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.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Bodiam & Scotney Castles

Continuing with my super late summer castle-crawl posts, we also managed to fit in Bodiam Castle (which actually looks like a castle!!) and Scotney Castle. My friend and I have started a tradition of visiting National Trust places in threes and we are lucky enough to have a wealth of these properties relatively nearby for us to visit. It is usually worked in a triptych - the first property is visited in time for morning coffee, the second usually involves lunch and the third most definitely involves afternoon tea!!

The castle sits isolated within its moat, the only access now is across the footbridge although, happily, no one will be pouring boiling hot oil over you or shooting arrows from the slitted windows designed for archers to hide behind. Sadly, whilst the outside is still very impressive, the inside is mostly ruined apart from some of the towers which you can still climb up to enjoy spectacular views across the countryside.

The castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, having inherited the land from his wife after their marriage. He was a 'working' knight, making his fortune whilst fighting in France, and he was granted permission to fortify the grand manor house the family were living in at the time. Instead of working on the existing building, he decided to build himself a completely new castle, from the ground up, somewhere else (like one of those Grand Design projects on the television!). Whilst it had to be practical and have the ability to be defended, it also needed to be a comfy living space and had inner courtyards and comfortable rooms within the outer walls, with towers on each corner and entrance points (a big entrance at the front- which still has the original port cullis in it- and more of a private escape route, or tradesman's entrance maybe at the back).

The moat, whist now a peaceful looking expanse of water filled with the most gigantic fish, was also used as a sort of sewage system for the 30 odd toilets that were inside the castle - so maybe it wasn't quite so lovely as it is now?
It didn't see a lot of action as a castle and the interior was partially dismantled in 1829 with a lot of stone used elsewhere and the ruin being visited by curious Victorians who came over on the nearby railway (which still operates as a steam line).

To be fair, the beautiful Scotney does have a partial claim to castle-dom, as the old building at the bottom of the hill on the water did used to be a fortified castle with four turrets on each corner. It was eventually turned into a stately manor house and as the fortunes of the family grew, it was decided that the house was too outdated and the new Scotney manor built on the top of the hill - the old building being left to romantically ruin as a sort of folly.
One of the reasons I love blogging so much is that I can look back on previous posts about places I've been before and compare it. One post I wrote in April 2016 explains more about the history of Scotney, and I even made myself chuckle re-reading the description of the 'glaring, haughty nosed ancestral portraits', so if you fancy a chuckle and a brief potted history of the place, click here to go to my post of nearly four years ago!

You can see why this building was left at the bottom of the garden. It is certainly makes for a very grand and attractive summer house!!