Sunday, 27 August 2017

Bank Holiday Sunday

Bank holiday Sunday dawned bright and cheerful- well I assume the dawn was bright, I was having a lie in so missed the early actions of the sun. It was looking good when I did get up though!
I have to work tomorrow (bank holiday Monday) so all of my holiday feeling has to be squeezed into this one day, and the appearance of such beautiful sunshine was good to see.

Our garden is in a bit of a state at the moment. We are having the wall ties replaced and the bricks re-pointed so there is cement dust everywhere!! The plants are coated in it, the patio is a very strange light shade of beige, even after a wash down with a hose and a brush, there are workers tools and buckets all over the lawn and bottles of stuff loitering the steps (they aren't fantastically tidy workmen and have broken various bits around the garden- flower pots, broom handle, lights...). The cat is covered in the dust as he rolls around in it outside, and the floors inside are also gritty underfoot. This stuff really does get everywhere.

So, I will only show you the pretty parts of the garden, with a close enough zoom that you cannot see the chaos reigning everywhere else. We are particularly excited by our Chinese Lanterns this year, which sounds kind of sad, but these plants were originally put into a pot about three or four years ago and this is the first time we actually have genuine bonafide orange lanterns! The plants have got bigger and stronger every year so perhaps they are meant to build up to producing the lanterns.

This Clematis is having another crack at flowering. It usually flowers early on in the year, but then gets covered by this deep purple bindweed-esque flower which shades the Clematis, encouraging it to have another go. The two purples together can be quite spectacular.

Our Quince tree is pretty laden with fruit at the moment. It is a scraggly excuse for a fruit tree and is unfortunately in quite a difficult area to reach so we don't usually manage to get much of the fruit from it. I have never made anything with a Quince, have you? Can you recommend a recipe?

Since the neighbours cut down a load of trees at the bottom of their garden, we have a pretty far reaching view down over the valley and towards the high street of Uckfield. We aren't sure if we like this yet, whilst it's quite interesting to have a view of the streets below, it is quite open and we get a lot of wind through this area. It has made this area of the garden a lot lighter though so we might be able to grow some different plants here in the future.

Ziggy is thrilled at the return of the sunshine, and it has been boiling hot today! August has been a bit of a wash out really with grey drizzle days, and the return of cooler temperatures. But this weekend has been really nice and sunny, something that is meant to continue through this week- which is marvellous as I am in the carnival next weekend and it was very wet last year so we are hoping for dry weather this time around.

An August bank holiday family tradition is to have a garden party at my Grandmother's house with some far flung relatives who travel down for the yearly visit. One comes over from the Isle of Wight and got up at about 4 in the morning to get on various ferries, trains and buses.  We all just about squished onto the patio (the downside of downsizing) with one chair precariously placed on the edge of a step, and ate a jolly good salad style lunch with various types of salads (Vietnamese prawn salad, Greek salad, salmon with beetroot and rice salad, vegetable plot salad...) combined with cooked chicken and fresh bread. The puddings were just as delicious and disappeared so fast I didn't even think about photographing them- for they were Nigella-worthy! We had mint and chocolate torte, raspberry semifreddo and fruit salad. The semifreddo was luuurvly, sort of tart and sweet at the same time, and of course freezing cold, which was welcome during the heat of the day whilst sat out on a sun trap patio.


When not eating or showing relatives around the studio, I was working once more on my stitchscape minis which sort of got thrust aside during the larger Christmas themed 'scapes. There are still a few to go in this set but hopefully I can turn more of my attention to it and get these little lovelies finished. I am also halfway through writing up the instructions for the Summer Sweet stitchscape and just have to get The Mother to proof read it and get a test print out to make sure my pages are all the right way around. I've never made a proper booklet before so it's causing me a few head scratches!
If you are off tomorrow, have a lovely bank holiday Monday!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer Sweet Stitchscape

It's finished! A super cute, super sweet, summery stitchscape, that hopefully one day you could stitch yourselves! The fun part is over and now it's lots of editing and sourcing and cutting and packaging and trial running. The kit needs to be perfect before you can get your hands on it so bear with me a little longer.
I have tried very hard to limit myself on colours and fabrics without seeming mean, something I hope I have accomplished. Several of the colours in the bottom layer have been repeated further up which helps to tie the whole embroidery together and is almost as if the sun and sky are mirrored in the foliage stitched onto the bottom layer.  My usual style of throw anything on has been somewhat restricted and I had to carry a ruler around with me on the bus so that I could monitor how much of each colour thread was used- it earned me some very strange looks I can tell you!

Another thing I realised during this process was how often I use the humble backstitch. It really is such a versatile stitcher's friend as it can create a host of different textures and appearances. I have used a single strand of embroidery and back stitched diamond lines to create a quilted effect, added a second strand and made rows of (something I am calling) brickwork back stitch, which uses the squares on the fabric, working a stitch two squares wide and alternating the rows so they look like rows of bricks (the green striped centre layer). This technique has been repeated in the sky with the blue gingham fabric, but I have also worked brickwork back stitch in vertical stripes over the top which then outline each individual square.
And of course it has been used to follow windy stems in both single and double strands of embroidery thread, a different appearance once again!

The tiny flowers in the green hills are very sweet. They are made up of  a single strand of embroidery thread, twisted round into a five twist french knot for the centre, with the tiniest stitches in orange for the petals. These follow the pattern of the fabric so will be positioned slightly differently in every stitchscape.

The sun is very simple and uses only two shades of yellow. The white polka dot spots have been filled in with satin stitch, the shape outlined with bullion knots and then big straight stitches in two colours for the rays of sunshine. I work my rays pretty much the same way in all of my sun-scapes; the beginning rays are started at the join between each bullion knot, then halfway along the bullion knot and then fill in each gap between the previous stitches until it seems full enough of light. You have to kind of imagine where the centre of the sun is to make sure the lines don't get out of kilter.

The back shows the colours used pretty clearly as it isn't distorted by the colours of the fabrics. I have used ten colours; white, two types of blue, three types of yellow, orange and three greens, and these have been a mixture of Anchor and DMC threads.

The flowers at the bottom are rather lovely too, and follow the pattern quite closely. The big yellow flowers are made from detached chain stitches worked around the printed petals, in the same way as the orange flowers which also follow the fabric pattern. The blue flowers are made up of two stranded, one twist french knots so they are sweet and delicate.
I haven't filled in the green leaves here as there is a lot of green in the centre of the stitchscape, but I've used the darkest green to fill in long stitches for my bullion flower stems wherever there was a gap in the chain stitch flowers. You'll notice I've gone 'over the line' with some of my flowers which is helping to blur the boundary edge without making an obvious bullion knot or french knot line like the other layers.
I'm really rather chuffed with this piece, it is only a little 15cm embroidery but there is still a lot of work and a variety of stitches that aren't complicated but are quite repetitive. The stitches used are; back stitch, cross stitch, detached chain stitch, bullion knots, french knots, straight stitch and satin stitch.
So, now on to the literature and the next stage of kit making!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sweet Sweet Summer

Oooh, lots more goings on in the Studio again yesterday. Those who follow me on Facebook will know all about my free giveaway which ended on Friday 19th August. I decided to say thank you for all of the lovely comments, and the support, given to me online by my lovely followers during the release of my Stitchscapes, and chose a 12" Bluebell Woods print as my giveaway prize. The winner was pulled out of a box by my Grandmother yesterday and the print will be winging its way in the post to Mexico next week. All the way to Mexico! I hope it arrives safely.

I also took delivery of and packaged up some new prints and greetings cards. These little cards were among them, as well as my Winter Kisses Stitchscape which will hopefully be part of a Christmas range of cards and prints that I'm planning on. You can have your very own set of these cards, which are 15cm square (so could also be used as a framed print itself once the card has been sent), through my Etsy shop, along with all of the other goodies you can find there.

My Winterberry Stitchscape was mounted ready for framing. I'm currently out of frames in this size though so it will have to wait until I've re-stocked. For now it has joined the others on my fabulous studio shelves and looks quite contented next to the Winter Kisses Stitchscape.

This morning I have started something quite new and exciting. It's a plan that has been churning around in the ol' brain for a little while, and I have been collecting bits and bobs for it for a couple of months. I was going to leave the plan as a surprise but thought it might be interesting for you folks to see how it develops, so I'm telling you now instead! I am working on turning this jumble of fabrics into a kit, so that you can create your very own little Stitchscape!! It's in the early stages of development, and I'm scribbling lots of notes on pieces of paper trying to figure out sizes and costs, and what to include in the kit, but I think I have the basics mapped out.

It is only a little diddy Stitchscape, in a 15cm hoop, but there is a lovely range of fabrics to play with and I should be able to include my favourite and signature stitches in here for you to have a go at. I always encourage individual ideas, so if you would prefer to use a different stitch, or swap around the stitches to different layers then I'm all for it! The fabrics will be cut into strips for you to trim to size and shape (I have made templates of the shapes I've cut if you prefer to stick to the pattern), and if you wanted to mix and match then that's also totally fine! The world is your oyster, and the hoop is your playground.

I have already titled this one as 'Summer Sweet', as it is so cute and diddy and summery. Those rich green fields and that blue, blue sky smiling over the happy nodding flowers in the foreground. Depending on how popular these kits prove to be, I may have to substitute some of these fabrics for new ones, but will always make sure that they are suitable and easy to work within the kit formula.
So, all I have to do now is to find matching threads and count exactly how much of each colour I use, think carefully about my stitches, make an initial set of instructions and ask The Mother to test run the kit to make sure it's perfect, tie it all together with a bow and set it free on the wide world! I will of course, let you know as soon as it is ready. So what do you think? Can you see yourself creating your very own Summer Sweet Stitchscape?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Winterberry Stitchscape

I'll be honest, I'm not so sure about this stitchscape.
It had to happen and will probably happen again, but as there is no forward planning with these stitchscapes, no designing or composition sketches, each 'scape is a bit of a whim and a prayer. The general theme is something I will probably be inspired to do beforehand, and I do keep a list of keywords as they pop in to my brain with things like; blue hills, green trees, dark woodland, purple mist, sand(?).... Fabrics are chosen based on the theme and roughly cut and tacked down, I like to keep things fresh and not too overworked- or at least, I try to.

I'm not quite sure what it is that doesn't gel for me here, as there are many parts about it that I think have really worked well. I love the little french knots in the bark, and the tiny straight stitch fir leaves with the satin stitch berries. My thought is that perhaps there are too many patterns at the bottom of the piece which are crowding for attention, or that the tree is the wrong shape... I could speculate on and on, but it all boils down to something not working for me- not that I'm saying it can't work for you.

I am very much enjoying the red beads nestled amongst the giant french knots. As in previous stitchscapes, I have used some leftover Stylecraft Special DK acrylic yarn from my stash. These create such lovely, chunky knots but are devils to pull through the fabric due to the bulk at the eye of the needle. There is a lot of focus on french knots in this piece, but, as I'm being so honest in this post, I did consider giving up halfway through the top white layer which is made up of hundreds of single twist knots. The idea behind these, aside from the interesting texture, is that I think they look like snow! Do you think so? Just the thing for a seasonal winter themed 'scape. They took for-ever though!

The other part I really like, and will probably do again is the detached chain stitches grouped together with the french knots and red beads. It adds to the green of the piece and makes the tree appear more like an evergreen I think. Oooh, perhaps I could do an autumnal tree and overlay lots of these little detached chain stitches in various shades of orange and yellow!!! That could look fab!

There are three layers of thread edging the tree trunks; a pale one at the bottom with two strands, then a four stranded golden layer and a two strand dark layer over the top. You can create a corded effect if you whip stitch in different directions. So to create this look, the first two layers are whip stitched with the needle going under the original back stitch line from the direction of the trunk, outwards. The dark layer is then whipped around the threads from the outside of the trunk, towards the centre.

It does look very festive, and the colours look great together with the golden brown (like pine cones), red, green and white. Moda are very good at putting together a charm pack, which is what this stitchscape is named after. Gosh I love fabric patterns, and fabric, and colour, and DMC threads, and stitches!! Can you tell? The stitch list in this embroidery is; straight stitch, satin stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, seed stitch, detached chain, french knots, star stitch, bullion knots, running stitch, fly stitch and cross stitch.
So the question is, is it worth my looking into turning it into, dare I say it, Christmas cards? Or do you feel the same way as me with the slightly underwhelmed feeling? It would be interesting to know.