Friday 9 February 2024

Boundary Lines ATCs

What would you think of if I said to you to draw a boundary? Would you go for brick walls and high fences, no entry signs, parking bays or a leafy green hedge? Perhaps it would be something less tangible like map lines or contour lines, invisible sectioning off of the world to make sense of it and take ownership. 
Maybe you're a sporting person and a boundary could be the rope around a cricket pitch, or lines drawn on the floor for football and basketball?
The official definition is "a line which marks the limits of an area" - which could be anything really! 

I decided to go for a rolling hills landscape (no real surprises there) with hints of different types of field boundary. At the top I've used a beautiful hand dyed wool from Lamington Lass doubled over and couched down to kind of represent a hedge line (maybe one of those living hawthorn woven hedges?), then the next level down I've used a skinny strip of dark felt to be more like a fence, and at the front I've used more felt to be a stone wall. I wish now that I'd also thought of putting in a gate, but the cards have already got quite a lot going on so perhaps it would have been too much anyway?

Starting at the top I've added some bunny runs by working a single strand running stitch following the line of the below fabric layer, then a single strand whip stitch perpendicularly across the rows. I love this technique and use it all of the time to make additional textures and jazz up a plain fabric. To me it represents animal tracks or a ramblers path, even the wind blowing grasses in different directions.

The next fabric down is actually a green trees print and I've vaguely followed the areas of brighter green with messy french knots. By messy I mean that I've deliberately not tensioned the knot as I made it, letting go of the thread before I pull the needle through so that loose loops or 'bunny ears' have been made and the knots look more like little bubbles (great for seascapes). 
It's a different look to the knot than, for example, the pink  flowers at the bottom of the card which have been made by tensioning the thread during the making of the knot, tightening the thread around the needle and sitting the knot on the fabric before pulling the needle through. 

To add texture to my felted fence I've stitched it down just by working straight stitches across it and I like the effect of the slight shine of the thread against the matte darkness of the felt. 

For the spotted fabric I've gone over each of the spots with satin stitch which gives them a raised, slightly padded effect. I always separate out all of my strands of the thread first when working a satin stitch, that way they don't tangle together so much in the needle and create a smoother stitch on the surface. 
Small, single strand, fly stitches have been added around these to represent scrubby grasses, and also to push back the fence line and give more perspective as they sit over the top of it. 

For my stone wall I have free stitched some back stitch stones into the felt, pulling fairly hard as I did so to try and give a quilted look to the wall. To bed this in and make it look like it's been there for ages, I have stitched some long straight stitch grasses (mixing two thread colours in my needle at once) which work their way up and over the stones. French knot tapers in pink give a different floral effect than my detached chain stitch daisy flowers; I have no idea what kind of flower they might represent in real life - probably not any that live in fields next to stone walls - but they look nice together. 
I've added little glass seed beads to the centre of each lazy daisy, and a more transparent type of bead to blend in more with the grass print background fabric, but to act as another type of little flower. 

The moss on the top of the wall is quite a dramatic moss! It sits fairly proud off the surface which doesn't quite work with my perspective of the flowers but I feel like a good stone wall needs a showy moss. I used three colours in the needle here and they are essentially a seed stitch (small and multi-directional) but the thread isn't pulled all of the way through the fabric and creates little loops. It can take some practice so get it even, and you will need to make a couple of normal stitches at the end to stop yourself accidentally pulling in all of your wonderful moss whilst knotting off the thread, but it's really fun to look at and touch. 

So, overall the stitch run down is; running stitch, whip stitch, couching, french knots, satin stitch, fly stitch, back stitch, straight stitch, moss stitch, detached chain stitch and beading. 

I'm quite pleased with my efforts for the first swap of 2024, and even more pleased that we still have lots of interest for there to even be a Stitchscape Swap 2024!! I hope you enjoy following along this year, whether you decide to participate or not.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Tiny Hoops


It was back to workshops at the end of January and I revisited Heffle Quilters in Punnetts Town, East Sussex, to work on little 10cm hoops for the day. They had no set theme requested but had previously been interested (at a talk given last year) in my Stitchscapes with shells in so had asked me to bring some along for the workshop. It's slightly tricker to put together packs of inspiration for workshops without a specific theme but I mixed together a selection of sea and coast and hillside fabric combinations in the hopes that there would be something for everyone. 

I enjoy making these packs. My system is to pull out fabrics from various stash sources which fit the bill, cut up lots of little pieces in the right size and then lay out all of the hoops (pre-backed) and start laying the fabrics on top, almost randomly, until the fabrics build up to the right quantity. Without thinking too much about it you can put together some interesting combinations which have different stories to them so, even though you've used the same fabrics, there is a different idea that could be interpretated in each. 

Of course, these combinations aren't set in stone and at my workshops I take round two big boxes of scrap fabrics (with the ultimate goal of making the scrap pile slightly smaller but it doesn't seem to be working as a stash busting method!) which can be substituted for or added in, and they can always swap between themselves. Sometimes people will also bring their own fabrics along if they've been inspired so it's a creative free-for-all with a little bit of initial direction. Half the time the packs are picked over with the same enthusiasm as seagulls around a sandwich and the ladies have got stuck in before I've had a chance to really explain what to do. It's nice to see such enjoyment from everyone and always bodes well for a creative day.  

I'd put together this little example piece for the workshop, and there's a rather embarrassing Instagram reel which you can find on my Instagram account (and Facebook page I think) of me putting it together if you wanted to watch it. I've used the same fabrics as from the selection provided to the Heffle Quilters and the same size hoop but it's always nice to show someone what you can do and the scale that can be achieved. Oddly, I haven't actually started stitching this one yet but I have started another piece which I began after the workshop as there was a fabric pack left over and I felt bad for it being unloved.

This is the second 10cm hoop I've been working on, and I've been experimenting more with combining the front and backs of fabrics. There are more fabric layers in this piece but it still only uses four fabrics. The top white fabrics show the correct side (with paste printed ditsy flowers) at the very top, and then the reverse underneath which is a slightly different colour and with no visible pattern as the paste print tends to be surface only and doesn't sink through the fabric. 
I've also used the zesty green circle print twice, cutting them into rolling hill shapes and layering them together, bringing the paleness of the creamy sky down a bit with the lighter shade of the reverse. 

Scrolling through Instagram the other day I came across an image posted by another textile artist who had just received an order of the most amazing looking beads. I followed her link and discovered Old Bicycle Shop who have fantastic shaped and unusual beads in the most amazing colours! My order arrived a few days later and I was keen to try out these glass petal beads. I think you're meant to use them to create beaded flowers but I've always called them pebble beads and used them in seascape type Stitchscapes as little rocks because they add such a wonderful texture and dimension. 

I was too excited to wait until after working on my stitching to add the beads so popped them in first which looks a bit odd in the below photo but it will be built up around those to help keep them upright and make them look less random. If you are a lover of beads, definitely check out Old Bicycle Shop!

When I've finished this little piece I'll go into more detail about what I've done on each layer - with better photos too, these have just been snapped on my phone at random points. I've been using it as my bus project so it's been stitched on my hour long Friday night bus journey, and accompanied me to Costa for my hour long early morning Costa stint on a Tuesday. (I end up doing admin on my phone for the other journeys.) I really treasure these two hours of the week as currently they're the only time I can stitch in the daylight. My occasional snatched moments of stitching in the evenings if I can get them are lit by the dayglow lamp and it's just not the same!
Last Friday I even managed to have a brief five minutes of the golden glow moment (which would not have reached me if I hadn't been sitting on the top deck of the bus). It made the beads in this little hoop sing and glow from within - how amazing!

Friday 2 February 2024

The Stitchscape Shop


After a lot of late night slogging to choose products, compare prices, place orders, unpack and check in, cut fabrics to size and fold them neatly, photograph all products, load the products onto my website, work out prices, write descriptions, and start advertising it .... my Stitchscape shop is open!! 

But, I hear you say, you've had a shop for ages, why is this so special? Well! This is a branched out, extended shop which will now also have tools to help with your embroidery, not just Stitchscape kits and printed Stitchscape products. I am asked all the time to recommend needles, or overhear comments about people's struggles to find pretty things or specific tools so I am hoping to fill that void a little bit with my selections. 

A big discussion I have with people is about being able to see the needle and thread it. At every workshop or event someone will say that they have had to stop embroidering because they can't see to thread the needles or have trouble keeping their hands steady enough to poke the thread through. 
I have found these really nifty little beetle gadgets which will hopefully help a little bit with that. They are essentially a common needle threader with that little bit of wire that you poke the thread through, but the pretty casing means that the wire is protected (because you can easily damage a cheap threader), and it also houses an LED light which lights up as you push up the wire so the needle is illuminated! Plus it looks really sweet. Baby F is very taken with these, presumably because of their bright colours, and I have to keep reminding him that he can't have one. 

For smaller threads and needles I also have these hummingbird threaders. They have a protective cap, and the threader is more like a little crochet hook which you can fold the thread over to draw it back through the eye of the needle. It isn't a one size fits all threader as it won't help with anything chunky but for single strand work it's ideal!

I saw these gorgeous little parrot pouch scissors whilst I was 'shop' shopping and they popped into my basket as well. The blades are only small but would be fine for snipping threads and small bits of fabric - a great little travel pouch to keep your scissors secure if you're stitching on the bus (like me) or on the go. I just think they are super cute and I hadn't seen anything like them before. Available in two colours too!

Baby F is very intrigued by the whole photography process - I spent several evenings taking over the whole dining table with my light box trying to get the right angles of everything. I snapped a picture of him too and it's very exciting actually because he's only just started to pull himself up to standing and wanting to stand up - he's been a bottom shuffler all this time and not at all fussed with walking. Now he's just discovering a whole new level of things and our baby proofing is moving upwards like a tide line. Look at those gorgeous baby blues. 

These beads are really pretty too. I've got a matching set of either little flowers, which are so sweet, I might pilfer some for my own stash, or the bigger individual 'pebble' beads, which I think are actually called petal beads but I tend to use them as rocks so I've compromised on the name. What's nice is that you get two different colours (one opaque and one slightly clear) per tube so it's a nice variety. 

Similarly with the candy cane bead tubes. The beads are all glass but there are different sizes, some are lined, some seed bead, some bugle beads all mixed in together. I've picked out colours which I commonly reach for in my bead box, the greens, blues, autumn tones and bright yellows for flower centres. Rather than spending lots of money on one pack of a single bead, these are a great option to build up a little collection quickly. The tubes can be recycled afterwards as storage for your other beads too!

I tend to buy in lots of different trimmings and laces which might work for kits (tricky buying online as you'll appreciate!), but they don't always pan out for my intended design so I've added them to my shop. There are some french cotton guipure laces, lovely floral detailed ones, picot edged ones... I've got other trims too, all of which can be used as they are, deconstructed into other things or layered on top of each other. Have a play, see what you can create. 

All of the things in my shop are either useful, used or just really pretty, and one thing I knew I wanted to offer was little bundles of felt. I use felt a lot in my pieces, either as part of the design like tree trunks or flower stems or buildings, or to pad out areas (filling in shells), or to create stuffed rocks which can then be further embellished. 
These rolled wool mix felt bundles have also been chosen for their colour themes. I've gone for autumn (tree trunks), coastal (rocks or fluffy waves), moorland (heather) and more of an urban one which could have houses with red rooftops. 

I have got more practical things; a selection of needles, which isn't the full range of ones I'd like to offer but lean more towards the bigger eyed needles like crewel and tapestry. Personally I prefer smaller needles like sharps or betweens so I'd like to have those too as an alternative eventually. Having a variety of needles is a good idea because it can depend what you are stitching through, or stitching with, or even what embroidery stitches you are making, all of which might need a different needle.

Previously I've always only sold hoops with kits (apart from in 2020 during the lockdown where I put them in my Etsy shop as people were taking up new hobbies and they went bonkers and got posted out to all sorts of countries! 
Eventually I took them off again, as the hoops were selling by the bucketload and I couldn't keep up, but it seems about time that I offer hoops on their own - this time with a bigger range of sizes, from 7.5cm to 20cm. They are my favourite brand, a UK make called Elbesee, with screw top fasteners which make the hoops really easy to tighten, and a nice quality finish. (Apart from the smallest hoop which is an interloper and a different brand - but still very nice!)

I've also decided to clear through my stash of fabric bolts. I'm a terrible fabric hoarder, especially of batik fabrics, and my eyes are bigger than the size of my storage space. I had more bolts of fabric sitting unused waiting for a moment in the sun than I realised and they are no good going unappreciated. Quite a lot of them are my soul colours, blues and greens with the odd purple and orange for contrast. 
I just love the variety of them! 

Anyway, they are available in fat quarter sizes, most of them folded up into pretty samosas. Some are longer and thinner than others because the fabric width varies but it's about the same square meterage for each. 

I'm very excited and pleased about my little collection of goodies. They are all available on my website, and I'm going to keep it on my website ( rather than share it to Etsy. I will also have a little travel pack of items to take with me to talks and events as well so interested persons can build up a whole pack of goodies to complement a kit perhaps...

Obviously it's all very new and shiny with only a small selection of items. If there are any items you think I should consider adding to the shop please do let me know, and I would really love it if you would have a gander through my online shelves and see what's on offer. Link here!

Monday 29 January 2024

The Full 2023 Stitchscape Swap Collection!

Well! How amazing is this? A whole year's worth of work, 12 themes, two cards for each theme, one made by me and one made by someone else, 24 cards in total! 

16 people contributed cards throughout the year, although actually only 4 of them (including me) participated in every single month. Some just did one month as a trial to see if they liked it, and others dabbled in and out as timing allowed. I don't mind that at all, it's nice to have lots of people sending cards in every month, and it would be absolutely brilliant if the swap were to grow and have hundreds of cards in but, with rising postage costs and people seeming to have less time again, I'll take whoever would like to join in and be grateful that they chose to spend their time making cards for my swap idea. 
Similarly with international participants, the postage to the UK seems to be astronomical now and although there has been a lot of interest from people in the USA, it is just not worth it to post every month, or even every three months because of the cost. (Unless you do think it is worth it, in which case join on in!)

What I've ended up with though, is 24 really lovely cards which make the most beautiful display. I did exactly this same photoshoot last year at the end of the 2022 swap (which you can see here), so my collection of other's peoples artwork is growing rapidly!! I'm not sure if I photographed all 48 of the cards together that you would actually see any detail in them though. 

A reminder of the themes for you: (working from top row, left to right, with my stitched cards on the left side of each pair)

January: Frosted Dew Drops
February: Snowdrop Carpet
March: Morning Chorus
April: Butterfly House
May: On the Edge of the Cliffs
June: Waterlily Pond
July: Patchwork Fields/A Birds Eye View
August: The Allotment Garden
September: Rockpooling
October: Toadstool Treasures
November: Thunder & Lightning
December: Still Reflections

I wonder how many cumulative hours this represents? Some of the cards are so detailed they must have taken hours and hours to complete regardless of their size. And there are so many techniques in each of them!! Machine stitching, various embroidery techniques, collaging, mixed media, painting, fabric dyeing, beading, petit point, felting, applique, cross stitch, beading... 

The themes were again linked as much as possible to the seasons so that there would be inspiration striking at the right time as you walked around. They are usually linked to landscape themes but I try to broaden the theme title so that they could be more abstract depending on how you wish to interpret them. Some are broader than others obviously but we've always had such a wonderful variety sent in, different angles, viewpoints, sometimes focused in on an area, sometimes taking a step back and giving an overview, some making a specific technique fit the theme in some way. 

In my embroidered collection I have some cards which I think have worked better than others. I was just about to try and pick a favourite but actually I do like most of them and it's easier to point out the ones I perhaps like least - the spider web interpretation of Frosted Dew Drops (mainly because I think it's too dark and didn't turn out like the vague image in my head), and the water lily themed card with the bridge. I'm not keen on the bridge itself and I think it could have done with more contrast. But overall I'm pleased with how the cards have turned out. 

I think the cards made by others are just so lovely though and, having received work from several of these ladies over the last two years (can you believe?), I feel I can recognise their signature styles and invariably know who the card is by without having to turn it over. It's been a real joy and a treat to see their beautiful pieces in person and to try and work out how they have been made, what techniques they might have used and have an insight into which techniques really make them tick. Also the things they hold in their stash!

I really hope that everyone who joined in with the swap in 2023 can also look at their collection with joy and awe. Both for the cards they've made and the ones they've received. Also that they are inspired to continue on for 2024 with the next set of 12 themes! 

These cards will all be added to my Papermania trading card folder so that I can flick through them with ease and admire all over again. Spares that ended up not being used (I make 4 cards rather than the 2 everyone else makes in case there's an issue with the post or a late joiner) will eventually be framed and added to my Etsy shop. 
I'm intrigued to know how others are storing their cards, do let me know!

The full collection, with individual photos of each card sent in for each theme, is on my website so you can go through and have a look. Or you can see all posts about the Stitchscape Swap cards for 2023 under the Category section on the right hand side of my blog, just scroll to the bottom of the right hand column and select ' Stitchscape Swap 2023'. 

Three cheers for the Stitchscape Swap 2023!!