Monday, 9 December 2019

Barnacle Bay Stitchscape

During my summer holiday in Cornwall I had an idea whilst on the beach to collect pre-holed Limpet shells and use them in a Stitchscape. The holes were a pretty specific requirement because I've stitched different shaped shells on before and had to cross over the shape like a shisha mirror because they are mighty tricky to put a tiny little hole in! Holey Limpets are much easier to work with as you can go around them almost like a giant, textured sequin and they look great!

I had great fun trying to recreate a beach texture - the sand and pebble print fabric I have is brilliant and I went over each of the bigger pebble shapes with a rough satin stitch, following the colour of the print below. The larger limpet shells were filled with some quilters batting that was then completely covered with french knots and I found in my stash a brilliant knitted tube yarn which looks exactly like seaweed and can be played around with and pulled in different directions. This is such a textural fabric layer with the hard shells combined with this bouncy yarn, tiny little matte beads, french knots, bullion knot barnacles, clear sequins which flash pink and blue in the light as you turn the Stitchscape. It looks exactly how I wanted it to and I'm so chuffed!! You can almost smell the salty air.

The green fluffy layer was good fun to make. It is using a fantastic yarn I picked up in a sale in Hobbycraft (and have used in many Stitchscapes now), which is actually more like a loosely woven roving, bound together with a strand of black thread to keep it in check. Once you take that off and tease it apart, you probably could felt with it and the shades included are gorgeous. I've taken small snippets of them, stitched down the halfway point, folded the halves up and secured it with a couple of stitches to keep them upright. Each little cluster has been stitched down individually, and then bedded into the ground with some french knots.

The other layers have been kept pretty simple really, with the main focus being on the shell layer at the bottom. Most of the fabrics have just been treated with a going over of what was already there- this fabulous seagull fabric (a slice of which I managed to snag at a workshop as I was quite literally drooling over this fabric one of my students brought in!) has been gone over in a fine seed stitch, but using three different colours as the blues and whites in the piece changed. There's a mid blue, light blue and white to really stay true to the printed colour underneath. The seagulls I have left completely alone as they have a wishy washy appearance that a: would be hard to follow and outline and, b: gives an idea that they are swooping so fast through the sky that they are practically a blur.

I've added a couple of fun trimmings, a lovely jute trim that I use regularly in my kits as it can be teased out to different thicknesses, and also a linen tape with frayed edges which looked pretty ragged and beachy to me.

The back looks almost as nice as the front I think with a kind of abstract beach feel to it. There are so many lovely family holiday memories embroidered into this - and enough shells left over to do another little piece.

Stitches used in this holiday extravaganza were; seed stitch, satin stitch, straight stitch, back stitch, french knots, bullion knots, running stitch, pistil stitch, whip stitch, fly stitch, couching and beading.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Spider Strands

I can't take any credit for these photos. Firstly because the webs themselves are fantastic works of art created by the spiders and, secondly, because my camera was hijacked by The Brother whilst I was out and I came home to him hopping around the kitchen he was so pleased with these photos he'd taken. They are really lovely images though and I knew I had to share them with you on here!

We are well into Autumn now with the frost starting to appear on the roofs of the houses opposite, although it hasn't yet made it down to the ground. The clocks have gone back, giving us all an extra hour for that one day and it's dark mornings and even darker evenings from now on. If you catch it right though, you can see fabulous sights like these amazing dew dropleted (is that a word?) spider webs, sparkling like Christmas tree decorations in the morning light.

It's incredible to think that the spiders just 'knock these up' on a daily basis isn't it? All of those threads knotted or glued together, criss-crossing over themselves to create a deadly basket or swirling in a dizzying spiral for the unwary flies to be caught in.

I imagine, should they ever wish to, spiders would make perfect embroiderers, with each stitch sewn with such precision and care - and at four times the speed I am capable of with my two hands!

Rainbow Rinse Sheep Stitchscape

This fun, whimsical Stitchscape started tickling my creative thought processes after one of my customers shared a photo of her completed Woollydale kit. She had changed one of the white sheep in the design to a black sheep and said that her daughter had insisted on it and why should all of the sheep be white anyway? I agreed that the sheep could be any colour and then immediately wondered why I hadn't thought of that myself!?! I didn't want the sheep to be black, but suddenly had visions of pastel coloured sheep wandering around in their field like they had been dipped into a rainbow rinse!

Of course, having had this idea, it then niggled away at me until I started it and still niggled at me until I had embroidered every last sheep! They were the first layer to get the embroidery treatment and I love the way they have turned out!
I didn't do all of them a pastel colour, keeping some slightly more sheep-coloured, albeit creamier than my usual sheep white, but I did treat them in the same way as I always do - with french knots and rough satin stitches. I can't really think of a pairing of stitches that would work better than these to create the woolly fleece texture I am after.

The rest of the Stitchscape has a slight pastel-esque feel to it as well, almost like one of those really light sunrises where everything is tinged with just the palest of yellows and gives a rose tinted glow over the landscape. The bullion knot flower stems match my heather infused seed stitch fabric above, which I have made using a really lovely multi-coloured variegated embroidery thread from DMC. It has a couple of shades of purple and a couple of green infused through it and is the perfect colour combination for a moorland scene.

Above the purple, the sunrise sky rises up to blue where the birds fly towards you from the horizon (this is all getting rather poetic isn't it?), created with a couple of fly stitches, either on their own for birds appearing further away, or doubled up for the birds nearer to you in the landscape. Weights of line really help to create a sense of perspective and is something that I use all of the time. Depending on what you are doing, thinner lines will appear further away than thicker ones and, if you combine this idea with the size of your stitches, you can really feel like you are looking into a three-dimensional landscape.

My sheep are all such characters aren't they? The fabric is from Rose & Hubble and is a quilting fabric really, with the sheep going in every direction. They can look a little bit odd in a landscape setting and I get lots of comments about how drunk they all look but I prefer to think of them as just having a good time frolicking around and rolling down the hills I am creating.

I often get asked in the workshops I run whether it is acceptable to knot embroidery thread before you start, and to carry threads across the back. I would rather ensure that my thread is not going to pull through and not waste time endlessly tying off and restarting a thread so that the back of my piece is neat, so I will usually do both of those things if it means saving my thread. Of course the backs aren't much to write home about and in this case the sheep and the birds have quite a lot of carried thread so it looks quite messy but, once this is framed, no one will ever see this again! Unless of course, they read my blog!

This piece was stitched in a 20cm circular embroidery hoop and the stitch run down is as follows; french knots (of course), bullion knots, whip stitch, running stitch, seed stitch, satin stitch, straight stitch, back stitch, couching and fly stitch.

Bluebell Blues Stitchscape

I started this Bluebell inspired piece in April when Bluebells were still flowering in the woods! What with one thing and another, this poor Stitchscape got put on a back burner until I could no longer stand the sight of it staring pitifully at me, boring holes into the back of my head whilst it waited impatiently to be finished!
I took it with me on my family summer holiday to Cornwall, determined to complete it- which I didn't - eventually finishing it off at home with rather a sigh of relief!

There are LOTS of bullion knots in this piece and goodness knows how many metres of embroidery thread have gone into the making of them. On the plus side it finished off quite a few of my random oddments of blue threads I had cluttering up my thread box and the variances in colour help to create the idea of light and dark shadows filtering through the tree canopy to the woodland floor below.

I don't know how well you can tell but I have tried to add in perspective with the bullions in that the ones higher up in the piece (further away in the landscape) are smaller in both size and number of threads used, and slightly darker. The second row of bullions are slightly longer and thicker, using three strands of embroidery floss rather than two and the third row (bottom) use between three and five strands of embroidery floss to make much chunkier bullion knots and give the sense that they are closer to you - as well as using lighter colours to hint at the sun shining on them.

The idea of light and dark helping to create perspective has also been put into the chunky french knots in the trees. I have used my technique of stitching with Stylecraft Special DK acrylic yarn, stripping down the three strands to two to make chunkier french knots without it being impossible to handle. The darkest green colour is only used on the branches of the tree furthest away (highest in the Stitchscape), with a mid range on the left hand tree and the lightest green on the right hand tree that appears lowest and therefore closest. The number of french knot twists increases to go with this idea, more twists on the right hand tree.

Every layer in this piece seemed to take an age to complete, none the least this bottom layer with the multiple flower pattern. At the time of piecing together the fabrics for this Stitchscape, the fabric seemed to fit perfectly - being Bluebell in colour but not requiring me to make thousands and thousands of Bluebell bullion knots. Instead there are a lot of detached chain stitches, straight stitches, satin stitches, french knots... lots of things going on!

The tree trunks were worked slightly differently depending on the fabric print that has been used on them. The lighter fabric is a batik with faint lines of ferns in it and I have gone over this pattern with chunky fly stitches, joining them together to keep the fern-like appearance. Between the fern patterns is quite a straight whip stitch to link it all together. The darker fabric is actually a wood texture print, but much larger scale than the tree scale I have here. I have made long straight stitches in various colours over the wood grain texture and, in the gaps between them, filled it with random seed stitches, again in a variety of colours and using only a single strand to keep quite a delicate texture overall. The branches of the trees were added on afterwards with a really rough satin stitch that you mostly can't see because of the french knot layer above it and the edges of the trees have either been done with whip stitch or pekinese stitch in different colours.

The beads were added towards the end as a slight afterthought really as the whole Stitchscape appeared a bit matte and boring. It needed something to lift it so I have used a random assortment of mixed green beads, some matte, some pearlescent, mingling in with the Bluebell layers and separating out the Bluebells from the mixed flowers. A bit of bling for my Bluebell Woodland.

The back of this piece is just as jam-packed as the front with trailing threads, knots, those loops of thread you don't realise you've made until its too late... it's messy but you can still totally see what the image is!! I love looking at the backs of these pieces, it reminds me to loosen up sometimes and not be quite so tight with what I'm stitching.

So, are you ready for a stitch run down?
This piece was embroidered in a 20cm hoop and used the following embroidery stitches; straight stitch, back stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, french knots, bullion knots, fly stitch, whip stitch, pekinese stitch, seed stitch, detached chain stitch, beading, couching and stem stitch.