Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Hello!! Welcome to Bartholomew's Oast House! Come in, come in, take your shoes off, can I offer you tea? Coffee? Something Stronger? Bartholomew has just popped outside and we can go out in a moment but I thought you might like some background on the Oast House first.
This building has taken me ages to complete- not just because it involves lots of intricate stitches, but because Christmas kind of got in the way along with several other projects. I started the Oast house in July (which you can see here) and Bartholomew was away at the time with his *ahem* girlfriend, Lavender. It's all very new to him and he doesn't want the neighbours finding out about it just yet so don't go spreading that little nugget of information around will you? Mr B hasn't had a proper girlfriend before so he's super chuffed to have found the lady of his dreams, and she seems pretty pleased about it as well.
Whilst they were away, Mr B's nephew, Cedric, was 'looking' after the Oast house although he is quite the couch potato and the cleaning wasn't exactly regular. Luckily the house has been around for many years and a couple of weeks of no dusting wasn't going to hurt it. Bartholomew's pretty laid back being a previously committed bachelor himself, and really only needed Cedric's help to look after his cat, Edwina, and his goldfish, Hermit.
Oh, here's Mr B now! Let's take a turn around the outside and I'll show you the rest.
The building itself was bondawebbed to the backing fabrics because there were so many intricate shapes and layers and I didn't want any fraying of edges. I tend not to use bondaweb in my Stitchscapes because it stiffens the fabric and usually I like a little bit of frayed edging as it makes the layers look more natural and blend into each other a little more. The fabric print for the stonework of the building is based on a kind of cross stitch sampler which has houses and numbers on it. For this 'scape it was perfect and I like the idea of having a house within a house. I have followed the cross stitches within the print with crossed straight stitches- not actual cross stitches themselves- matching the colours underneath. It adds a really nice texture and colour to the buildings.
The Oast house is best viewed from the woods and through the trees. There's a particular place you can stand where the building is framed by trees and the blue flower meadow matches the sky. The flowers are a small mixture of stitches working with the pattern below; lots of detached chain stitches, satin stitch, french knots and straight stitches. The hedgerow above the blue meadow was a bit of an experiment, working cast-on stitch over a pen to create a channel and then stitching it down. It's messy and not at all perfect but great for a slightly unkempt hedge! Something to work on for the future I think.
Edwina really likes to hang out in that hedge trying to catch the odd bird or mouse that comes in to the garden to use the bird feeders Mr B keeps topped up. He's a real wildlife whisperer you know!
The background layers were worked quite simply so that the focus was on the house and garden. I really love the little row of red poppies along the jute ribbon fence. This is absolutely the most perfect fancy ribbon for a fence, rough and ready looking!
These days the Oast house isn't used for drying hops, although Mr B does grow a few hop plants along a pergola in the back for nostalgic effect. His great, great grandparents were the first to live here and the buildings have stayed in the family ever since. Occasionally, tourists to the area knock on the door to request a look around and Mr B is happy to oblige, showing them his family heirlooms and the way the Oast tower has been converted into a living space. It's a good tour and Bartholomew has quite a few thank you cards on the mantelpiece from happy visitors who have been inspired by his family's history.
The trees are just starting to turn towards their autumnal shades and yellow leaves are appearing in the green canopy. They were made using strands of Stylecraft Special DK acrylic yarn, with the yarn stripped down to individual strands and two colours merged together so you get a more natural multicoloured effect in the french knots. I really love the effect of these chunky french knots, but they are super hard on the hands trying to get the layers of yarn and needle through the tightly woven cotton fabrics! Before I stitched the leaves on, I used a couple of strands of Anchor embroidery thread to make rough satin stitch branches to use as templates for my leaves, they peep through the foliage occasionally and make the trees look more realistic.
Each tree has been treated slightly differently, although I have used the same fabric- a multicoloured and multi-thickness stripe. On the above tree (right side in the Stitchscape), I have couched down a skinny cord at the edges of the trunk, then the tree to the left of the Oast house has been edged with bullion knots with several layers of whip stitch over the knots which has created a really chunky edge to it- perhaps too chunky? It looks better with leaves on. The far left tree has been edged with pekinese stitch and has darker leaves to help create a feeling of shadow and perspective. I didn't have the right two colours of acrylic yarn for this one so I have combined acrylic yarn and two strands of embroidery floss, making the french knots smaller so that the tree looks further away.
I am really pleased with how this piece has turned out, from the grassy meadow with tiny french knot daisies, to the cloudy sky and the wheat field at the side. There are lots of layers within this piece and lots of different ways I could take Mr B's story within those rolling hills behind.
I also really love the fact that the Oast house is visible from the back of the Stitchscape! I had a very interesting conversation with a couple of ladies in my last class about knotting threads and carrying threads across the back. I'm not fussed about carrying threads, and was actively encouraged to appreciate the back of my embroideries at art school, with many of my tutors preferring the 'looser, more abstract, free' version of whatever I'd stitched, and being slightly lacklustre about my neat, carefully precise stitches on the front! Sometimes the backs of the Stitchscapes aren't anything to write home about, but I really enjoy looking at this side and can imaging it almost as a slightly abstract watercolour hanging on Mr B's wall, perhaps painted by one of his ancestors from the same spot that you and I are standing in now. Not much has changed.
So, that concludes our tour of the Oast house! Mr B has just pulled a lemon drizzle out of the aga (so domesticated) and the smell of it is wafting out of the window. Yummy! All I have left to do is to frame this little piece, which would look totally amazing next to Lionel's Lighthouse and Mrs Heggardy's Windmill! I wonder who will be next in my building inspired Stitchscapes?
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
Well! What an exhausting and exhilarating week it was last week! The Wealden Times Midwinter Fair took an absolute age to get here, then rushed up too quickly and was over in a flash! There was so much to do leading up to this event and I almost lost the plot in the previous week when I was trying to build up my stock of kits and kept running out of everything important I needed to put the kits together. I was cutting threads on the bus, and fabrics in the evening- and I must say thank you to The Lovely Mother who stepped in a couple of times and cut up the fabrics for the kits for me, it was a real help!
Once I'd started getting a few completed I was feeling a bit better but there were a lot of stress headaches going on leading up to the set up day.
The event was held at The Hop Farm in Paddock Wood, about an hour away from us. Dad and I loaded up the car the night before, completely demolishing the studio which still looks like a hurricane has hit it, and then we travelled up bright and early to be there as soon as we could get in.
It's amazing how large the tented village was! Made up of nine different tents all linked together to become an enormous walkway, they were floorboarded and had a heating system so were very posh considering we were in the middle of a field! Only a handful of other exhibitors were there when we arrived so it was very easy to find our spot and the new framework and curtains went up really quickly. I am so chuffed with this framework!!! It makes a very cosy space to exhibit work and it's really easy to shut up for the night too. As the space had been marked out in tape on the floor all we had to do was set the legs up in the corners and extend the cross bars to fit! It was slightly squiffy as my space was not exactly square and I had a big post for the canvas wall running through the centre of the tent in one corner that meant I lost a few centimetres but it didn't really matter in the end.
This was the first time all of the curtains had been hung up on the frame and they all fitted perfectly (thank goodness). Once the shelves and the table was up as well it really looked amazing and Dad settled down into the chair in the corner whilst I decorated with holly garlands and lights, and started setting out the stock.
There were a few drips coming off of the marquee roof whilst we were setting up which I think was caused by the first day of heating the tent condensating on the inside. Luckily it didn't drip at all for the rest of the weekend but we covered the tent across the top and at the front on that first night just in case of drips.
It's quite hard to walk away and leave the Stitchscapes to fend for themselves against unknown entities although I felt slightly easier this time than at the Kent County Show where everything was just covered over on the table and left. At least this had more of a secure appearance to it.
We had to leave quite early as we had other things going on in the afternoon, so took away as much as we could to keep the space clear and free inside (2 metres square is not particularly large!) and drove away. Neither of my neighbours had arrived at this point so we had no idea what it would look like the following morning.
On our return the next day the space had been transformed with the arrival of all of the other stands and exhibitors. We arrived really early to avoid the traffic rush and also so I could carry on setting out my stock as I hadn't wanted to put everything out in case of knocks, and in case it carried on raining inside the tent. I am really pleased with how the space looked, although next time will need to come up with a way to better hold the banner to the front of the table, and also a better way of doing the tablecloths as I don't really like the gap that has been caused at the front but I don't think I could have done it a differently this time around.
I am in love with my shelves which were a great addition to the frame work as they allowed me to exhibit so much more and helped to catch customer's eyes as they wandered past. S-hooks are a fabulous invention and enabled me to hang a smaller mesh grid off of the frame which I could hang my bigger Stitchscapes from. I could probably do with two of these mesh grids, although I borrowed this one from a friend as we had a little car space trouble (my bigger grids won't fit in our car), so that then I can hang pictures all along that side.
The first day was a brilliant success!! I sold my In The Pink original piece as well as the Snowy Alps original which I hope will be thoroughly enjoyed by their new owners. Thank you to everyone who purchased something from me, however small it may have been.
As the light went the inside of the tent became quite cosy with the individual stand lights and some naked bulbs attached to the tent roof. Once the lights on the stands went out though it was quite dark! It was super easy to cover the front of my tent with the sheet and grippers (another reason to love the framework!) and I made my way outside to be collected by The Parents who did an amazing job, especially Dad, of chauffeuring me there and back each day and helping out with the stand on occasion so that I could go and have a wander around the rest of the show.
We had to rush to the studio that evening to restock as I hadn't taken very many original pieces, and having sold two in one day, was then struggling to fill the space. The following day I moved everything around again to fit the new pieces in, and I am so pleased to say that the Moon Flower Town original also found a new home, right at the end of the day! I shall have to try stitching some more greyscale pieces I think, this one has had a lot of interest for quite a while with the printed products being popular purchases.
The kits always go down really well, although they alternate in popularity which never ceases to amaze me. On Etsy, the Summer Sweet kit is by far and away the most popular purchase, but at the Kent show, everyone was after the Naked Stitchscape Kits which weren't of much interested at the WT event. At this show the Summer kit managed to hang on to its kit champion title, closely followed by the #inthehoop Spring and Stitchscape Pebble kits.
After all of my worrying about releasing the Button Mountain kit in time, there wasn't a great deal of interest during the show but I'm sure it will have its time. I had many conversations with punters at the show regarding the recent discussion in the news about surgeons being concerned about the lack of fine motor skills new students are presenting. Textiles, practical hands-on subjects and the arts are being undercut so much in schools, with such a huge emphasis on academic subjects, that it is affecting hand-eye coordination and the ability to work with your hands, so the students are brilliant at the academic side of the profession but not so good at the physical task of the surgery.
Embroidery doesn't just give you physical skills, it also increases concentration levels, the ability to sit still and follow something through, and mindfullness (another big word of the moment). If you are concentrating on nothing but one stitch after another it is a kind of meditation and brings such a huge sense of peace and achievement when you've finished the project. I am a big believer in this stuff and try to bring these projects to my Guides during our meetings, where it is already very obvious which girls work on similar projects at home because they can sit still without fidgeting throughout the task and will actually concentrate on it rather than getting easily distracted and giving up after the first five minutes rather than patiently working through. Obviously some of it comes down to personality and interests also but a big part of it is that they don't do these activities at home.
Stepping down off my soap box, I took a little project to work on during the quiet moments of the show. Customers really like to know what I am working on and often like to see what's happening in my hoop. I discovered a spare little frame at home so it was the perfect size to stash away and pick up when needed. I am still loving the autumn colours of the National trust properties visited a few weeks ago and mentioned in my last post, as well as the sunrises that we have seen recently so this is based on those colours, with a lovely scrap of orange Kaffe Fassett fabric popped in the middle. I wasn't overly sure on the blue floral fabric and was nearly ready to take it out and try something else but now I've finished the piece, which I'll get to in a moment, I'm really pleased I stayed with my gut instinct.
I am a real fidget with my stands if I have the space to be, and I spent quite a lot of time shuffling pieces around and trying different ways to present them. These mini hoops had been threaded onto the mesh wall at the side of the stand but I wanted them to have more of an impact so laid them out in a sea of turquoise organza bags right at the front of the stand which really made people notice them.
The second day wasn't as good in terms of takings as the first but there were a lot more conversations with customers about their experiences with embroidery- a topic I can quite happily natter on about for hours!
Day three (the final day) started bright and early with the most amazing sunrise as we drove along. We were all pretty tired by this time as these shows really do take it out of you- the act of standing for the most of the day hurts your feet, and you get cheek ache from the perpetual smile but it's well worth it.
I had my first chance to wander around the whole event in the morning just as it was opening up. With nine tents it was pretty large, three of those tents were dedicated to cafes and bars, there was a tent selling speciality foods and the others were all dedicated to crafts and home and gardenwares. There were a few stand alone tents outside as well! All of the tents were colour coded with giant balloons to help people find their way around, but I loved the colourful lanterns in the street food village tent!
With some more fidgeting happening just after lunch, separating out the kits into individual boxes with the sample pieces tucked in front, the third day was absolutely packed with punters hell bent on finding the best presents for their loved ones. In terms of sales this was the worst day as most people either had a list or a budget but there was lots of talking and laughing so it wasn't all bad.
Dad and The Brother (who'd been drafted in as hired muscle) came at the end to help take everything down and we were away within half an hour! Tired but happy. We met some lovely new people and some previous and returning customers which was fantastic- the world of Stitchscapes is spreading!
And my show project was finished at the weekend with the final orange flower centres added in. I really love the stem stitch flowers in the Kaffe Fassett fabric and I think the blue works really nicely actually, I'm glad I didn't pull it out!
Sunday, 18 November 2018
I'm afraid I have to do a rather major catch up as I have neglected to update my blog for over five weeks!!! Everything has concentrated so much on churning out little pieces to sell and add to the display at the Wealden Times Midwinter Fair just gone, that many other things got set aside. Hopefully it will settle down now and I can get back to blogging and other fun stuff.
I've turned to my phone for these images as it's so easy to snap an image with it whilst out and about, especially as my big camera is so bulky I don't carry it around with me. The quality of these images isn't fantastic and, since the clocks have changed during this time period (from about the 10th October), the lighting isn't always great either so I am very sorry about that! A lot of my sewing is done in the evenings by the glow of my daylight lamp which reminds me a little bit of a dentist's treatment room, bright and blue.
So, let the catch up commence!!
❤ I managed to make about 19 of these little 10cm Christmas hoops, all different and unique, with sparkles and metallic threads. It turns out that I have more fabrics in my Christmas stash than I realised so it was great to be able to really mix things up. They are relatively quick to make as they are little with only four fabric layers but so festive! I had photo shoots at the studio, trying to think of ways to display these little pieces at the Wealden Times show. My white Hobbycraft tree comes in super handy and I'm wondering whether or not to get another one so that I can spread the hoops out a bit more. Something to ponder on.
❤ We carved pumpkins for Halloween. Quite a few pumpkins in the end actually and we still have one left over because The Mother has a thing about pumpkin muffins so kept bringing pumpkins home as a subtle hint. I also made a few apple loaf cakes as she brought home two bags of the most enormous apples I have ever seen! We had so much crumble, stewed apple and apple cake!! (My diet is going super well!)
❤ I went into mass kit-making overdrive! Stocks of The Naked Stitchscape Kit, Stitchscape Pebble Kit, Summer Sweet Kit and the Christmas Decoration Kit were replenished, and sheep appeared in the packs of mixed fabrics as it was so requested at my last big event. I have yet to update my Etsy shop with these new fabric collections but it is on my list. Cutting the threads take the longest time and I was taking boxes of threads, a ruler and a pair of scissors on the bus with me to cut them to length during my commute to work and in my lunch breaks, then threading them onto the cards in the evenings and on Dotty Textiles work days.
I was very pleased to have a request come through from the-stitchery in Lewes, to say that they had completely sold out of both the Orange Sunset and Spring Ladybug kits and could they have some more?!! Unfortunately there isn't enough fabric for more of the sunset kits and I am working on getting some replacement fabrics sorted for that but, as of last week, there are five more ladybug kits now for sale in store. These are designs exclusive to the-stitchery (you will find them no where else in the entire world!) and they can only be purchased in the shop, but if you are out of town just give them a call for other solutions. Click on the link to their shop for their details.
To add to my own collection of kits, I am super thrilled to say that my Button Mountain Felt kit for young stitchers is now ready to go!! You can find it in my Etsy shop, here, if you would like to encourage your budding embroiderer to have a go. These kits are very colourful with lots of texture and only three simple stitches. I have suggested them for children aged 8 and up but do recommend adult supervision for the younger ages. These would make fantastic stocking fillers- all you need is a 15cm hoop and your own needles, and you are away!
❤ I also managed to update my sketchbooks with some new photos as they were quickly getting behind. It's very soothing to organise the pages and play with washi tape. These are a great teaching tool for me as it helps to inspire my students with composition and colours, and is something that I can refer back to when I'm trying to explain a technique used so it's worth my while keeping it as up-to-date as possible. They aren't sketchbooks as such as there are no sketches, it's more like a photo album of past work and work in progress- my Instagram account in print.
❤ Whilst printing my new sketchbook images, I also put together and printed some little books titled, The Little Book of Stitchscapes. These are based on a printed book that I put together for personal use last year but it got so much attention by those I was showing that I made up some slightly different, versions for sale. They are only tiny little things, full of images of my Stitchscapes but have been purchased for inspiration by parents of children working on their GCSE Textile exams and those who want it as a quick reference book once they start their own Stitchscaping journey so I am really chuffed with where these books have been going to. It is very humbling to be a source of inspiration to others and I hope that I can live up to it!
It is easier to embroider multiples of these at a time so the hoop was also coming with me on the bus to work (my poor colleagues have had to put up with all sorts of strange stitchy activities during the lunch break) and anywhere else I went. I draw around the inner wooden shapes onto the back of the fabric, making sure to leave a couple of centimetres between the shapes so that I have a seam allowance to draw up the fabric to enclose the wooden shape. They really are super sweet little things- the smallest being only 2.5cm in diametre! I've now started having a go at some Christmas holly themed ones, but have realised that there is no space for a ring to attached to the screw so they are just little random hoops. They will probably end up as magnets I think.
❤ The cat has been doing his regular cat-like things. His mood is linked to the weather so we are noticing a distinct change in his demeanour, lots of moaning and winging and turning his nose up at the food we offer him because it's less sunny and warm these days. He leaps at every change to bask in the sunshine, getting comfy in all sorts of sheltered sun traps to improve his mood. We barely see him during the summer, then in Autumn he starts hovering around a bit more demanding evening cuddles, and then in Winter he's constantly underfoot wanting snuggles all day long. It's very sweet but can get frustrating when you have plans!
❤ I have been hugely inspired by recent visits to National Trust properties. In one day, a friend and I visited Sheffield Park & Garden (above), Wakehurst Place (below) and Nymans Garden (bottom). The colours in these lovely places were amazing! Sheffield in particular was stuffed with artists and photographers all trying to capture the essence and colours of the autumnal trees and scenery. As it has been so mild recently there were also still quite a few late summer flowers in bloom, like Cosmos, Dog Roses and Dahlias which only added to the colour and beauty of the gardens. We are very lucky to live near these big open breathing spaces.
❤ These colours appear a lot in my little framed pieces that have been worked on since our National Trust visits. Lots of oranges, reds, yellows, maroon, ochre, gold.... I really enjoy making these little frames, and because I tend to use such deep concentrations of colour, they form a colour burst collection, and the three black framed pieces look particularly powerful together in a row! I've been experimenting with some new stitches in these as I have recently followed a new account on Instagram called @moony.crafts who collect really interesting images and videos posted by other embroiderers on Instagram, and re-posts them so you can see all of these amazing images in one place or trace them back to the original poster. In particular, the cacti in the bottom right image above are a new stitch to me and I have no idea what it is called. You wrap thread multiple times around the needle whilst it is tucked into the fabric and then pull through, securing both the top and the bottom of the loops. It uses a lot of thread in one go but looks really cool! And the really puffy firework-esque flowers in the middle left image are also from this account where you trap wrapped threads, over sew at the bottom then cut the loops. It's so effective!
❤ In the studio I have been experimenting with a new way of framing the #inthehoop stitchscapes to try and make them more accessible to punters. They make such an impact framed this way I think, although they are devilishly fiddly to attach to the mountboard as I have been stitching them on rather than gluing in the hopes that it will make them more secure. I have bought special circular mounts to help bed the hoops in and I really love them! Only a few have been framed so far but I have more mounts and frames to be able to work my way through them and do some more. What do you think?
❤ We have recently had our Remembrance Day parade and I had to take time out of sewing to attach together all of these bottle poppies, which had been made by my Guides, into a wreath to display in the church. It's a very clever idea (thank you Pinterest) where you take big plastic bottles, cut the bottom part off and cut petal shapes at the edge, make a hole in the bottom and paint the inside red, then use the rest of the bottle to cut big leaf shapes to be painted green and a circle to be painted black. You thread them all together onto wire and then melt them with a heat gun so that they look more natural. Somehow I volunteered to then wire them onto a big wreath ring and our girls paraded with it up the highstreet with the rest of the Remembrance Day parade, and laid it right a the front of the church. Well worth taking the time to do.
I have more to catch you up on with the Wealden Times show but I think this post is long enough and you will all be dying to put the kettle on for a cup of tea by now! I hope you enjoyed the trip down my memory lane, and see you soon!