Sunday, 22 September 2019

Brightling Church Stitchscape Commission

I really enjoy working on commissions; they are all completely different and usually a challenge with various obstacles to overcome or wobble moments where I'm not sure that the fabrics I've chosen or stitches I've been working are going to end up looking like I want them to look like. (Or that whoever has commissioned it hates it at the end and it's a total disaster - but I try not to think about that one.)
For this piece I was sent various photos and also did a bit of research (thanks Google) on the place myself before starting. It's Brightling Church in Robertsbridge, East Sussex, England, and the pyramid mausoleum in the graveyard there of John 'Mad Jack' Fuller - not something you expect to see everyday in an English graveyard!! The additional requests for this commission were to include sheep as they are sometimes allowed in to the graveyard to graze and also to include Cornflowers somewhere within the piece.

It took me a while to get into stitching this piece I really wasn't sure on the composition between the church and the pyramid but I couldn't find any references or photographs taken from different angles to see how other positions might work. It also took a while to get the sizing and the perspective right but I think I got there in the end with a pinch of artistic license.

The sky layers were nice and simple as I wanted the weight of the work and the embroidery to be where the buildings are so the very top layer has a single strand back stitch following the chevron pattern, with single strand bullion knots at the top. The next layer has a single strand running stitch throughout the layer, edged with two strand bullion knots.

In all of the photos of the church there are trees behind the buildings so I wanted the first green layer to look almost fluffy with the different leaves. To achieve this I worked a double strand of seed stitch over the gorgeous mottled batik fabric and then tried to cluster the french knots at the top so that they added a bumpiness to the fabric edge like an unruly tree canopy.
The green fabric underneath this is almost a mirror of the above layer, but uses only one strand for the seed stitch and I've added a single strand vertical whip stitch which is now slightly hidden behind the fence and flowers but just gives it an additional texture to make it different and appear more grounded. Hopefully you can see what I mean.

It's amazing how much that simple fence did to enhance the perspective of this piece. It was the last thing to go in and hadn't been on my original list of things to add as you can barely see it in a lot of the photos, but the piece was looking so flat and the church slightly oddly positioned behind the pyramid that I thought I would give it a go and it immediately pushed the church back and made sense of the whole piece. (A slight 'phew' moment!)

The Cornflowers were stitched as tiny little star stitches in a bright vivid blue. They stand out from the piece, not least because there is nothing of that colour anywhere else in the scene so they pop out from the bottom. I haven't put too many in there though, they are just adding to the general melee of greenery and plant-life at the bottom. I quite like them for their quirkiness and decided to leave them as they were on their own, although my original intention was to add in bullion knot flowers as well on top of the other straight stitch stems. I'm glad I didn't as I think that would have been too much.

Around the majority of the gravestones I have added little fly stitch green stems and yellow daisies, with the yellow of the flowers being picked up in several layers throughout to give a continuous feel to the ground levels.
The sheep have been stitched in my tried and tested method of white french knots in various sizes and simple rough satin or straight stitches in black for the head and legs. Where the sheep have been cut off underneath the pyramid I have carried up the french knots a little bit but then decided that you could be looking at the back of the sheep or it could have its head down grazing so I haven't added heads or limbs back on to those where they have been cut off by the pyramid base.

For the pyramid itself I decided to use several different fabrics rather than keep it to the same one as I was worried about it becoming boring and samey - and you then losing the sense of it being a three dimensional shape.
I'm really pleased I went with different fabrics as it also gave me a chance to make one side slightly darker and heavier and I could play with different stitches. The brickwork patterned fabric side (right) was done first with the bricks edged in back stitch as per the pattern underneath and additional straight stitches were added in different colours to add texture where needed. The batik pattern on the opposite side was then texturised (I'm making that word up I think) with a super rough satin stitch (or collection of organised straight stitches) and lines leading from the brickwork were drawn onto the back of the piece so that I could use split stitch to mark and continue the lines of brick on the left hand side.
Just adding these horizontal lines wasn't enough so I used a single strand and made vertical whip stitches at a perpendicular angle over the split stitch to add the bricks in, then adding more straight stitches within certain bricks. I'm really pleased with how this turned out, especially with the double couched embroidery thread edging to really make it pop out from the background.

The church is my favourite bit I think because I was really worried about it whilst stitching. It has been cut (apart from the roofs and windows) from one piece of fabric and I was concerned about how to make it look like a three dimensional building just using stitch.
The outlines of the buttresses and drains or stonework edges went in first and are mostly straight stitches or back stitches. Then the texture of the stonework itself which is lines of running stitches in various colours depending on where I wanted shading or light. Most 'walls' have at least two colours in and every single wall has a base colour that matches the fabric. The windows, clock and doors went in as satin stitches and the stained glass windows on the end have been created with fly stitches, back stitches and whip stitch. I love these, especially because of the fabric which has that gorgeous honey colour to it making the church look as if it is lit up from the inside.
The roofs have all been treated in the same way with long stitches making a warp up and down and then being woven in and out (for the weft) horizontally to look like roof tiles. They have also been edged in whip stitch, as has the rest of the church in the matching base colour.

Two different fabrics were used for the grave stones and each type was treated in the same way - the stone on the left has had the pebble print gone over in rough little satin stitches and the one on the right has used two strands of variegated thread to work diagonal straight stitches over every dot, with each line alternating in direction. Both types of stone have used whip stitch around the edges in two different colours.

This piece took a lot longer than I was expecting with so many small and intricate parts to it! It was also a bit of a thread eater and used up a lot of my threads - although don't fear kind reader, I have another few hundred in my boxes so I don't need to go on a spending spree just yet!

It looks really lovely in its frame I think and now the stitchscape has been gifted I hope that it brings back memories or good thoughts for those it has been given to.

So, are you ready for the stitch run down on this one?
Back stitch, running stitch, straight stitch, seed stitch, split stitch, whip stitch (vertical and horizontal), fly stitch, satin stitch, french knots, bullion knots, star stitch, needle weaving and couching. All super simple stitches but used in different ways and with different weights of thread for different effects.

It also looks amazing with the sunshine on it, don't you agree?

Stitchscape Coos

I don't think I ever shared this piece on here (a terrible oversight - apologies) although you may have caught a glimpse of it on Facebook or Instagram. I have so many social media platforms to keep up with now I'm afraid my blog takes a back seat half of the time and The Mother has to remind me to update you all on here! It's worth keeping up a blog though because I use it all the time as a diary of when I did things a couple of years ago and it often has more information on techniques I used in specific pieces that I can revisit - I guess in a way it's more for me than any of you readers!

These cows started out as an example of how to put together colours and colour balancing for one of my classes - as a lot of my stitchscapes do at the moment, I think I mentioned it in my last post about the lightning stitchscape - but eventually they all get the embroidery treatment to keep my examples fresh. To be honest I wasn't sure about the cow pattern, they aren't as cute as the sheep which are everyone's favourites and not as quirky as the chickens but I thought I would give them a go. In my list of ideas of future stitchscapes I have got a farmyard type design floating around in my brain where I could use all three of these fabrics but I don't know that it would work with the scale of the patterns.

The layers on this piece have been treated very truely (if that's a word) to the patterns underneath. The white mottled fabric at the top has faint lines running through it imitating slubs, which I have gone over with a neutral single strand of long straight stitches, crossing over and under in a random pattern to keep the long stitches down and flat.
The grey fabric underneath which reminded me a little of a fence has been filled in with satin stitches where the shapes are and in the colours of the shapes, keeping the integrity of the design. This has been simply topped with a couched embroidery thread (using all 6 strands).
The green leaf layer has been drawn over with a single strand of split stitch in the veins of the leaves, and the centres and outlines of the leaves treated with a thicker back stitch.

I haven't even amended the cows at all really, simply followed the outline with a single strand of back stitch and filled in the patches on their coats with a rough satin stitch. I have added single strand pistil stitches and a few yellow french knot to this layer to make it slightly greener and more 'field-like' as it seemed a bit strange for my cows to just be standing in a greyish mud.
I found in my stash a neutral leatherette cord which has been couched over the top and to stop the top of the fabric layer from fraying before the pistil stitches went down I just added a single strand of running stitch to stop that moving and keep the edge clean.

Most of the work went into the bottom layer which was initially treated with two stranded seed stitch using two slightly different colours which you can see better in person actually (these photos were snapped on my phone a while ago so they aren't fantastic I'm afraid).
Over this went straight stitch stems, then two stranded detached chain stitch flowers with yellow french knot centres, and french knot tapers in a slightly more mustard-yellow.
The top of this layer, which you can just about see through the hedgerow that's been created, is a braid I made myself using several full strands of embroidery thread; a fantastic technique if you can't find a ribbon or trimming that works with your piece.

So, the overall stitch run down for this piece is; straight stitch, back stitch, running stitch, stem stitch, detached chain stitch, satin stitch, pistil stitch, french knots, bullion knots, couching and seed stitch.

I've also left this one framed in the hoop as I'm toying with the idea of framing it again within a square frame as I've experimented with on my #inthehoop series where some are framed in hoops in frames. This is a 15cm/6" sized hoop though so it is slightly bigger and will need a 30cm square frame.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Lightning Strikes Stitchscape

I really love watching lightning and seeing the different types, waiting for that deep spine tingling rumble of thunder that follows and counting the elephants to try and work out how far away the storm is. My favourite is the forked lightning that flitters across the sky and turns the edges of clouds bright silver. Of course, when I came across this fantastic lightning print fabric at the beginning of the year I knew that I had to make a Stitchscape out of it! (It's taken a little while but I've finally got there.)

It's a bit of a different colour palette for me, blue and moody, but the colours went so well together and really reminded me of the last good storm we had back in May time of this year.
The little house print is so sweet and I think adding in the yellow windows has really made a difference to it, adding character and quirkiness. It's no longer just a bunch of houses being besieged by lightning forks, it's a proper village battening down the hatches and waiting it out.

I am super pleased with how the lightning turned out- it really leaps off the surface of the fabric with the chunky stem stitch that I've used (three strands for the larger forks, a single strand each time for the lesser forks). I've also used DMC Silky thread for this so as you look at the piece the lightning glistens and glows which is rather lovely.

I kept the stitching for the houses really simple. I could have gone over every single printed line but I think that would have then started to blur the edges and be too much with the delicate lines of print so I've kept it to the edges of every house and then around the windows that have been picked out in yellow.  Actually you can see in the above photo how the silky thread changes colour when you look at it at different angles, sometimes it appears more blue, then white, then pink.

I wanted to spread the colour down the piece. In my workshops I often talk about colour balancing which helps to make a composition work together. If you have blue at the top of the piece, for example, but no where else it can look a bit odd so, where you can, bring specks of blue down to the bottom and you will automatically balance the piece and make it pleasing on the eye.
In this case, I was balancing the lightning strikes by using a very pale grey for the bullion knot flowers and also using a single strand of the same DMC silky thread to work a whip stitch over the seed stitch texture. Not only does this give a little bit of lustre to the bottom of the piece, and give the layer some grounding for the flowers to stand on, but it helps to balance and bring everything together so it looks more cohesive.
There is also a tiny bit of this in the yellow which you might not immediately notice. As well as using yellow in the windows, there are also tiny french knots peeking out in the stems of the bullion flowers.

Once I had added in the cord (made by twisting various colours of embroidery thread together) at the top of the house layer, I went back over with more of the lightning as it looked odd for it to just finish underneath the cording. It looks tons better this way - although I think if I were to do it again I would try and vary more the length of the lightning and bring some forks down further to make the houses look more dimensional. Something to ponder on should I try it another way!

(Filming a time lapse on how to mount Stitchscapes over mount board - see this film on my Instagram)

I haven't framed any pieces for a while as I have run out of space for the frames, but this one is reserved so it has the honour of being fully framed and it looks really amazing in a black wooden box frame!! It's almost like looking out of a window to the houses in the valley below.

The stitch run down for this piece is as follows: split stitch, stem stitch, french knots, bullion knots, back stitch, satin stitch, straight stitch, seed stitch, whip stitch and couching. Nice and simple. But so effective.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Eastbourne Air Show

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to the Eastbourne Air Show to watch the fabulous flying displays (and get slightly sunburnt!!). If you haven't been before the show includes older planes like the rumbling Spitfires, so iconic in their use during the war, and more modern planes and jets with commentary by pilots themselves who can explain the practice and skill that goes into these demonstrations.
I hadn't been to the air show for several years but usually we catch the odd glimpse of the planes as they fly over our house as we are on the flight path from certain airfields on the way to Eastbourne - it was nice to actually see the entire show this time around and feel the atmosphere. (These photos aren't fantastic, they were just snapped on my phone as we watched!)

It could not have been a nicer day for it either, although it was quite breezy. The helicopters were struggling to hover in the same spot as the wind was pushing them down the beach a bit. My favourite display was the Fireflies who trailed smoke in the sky and drew pretty patterns. They were so elegant, crossing each others paths and just kind of lazily doodling in cloud form.

Does anyone remember the Utterly Butterlys? They were wing walkers in East Sussex, and used to practice almost outside our house! We haven't seen them for many years now but wing walking still goes on with these crazy ladies (sorry I can't remember their names) gallivanting around on top of planes! I can't imagine what it must have been like for these two daredevils up on the wings of the plane and in the wind!! We were quite relieved to learn that they somehow hop in and out of the second seat in the plane when they've finished doing the acrobatics rather than stay strapped up there all of the way back to the airfield!

We hung around in Eastbourne after the main show was finished- rounded off with a jet that was punching holes in clouds and leaving its sound far behind it- because the Fireflies were coming back for an evening performance complete with fireworks off of the plane wings!

It was an amazing show and was also enhanced with fireworks and music from the beach. With a limited stretch of time - they had to be grounded by a certain time in the evening but it needed to be dark enough to be effective- they left it to the last possible minute and it was well worth the wait with the sky swirls in firework trails rather than smoke.

It was a truly amazing show! One of those lovely summer days that you can wrap around yourself and smile at when it's cold and wet in the winter.