Monday, 30 October 2017

Falling Seasons

We are due for a cold snap this week so the hat, scarf and gloves are out ready and waiting. Dad brought in a load of our pot plants to the greenhouse to protect them from the imminent frosts and we have all been enjoying the last few days of sunshine, dragging out the last of the summer vibes. The trees are mid-way through turning, their beautiful shades of orange, yellow and burnt umber mingling together, looking especially beautiful in late evenings when the sun begins to drop down behind the horizon.

Our garden is starting to die away now, with only a few hardy Geraniums and Nasturtiums still flaunting their colours. We have laid out the Sunflower heads for the birds and squirrels to nibble on and perhaps we will have a few self sown Sunflowers next year too.

A couple of weeks ago we had a caterpillar invasion on our Nasturtiums. We don't mind them living in that particular flower bed as Nasturtiums are so prolific and grow like mad, but at one point the caterpillars were migrating across the path towards the house, probably looking for somewhere to hole up and turn into butterflies. They were walking over the stone slabs and climbing up the walls of the house- we did have a moment where they were coming through the open sitting room window and I had to get my spoon and pot ready to catch them and take them back outside- but they have all disappeared now into little hidey holes.

The cat is being very demanding. He is a summer loving cat, and hates the thought of the cold wintry days ahead so spends a lot of the Autumn moaning about it and following people around meowing his disapproval of the weather. I suppose he thinks we can do something about it?

This week of course is Halloween, and although we aren't the sort of family that goes all out with dressing up and parties, we do like to dress the Kitchen with decorations, and fill a cauldron with chocolates just in case. Happily we don't get many trick-or-treaters so most of the chocolate we can eat ourselves.

The Mother has bought a couple of different buntings this year which make the dining area very spooky looking, and I have had the annual task of carving the pumpkin. What do you think?

I don't like to waste the insides so usually try to make something seasonal with them. This year The Mother requested a repeat of my pumpkin muffins which are quite easy and use up 200g of pumpkin flesh at a time. On average I can get four batches of 12 muffins out of one medium pumpkin so that's not bad. They contain lots of ginger, nutmeg, all spice and cloves, and the smell is delicious as they bake! The taste isn't bad either.

So all of our bunting is up, the pumpkins carved and ready, the cauldron filled, and my vase of un-dead flowers (seed heads sourced from the garden) beautifying the table. We are ready for Halloween!

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Mini Christmas Hoops

The Christmas season is definitely beginning. Halloween isn't even over yet and we have already been Christmas shopping, there are decorations in all of the shops and present lists stuck on many fridges up and down the country. It seems to get earlier every year! I have a stall at a couple of Christmas craft fairs (which are speeding towards me- the first one is next weekend) so I am belatedly putting together some special Crimbo items, and have come up with the idea of these cute little hoops.

They are the littlest hoops I have done- only 10cm (4inches) in diameter, and are sort of designed to hang on your tree should you so desire it. A twist of ribbon at the top and Bob's your uncle! I wonder whether that saying comes from? Rather than being framed, these are meant to stay in the hoops which gives a different effect I think. Perhaps I should try framing some larger 'scapes in their own hoops as well.

These are meant to be pretty rather than a proper stitchscape, and I have been playing with different ways of treating the fabric layers, and different combinations of fabrics. All of my metallic threads have come out to play and they really do look very sparkly and festive!

Can you see the sparkles?
These take me about four hours to complete, and will be finished with a circle of felt on the back to tidy up the scraggly ends and hide the rough edges of the fabric that has been drawn up at the back.

Hopefully I will be able to get a few more done before the Barnsgate Manor show at the weekend. Don't forget to write it in your diary! More details are on my website.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Knitting & Stitching Show

On Sunday The Mother and I had a fantastic day out in London at The Knitting & Stitching Show held at Alexandra Palace (or Ally Pally to its friends). There are many coaches who run day trips there which is handy because the train is not direct and there aren't many places to park. Ally Pally is a popular place to go without the fantastic shows there as it has panoramic views over the city, an ice rink and is also a historical site in itself.

We haven't been to the show in a while as October is a busy birthday month for our family and usually there is a birthday weekend at the same time as the show which means we are unable to go. I didn't take too many photos as it was too exciting to keep stopping and snapping, but there were a few images I did snap, like of this amazing display of Indian ribbons. Sadly I didn't feel I could justify buying them as I wouldn't be able to cut into them (it would be sacrilegious) and they were a little large to put on a stitchscape. Aren't they beautiful?

There are three halls (and a corridor) of beautiful deliciousness. The largest hall also has a beautiful stained glass window at one end, and a giant pipe organ at the other. I admit that the excitment of the day caused me to go a little mad with the money card, but I feel it was totally justified as I am now the proud owner of many new and beautiful things. Plus I can sort of put it under business expenses....can't I?

Please feel free to drool over this gorgeous wonderousness! So many textured and beautifully patterned fabrics that my head is spinning with new ideas! There are small print Christmas themed fabrics with sparkly gold bits which might help me create more Christmassy themed 'scapes, there are little texture prints like sand and beach rocks, skies with clouds, autumn leaves and autumnal trees, and there are geometric shape prints which give me opportunities to add my embroidery stitches too.
I also have added to my collection of Japanese print fabrics which glitter with the gold lines around the flowers (they are seriously pretty). Plus(!) I have a new stash of Kaffe Fassett fabrics! Whoopee! I love the variety of colours and patterns and shapes in his designs. I have kept with an autumnal theme with one pack, and went for a lovely greeney fat quarter selection because it included....

This gorgeous fruit basket (with lettuce) print! I don't know that I would be able to cut into it really but it embodies Fassett in my opinion- has anyone else seen photos of the fireplace in his house full of ceramic lettuces?

I have also been thinking about adding different textures to my 'scapes so have invested in some beautiful hand dyed cotton scrims, and hand dyed jute. I'm especially thinking of stormy seascapes? What do you think?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Stop. Sit. Breathe.

Well! It has been a hectic weekend and I feel like I could use a holiday. It's been a good couple of days though, full of fun and stitchscapes! On Saturday The Mother and I had a small stall at Bridge Cottage in Uckfield which was well attended but a little gloomy! The downside of exhibiting in a restored Medieval Weald hall I guess- beautiful and scenic but not many large windows for natural light.

It was the debut outing for my Summer Sweet embroidery kits, wahoooh! That also involved lots of late nights and early mornings putting the kit together. It's amazing how long it takes to cut and string together twenty thread cards with ten colours on each. I really need to find a way of speeding that process up for the future.  I hope that everyone who buys a kit enjoys putting it together and the stitches that are involved. The Mother tells me that she wasn't really enjoying the bullion knots (which I love doing!).

Today has been another hectic day as The Mother and I went to Alexandra Palace for The Knitting & Stitching Show, but I'll tell you more about that in a separate post. We had to get up early to meet our coach and it was rather pretty in the garden with the dew drops sparkling on the spider webs in the early dawn light.

This evening is a time to stop, sit and breathe after all of the excitement of the past days. I thought you might also like a quick update on my current commission and my Gentle Giants stitchscape. I can only show you the back of the commission for obvious reasons but hopefully I'm taking it down the right path.

Gentle Giants is going well I think. The background is now completely finished and I am working on the trees in the foreground. The moon and stars are stitched in DMC silky thread so they have a beautiful lustre that hints at a gentle glow. The moon isn't as showy as the sun so it won't have long rays exploding from it to enhance the impression of light, especially as I'm hoping to put in some thin spidery tree branches around there which might look a bit confusing if the threads are going in all directions.

There is much of the same colours here, but you can see where I have worked more clearly on the back. It's like a colouring book where I have coloured in the sky but have yet to colour in the trees!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Gentle Giants

It's coming along, this night sky stitchscape of mine. Progress is a little slow at the moment as I am double timing with a commission needed for early November that I really need to concentrate on, but in my spare moments, the texture is creeping in here, layer by layer.

The idea behind this one came from a bus ride home in the dark where the moon was shining full and bright (we've had some beautiful moons sightings this week- especially Thursday, it was huge! Did you see it?) Now that the trees are losing their leaves, there are patches where the moon can be seen through the trees, with the stars twinkling around it like an excitable fan club. I really love the idea of standing at the base of a cluster of trees (Silver Birches that glow in the dim lighting), gazing up at the night sky, so that is what I am trying to represent here.

I'm still not entirely sure on how best to work the trees, as they will need extra branches added to them. I'm thinking of stitching thicker branches towards the bottom of the 'scape, narrowing to thin, spindly branches at the top to help with the perspective of the piece. This can be done using less strands of floss at the top and more at the bottom but I will have to see what it looks like. I'm also going to try using my DMC silky threads as they have such a lovely lustre and will add to the general 'glow'.

For now though, I'm still on the blues, and I love how the trees are represented on the back of the embroidery, with an opposite relief. It looks really snazzy!

You can see where I'm halfway through a line of French knots at the top of this satin stitch splodge layer. Trying to find lots of different dark blue threads is quite interesting, luckily I have a *ahem* stash that I can rummage in...

The lower layers have my usual textures applied, although in this stitchscape I have repeated a few of the fabrics as (unbelievably) I didn't have enough variety in my fabric stash to be able to have a different fabric on each layer in the right tone of blue. This, of course, will have to be rectified, and happily I am off with The Mother to Ally Pally next weekend so will have plenty of opportunity to go completely crazy and buy thousands of fabrics in dark blue! Or maybe a restrained variety of colours so that I don't go completely bankrupt- these things can get out of hand.
To disguise the fact I have repeated the background fabrics, I will try to treat them slightly differently. For example, I have used my dark blue and white polka dot fabric at the top and the bottom. At the bottom I have turned the dots into cross hatched lines, so perhaps at the top I will keep it a polka dot, but enhanced with knots of some description, or maybe use the dots and make a brickwork back stitch (horizontal lines) instead.

I have used quite a lot of polka dot, or spotty fabrics here as I really wanted the idea of stars to come out, but it doesn't mean that all of the dots have to be white, and I have two layers with different types of spots that have been covered in blue satin stitches.

The bottom fabric hasn't had a lot of treatment, which is slightly unusual for me, but I'm thinking ahead to these thick branches that will have to be put in. Plus, I discovered that whilst putting in the colonial knots with a single strand of embroidery thread, you can't really see them! You can feel them, so if you were to run your fingers over the piece you would know there is something there (this doesn't help when the embroidery is framed behind glass) but really I have continued putting the knots in to help attach the fabric to the backing.
So, just a few more background layers to go and then my gentle giants of trees can be stitched in and hopefully it will look as lovely and serene as in my minds eye!

As I have mentioned my commissioned piece, I thought I would show you a sneak preview of the completely bottom half. Can you hazard a guess as to the theme? I am debating whether or not to add some tiny beads for a dash of sparkle, but I might double check with the client first to see what they think. Fingers crossed that I am moving in the right direction here!