Friday, 10 May 2019

Happy Birthday Fire Flower

HOORAY! Fire Flower is a go! Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Fire Flowerrrrrrrr....happy birthday to YOU!

It's all been going on today. I picked up the kit booklets this morning then, as soon as I got home, cut and put together several thread cards complete with sticky thread number labels. After lunch I cut all of the fabrics and 'bits' and printed the templates, then had the excitement before tea of putting the kits together!!! I really enjoy laying out the fabrics and components and seeing which way looks prettiest and shows off the different fabrics well. Once decided, I will stick to this order for all of the kits throughout. After tea it was all about promoting the new kit so you will find posts about it on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, my website and now on here too if you are reading about it!

This is such a bright and happy kit and has lots of new tips and tricks inside the booklet. I've changed the diagram and description for the bullion knot stitch to better represent how I actually make a bullion knot - I do it slightly differently because I use a very taut hoop. It can get slightly confusing in classes when my students are trying to follow the more traditional diagrams and I am showing them a different (better) way. So now my diagram is the same way that I do it, and there are some other handy hints and tips throughout the instructions which hopefully you will find helpful.

The colours just sing out don't they? It's quite a different colour selection to the other kits I have on offer at the moment and it's great to be able to offer such variety. I had a lovely supplier meeting at the-stitchery in Lewes last week with a lady whose fabric company have a lot of gorgeous batik fabrics. I may possibly have spent quite a chunk of monies on my order but in it are the start of at least two new kits, possibly three, where I am focusing on different colours to suit everyone's tastes and sitting rooms. Don't get too excited about those yet though as the fabrics aren't due until August.

I am really pleased with this kit though. If you read back through my previous blog posts (or click here) you will know that this is a re-working of a previous kit I designed for the-stitchery. That has now sold through so I've taken the template back and redesigned it, keeping some bits and tweaking others. I wasn't sure if it was going to work but I'm super chuffed with it.

On a completely random note, for anyone reading this who doesn't understand the word chuffed, it means; pleased, happy, delighted. I use the word 'chuffed' all of the time, but apparently my American followers don't know what I'm talking about and I had to send the definition to some of them last week! I hadn't really thought about the English-ness of the word but I hope you will all add it to your vocabulary as it is an excellent term. 

So, if you are interested in purchasing your very own Fire Flower kit, please click on the link here and it will take you to my Etsy shop. If you do make it, please send me a photo as I love to see how everyone interprets my kits - there is always room for personalisation.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Quilt Group Pebble Workshop

I have recently run a couple of workshops specifically to teach my techniques on Stitchscape Pebbles. It's a new thing for me to be teaching and I still feel that there are things that I can improve, especially on timings and expectations on what can be finished but I think that will come with practice. A pebble workshop is very different from a landscape workshop!
A couple of weekends ago I was asked to join a local quilting group who wanted to have a go at hand embroidery - quite different from their usual machine based projects! I often have machine quilters in my classes and they can get slightly frustrated at the change in pace and having to do it all by hand rather than whizz it up on the machine, but this lovely bunch of ladies took it all in their stride and made some really lovely little pebbles!

I actually remembered to photograph a few of them too which was quite unusual for me. Pebbles take slightly longer than you expect them to to make and, as several of the stitches also have to be taught and practiced, it took most of the day to put together two pebbles but the result, I think you'll agree, is fantastic!

One of the great things about making these little pieces is that you can experiment with colour combinations and embroidery techniques without feeling the need to cover a vast space. They are an intense little splodge of concentrated techniques (ooh that's a good phrase!) and anything goes. The types of stitches I was teaching were bullion knots, french knots, fly stitch, feather stitch and woven wheel stitch which is deceptively easy and rewarding to embroider.

I love the uniqueness of everyone's pebbles. For each class I print out extracts from my Stitchscape Pebble kit which have suggestions of combinations of stitch, but I have also continued experimenting with my own pebbles so examples I was showing had alternative options and, as the quilters became confident in their stitching, they came up with their own combinations and ideas which was lovely to see.

Hopefully I am spreading this Stitchscape Pebble addiction far and wide!!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Swaledale Commission

Yay! I can finally show you the commissioned piece I have been working on for several months. It's been really hard keeping this quiet and I did share a couple of super close up images as I was getting started which you might remember. Mostly it was kept to myself and I've been dying to show it off as I'm so pleased with it!

A little extra bit of love and attention went into this piece as it was a commission for one of my best and oldest friends who got married to her lovely fiancé yesterday! I was one of the Bridesmaids and it was such a fabulous day with so much fun and laughter.
The groom asked me to make a Stitchscape especially for his bride as she is such a huge supporter of my work, turning up to a lot of my events just to say hi and see how it's going, and the brief for this piece was pretty easy. He proposed whilst on holiday in Swaledale, Yorkshire, which is where his family go for yearly holidays as they love it so much there so that was basically the brief, to be 'inspired by Swaledale'. I added a few more items to it, such as a stone wall and pink bullion flowers as my friend has previously said that she really loves my Dry Stone Meadow stitchscape so these ideas were borrowed from there.

I didn't work off of a specific image, rather, looked through a whole host of images and tried to get the general feeling of them all. Having just been to the Ardingly Quilt Show in January, I had stocked up on interesting green fabrics that I thought would work as a green hill, or as a set of green hills. This is a really textured piece with lots of trimmings and three-dimensional stitches that come away from the fabric. It's a shame really that I have to frame pieces like this behind glass (otherwise they pick up dust) because it's one you really want to run your hands over to feel the different textures of the threads and stitches.

The fabric just behind the gate has been really simply treated with a single strand of back stitch along all of the batik lines, but the placement of the batik lines is my favourite part as the gate had to lead somewhere and, with the wider vertical green line of print just off to one side, it looks like a natural little path leading from the gate and over the hill. I wonder where it would lead to?

The wall is one of my favourite parts of this piece. I toyed with the idea of padding it from beneath like I did with the one in Dry Stone Meadow, but I left it in the end as I was planning on putting lots of things on the top and, with the gate as well, thought it might be a little too much. The fabric I have used is a stone wall type print and I have back stitched around every brick, then added some colour and definition to the individual bricks with small straight stitches, using a single strand of three or four colours at a time. The top and side edges of the wall have been whipped stitched several times over to build up a cord-like appearance, using the same colours as stitched into the bricks.
To soften the harshness of the wall edges, I have worked a green moss stitch (or what I think is called moss stitch) over the edges and into the brickwork. These are the looping stitches which stand out proud from the surface and are created by not pulling your thread all of the way through whilst doing basically a seed stitch. It's hard to keep these stitches an even height, so some of these stitches were worked in rows over the top of a cocktail stick that was then pulled out after I'd knotted the thread and secured it. This has been combined with little clumps of wool roving taken from a Hobbycraft chunky wool- the same as couched over a layer further toward the bottom of the piece. I cut small sections and fanned them out, then folded and stitched these small clumps before trimming them so that they stick out in little groups. This I am really pleased with as the combination of this and the moss stitch is exactly what I was thinking of in my mind's eye!

The pink flowers are a nice addition to an otherwise mostly green stitchscape. There aren't many of them but, teamed with white taper flowers and tiny single strand, one twist french knots worked around in amongst the satin stitch, they add a really pretty twist to the foreground.

I am also really pleased that I added a second, lighter pink to the flower groups as I toyed for a long time about whether to make them all of the same colour but I think I went with the right decision to mix it up a bit.

I wanted to create areas of light and dark, as several of the more striking photos I was looking at were taken on slightly cloudy days and you could see the silhouettes of the clouds passing over the fields. This idea was put into the french knot field/hill with several different random colour groupings of french knots over seed stitch. There are about four or five different green tones within this layer and they could be translated into flowers, crops, bushes or clouds.

The back looks very similar to the front, although on this side it looks like the gate has fallen off as the stitches used were all surface ones on the other side. It's a bit more wild and rugged generally but I love that you can still see the image!

There were so many stitches used in this I will probably forget a few, but here is the stitch run down; pekinese stitch, seed stitch, running stitch, back stitch, straight stitch, whip stitch (horizontal and vertical, over seed stitch, running stitch and back stitch for the different effects), french knots, bullion knots, couching, stem stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch and moss stitch.

So, in a final push this week it was all approved, mounted and framed, then gift wrapped before a (slightly anxious on my part) wait for him to give it to her. I knew that he was giving it to her this morning (the morning after the wedding) and I was super pleased, and slightly relieved, to be sent a photo of my friend hugging her new picture with a beaming smile on her face!!! I really hope it inspires special memories for her of a really special time with her one and only. Congratulations to both of them again!!