Friday, 29 June 2018

Lionel's Lighthouse

Lionel is feeling rather chuffed. He's been out in the blowing sea salt gales lovingly polishing his white washed lighthouse. It needs regular cleaning because it can get dirty rather quickly- especially when the seagulls use it for target practice. Boats sailing by rely on him to keep them safe and he takes his job very seriously, making sure he has back up batteries and lightbulbs for the big light at the top there and that the glass is clean from specks to ensure the light can be seen for miles around. This morning's spit and polish session has left the lighthouse looking top banana!

Luckily the sun is out today and the sea is relatively calm, although you will always get a few racing white horses so near to the rocks creating bubbles and spray as the waves hit the cliffs. Lionel is using the time to sit in the top room and work on his painting, he's a fine artist you know! Landscapes are his thing, especially watery ones.

It can get quite lonely sitting out there on his rock, although if the tide is really low you can walk back to the beach that opens up just under that cliff face. Usually though it's just Lionel so he amuses himself by reading, painting, listening to Radio 2, cleaning, and chatting to his pet seagull, Sebastian, whom he raised from a chick when he discovered him abandoned on the front doorstep of the lighthouse.

Lionel is surrounded by lots of different stitches in this piece, and I am especially pleased with the cliff face as it is so full of texture and interest!! Originally it started out as quite a boring three-colour seed stitch cover, but then I remembered I had some interesting yarns from Stef Francis, and I twisted a bouclé yarn with a metallic one and couched them down, twisting them into random shapes to create the impression of jutting rock surfaces. These were then bedded in with some little french knots, and I also decided to try my vertical whip stitch (usually reserved for working on the top of running stitch) on the top of the seed stitch. Because the seed stitches are going in all directions it has created some interesting twists in the whip stitch which I am very pleased with.
Further back in the rock face I have covered the little scratch lines printed into the fabric with tiny single strand straight stitches, and added some rough scrub greenery using fly stitch with little french knot pink flowers.

I love variegated embroidery threads, especially if you can find a fabric that it completely matches. My cloudy sky print fabric already has the gradient colours to make up the sky so all it need was a single strand back stitch following some of the heavier lines, and the colour of the thread did the rest.
The seagulls have been built up with two fly stitches over the top of each other to make them slightly more weighty- although the 'further away' gulls are only a single fly stitch using two strands of thread.
I have also used a variegated thread in the whip stitch sea layer. The fabric I used was a horizontal stripe and I worked rows of running stitch following the outline of the fabric layer below, changing the thread colour to match the printed colour stripes, one of them being a variegated colour thread. These layers I went over with single strand whip stitch, but I have also blended the colour change within the whip stitch if that makes sense?

The lighthouse itself was bondawebbed to the fabrics below (glued with special iron on glue paper in other words) and I love the effect this has had on the running stitch worked on the white fabric. Because the bondaweb doesn't allow the fabric to move, the holes where the needle has passed through have stayed as quite prominent holes, giving the appearance of brickwork when you get rows of them- exactly the effect I didn't know I wanted! Most of the lighthouse has been edged with bullion knots, apart from the grey grating level (where the lighthouse light shines from) which has been edged with whip stitch, and the hat on the top which has been edged with blanket stitch. My windows are little satin stitch rectangles with additional straight stitch frames at the top and bottom. Once I had finished the lighthouse the white didn't quite stand out enough from the blue of the background, so I have tried adding a little shading also by putting long single strand back stitches just underneath the bullion knots and going back over the stitches, couching them in to the beginning and ends of the bullion knots. It just adds a little bit of 3D-ness which you can't really see but helps the lighthouse stand out.

I love how easily you can create surf and bubbles. Originally the bottom layer of fabric just had the satin stitches over certain colours. The plan at the start was to cover the entire layer but then I decided that would be too much and just left it with the stitches it had. Once the rest of the piece was completed there was still something missing from this layer though, until I added in the tiny little white french knots. I have kept them to one side of the satin stitches to try and create the impression of direction towards the cliffs, and varied their size so the weight is at the front of the 'wave'. The knots are only a single strand with either one or two twists, and they aren't particularly neat but, as I was explaining to someone in my workshop a couple of weekends ago who was french knotting clouds, sometimes you don't want perfect little knots because they are far less interesting and look harder, less natural than the messy ones.

I hope next time you see a lighthouse you will think of Lionel and give him a wave!!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Pebble ❤

I know I showed these to you in my last post but I really love them and had a small smooching session in the studio yesterday, setting them up for a grand photo shoot. Please indulge my madness and bear with me.

Although they are all pretty much made of the same types of stitches; bullion knots, straight stitch, pistil stitch, french knots, fly stitch and feather stitch, with the occasional satin stitch and back stitch; these little pebbles allow me to make use of the tiniest of scraps so none of my stash is wasted. They also let me play with different colour combinations like the mustard and purple selection at the back there. The fabrics still generally inform what stitches go into the piece, I have used the ladybug in the ladybug print fabric and kept him in, going over in satin stitches with french knot spots, and followed the printed yellow flower bud spots in the right hand blue piece.

I end up with quite a few stray lengths of embroidery threads floating around in my various travel boxes, so these are another way of using up those last ends. Sometimes I deliberately change the colour of the bullion knot flowers to create a pretty multi-coloured effect, and sometimes I am forced to change if my thread colour runs out, but it doesn't really bother me. I am just painting with threads and the overall effect is a little pop of colour.

I really love the french knot in these pieces as it works fantastically well to taper them and get smaller as you work up to the top of the pebble. It gives them a more natural look, a bit like Lupins perhaps, and if you can wiggle them so that it isn't a completely straight line, that works for the better.
I tend to work quite systematically through the stitch types, and have to use the back of the hoop as much as the front to make sure I am staying within the lines of the shape. I start by working on the back and creating my long straight stitch stems, then switch to the front and add bullion knots to each stem. Next I will add in the french knots and, if I want to, the pistil stitches/fly stitches/feather stitches. Each one is different and unique but they all kind of start out the same- a little like clones developing a personality.

I've made a few Christmas themed ones as I recently cut up lots more fabrics for my Christmas Hoop decoration kit and had some scraps left over. As it's Christmas I've used some of my DMC metallic threads so these ones have got a little bit of a sparkle to them, although you can keep them out all year round.

I've started some more which I will hopefully be able to finish before next weekend. Having said in my last post that I can fit eight into a 20cm hoop, I have discovered that if I use a square 20cm hoop (yes, a square one! They aren't as good in that the fabric slips a lot more, but you do get more space to work with) I can fit in eleven pebbles which is even better!

It looks a total mess, but there is method to the madness. With the two lines of the pebbles, the outer line is my cut line once the embroidery is complete, and the inner line is the containment for the embroidery. The fabrics on the front will overlap each other as I have squeezed in so many pebbles, but as long as they don't overlap the inner line then it is fine as it all gets cut up anyway.
Depending on my fabric scraps, I usually aim for a half and half overlap for each of the fabrics, why don't you have a go yourself? I warn you now, they are fiddly but addictive!

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Summer Fairs, Camps & Pebbles

Goodness, I hadn't realised how long it had been since I last posted on here. I've had to go through the photos on my phone to see what has happened since I last wrote. If you follow my Instagram account you will have been bombarded with photos, as I've been trying to keep that up to date and try to post at least a couple of things daily. The Mother and I had an interesting time at the Bridge Arts in Uckfield Summer Fair a couple of weekends ago and I was really pleased with how my stand looked. The Friday was the opening night with music, Pimms and speeches and I sold two of my little colour burst original pieces using my PayPal card reader. I don't know what was more exciting, the sale or the first use of my card reader!!! I was happy dancing all evening!

On the second day I was hosting a mini stitchscape workshop and had previously put together some little mini kits using a 10cm embroidery hoop, calico and four slithers of fabric. I had already stretched the calico hoop so all my workshop participants had to do was choose the fabric selection they wanted, cut the shapes and start sewing!

It worked really well and encouragingly lots of people attended! (Including The Brother.) The class was only meant to last for 45 minutes but the majority of people wanted to stay on and as there was no one else booked for the big table, we overran by over an hour! I had also taken a big bag of remnant fabrics and bag of threads so everyone got stuck in and really enjoyed themselves I think. It's amazing how many different ideas people can come up with using just a few scraps of fabric. The Mother was an excellent additional tutor and very helpful at leaping between the workshop and the stand; you can see how handily placed my stand was to the big table, right next door!

One fun weekend was followed by another and I went camping with the Guides. Us leaders went up a night before to set things up so we camped for two night whilst the girls camped for one (which was enough - for them and us). Our days were full of craft, wooding, fire lighting, cooking, cleaning, coffee (for me), putting up tents, campfire songs, s'mores, hot chocolate, sunshine..... For several of the girls it was their first time camping and they thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the best parts about being a Guide Leader is seeing the girls learn new things and being the one to teach them. Watching them build a fire is hilarious and usually involves my having to go into detail about the fire triangle (heat, oxygen and fuel) and building that triangle in small twigs and building it up, etc etc. They can be very sweet when you take away the pressure of having to be cool all the time and just let them be kids.

My camping project was a hoop-full of pebbles, although I didn't manage to get very much done. They were finished off when I got back home and needed a day to recover (we hadn't slept much). My little pebbles sold very well at the Bridge Arts fair and I am building up stock before next weekend at the Kent County Show. With the size of hoop I am using (20cm) I can make eight small pebbles at a time.

I have included some more festive ones in this batch as bizarrely, during one of the hottest weeks of the year, my thoughts have been turning to projects to make ready for the festive season. It takes a long time to make stitchscapes or sort out new projects so starting early is a good idea.

I get asked all of the time if these are real pebbles, and I must stress that they are not. I am not nearly clever enough to cover real pebbles, and I don't have enough time to be combing for pebbles that are exactly the right shape and size to cover them with embroidery. I have seen other artists felt around real pebbles and then stitch on the felt but that's not my style so much.
So, my pebbles aren't toys, they are just a bit of fun stuffed with polyester wadding for you to do with what you will. They would fit perfectly in a printers tray, or you could pop a safety pin in the back and wear it as a brooch, totally up to you!
I do like this batch, and am already working on some more- it's a bit of a challenge, how many can I make in time for the Kent County Show?

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Naked Stitchscape Kit

For the last couple of weeks work has been continuing at quite a pace on my Naked Stitchscape Kits. I have spoken about these before, but the premise is that rather than my sewing a stitchscape and writing down everything I did, drawing around my cut fabric pieces and counting every centimetre of thread used for you to replicate, these kits are more inspirational starter packs. They include most of the things that my other kits have; hoop, backing calico square, five pieces of co-ordinating fabrics, cut and labelled threads etc but rather than draw a picture in the printed suggestion guide, I have written and diagrammed my go-to stitches for 'scapes, and included a couple of pages on different ways of embroidering the different types of print pattern you might get. For example, how to turn a polka dot into a check or a stripe, or just to keep it as a spot fabric.

The guide has been written and printed for ages, but the fabrics were holding me back as they weren't anywhere near ready. Finally a couple of weeks ago, The Mother and I traveled to Brighton, to one of our favourite shops, and purchased lots of different colours and patterns of fabric to add to the stash that I have been quietly building. One stormy day last week where the cat was so depressed, all he wanted to do was lie despondently on the ironing board (a preferred place to sleep if available), I cut ALL of the fabrics into strips. It took a full day to neatly divide my metres of fabric into regimented rows of 2.5" but I eventually got there.

Once they were all cut I then started collating together five fabric patterns that inspired me, or looked lovely together, and asked The Mother to choose some selections as well. These strips were then cut into 20cm lengths and laid out to look pretty.

My calico squares were cut and pressed, and my Anchor threads laid out against the different packs for five colours per kit to be chosen. There is a quarter of a skein of each colour, which roughly translates as 2 metres, so in total, the kits include roughly 10 metres of thread.

A length of ribbon/cord/braiding was added to compliment the fabrics, and the final part was finished on Wednesday as each kit now also has a small selection of mixed beads. I had a lovely afternoon in the sunshine putting the final flourishes to the kits, adding in the 12cm hoop and sealing up the packets! There is a real feeling of satisfaction when you rip off the little bit of plastic on the self seal bottom and see everything laid out so prettily in its casing.

In total I have currently made 47 Naked Stitchscape kits, and in some cases there are up to five of each colour way. Some are total one offs and others will be slightly different if I had to put in a different type of fabric as a variance. I am not planning to necessarily repeat combinations and will try to really mix things up a bit to make sure that the kits are as unique as possible.

Lots of the kits are now in my Etsy shop and I have given some of the colour options names to make it easier to let me know which one you have fallen in love with and been inspired by. I really hope that you will be inspired to have a go yourself. During my various craft shows, I get lots of comments about the stitchscapes which revolve around 'oh I could do that if I wanted to', 'I would like to have a go but wouldn't know where to start and don't want to follow a kit', or, 'my mother used to do this sort of thing but perhaps it isn't really me'. All comments get taken on board, and this is my solution to those comments. It's a kit with a difference, the naked components just waiting for you to make them into something beautiful!