Friday, 26 May 2017


 Lush is the only way to describe the area I live in at the moment. Everything is growing like mad, the trees, hedgerows, gardens and vistas are every shade of green imaginable and there are buds and flowers and early fruits (strawbs!!) popping up all over the place. The weather this week has been magnificent, and we have been taking advantage of Dad's new patio when we can. The cat is particularly impressed (although he wouldn't show it) as the patio stones heat up during the day and that little spot above is the last place to catch the sun before it drops behind the neighborhood houses.

Ziggy is never happier than when the sun is shining, the sky is blue and all of the doors and windows are open in the house so he can come and go as he pleases. It is incredibly tiring to be sleeping so much during the day though and the poor thing has to drag himself from one resting place to another, only to collapse in a heap of exhaustion at the other end, barely able to move another inch-- for at least an hour, and then it's on to new pastures and the next arduous trek across the lawn.

The best part about summer evenings is the smell. All of the scents of the flowers, the freshly cut lawns and the impromptu barbecues mingling together to create that definite 'summer smell'. The light drags on into the evening, and the sky fades to gentle tones of pink and purple, like the background washes of a watercolour painting.

We have been popping up to visit my Grandmother in the evenings- to check on her progress with her new hip. Things have been going well and she's pootling around in her greenhouses (once we've filled the big watering cans for her to decant into smaller watering cans) and gaily threatening her vegetable patch with dire things if they don't produce an abundant crop this year. Her garden is quite spectacular as we are still reaping the benefits of a previous owner who seemed to buy lots of statement plants and bung them in together. Since she's owned the house, she's had quite a few of the many trees removed from the flowerbeds and spaced the shrubs and bushes out which has created light where there was none and all sorts of things are starting to grow now that they have breathing room to do so. These Lupins are just the absolute bees knees- the colour is quite incredible, as I think you will agree!

Evening light is a lovely thing also (you can tell I love the summer can't you?). It tinges everything with that lovely golden glow that sparkles and makes even the ugliest of things suddenly have interest and appeal.

There have been the most amazing sunset skies. On the night these photos were taken during the week, it was like someone was laying a wisp of organza silk over the landscape as there were smudges of cloud catching the light and moving in a kind of ripple. Almost like a Northern Lights (or Southern in this case) display. You can kind of see it in the below images although the photos don't really do it justice- I promise you it wasn't because my camera lens needed cleaning!

So this weekend I am off on holiday! My friend Amy and I are travelling to Sorrento in Italy and I am beyond excited! We are flying to Naples airport and getting a shuttle bus around the bay to our hotel which we hope will be as beautiful as the images on the website. Sorrento itself seems to be very picturesque so no doubt my camera will be working overtime- especially as we are planning to visit Pompeii which is my absolute dream place to visit!! I will probably be putting photos of my travels on my Instagram page and on the Dotty Textiles facebook page if you would like to follow along (the Travel Hamsters are coming along for the ride!), but you know me- as soon as I'm back there will be endless photos of my travels cluttering up the blog so you won't miss out, it's like you will be there with me! Speak to you soon dear readers. x

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Moon Flower Town Stitchscape

My black and white stitchscape is finished!! It has been growing and growing this week, until finally, last night, it was deemed complete. The problem with these 'scapes is that you can keep going and adding more and more, layer after layer, but too much and you will spoil the effect. It is tricky to know sometimes when one is finished- some feel right when the last stitch has gone in, and others, like this one, have to be questioned and queried; should more be added, is there enough?

This feels a little out of my comfort zone to be honest. The lack of colour is a bit disconcerting and there is a total reliance on texture and pattern rather than complimentary colours pleasing the eye. Although you can't really see it now through the extra layers stitched over the top, one of my favourite fabric slices is the bottom one as I tried something a little new. The polka dot print above the houses fabric was turned rather successfully into brick like striped layers, and the bottom polka dot print has been turned into Pistil stitch chevrons! Pistil stitch is essentially a French knot with a tail, you bring the needle up through the fabric, twist the thread around the needle and go back through the fabric a little way away- the knot then sits where the needle has gone back through the fabric. It's a really subtle texture and I love it!

I also tried something else a little new, making my own cord out of several lengths of embroidery thread. I couldn't decide on what stitch to put above the houses, knots didn't feel right but couching down yarn didn't seem right either. Eventually I hit upon the cording idea, which was made out of white thread, then couched down at every twisted interval in black thread. I then whip stitched two different colours over the top of the cord to tie it all together with the black/grey/white, making a kind of cross hatch over the top of the cord, which also mirrors the crosshatching in the fabric above.

Coming down to the final layer, this stitchscape needed something fun and bold in the foreground to bring it to life- which I hope I have done in the form of seed bead 'moon flowers'! Called so because the pearlescent colour of the beads reminds me of moonbeams. Each little bead has been individually sewn on, and they kind of look like Lavender heads, or maybe wheat? Of course, I couldn't just leave it at that, so extra stitches were added in until....

...this happened!
Please excuse the slightly crumpled and un-ironed look. I did actually spend ages ironing it last night, but the creases never seem to really leave until the fabric is stretched out again.

 So, in addition to my moon flowers, the flower bed is a tangle of bullion knot flowers, large french knot flowers and detached chain stitch leaves breaking up the stripy monotony. The gaps between the beads have been filled with more French knots, but I used the DMC silky embroidery thread which is quite slippery and doesn't create neat, tight knots, giving an extra fluffiness to the flowers, almost like they are about to launch feathery seeds into the night. I also like that the thread has the same lustre as the beads- a side effect that really appeals to me and ties the flowers together, don't you think?

So, as usual, my breakdown of stitches in this 'scape are: back stitch, straight stitch, seed stitch, pistil stitch, detached chain stitch, bullion knots, french knots, whip stitch, blanket stitch, couching, and of course, beading.
Much as I have enjoyed the challenge of only using such a limited colour range, I think my next few stitchscapes will have slightly more of the rainbow involved!!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017


Starling parents work so hard. I imagine most bird parents work pretty hard, but we currently have two families of Starlings in the garden who we are delighting in feeding and watching their comical ways. Initially the baby Starlings didn't come in to the garden and sat in the Chestnut tree next door, shouting at their poor harassed parents who were ferrying food backwards and forwards like there was no tomorrow! The squawking and screeching is quite intense and makes everybody want to put something in that permanently open bright yellow beak just to make the noise stop.

They have become bolder now and come in to the garden to sit on the feeder, quite literally on top of the dried mealworms we put out, but they still won't feed themselves, waiting for their parent to shovel in the morsels at top speed rather than picking the worms up in their own beaks. I imagine the proximity makes it easier for the parent birds though, less flapping too and fro- I wonder how many air miles they clock up on average?

We used to have hundreds of Starlings in the garden. I remember when I was little we used to put water soaked stale bread out on the lawn and the Starlings would descend on to the grass in a seething mass of squawking black feathers until all the bread had disappeared whereupon they would leave as swiftly as they had arrived. Through the years the numbers dwindled down and seeing even one Starling became a rarity so we are thrilled to be seeing more back in the garden, especially these funny young ones.

It occurred to me that the parent Starlings were pretty much the same colour as my current stitchscape (a good link there, don't you think?) which gives me a great opportunity to show you how my black and white 'scape is progressing. There are only two layers left before I can start playing with 'foreground flowers', the polka dot at the bottom and the white houses which I am still debating on how I want to approach.

I really like the top layers though. I have stitched colourless clear sequins to the white at the top which adds a fantastic sparkle when you move around the embroidery without detracting from it in any way. The grey layer underneath has the tiniest little French knots following the line of the pattern (so cute!) and the crosshatched fabric has again been followed with long stitches in DMC Silky embroidery thread which adds a lustre almost mirroring the sequins up top.

My favourite layer is very unobtrusive. I have stitched very simple rows of back stitch following the lines of the polka dot print underneath. As the stitches themselves are offset, it kind of reminds me of brickwork, but as the lines are so close together, it's very smooth feeling, like a sateen woven fabric, and doesn't really look like I've stitched it at all. Would you know it was originally a polka dot?

Lower down, I've played with seed stitches hiding the dots of the fabric, and have used two different colours to create a mottled effect- the same way I created patches of sunlight on the mountains of the Flowing River stitchscape. I'm not entirely sure about one of the greys as it has more brown in it than I first realised (the light wasn't that good when I started stitching the layer), but I'm hoping that the overall colour will blend with the others once I start adding layers on top. We shall see.
The grosgrain ribbon stitched between two layers has a fine web of skinny blanket stitch over the top following the lines of the ribbing, again an unobtrusive layer that I can work on a bit more if I want to. I am getting to the exciting part where the hard graft is finished and the fun, embellishment stuff can start!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Fish & Chips For Tea

Yesterday evening was like a mini stay-cation to Hastings. We visited my Grandmother and her new hip, both of whom appear to be doing well (this is the second hip she's had done- she's practically bionic!) and then as we were so near to the seafront, carried on down to a little carpark right on the beach in the fishing quarter of Hastings. The weather was beautiful with blue sky, blue sea and bright sunshine and, although it was a tad brisk, it was wonderful to breathe in the salty air and watch the seagulls squabbling amongst themselves.

Further along this stretch of coastline, you do eventually reach long sandy beaches but for this part you just get an interesting selection of pebbles which crunch underfoot  and pile up into drifts for you to slide down in a tumble of stones.

Our intention was to walk along to the shops and grab ourselves some dinner to take away, and as we walked along the path, following the tracks of the miniature railway line, we walked past the East Hill Cliff funicular Railway, which is actually the steepest funicular railway in the United Kingdom and was built in 1903 by Hastings Council.

This little seaside town is steeped in history; it is home to the first castle in England built by William the Conqueror (or the remains of it), and is actually made up of three towns joined together- the Old Town to the East, the contemporary town centre in the middle and St. Leonard's to the West. There are various museums you can visit which will tell you more about the Old Town and the historic fishing and trading centre which dates back to the time of the Norman conquest. In St. Clements Caves on the West side, there are tales of daring smugglers and on the other side, at the top of the East Hill, is Hastings Country Park which boasts 660 acres of ancient woodland and heathland stretching across five miles of exposed cliffs. I haven't even mentioned anything about the 1066 Battle of Hastings!

Nearly every other building on this seafront is a fish and chip shop and we wandered along until there was one that took our fancy, The Cod Father! The chips were delicious, not soggy at all, and my fish cake was really tasty too. Eaten with the little wooden fork, out in the open air, surrounded by warm sunshine and salty breezes- there isn't a better way to eat fish and chips.

I really loved the contrast of the blue sky against the yellow lichen that appears to be flourishing on many of the old rooftops. With the little twittens, old wooden houses lining the twisty side roads, and these fantastic yellow/orange roofs, it really was very scenic.

After wandering back towards the car, we stayed for a few minutes down on the beach, walking (or sliding) down to the waters edge so that Dad could practice throwing pebbles into the sea and The Mother and I could hunt for interesting shells and sea glass.

Such a treat to have dinner 'out' in this amazing location! It really did feel like being on holiday!