Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bluebell Woods Stitchscape

It's finished! My Bluebell Woods Stitchscape has blossomed and grown into a fantastically textured and colourful piece, which is hopefully full of little delights and imagination. Could you picture yourself walking through these trees, ducking under low branches just beginning to wear their green finery and stepping over patches of clustered blue bells, humming with bees and insects busy about their business? 

My only minor worry with this embroidery is that it might be a tad too busy- but then woodlands don't arrange themselves into any kind of order, they just grow into their own personal tangle, so perhaps I shouldn't worry so much. I do prefer my pieces to grow organically and try not to over think placement and stitch composition, this is how the stitchscape wanted to be so I have to trust my instinct and go with it. I do love it nonetheless.

As mentioned in my previous post about this piece, it is incredibly textured. Bullion knots sit on top of other bullion knots, and my leafy french knots in the trees seem to float on top of the fabric (love those fat french knots). I can't stop running my hands over it and feeling all of the different types of thread I've used and the different stitches snuck in.

I think a little run down is in order for this newest addition to my stitchscape collection. It has been stitched in a 30cm hoop so is amongst one of my larger pieces. Stitches used were; bullion knots, french knots, long stitch, couching, whip stitch, running stitch, back stitch, fly stitch, seed stitch and satin stitch. Plus beading. I am also the proud owner of a very sore and blistered thumb, and various holes in my fingertips- sometimes you have to suffer for your art!

I really like the way the top half offsets the lower half. I pondered for a while on how to work the branches and the trees. After making the trees with shaped branches and layering the different colours of fabrics to imitate tree clusters, I did wonder how I was going to make the tree branches work- in previous stitchscapes my trees have just been trunks with no discernible branches. I spent a long time in the garden staring at the branches of the trees and seeing how they tapered and twisted (the neighbours probably thought I was nuts), then decided to recreate this using scrappy long stitches twisting off from the main fabric branches. You can just about see bits of this underneath the french knots which were made using some Stylecraft DK acrylic yarn I had lying around in my wool basket. Extra branches were added afterwards to fill some more of the space with some lighter long stitches jutting off the main trunks. I'm not sure I would rush to do my trees like this again but I do love those french knot clusters.

Saturday, 29 April 2017


There are Bluebells everywhere at the moment! In gardens, verges, hedgerows, woodlands, flower pots, pavement cracks...little splashes of blue with their down-turned bells nodding in the breeze. On the daily bus commute I pass at least five separate patches of Bluebell Woods, some of which are a thick carpet of deep blue coating the leafy floor, and others are a slightly patchy version as the flowers cluster together in pools of sunlight filtering through the canopy above.

I find it quite amazing how each section of woodland can appear to be a different shade of blue. There is one in particular that is so rich and deep in colour that it appears almost purple, whilst others are much lighter and more of a sky blue- perhaps it is to do with how light touches the space, or possibly the soil quality, does anybody know? Certainly in our garden there are actually completely different coloured Bluebells; at one end they have self seeded in this lovely blue colour, and at the other end they have self seeded in a light lilac colour, completely different!

My stitchscape Bluebells are definitely blue, and I have been working all week to create a dappled light effect with five or six different shades of blue thread, beads for added sparkle, and some different yarns/threads/cords to create the green of the leaves. In my box of bits, I came across some little wire stamens in white which I have also added in a sort of Lily of the Valley kind of flower. The stamens were stitched down in groups of four, stacking above each other, and the rough edges and stitches were covered with a twist of bright green ribbon. I really like how they look against the blue, adding a little bit of extra interest.

Also in the box I found some thin slightly shiny cord which I've couched down in places to try and represent where the sun would light up leaves through the trees. I've tried to enhance this effect by making the Bluebell heads out of bugle beads, and am really pleased with how they catch the light.

This is the sort of effect I have been trying to recreate- these are what the Bluebells are currently looking like as I type this in front of the window overlooking the front garden. The sunshine is coming in at a slight angle and the flowers are quite literally glowing!

Aren't they beautiful?

Last night I finished the Bluebell section of this stitchscape so now I just need to revisit the top of the piece and work a little bit more into the trees as I'm not entirely happy with them. It needs skinny branches I think, and perhaps some little leaves put in there somehow. I'm going to mull it over for a little while.

The texture in this piece is really lovely. I went slightly mad with the bullion knots and they are all overlapping each other and almost popping out of the hoop. As well as the beads and DMC embroidery thread, I've used a couple of DMC silky threads (nearly an entire skein of the darker blue colour!) to add lustre to the 'carpet'. My final touch was to add little green beads to the base of the stems and flowers which also catch the light and add texture which has really worked well! What do you think?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Lewes In Spring

I spent my last day of freedom holiday wandering around one of my most favourite places in the entire world; Lewes. It's a little historic town in East Sussex on the way through to Brighton and boasts its own castle, ruined Priory, brewery, medieval highstreet and courthouse. Higgledy-piggledy lanes run all over the place- it's like a rabbit warren- and you could pop up anywhere! I have a little route that I like to walk which encompasses all of my favourite parts. You get off the bus at the bottom of the highstreet, then walk up the incredibly steep hill, turning the corner through the old market place and into The Needlemakers to wander around the sweet and quirky artisan shops. Coming out again you continue upwards through a series of narrow streets until you reach the top of a hill overlooking a fabulous view, turn left down a cobbled street and under the gatehouse of Lewes Castle. If you look to your right you can see the Castle itself perched on the top of its own extra hill.

Continuing down past the castle walls you pop out onto the top of Lewes highstreet where Cafe Nero provides lunch and coffee to go. Diving down yet another narrow side road, the path drops steeply down and brings you out opposite the entrance to Southover Grange Gardens- my all-time special place (especially for recovery after the dentist). In October (after the dentist) the Dahlias are out in full force which is simply beautiful, but in April...! The Tulips! Oh the Tulips! It is definitely the season, what with Standen's Tulip festival at the beginning of the week and Southover's Tulip garden at the end- Tulip heaven!

This (above) was my view whilst I sat on a warm bench in the sunshine and ate my egg sandwiches and drank my coffee. The smell was incredible and the colour was a feast for the eyes!

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth herself has planted some of the trees here? She came in 1951 when she was still just a Princess, and there is an inscription on a stone somewhere commemorating the event. The beautiful walls and arches which help to divide the space into separate gardens are often ones that have been 'borrowed' from the nearby priory after it was demolished. I wonder where they would have been situated when they were with their original buildings? The stories that they could tell!

This beautiful border with white and pink Clematises (Clemati?) on the walls and red and yellow Tulips in the flowerbed is where the Dahlias will be in a few months time. It's rather nice to see how these beds evolve over the year and the different flowers that take each other's places.

This golden field of Tulips was astounding! The regimental design of the box hedging barely contains the colour and exuberance of these fabulous flowers! This is what gardening is all about! I don't know I would have the patience to plant all of these bulbs and trim the hedges to their sharp points though, but I can appreciate the effect (and wish that I had a gardener to do it for me).

This tulip is the Cruella Deville of tulips. It can't decide if it should be a red one or a yellow one, so just went with both! Why not?

Once all of the different gardens have been wandered around and appreciated; the rose garden, the heather bed, the Winterbourne River culvert, the natural garden and the meadow, you can sneak out of a side gate in the far corner of the gardens, turn right and walk past the flint embossed Trinity Church then turn left and walk under the railway bridge and left again into the grounds of The Priory of St. Pancras. They renovated these ruins several years ago, adding steps and information boards, and they hold quite a few events here now which is rather nice. Barely any of the original Priory remains, the chaps who were ordered to pull it down by Henry VIII did a rather thorough job, getting right into the foundations and bringing down whole walls. Lots of these stones have been used to build newer buildings throughout Lewes so there are bits of the Priory all over the place.
This is the last proper stop before returning to the bus stop; walking through Convent Field past the Lewes football club, over the bridge of the train station and along another side road until you reach the bottom of the highstreet once more. A fabulous day adding to the brilliant layers of fond memories of this place and reaffirming my love of Lewes.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Bluebell Stitchery

Everywhere I go at the moment there are Bluebells! Peeping out from behind trees, carpeting woodland floors or nestled together in clumps under hedgerows. It has given me a mass of inspiration for a new stitchscape- I'm thinking, silver birch trees, bold blue print fabrics at the forefront fading out to green towards the 'back' of the forest and changing into pale blue for the sky with lots of blue bullion knots and long beads at the front, dappled lighting and green skinny ribbons and tapestry yarns imitating the long spindly leaves. (Not much to pack into a 20cm round hoop!)

The Mother keeps commenting on how early everything is out at the moment. Surely Bluebells are a May thing? Weirdly in our garden, the purple Bluebells were all out first, ages and ages ago, then the blue Bluebells followed later. We have a natural (abandoned to fend for itself) patch at the bottom of our garden where they are all a pale lilac colour, not a blue one in sight!

So, seeing as how I've been on holiday this week, I thought there wasn't a better time to get cracking on this new stitchscape idea and started cutting up some layers!

I really like making trees although this is the first time I have put together different coloured branches like this. Usually my trees are long strips which go straight up through the piece but this time I have wiggles and branches to play with. I'm not sure yet how I'm going to embellish the little twig branches in- should I attempt green leaves?

So far it's going really well but I admit I spent all day Tuesday stitching and watching Midsomer Murders. It would be fabulous if that could be my life! Just sewing and watching DVDs or listening to the radio, or sitting in the garden listening to the birds... I would be able to complete my stitchscapes in half the time they take me now when I have to work in the stitchery sessions around daily work and commuting life.

I really liked following the lighter spots in the above blue print fabric and translating them into chunky french knots. If you look from quite far away you almost don't notice that they are 3D and the texture comes as a slight surprise as they blend in so well. In the last stitchscape (Flowing River) I worked little circles of satin stitch into the green spot fabric I used and I really loved the effect this created. The best part about making lots of stitchscapes is that they feed into one another and whilst it is nice to try and find different techniques for the same fabric to see how far you can push it, it is also nice to revisit a technique that has worked well, so I have made the same satin stitch again in the Bluebell stitchscape. They still remind me of little molehill mountains far off in the distance.