bullion knot barnacles, clear sequins which flash pink and blue in the light as you turn the Stitchscape. It looks exactly how I wanted it to and I'm so chuffed!! You can almost smell the salty air.
The green fluffy layer was good fun to make. It is using a fantastic yarn I picked up in a sale in Hobbycraft (and have used in many Stitchscapes now), which is actually more like a loosely woven roving, bound together with a strand of black thread to keep it in check. Once you take that off and tease it apart, you probably could felt with it and the shades included are gorgeous. I've taken small snippets of them, stitched down the halfway point, folded the halves up and secured it with a couple of stitches to keep them upright. Each little cluster has been stitched down individually, and then bedded into the ground with some french knots.
The other layers have been kept pretty simple really, with the main focus being on the shell layer at the bottom. Most of the fabrics have just been treated with a going over of what was already there- this fabulous seagull fabric (a slice of which I managed to snag at a workshop as I was quite literally drooling over this fabric one of my students brought in!) has been gone over in a fine seed stitch, but using three different colours as the blues and whites in the piece changed. There's a mid blue, light blue and white to really stay true to the printed colour underneath. The seagulls I have left completely alone as they have a wishy washy appearance that a: would be hard to follow and outline and, b: gives an idea that they are swooping so fast through the sky that they are practically a blur.
I've added a couple of fun trimmings, a lovely jute trim that I use regularly in my kits as it can be teased out to different thicknesses, and also a linen tape with frayed edges which looked pretty ragged and beachy to me.
The back looks almost as nice as the front I think with a kind of abstract beach feel to it. There are so many lovely family holiday memories embroidered into this - and enough shells left over to do another little piece.
Stitches used in this holiday extravaganza were; seed stitch, satin stitch, straight stitch, back stitch, french knots, bullion knots, running stitch, pistil stitch, whip stitch, fly stitch, couching and beading.
Monday, 28 October 2019
I can't take any credit for these photos. Firstly because the webs themselves are fantastic works of art created by the spiders and, secondly, because my camera was hijacked by The Brother whilst I was out and I came home to him hopping around the kitchen he was so pleased with these photos he'd taken. They are really lovely images though and I knew I had to share them with you on here!
We are well into Autumn now with the frost starting to appear on the roofs of the houses opposite, although it hasn't yet made it down to the ground. The clocks have gone back, giving us all an extra hour for that one day and it's dark mornings and even darker evenings from now on. If you catch it right though, you can see fabulous sights like these amazing dew dropleted (is that a word?) spider webs, sparkling like Christmas tree decorations in the morning light.
It's incredible to think that the spiders just 'knock these up' on a daily basis isn't it? All of those threads knotted or glued together, criss-crossing over themselves to create a deadly basket or swirling in a dizzying spiral for the unwary flies to be caught in.
I imagine, should they ever wish to, spiders would make perfect embroiderers, with each stitch sewn with such precision and care - and at four times the speed I am capable of with my two hands!