Thursday, 26 July 2018

Mass Hooping

I have the cutest little mini table top ironing board!!! And it's sad but I find this very exciting as previously I had to choose between the full household ironing board which is a heavy contraption with built in seat that all folds out, or a foam ironing sheet which just about protects the work surface but condensates underneath if you need to do quite a bit of pressing out. This little ironing board from IKEA is the perfect solution! I had a fantastic time last week getting out all of my fabrics and setting up shop on the kitchen table. I have three drawers stuffed full of fabrics (plus all of the other fabrics in various hidey holes around the house) and these were all out to provide inspiration.

I had decided to try and plan out some stitchscapes based on ideas collected on my Pinterest boards (a fabulous site!) as well as ideas based on discussions had at the Kent County Show, and just ideas I had in my head. Usually I don't plan or write anything down, but there are so many things I want to have a go at I am slightly worried I will forget one, plus I am now on my second inspiration sketchbook which I also use as a teaching tool, and the rough sketches will fit in well in those books.
Actually it was quite nice to be working towards a specific pre-drawn idea, the fabric selection was still quite organic as I hadn't specified fabric prints, and the general shapes and layers were easily amended to fit the size of the hoop and the fabrics I was picking up, but it all flowed nicely as I chose another design and worked towards it.

I am starting to think of (dare I say) Christmas designs and winter designs for this year's Christmas cards- and actually I am already behind with this as lots of designers and artists start their winter ranges in May/June time. But I have been busy with my buildings range of stitchscape so Christmas has been put on hold slightly. I'm sure I will get there eventually- and there is always next year!
The first design idea is based on my woodland sunburst stitchscapes, like Sunburst and All That Glitters, but in a snow scene. It's very delicate, snow covered layers with pale sunlight filtering through and lighting up the icicles so they turn to diamonds- I am looking forwards to this one!

To start these pieces, I cut and layer the fabrics to make sure that it all fits, playing around with perspective which can be changed entirely depending on what fabric you layer on top. Clever huh? Once I'm happy with the composition, I will usually snap a quick photo if it is as complicated and layered as this one to make sure I recreate it properly, and then pop the calico into the hoop and re-layer, stitching everything down with quick tacking stitches to hold the fabric down until I'm ready to start working on the piece. 

I've been feeling a bit mountainous and several of the hoops I put together on this day have mountains in them. I really like the layered blue mountains in this piece- and as I have been working so much on adding buildings and structures lately, several pieces also have these little huts with their stone chimneys.

Although the background has just been tacked down, I really want the house to maintain it's crisp edges, which you can't guarantee if you just tack, so I have secured this to the hoop with Bondaweb. Usually I don't mind a bit of fraying although through teaching my classes where my students have been learning their stitches, their edges can fray quite considerably with the extra handling going on. If you are working on a landscape fraying can enhance the overall texture of the piece and make it more organic but I might start introducing Bondaweb to my lessons as an alternative. To make my little house, I drew within the inner hoop onto a piece of paper to get the size, and then roughly mapped where my background fabrics were positioned before drawing the house at the size I wanted. This was then traced onto the Bondaweb (using a makeshift light box known as the French doors....), remembering that you have to trace it on the wrong side unless you are happy with the mirror image. The Bondaweb is roughly cut around the drawn shape and carefully ironed onto the back of the fabric (make sure to iron on the paper side!!!). Once cool, you can then cut more carefully along the lines of the shape and remove the paper backing- tweezers are a really good idea- layer your pieces where you want them within your landscape, with the fabric side upwards and iron! Of course, you have to be absolutely sure of your positioning because once this is ironed on- it won't come off again easily, so if you are layering with different fabrics, also make sure you have them in the right order!!

Two stitchscape layouts down I was on a roll, and decided to work on my next big building piece- Bartholomew's Oast House. Bartholomew isn't in at the moment, he's gone on a relaxing retreat with his lady friend and has left the Oast House in the care of his nephew, Cedric, who's a bit of a lazy bum and won't be up yet so we can have a wander around without him noticing.
The image above is before the layers were stitched down, and it also now has some fancy ribbons attached to it in readiness, but you can see all of the layers of Bondawebbed building going on. This was a bit of a headache to accomplish and took forever to iron down. I had to carefully map each of the pieces and then figure out the order in which to iron down- which didn't go entirely to plan as I ironed on the wrong side building first and had to modify things a little bit, hopefully you won't be able to notice and it's just me being overly picky.
I really like the way the Oast House is framed between the trees, which I am thinking of adding chunky acrylic yarn french knot leaves to to really bring them into the forefront. I showed this image to followers on Facebook and Instagram and a couple thought I had already stitched this piece because of the printed cross stitch house fabric I've used for the brickwork of the Oast House building. It would be cheating just to leave it!

I have been trying to think of local landmarks as well as buildings, and one that stood out was the Seven Sisters. We live quite near here and occasionally go for walks along Beachy Head and surrounding countryside. It is quite a recognisable cliff section and most of the images I researched had the same formation of cliffs which I decided to have a go at myself. I needed this to be quite crisp as well so have used Bondaweb to hold the cliff section with it's topping of scrubby grass fabrics.

We used to come here quite a lot when I was little, and there used to be Seven Sisters Sheep Farm, which I don't think is there any more. In Springtime you could go and watch lambs being born right there in front of you and feed the lambs who needed to be bottle fed. I can still remember the feeling of it being a game of tug-of-war as the lambs would pull very strongly on the bottle which you had to grip with both hands! With all of these memories tangled up with the image of those white cliffs, there just had to be sheep frolicking somewhere in this hoop.

It took me all day to put together all of these hoops, and by the end of it I had six different sized stitchscapes to add to the others which I haven't yet finished! After the Seven Sisters Sheep stitchscape, I worked on a blue mountain/lavender/heathery 20cm hoop, and a poppy field piece with some more of my little stone houses in. I shall have to get cracking!!!

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