Wednesday, 13 July 2022

House Move


It's only taken 30 years but finally I've grown up, fled the nest and am sitting on a low rung of the property ladder! Buying your own home is a hassle isn't it? It's almost as if the people who are meant to be helping you buy a house are also actively working against you and speaking in an alien language that only their kind seem to understand and doesn't translate well for the rest of us. 
As first time buyers the amount of documentation required from us was slightly overwhelming, and the whole process was just really confusing, but we got here in the end and are now proud owners of a small two bedroom flat! It's not completely ideal for us as it is a first floor flat and getting the pram up and down by myself can be a bit tricky and, watching the two, incredibly sweaty chaps, deliver our sofa was quite harrowing as they were leaning it on railings and suspending it in a slippery manner over the balcony!

An unexpected bonus of this place is the view. We knew there was a view as the estate agents had been sure to photograph it as a benefit, and we'd seen it when we came to view the property, but it really comes into its own in the evening! The sun goes down just behind that sticking out tree there and the colours are just fantastic! I have to stop myself photographing it every evening because there are only so many photos of the same view you can have on your phone but, really, it is just so lovely and I spend long periods of time looking at it. At the rear of the flat is a balcony leading to a fire escape (which we are using more as our front door as the actual internal front door is a bit dingy and depressing) overlooking the carpark but when you are sitting inside on the sofa, mostly what you can see are trees which is lovely. 

We are settling in well I think, especially now we actually have furniture! Some we got for free, some very cheaply on Gumtree and some new but on sale. There's more to do to make it ours and we haven't really started decorating yet, but I have many plans and Reece is just trying to reign me in slightly! Our parents and aunt and uncle have really helped to get the ball rolling as the flat was quite dirty when we moved in so lots of deep cleaning has happened and odd things you wouldn't have thought of are now replaced and shiny new (like plug and chain sets for the sinks, new sealant around the bath and shower, new plughole for the bath, a light pull, completely new light fitting, filter for the extractor in the kitchen and a more powerful extractor fan for the bathroom). All things I wouldn't really have thought about!

I still pop back to visit the Parents about twice a week though so the postal address for the Stitchscape Swap will remain the same for this year - I need to be sure that these precious envelopes will actually arrive and currently the letterbox on the shared front door of the flat (shared with one other person upstairs from us who we haven't met yet) is one of those tiny half-sized things so I will need to look at getting that changed for modern sized post to go through! 

I can't wait to see how this view changes over the year! Or in different weathers as it's mostly been sunny with some cloud, but a good thunderstorm should look amazing here - or snow!

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Stitchscape Swap Halfway Point


I have been so excited to reach this halfway mark!! We are six months in to the Stitchscape swap so that's six different themes interpreted in a variety of different ways. What's different about this swap, to ones I've joined in with in the past, is that you make two a month so that you can keep one of your own work. Obviously it's up to the participants to decide if they are actually going to do this but I felt it would be a nice thing to do as, when I used to make ATC swaps with a mixed media group, you'd make three of each theme but give away everything you made and some of those pieces I really loved! 

One of my favourite things about this swap is that I'm hosting it! Which, aside from being able to see every single piece that is made, means that I can choose which piece speaks to me the most to keep in my own collection. This is often really difficult but is helped by the fact that I've been keeping a swap spreadsheet to note whose cards I have sent to who, in an effort to really mix things up and make sure that everyone gets a card by a different person each time - within reason. So if I have several cards that I particularly love, I have to check that I haven't had a card from that person before. 
Sometimes it will also depend on the thickness of the card - it's tough to keep these thin enough to post just as a standard first-class letter - a slightly chunky bead could put you over the 0.5cm thickness and into the realm of the 'large letter'. As everyone sends in pre-stamped envelopes I have often kept cards which have been slightly thicker so that additional postage isn't required to send them out again. (Luckily, it's always worked out really well - so far at least!)

Having cards from a different person each time really also helps you to explore different textile techniques, whether it's their use of composition, landscape, scale, colour, fabric, embroidery stitch or texture. 

For me, these are some of the reasons why I chose each of these cards:
I loved the way the little fence has been created in the January card (with those cute Snowdrops!) and the stitching in the February card with the clouds and sunshine is just fantastic with the different textures! I'm not sure if you can really see the layering and depth in the March Daffodil card, it feels like the flowers are getting closer to you as it is much chunkier towards the bottom of the card, and I love the colour variations here. 
The April card with its cute sheep and sweet blossom tree is just so lovely. Corduroy (baby cord I think) has been used to create a ploughed field which is just a brilliant idea and, for the Bluebell May card, I can't quite figure out what material has been used for the backing; it's almost like a paper with wispy bits in it and the whole scene is sort of ethereal and magical which I love. 

June's card is also really lovely, just like a coral reef (not that I've ever seen one in person) with the different textures of seaweed fronds, real shells and french knot bubbles. 

I find them all so inspiring and it's fascinating to compare the cards I keep with the cards that I made. I know that the themes may limit the colour choices but I feel almost like I've kept ones to really act as a pair, the colour schemes are often so similar with my own! It's not deliberate, perhaps it's a subconscious choice based on how I think the theme should look?

The edging and finishing of the cards is also really interesting, seeing how everyone approaches their edges. Some are lightly zig-zag machine stitched, some are heavily zig-zag machine stitched to create a more solid border, some are glued and machine stitched onto card, others onto stiff Vilene, some are oversewn by hand... 
I always stitch my fabric scenes to a card backing before I cut them out but it's not the neatest, I don't think. My personal favourite edgings are the solid zig-zag stitches as they just look so neat and finished (like an overlocker edge) but that would involve dusting off the sewing machine!

I really hope that everyone else loves their collection as much as I love mine! Obviously no one else gets to pick what they receive in the post but, honestly, everyone's work is just so beautiful that you can't help but love them all!
I'm so looking forward to comparing the next six months' worth of cards after the December ones are in!! What has been really nice is the mixture of people joining in. We've had some drop out and some new ones join part way through which keeps things fresh for my spreadsheet. There's no obligation to join in every month but the more months you do the bigger your collection will be!

West Green House Gardens


On the journey home from our mini break we stopped off at West Green House Gardens which is a private house that is affiliated with the National Trust so members can get in for free but you have to book on the WGHG own website. It was a beautifully lush place to visit and I understand they have a theatre on a little island on their lake where they perform operas. The house is an 18th century manor house, very pretty but made the more so because of the lovely gardens surrounding it with the various 'rooms' and follies. 

I loved this part around a meticulously mown and stripey lawn as the flowers were lovely! Some just going over their peak but still with fantastic structures and fading colours. The Alliums were very impressive - I didn't know you could get these dusky pink ones, how pretty. 

They seemed to be mixing fruits and vegetables in among the roses and other flowers. There were whole rows of rhubarb which seemed to be there for decoration, I'm not sure if they were harvesting it as well. In among the flowerbeds around the edge of the walled garden were raised beds with tomatoes in or lettuces which was a really interesting way of creating a multifunctional garden which was both beautiful to look at and also partially edible!

Such a happy little chappy. He was a bit happier on this day because it wasn't as hot due to the rain. National Trust places aren't really his thing yet so I'm looking forward to when he's walking and we can join in all of the Easter Egg hunts and other activities for littlun's that they put on. 

We stopped at this delightful box garden for a coffee and slice of cake (rhubarb and ginger for me, lemon drizzle for Reece and a bottle of the finest formula for Finley) before making our way back to the car and heading home with a camera full of beautiful flower photos!

Thursday, 7 July 2022

By or Under The Ocean June ATC Swap

I am so impressed by the fantastic creativity that this theme sparked within everyone; the cards for this month are just fantastic and I love how the theme is broad enough to get a really lovely range. 'By or Under the Ocean' could be anything really considering how much of the planet is ocean and the vast amount of wildlife, plant life, microclimates and human interaction with the sea there is. 
You can really see this in the cards themselves actually as we've got beach huts, lighthouses, beaches, boats, coral reefs, creatures, plants and one that reminds me of the unexplored depths with its slightly mysterious shapes. Can you tell which one it is? 

As always there's a lovely variety of stitches and textures. I'm pretty sure that the lovely fish is created with a needle lace technique which is really clever, and the delightful crab is a stumpwork technique? I'm trying to sound knowledgeable but I'm not entirely sure, it's beautifully padded and those bead eyes give it real character and just a touch of sass! 
One of the cards incorporates real shells and one has very cleverly fussy cut around printed fabric sea creatures to entangle in some chain stitch seaweed. The card with the lighthouse and sun looks like it's a printed scene which has been embroidered over to bring the print to life! 

Embroidery stitches I can identify are picot stitch, fly stitch, chain stitch, french knots, bullion knots, feather stitch, stem stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, back stitch, woven wheel stitch, blanket stitch, straight many! There's machine stitching, couching, layering, beading and sequin-ing - if that's a separate thing.

They are just all stunning (as always) and it seems to me like the ladies joining in with this swap are almost growing in confidence and relishing the opportunity to use any technique and potentially push themselves to try new things. Not everyone had made an artist trading card before, and some hadn't done that much embroidery or felt that they weren't all that creative in coming up with ideas from a theme but were willing to give it a go. It may just be me but it almost seems a bit journey-like which will be interesting to see when we reach the end of the year and they can compare all of their own cards as well as those created and swapped from others.