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!! 

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!