Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Studio Sunday

I had a very productive day in the studio on Sunday. My two colour burst mini stitchscapes were framed in their black frames which I am totally thrilled and in love with! Two other mini stitchscapes were also photographed ready for their grand appearance in Etsyland. My In The Pink Stitchscape was framed, Hedgerow Fizz was mounted but not framed as I accidentally left the frame at home where it had been delivered to and didn't take it with me to the studio (I'm blaming the heat for this lapse, it was a scorcher of a day, the previous evening's storm doing nothing for the humidity!), and I labelled and priced up all of my prints, cards, embroidery kits and stitchscape pebbles ready for the Barnsgate Manor craft fair that happened on Monday.

I very teasingly didn't show you the finished article of my seaside themed colour burst 'scape in my last blog post, so here it is!
It's very simple for me. I have been thinking about my timings and how much effort I put into my work. Following a discussion with the lovely Saira at the-stitchery, she said how much heart and soul I put into my stitchscapes, every one of them has a little bit of me in it (especially if I forget myself and sew my finger to the 'scape- it has happened several times!!) and they have to be perfect. I am not often willing to compromise the quality of my work, and I am pretty unbending when it comes to how I want these things to look- from my branding, to packaging, to print paper. If I don't like the look, or the quality of it, I don't sell it or promote it. However, because the embroideries take so long to do I am trying to find ways to speed the process up a little and make it slightly more commercial. The large pieces I don't think I will be able to compromise on how much effort goes into those - I do consider them an art form - but the little ones could have slightly less in them. Slightly.

So rather than go mad and stitch on the tiny single strand, one twist french knots I was planning to build up texture within the sand print, I have left it as satin stitches in the pebbles and stem stitch around the tantalizing section of foot. The little dry grasses help to keep the fabric down, as do the cross stitches, and then the french knots at the bottom of the grass help to bed that in. I am really pleased with this piece, and especially love the surf bubbles!! Love that transition between water and sand. In fact, I may have to do another piece straight away with that theme in mind.

With the depth in colours, these two look rather lovely against the dark frames, and it has me wondering how my green sheep would look against black as well- perhaps I should do some more green ones and set them in black? A step away from my almost trademark white frames!

Most of my work I prefer in white frames, and I have actually just re-framed my Cow Parsley Stitchscape into a white box frame as I no longer liked it in the black one I had originally framed it in. It now looks so much fresher! My In The Pink Stitchscape is now all bedded into its very own frame and looking rather lovely, and my Hedgerow Fizz has had its photoshoot ready to be turned into prints and cards which I'm hoping will turn out well. Next time I am in the studio this one will also be framed. Someone once told me that although they could see the techniques I used and the layering that goes on in these scenes, they couldn't actually see the full picture and appreciate it as a landscape scene until it was put into a frame and squared off. I guess I prefer seeing them all tidied up as well, whether that be in a square frame or a round hoop. What's your preference?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Slow Saturday

I think the cat's position pretty much sums up Saturday. Slow, lazy, relaxed, hot, sunny, sleepy.....his favourite kind of day. His itinerary included; snoozing in the garden, cleaning his right paw, snoozing in a different part of the garden, cleaning his left paw, meandering in for a quick snack and to check on the humans, choosing a new part of the garden, stretching, another snooze....and then because all of that was so exhausting, sleeping it off under a bush somewhere before tea.
I did manage to stay awake and actually was highly productive in a relaxed sort of a way as I managed lots of sewing and finished off two little stitchscapes. Unfortunately I was so engrossed in my stitching I am now sporting a rather lobster-like sunburn on my arms but it was all worth it.

I'd had an idea to try and make colour grouped landscapes, and as I had some black 7.5cm frames to hand, thought that the brights of orange and yellow would look super against a black frame. I've managed to squeeze seven fabric strips into this little square so it's a bit of a sunset explosion!

I like how much texture can be crammed into one little frame and each fabric strip is like a snapshot of the pattern. At the top there is back stitch following the lines of pattern, then just french knots going crazy a layer down, satin stitch circles, back stitches again following the faint wishy lines of the space dyed fabric and a two strand (so slightly thicker) back stitch around the edges of the batik fabric. It reminds me of when you get rolls of cloud that are tinged with gold at the edges and do create this layered effect.

I wanted the bottom layers to be a stark contrast against the yellow to really help it POP so went with mainly black fabrics. The bottom one was a white polka dot on black, but as I have worked back stitch cross hatching across it you can't really tell that it was a spotty fabric before. The upper dark layer is definitely spotty, and rather than keep this black as well, I have highlighted it with a silvery grey which has a kind of dappled effect. The bottom of course, would not be completed without a few bullion knot flowers!

My next colour theme was blue as I wanted to try out a previously un-used (what a momentous occasion!!) sandy beach print. It is the second print I own based on sand, but this one was a justified purchase as it has footprints in- which makes it different to the other one and therefore necessary...
The blues are just gorgeous and I am really pleased with how this one turned out- but I'm going to keep you waiting for another blog post to show you. Muwhaha!

Of course, later on that evening we had a terrific lightning show. From the view beyond those trees there were constant streaks of light dashing across the sky and flashes within the clouds. It didn't seem to hit the ground anywhere (not like Stansted airport's fuel depot- what a palava!) and we didn't have any thunder, or much rain particularly, but it was very awe inspiring nonetheless.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Hedgerow Fizz Stitchscape

Last week I managed to get out a stitchscape design that has been fizzing around in my brain for a little while, channeling thoughts of wheat fields filled with delicate flowers, and hedgerows overflowing with Cow Parsley, Foxgloves, Daisies and Cowslips. The two ideas don't necessarily go together in nature as most of the flowers are early ones and wheat won't ripen until late summer, but the two make for an enchanting image I think- and I get some artistic license!
I have quite a few linear prints in a yellow/gold colourway which were all perfect for this 'scape and I teamed them with some green prints that also had a vertical stripe thing going on which all hint towards growth and stems (it's in the tiny details you see).

I worked on it over the weekend, including over the Royal wedding- congratulations by the way to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, you couldn't have a better area of the world to have as your Dukedom. (Not that I'm biased in any way....) The bottom layer was left until last as I wanted to do something special to bring it alive but wasn't quite sure what it was that I needed until I was trying to find something for another project and came across my packet of Shrinkles!
I had used this stuff last year to make my Hollyhocks stitchscape and there were a few sheets left over for me to make some of my very own sequins. These are so easy to make, you just hole punch the shrinkle plastic and then colour in a circle about a centimetre around it. Cut these out and bake them in the oven on 180c for, quite literally, seconds until they stop moving and shrinking then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

The colours deepen as the plastic shrinks, and they will go to about a third of the original size. It's so exciting!!

I also had some flower stems in my craft box which I used when I used to make ribbon flowers, and I thought these would look very pretty muddled in with the rest. They remind me of unopened Daisy flowers.

So, here we have the finished stitchscape!!! I have called it Hedgerow Fizz, mainly because the hedgerow at the front really stands out, and it had been fizzing in my head for so long- I believe the title is also the name of an alcoholic cocktail if you wished to look it up.

The shrinkle sequins have been stitched down by trapping them with a bead sewn through the centre, and have been bedded in with some detached chain stitch leaves and two strand, three twist french knots. I have also included my customary bullion knot flowers, and three strand, various twists (to get the tapering) french knot stems. The green grasses behind the flowers have been stitched using two colours of Stylecraft Acrylic DK yarn which give a slightly fluffy appearance. It's a nice myriad of colour and texture I think. Very hedgerow-esque.

So the stitch run down for this piece is as follows: whip stitch, detached chain stitch, bullion knots, french knots, satin stitch, fly stitch, straight stitch, couching, seed stitch, cross stitch and running stitch. All the regular favourites!!

Friday, 25 May 2018

Catching You Up

It's been over a week since I last wrote on here, and how different things are in my life!! Two weeks ago today was my last day at my full time job which I gave up for several reasons, one of them being wanting (needing) to spend more time on my sewing and Dotty Textiles. I have several big craft fairs coming up in the next two months and I am going to need so much stock to make sure I have enough!! Don't panic Mr Mannering! (A Dad's Army reference for you there.)
Consequently I am spending a lot more time at home or in the studio, and am trying to balance a sort of working day which is a lot harder than it seems. Because I am so used to sewing in the evenings, and I sew for fun, I tend to do more in the afternoons than the mornings which I'm not sure is what I'm meant to be doing, considering that I would usually be at work and cracking on from half eight.

Things are getting done though and I am pleased with my progress in the last week or so. I have completely overhauled my website (see here) and re-edited the homepage with a list of all upcoming craft fairs and workshops. The next craft fair is on this coming Monday 28th May at Barnsgate Manor if you would like to pop along. 
I have also revamped my studio, which was a very necessary thing to do as unfortunately Tunbridge Wells Artisans (TWA) decided to close its premises at The George Stables whilst they find a better location. They are still online, but due to my change in circumstance, I am no longer part of them and wish them well for the future. 
I enlisted the aid of The Parents and we went along to take down my bookcase and pack up the stitchscapes which then had to be reinstalled in my tiny shed of a studio. Most of my really big stitchscapes had been displayed at TWA so it's a little bit of a squeeze, especially as I rebuilt the bookcase to hold all of the embroidery kits, stitchscape pebbles and little framed pieces. I am very pleased with how homey it feels in there, especially with the door open and the radio on. 

I am still working on some tiny little frames, don't you just love these sheep? It has to be one of my favourite fabric prints to work on and generates a lot of comments on my social media pages. There have been several comments about the sheep appearing to be a little bit tipsy!
I have stocked up on different types of little frames in different colours and my aim is to fill them all before buying any more frames as it is quicker for me to make lots of mini pieces for craft fairs- although it is the big pieces that I can then turn into cards and prints which I tend to sell more of. The business head is clashing with the creative one!

As well as sewing sheep, I have also just finished another swan themed commission, and have been working on a secret project for the-stitchery in Lewes, with whom I am doing a spot of collaboration and cahooteration (can that be a word?). The images below are all that I am allowed to show you of this project, and my lips are sealed! I cannot be persuaded to talk regardless of how many fat quarters you try to bribe me with.

The Mother and I tootled off to Brighton this week to go fabric shopping!! Wooo, one of my favourite pastimes. These fabrics are specifically for kits, both current ones which we have run out of fabric for, and the Naked Stitchscape kits which I haven't released yet due to lack of fabric and ribbons and fun stuff. We are slowly collecting these and I hope to start putting some of the kits together next week once I have had a delivery of threads come through to match. Aren't these patterns just gorgeous though? I had to really restrain myself....

On Saturday I had a photoshoot to attend with the Bridge Arts In Uckfield gang to raise awareness of an exhibition of our work currently installed at Uckfield train station. (You can read local news reports on it here and here.) My Sea Pink Shore stitchscape is featured there and I love the way that the print seems to glow as the acetate it is printed on allows some light to pass through making all of the artwork really stand out! If you wanted to pop by, the exhibition is on until August so there is plenty of time! I am also exhibiting with Bridge Arts on the 15th-16th June at Uckfield Civic Centre, and am offering a quick workshop on mini stitchscapes as well which you can book onto during the event, or by emailing Bridge Arts beforehand. Just click here to go to the events section of their website and find out more.

So that just about catches us up I think! I am very excited to see where I can go from here and I hope you will continue to join me and follow along this mad ride!

Monday, 14 May 2018

Mini Swan 'Scape

More swans! I really loved the little greyscale swan piece I stitched as part of my #inthehoop series, so thought I would revisit it again, although I swapped around a few fabrics and techniques as I don't like to completely repeat a stitchscape design. The focus is again on the swans, and I have worked these in rough satin stitch once more as it was a technique that really brought the swans to life- each feather is almost individually represented in the stitches and adds movement as you can see the wind rushing past. I have worked single strand back stitch lines around the edges of the swans, tracing their outline until the lines bump into each other.

The cross hatch fabric print has again very simply been cross hatched with straight stitches, and the needles and pins print fabric has had the black lines of the print covered with straight stitch, with the white surrounding fabric completed with seed stitches.

The top layer has a single strand of straight stitch following a texture line within the weave, up until the pattern starts with some greyscale flowers that I have followed with detached chain stitch daisy flowers.
Some of these have unfortunately been lost slightly in the framing, as have the bullion knot borders, as I went a little too close to the edge of the marked square, but I don't think that this matters too much- these little frames make the embroidery look like Polaroid pictures, small snapshots of daily life captured and printed.