Saturday, 30 September 2017

Frost Fields Stitchscape

These first few photos are a bit dark, but they get lighter so never fear. This stitchscape actually sparkles! It is full of little reflective parts, tiny beads in the snow on top of the walls, reflective silky DMC thread in the long stitch feather layer, pearl beads lining the top of the bottom layer, and a metallic DMC thread making the bullion knot flowers sing out from their chilly bed of snow. It is one of the reasons I have called it Frost Fields, as it really reminds me of those frozen mornings where the pale sun makes the landscape sparkle.

I have discovered that one of the hardest things to do with these stitchscapes is to name them. There is a constant worry that the name you have come up with is too twee or too corny, is too much of a mouthful or doesn't fit the theme. Some 'scapes get a name halfway through stitching it as there is one so perfect it cannot be named anything but that; this little one wasn't like that and I'm still not entirely sure on the name, but it has a pleasing alliteration.

The inspiration came about during a regular flick through Pinterest (a fabulous site, if you haven't got a Pinterest account, you should definitely get one- you will not regret it!). An image of some snowy walls popped up and brought immediately to mind my wall pattern fabric, which I have used before in the Dry Stone Meadow stitchscape, covered in little french knots and encrusted with beads.
As before, I have outlined each individual brick with rows of back stitch. To get a variation in the thread colour for this, I have twisted together two strands of embroidery thread, one in a dark navy (yes navy!) colour, and one in a more wall-like brown. The top of the wall has then been covered in large french knots and off-white beads, with smaller french knots building up snow drifts down the wall where you can imagine the stones sticking out and catching little flakes.

One of my favourite parts of this stitchscape is the lighter shading in the green flower pattern fabric. It was looking a little too dark for such a bright, wintry piece, but adding such a pale green really brightens it up and I think looks lovely.  I also love the feather fabric with the shiny white thread creating feathers that subtly glisten. There is a very chunky whip stitch hiding the top of this fabric layer, which used all six strands of the embroidery floss, whipped in both directions on a line of back stitch.

I have also used a very thin whip stitch in one of the sky layers, behind the birds, which has used a single strand of embroidery thread for both the back stitch and the whip stitch. It's amazing how different stitches can look when you use different weights of thread.

I don't know if you can tell, but the little tiny dots on the bottom layer are colonial knots. These are made differently to french knots which are wrapped around the needle as many times as you need. Colonial knots are made with almost a figure of eight movement around the needle, winding underneath from left to right and then a sort of right to left- it's a bit difficult to explain but if you click HERE I've linked it to a 46 second silent video on Youtube, put up by UniqueHomemadeGifts (who wears super snazzy nail polish!) which shows you how the knot is made. It's a nice little alternative to french knots if you are struggling to get the hang of them.

I really enjoy running my fingers over this piece as there are so many different textures! The snow on the tops of the walls is actually really built up and prominent from the base cloth, which gives a nice depth to the piece.
So, my stitch rundown for this piece includes: cross stitch, bullion knots, french knots, back stitch, whip stitch, pistil stitch, running stitch, seed stitch, beading, straight stitch, long stitch, fly stitch and colonial knots. Lots going on in there!
I'm looking forwards to seeing this one framed in time for Crimbo.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Autumn Colours

The colours are really starting to change on the trees now, the yellows, ambers and reds are really starting to pop in the garden and on the morning commute. I love this time of year because of the colours that appear as Mother Nature wraps an autumn cloak around her charges.
Our Chinese Lanterns have really done us proud this time. Clearly it is a plant that will not be rushed and likes to produce lanterns at its own pace, and we have been impatiently watching it year on year as it produces more lanterns each time. The first couple of years were pretty dismal with no fruits at all, and we actually thought we had killed it off at one point. But as we left the pot to its own device, the plants got bigger and bigger with each season, and this year we have been treated to a veritable gaggle of lanterns! Each one big and bright and orange! I really love that lacy lantern where you can see the fruit inside and it sparked a bit of a debate in our household as to whether Chinese Lanterns are the same as Physalis (or Cape Gooseberry), and if you can eat them or not- do any of you know?

In The Grandmother's garden, the apples have mostly fallen from the trees now, with just a few clingers-on. She still has lots of different chilies in the greenhouse though, and although I'm not a hot spice lover, I do enjoy the way the upright chilies look like little gnome hats!
One of my ladies at work has been bringing in the most ENORMOUS apples from her tree at home for me. I have never seen bigger apples, some are quite literally the size of your face. The Mother and Brother have been collaborating on several delicious apple crumbles which are enjoyed by everyone in the family (and we have plenty of apples left! Yum!).
Of course all of this colours brings so much inspiration for autumnal themed stitchscapes, I just can't stitch fast enough to keep up with all of the ideas whirling around in my head. I have just finished another winter themed stitchscape which I will share with you at the weekend, and have already started the next one- it just never stops!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Spring Comes Softly Stitchscape

It's been a little while since I finished this little Stitchscape but in the excitement of telling the story of my holiday jaunt to Wales, I didn't get around to showing you the finished article. So here it is!
The colours are quite muted in this piece, and as mentioned in my last post about this embroidery, it has been based on some new fabrics that appeared at work that I absolutely fell in love with and just had to use! The title comes from the different shades of green, being lit up by the yellow light of an early Spring sunrise. Can you just see the very tips of the sun's rays about to pop over the horizon?

Some of the stitches are really hidden by the bold pattern of the fabrics. The spotty green layer, for example has running stitch and vertical whip stitch which you can feel more than you can see- it's like a secret stitch which I quite like the idea of- hidden texture.

The bottom couple of layers took the longest amount of time to complete- especially that grey layer with the splodges completely covered with the tiniest of satin stitches on every spot! It was totally worth it though as it feels amazing under your fingers.
The flowery layer at the bottom has been filled with little tiny detached chain stitch flowers, fly stitch flowers, cross stitch flowers and french knot flower centres, with each colour matching the printed flower underneath. The dark blue for the bullion knot flowers was chosen to try and match with the background of this fabric, and then been tied back in with the sunny pale yellow french knot flower tops which make me smile.

My favourite layer is the green flower layer with its whip stitch stems, vari-colour detached chain leaves and little yellow french knots. After much deliberation I decided not to weight this layer down with bullion or french knots lining the top edge and I'm glad I didn't as I think it would have looked too heavy. I would definitely work on this fabric print again!

The overall effect is very muted, laid back, toned down, pared down. It's not an all singing, all dancing piece to get your heart racing, but is quietly stylish and sophisticated.... I'll stop going on about it now.
Just quickly then, before I go, the stitch run down for this piece is as follows: bullion knots, running (kantha) stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, detached chain, french knots, couching, seed stitch, fly stitch, straight stitch, cross stitch and satin stitch. No surprises there!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Studio ❤

Finally getting around to framing my Hollyhocks Stitchscape which has been patiently waiting on the shelf for me to buy some more frames. I really love how the yellow centres pop out from the pinks and purples of the petals. 

Also getting a frame is the Winterberry Stitchscape, adding to my Christmas themed collection. 

Summer Sweet was stretched, mounted and framed in the studio yesterday- triple whammy! I'm so excited to finish putting this kit together. The Mother is working hard on following my instruction booklet prototype and making her own SS Stitchscape to make sure I haven't missed anything vital. Apparently there are already three points of improvement to work on and we are only two layers in! I've still got my fingers and toes crossed that I can have several kits made up ready in time for my next show on the 14th October, so much to do, so little time!

There were some little minis getting their frame on. I have fifteen more frames on order to get cracking with the rest of the minis patiently waiting in a bowl on my windowsill. These will be added to my Etsy shop soon, and would, dare I say, make lovely unique Christmas presents? Just a suggestion....

Also on Etsy I have been updating my card selections and putting together different packs of four to make it easy to purchase a variety of Stitchscape scenes. These are a couple of suggestions for the packs (all cards are blank inside and come with a white envelope, protected with a cellophane sleeve) but I'm happy to be flexible if you wish to mix and match. The best thing about these cards is that they are completely frame-able once you have finished showing it on the mantelpiece as a card. At 15cm square they are quite a reasonable size, and would just need a mount and a 20cm frame! Sorted. 

I Studio Saturdays!!! 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Star Holiday:: Days Seven & Eight

Friday (Day Seven)::
It had been raining hard during the night- my bedroom was right up in the roof so you could hear the raindrops combining to a roar- which resulted in a rather exciting flash flood outside the house! The waters didn't rise up enough to get into the houses from what we could see, although some were close shaves, but the pretty stream running alongside us turned into a raging torrent of churned brown water. The most incredible part was the amount of water on the roads! The little village we were in, Star, is at the bottom of a valley surrounded by fields, so all of the water was pouring out from the highest points and flowing freely down the roads, meeting and swirling around at the crossroads below which was then being channeled into the rising waters of the stream.
We stayed inside to watch the proceedings, having a late cooked breakfast of eggs and bacon, drinking coffee and chatting to the housekeeper who turned up to check on the various holiday homes in the village. Apparently it was the worst weather she had seen for ten years-- lucky us!

At lunch time the waters had gone down sufficiently for us to drive the car through and we made our way to a nearby pub for some comfort food. The pub, The Nags Head, had been recommended to us by previous visitors, and I have to tell you that if you are ever in the area, definitely visit for a meal! The food was utterly delicious!! I had sausage and mash which sounds pretty inconspicuous, but the sausages were enormous and tasted divine, and I could have eaten a bowlful of the mashed potato on its own. Pudding was chocolate mousse with hot blackcurrant compote and homemade chocolate ice makes me hungry just to think about it!
As we were out on the road, after our meal we carried on out towards Aberporth which has a little sandy beach to walk along. This was much better in terms of beach treasure and I found lots of lovely shells and sea glass- hurrah!

I hope the above lady doesn't mind my putting her photo on my blog but I couldn't help taking a photograph of her as she walked her dogs along the waters edge- she looked like a model out of an Autumn edition country life magazine! The little white dog never came off of the lead (obviously a terror on the beach!) but the little brown dog was hilarious, leaping enthusiastically into the water after a branch and then hurtling out again in horror as a huge wave crashed in. Branches were flung and shaken and bitten and stamped on, it was so funny watching him play.
This was our last full day in our lovely Star Mill, so we mooched slowly back to begin packing and have a leisurely 'at home' evening, especially as it had begun to rain again!

Saturday (Day Eight)::
It started with the traditional last frantic run round of the house; checking that all cupboards and drawers were empty, all phone chargers had been unplugged and thrust into bags, all of the food was removed from the fridge and no toothpaste had been left in the bathrooms. The car was packed and laden with shells, Welsh cakes, gifts of honey and chutneys, as well as all of the usual holiday gubbins, and we waved goodbye to the house and set off to the National Showcaves Centre for Wales.

It's an interesting place with an eclectic mixture of attractions ranging from dinosaurs, shire horses, caves, gold panning and an Iron Age village. The dinosaurs stand out first as they glare out from behind trees and shrubs.There are apparently over two hundred dinosaurs in the park and they are all life size so some are very big indeed (and have very large teeth!)! Some looked more lifelike than others, and a couple even moved!

The caves were more interesting and there are three to visit. The first set of caves is Dan-yr-Ogof, a range of caves originally discovered by the Morgan Brothers (Tommy and Jeff) in 1912 via an initial cave where the river Llynfell emerges from the mountainside. Nowadays there is a clear pathway to follow which has been flattened and discreetly lit, but when they first found the caves the brothers would have used candles, a coracle (traditional style of boat) and ropes to explore with.
Some of the different formations have been named, such as the 'Alabaster Pillar' (above montage, bottom right), the 'Angel' (beneath montage, second row down, left hand photo) and the 'Rasher of Bacon' which I don't have any photos of as it was behind plastic.

Back outside and you are directed on a one way system around the park, which ensures that you don't miss anything, and to get to the second cave you have to walk past the Iron Age Village which is perched on a hilly field.
At the entrance to the Cathedral Cave is a Neolithic tribe of cave painters adding their bit of history to the cave entrance. Again this cave has been made as an easy access cave, but the most amazing thing as you walk through is the straw stalactites clinging on for dear life to the ceiling. There are hundreds of them! The main feature of this cave though is when you turn a corner and the ceiling opens up into a vast underground cavern. You can actually get married in here, and although throughout most of the year there are fantastic waterfalls leaping from the top of the cave and splashing down over the walkway, apparently these aren't completely natural and get turned off during ceremonies so that the bride can get to the makeshift cave alter without getting her dress wet. Would you want to get married in a cave?

The third cave is known as the Bone Cave as hundreds of different bones have been found here. The remains of bears, saber tooth cats, hyenas, great deer and wolves have been found here along with 42 human skeletons dating back to the Bronze Age. There is also evidence of Roman activity as pottery, coins, metal objects and jewelry have been discovered alongside some of the skeletons.

The Bone Cave is set up quite high on the mountain and you have to wear a hard hat for the climb up due to the low roofed walkway. It's a bit of a climb but does offer fabulous views over the valley below, which is steeped in history as represented inside the cave. I wonder what it would have looked like in the Bronze Age?
So, after having our fill of dinosaurs and various bits of potted history, we piled once more into the car and made the journey back home to Sussex where the cat was waiting, not quite patiently, for his tea. Straight back to normality! It was a lovely holiday, despite the weather, and there was so much inspiration to be had for my stitchscapes that I'm imagining lots of Welsh themed 'scapes will start appearing in the hoops soon!