Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Bartholomew's Oast House

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?