Friday, 20 November 2020

Multi-Dales!! Shop Update

What an exciting week!!! On Monday the Mini Woollydale Stitchscape kit was launched and literally five minutes ago (Friday) the Woollydale II Stitchscape kit has been released!!! There are sheep coming out of my ears!! 

I am so grateful though as since Monday's kit launch, I have sold nearly 10 Mini Woollydale kits which is amazing for the first five days. The rush to get both of them out now is because Woollydale (the original) was my most popular kit ever and as it's coming up to Christmas and I have a couple of virtual shop things going on, I wanted my shop to have in it the best products it could!


I really love these little sheep pieces. To me, the thinking is that you are looking out of the same window but on different days so in one hoop it may be slightly over cast and dull, still pretty but with more muted colours, and in another hoop it's sunny and summery, with zingy greens and colourful flowing water. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from purchasing both and having them as a pair of Dales.....


The beauty of the batik fabric in the Woollydale II kit became even more apparent when I was cutting up the strips to prepare for kit compiling. Not one strip is the same, some of them are mostly purple whilst others are more green with blue, there are pops of yellowy/orange in some, but muted yellows in others. I've tried to show this as best as I can in the listing but your kit is not going to be identical to my version - something which is very ingrained in all of my kit designs. It's the excitement of finding out which one you are going to get!!

So, you can get yours either in my Etsy shop, here, or in my Web shop, here.  It's completely up to you where you go and where you feel most comfortable purchasing from. Don't forget though, the Mini Woollydale is a limited edition so it may not be around for long!!


 

Thursday, 12 November 2020

My Community! Shop Small & Local

I imagine you'll have heard this over and over again but as it's something so close to my heart I thought I'd mention it one more time (and it probably won't be the last). The lockdowns we have had this year, and are currently in, whilst helping to keep us safe and reduce the number of those affected by the COVID virus, are doing nothing for our little independent shops and businesses! 

I have been hugely supported by these little quirky shops or handmade, homegrown businesses that find those extra special products or bolster creative skills that big corporations can't and don't supply. We little people have to stick together and I'm always keen to give back to those who have helped me on my journey to being able to do what I love with hand embroidery and teaching Stitchscaping. 


This lockdown is different to the first one in that we are more prepared this time around. It isn't such a shock and care has been taken to ensure that, whilst physical premises can't stay open, their fabulous little corners of the world stay open around the clock online, potentially reaching even further than they usually would. It's especially important at this time of year, which is well known for its springboard in creativity and rise in sales, as people rush to have the most beautiful Christmas table and give the best presents (Kirstie Allsopp style). 

One of my biggest supporters has always been Saira at the-stitchery in Lewes, who I actually met whilst going for a job interview a few years ago. I didn't get the job but what I did get was huge backing and support, and a new friendship! She helped me springboard my kits by letting me help myself in the shop (see this blog post here) to whatever I wanted with a view to developing two, exclusive kits just for the-stitchery and, when they sold out, agreed to become my first stockist of any other kit that I produce. 
The-stitchery has done a fantastic job, and have worked really hard, getting as much on their web shop as possible (including my kits!) but there is so much more available and if you need anything at all creative wise it's a fantastic place to start. Just send them an email detailing what it is you need and they will get in touch as soon as they can. (Email: info@thestitchery.co.uk)


Somewhere else that has majorly boosted me is Closs & Hamblin (formerly known as C&H Fabrics Ltd). They are my biggest stockist by far with kits in several of their branches across the South East and, whilst they do have several locations they are still a family run business with a tight knit team. They were also the first company to offer me a job whilst I was wandering the streets in search of one after graduating from university. Currently all of their physical stores in Brighton, Guildford, Horsham, Chichester, Tunbridge Wells, Winchester, Eastbourne, Canterbury and Windsor are closed to the public but again they are working really hard to get as much of their produce on their website. They have quite a vast range of things from baby toys, craft kits, (Stitchscape kits), puzzles and games, soft furnishings, Christmas decorations, candles.....there's literally hundreds of things!

Below is a blurry photo of me from a couple of weeks ago in the Winchester store when we popped over to have a wander around the shops. Naturally a selfie was required with the Stitchscape kits!


Not all of my community members are shop owners though and I have a lot of thanks for Louise and Sarah of Made & Making in Hassocks. They run the most amazing workshop studio and I was following them on Facebook and lusting over how much space they had and the gorgeous creations around the walls when one day I got a message from them asking if I'd like to be a tutor!! Once I'd picked myself up off the floor it was an instant yes and I've been running a monthly Stitchscape workshop every month this year - when we weren't/aren't in a lockdown. 
After the first lockdown they worked really hard getting the studio space a safe place for crafters and tutors to go back to and I personally found it a fantastic experience to be the workshop that some of the ladies chose to go to as their first proper venture outside in months! During this second lockdown they have lots of online courses being held on Zoom you can sign up to, kits available for some of their most popular projects you can purchase, and gift vouchers available to buy to be redeemed on any course you fancy. 
They have a whole host of different classes, some run by themselves for quilting and sewing (even one just on getting used to your own sewing machine!) and others by tutors they've found and sourced for you to do things like sketch booking, quilling, calligraphy, paper craft, fabric flowers, sewing in pretty much any form, flower headbands, straw work and of course, Stitchscaping.  Even if you don't want to purchase a physical product, there's definitely someone you know who would appreciate a gift voucher for a class.


So, I'm not saying that you should only purchase from these lovely places (I mean, you definitely should take a look anyway - can't hurt can it?) but I am saying that maybe you could consider purchasing from somewhere smaller than Amazon or the big high street chains. Local businesses and small sellers can be found on Etsy, Ebay, Not on the high street, Folksy, Ravelry, Instagram, Facebook, NuMonday and their own individual sites. I guarantee that every purchase you make from these people (myself included) will do a little happy dance for every item and probably lovingly wrap it and package it for you with little details and sweet stickers - no slapped on black tape and squashed boxes with masses of unnecessary bits of paper and stuff floating around in there to burrow through. 

If you look around online at the moment there are lots of virtual fairs you can sign up to which will essentially be a collection of artists and makers in one place. I am mentioned on a fantastic site just put together called Stones Throw who have collected a Christmas community 'shop' of artists/makers/crafters in Sussex and have links to all of their pages to make them easy to find. 
I am also joining in with a virtual fair hosted on Instagram on the 21st November by the Tree of Hope Children's Charity based in Kent. (Click here to see more about that.)


So, if you are still with me then thank you for getting this far! It's a subject I'm hugely passionate about and I thought I would just leave you with some links to other lovely businesses and makers and artists who I also consider to be part of my community. All of them are definitely worth a visit (just click on their name to go to their sites)!! xx

 Snobb Ltd. (For handmade bags, accessories, purses, crocheted items, handmade jewellery and more...)

 Tilly Tea Dance (For gorgeous felted art pieces embellished with hand embroidered; frames, pendants, book marks, brooches...)

 Top Cat Bags (For handmade designer handbags and accessories, memory animals and more...)

 Aries Glass (For beautiful custom glass art and fused glass workshops)

 The Wendy House (For handmade bags, children's clothes, bunting, scrunchies, cushions....lots of pom poms!)

 Willow River Crafts (For macramĂ© hangers, keyrings, pot holders, personalised wrapped letters and gifts....)

There are probably more that I have forgotten to mention so I will update this if I have!

If you are interested in supporting more of your local community, why not check out Just A Card? It's an organisation dedicated to getting the word of local, handmade, little, independent or kitchen table artists, makers, creators, designers and sellers out there. They are fantastic promoters and you can support them too by purchasing one of their fabulous pins. 


Monday, 9 November 2020

Woollydale II Stitchscape Kit

I am on a Woollydale kit roll! Two new Woollydale kits made and written up in the last two weeks with possibly the release of at least one of them by the end of next week at the latest. How good is that?

This one is the like-for-like replacement of the original Woollydale which I'm not able to run any more because half of the fabrics are now unavailable. It's a 15cm hoop and has the exact same sheep fabric layer with the exact same techniques on it. But it also has three new fabrics, new stitch techniques and a little bit of sunshine in the two-tone yellow flowers as well as some other differences. 

The batik fabric used at the bottom is an absolute joy, it has so many different colours splashed into it - you can just see here the purple and the oranges, which were the inspiration for the yellow bullion flowers as I wanted the yellow in the batik to look like a watery reflection. By complete fluke, there's also a lightening of the background blue just at the point where the reeds part and it looks to me like a shaft of sunshine sneaking through the plants. But of course, as every kit is designed to be an original each time it's stitched up, this may not happen again - or could be even better! This is a 'proper' batik, as in it isn't a batik design that's been printed to look random but is properly made with wax layers that are then melted off. It's a bit more expensive but I think you'll agree that it's totally worth it?

I haven't changed the sheep because they were the main, much loved, feature of the original kit and I daren't touch it! There is a difference in the Mini Woollydale but why change something that works so well already? If you were making this kit for yourself of course, there's nothing stopping you from sneakily looking at the other kit and changing things around. You could keep the running stitches as shown here but add little tiny french knot daisies among the sheep like in the Mini version. 

I've brought in one of my favourite techniques for hillsides (and cliffs and trees) which is the vertical whip stitch over seed stitch. I have used this combination in my Bluebell Garden Stitchscape kit (which also contains lots of 'proper' batiks now I think about it) for the trees and have diagrams explaining how to do it within each kit. It's just great for invoking bunny runs, trodden paths in grass or the feeling of movement and is designed to be random and spontaneous. As it's worked off random seed stitches then you can't be regimented with it (unless you have a regimented seed stitch - eek the horror!) so everyone's will look different. 


I just keep returning to this glorious batik water over and over again! Does the slight green bit and the stitched shapes remind you of lily pads? 

The jute trimming for these kits has actually been hand dyed by yours truly! I ordered it in bulk ready for using in this kit but when it arrived the green was completely wrong (almost luminous) so, rather than waste it, I popped it in our sink and poured over the olive Dylon dye and dyed it into a much nicer colour for you. There's a photo on my Instagram somewhere of it all hung up on the washing line, drying. 

There are a few different techniques used in this top hill. The lighter green has stems made from whipped back stitch in two strands of thread so they are slightly thicker than the darker stems which are just a single strand of stem stitch. At the end of each stem spray are little two twist french knot clusters in ones or threes depending on how much of the printed flower underneath needs to be covered. 

At the top of this layer I have used DMC coton perle thread (one strand) and a single strand of the darker green (used for the stem stitch), folded in half and couched to the edge of the fabric. I've made mine fairly bouncy and twisted it a bit as I went along so that you get hits of the darker green and it has more of a bouclé yarn appearance.


At the bottom, among the bullion reeds, are pistil stitches which I haven't used in a kit for a while. These are really lovely little stitches, understated but adding enough to blend the greens together. There are still a lot of greens and I was a little concerned that they wouldn't all go together but I think generally it has balanced out into a green blend with a pop of yellow and, of course, the fabulous white sheep.


I've ordered booklets from a new supplier for the Mini Woollydale kit so I'm going to wait and see what the quality of those is like before ordering the books for Woollydale II. It shouldn't add too much of a delay though as the books are due to arrive tomorrow and if they're any good, I'm set up to order more in the evening. It's all go, go, GO!


 

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Mini Woollydale

 

It's finished!! This feels like completing a marathon because, even though it's only 12cm, this piece has taken me ages!! There's just been so much going on with additions to my routine, changes to my (almost) normal routine, a head cold (not the C-virus), darkening evenings, stress at work....its all been a bit much really and by the time I get home again I just want to veg out and forget about everything that's on my various to do lists. Sewing took a back burner these last two weeks and so the re-designing of my Woollydale kits took a back burner along with it. 


But I've persevered and this is the first of TWO new Woollydale kit designs! I don't think I've written about it on here but sadly I can no longer source three of the original Woollydale fabrics and I've completely run out of one of them. I tried to substitute it with fabric of the same design but in a different colour (the top one used here) but it just wasn't working and in the end I decided to make two new kits; this little one which uses up the rest of the fabrics that I have left, so will be a limited edition, and another 15cm one using all mostly new fabrics or ones I can get hold of easily. 

I love this little one, it has the same sheep pattern as the original Woollydale (see here) but with an olive green background rather than the bright green so it's like a slightly washed out version of before. The clouds have passed over the sun and perhaps a little mist has wound it's way into the Dales. The sheep don't seem to mind however and are still merrily rolling around in the grass.

Where the fabrics have been recycled I have tried to keep the same threads and stitches to reduce the work for myself in re-writing the booklet as I really want to get this one out as fast as possible. Woollydale was my all time top best seller and my online shops are suffering somewhat without it being in there. Ideally I'd like to have released both of these kits by mid-November at the latest but we'll see how it goes. 

Regardless of my recycling, this one uses some new colours as well as slightly new ideas. There's a few DMC stranded threads that have crept in so it will be a mixture of Anchor and DMC and I think I will include the hoop in this kit as it will fit nicely within my cellophane packaging. 

There are a LOT of french knots in this one! There are knots in the sheep, knots in the daisies, knots on the border, knots in the top hill...I considered adding knots underneath the reeds as well but restrained myself at the last minute. With all of these knots I think I'm going to have to write a french knot troubleshooter like I have for the bullion knots, in case anyone gets stuck. 

The backs of the hoops designed as kits are always a little messy as I change my mind when going along and rush around, carrying threads across the back with gay abandon. If you follow me on Instagram (and frankly, why wouldn't you? It's @power.beth if you don't!) you'll have seen my bullion knot reed colour dilemma. I'd initially started making the bullion knots at the bottom of the piece in yellow DMC thread but as I was going along it was making me feel more and more uncomfortable. The yellow didn't add to the piece, didn't stand out as being at the front and was just getting lost among the sheep. I reverted back to the green Anchor thread that these reeds had been in the original Woollydale, which I hadn't initially thought would work because the whole hoop is a much darker green, and made a little test patch at the other end which just looked so much better! It goes with the slight zesty green splashes in the blue batik fabric as well so the yellow reed knots were all cut off to make way for a bank of bright green. 




I did end up using the yellow though, to just fill in some of the gaps between the sheep and add a little bit of prettiness with some yellow daisies, or maybe buttercups? It's not wild, just a gentle sprinkling for the sheep to frolic in. 


The Woollydale kit family really focuses on the greens and it is still inspired by my holidays to Yorkshire where your breath can literally be taken away by the range of greens that confront you around every corner. Each roll of the hill has a slightly different shade and texture and it's a constantly changing palette as the sun rolls around and clouds cast their shadows and play with making funny shapes in the fields. I love the way it changes through the seasons as well, so bright and fresh and new in the Spring, literally glowing neon when the sun hits it in the early mornings, to a deep, happy and contented green in the Summer, fading to a slightly crispy, mature and diminished green in the Autumn where it is overtaken by the flaming oranges. In winter its deep and velvety, shiny and lustrous with the holly and ivy. At this point green doesn't have to work hard to make us happy and distract us from the grey gloom outside so a dark green will do. It's a fascinating, multifaceted colour and I love working with it. 








This will still be a kit that 'scapers can make their own, and I think it will work well alongside the previous Woollydale if you wanted to have another round of sheep stitching. As before, the placement of the reed stems is completely up to you and dictated a little bit by the positioning of the batik fabric, which will be a different cut for everyone. The sheep, although templates will be provided, may need to be reworked and cut slightly differently to avoid giving one of them too close of a shave and there are loads of ways you can really make this kit your own. I'm always excited by the possibilities and look forwards to getting photos through of what people have made and how they've changed it to suit their preferences. 

Just need to write it all up in the book, sort out the templates, redraw my diagrams, check it all, get it printed, cut the fabrics, make the thread cards and compile it all together, then photograph the kit and start advertising it on Etsy and my new website shop. Did I mention my new website shop? Why not pop over to my website and have a look?!


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!!