Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Rainbow Colouring Sheet

You may have noticed that lots of rainbows have been appearing in windows around the country. I am really enjoying looking out for them when I have to walk to the Post Office to post my orders, and I'm sure they are bringing smiles to other people's faces.
Apparently it was possibly something that has originated in Italy during the Corona outbreak and is meant to be a sign of hope and joy - schools in the UK have adopted it and lots of children have been decorating and designing their own.
This is the sort of creative bandwagon I love to jump on, so last night I drew out my own rainbow and, taking inspiration from a rainbow that Sarah from Made & Making made this week, cut small pieces of card and paper to make a collaged rainbow arch. My happy sun was then coloured in and I left my clouds mostly blank.

I am so chuffed with how this turned out!! It is now stuck in my window for all to see!

Because I am a Rainbow and Guide leader as well, I decided to turn my drawing into a colouring page for the girls in our Guiding District to enjoy. I have popped a JPEG version of this worksheet at the bottom of this blog post if you would also like to join in and colour your own - do send me a photo if you finish one. Keep smiling!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Corona Etsy Shop Update

I just wanted to say such a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my Etsy shop over the last couple of weeks. We are in such confusing, scary and unusual times with no real end date in sight thanks to the Corona Virus sweeping the world, but it's been so lovely to have a really busy and supportive Etsy community.
Here in the UK we have all been asked to stay at home and only go out for essentials (food and medicine), work if we are a key worker, or one round of exercise a day. I am classed as a high risk person due to having asthma so I try not to go out at all if possible and have been furloughed from my part time job. Sadly (although quite correctly) all of my Stitchscape workshops have been cancelled or postponed and I am losing sales through my lovely stockists who have also been forced to close, meaning my only form of income is the percentage of wages I will receive from being furloughed, and my Etsy shop proceeds- which is much more than many other people will be getting!
I have been trying to use this time to work more on Dotty Textiles and keep active (whilst avoiding catching up on my accounts.....) with the various projects and kits. There have been several additions to my Etsy shop as well as offers so I thought it would be helpful to do a quick catch up on everything I've been doing. 

First up is Button Mountain (pictured above), which is currently on offer with 30% off. This is a fantastic project to entertain your young stitchers at home whilst they are also all at home and could be something that is incorporated into your home schooling for their art, craft or textiles classes. Or just for fun - and I've had some lovely feedback from adults to say that they have enjoyed working with the felt when they themselves have made the kit so it's not just for children!! Buy your own Button Mountain kit here! 

 Several of my kits listed on Etsy require a 15cm/6" embroidery hoop and, with a lot of people stuck in lock down, you may not have this size hoop at home. Due to my workshops being cancelled I have a quantity of these hoops in stock so I have added them to my Etsy shop as an additional listing that can be added to your basket along with kit designs such as; Stitchscape Pebbles, Summer Sweet, Summer Sweet II, Fire Flower, Woollydale and Button Mountain, all of which use this size. Find the listing for hoops in my Etsy shop here.

Send as part of a gift package?
As long as your recipient has access to needles or general sewing tools - this means that any of these kits plus a hoop would make a fantastic present for a friend or family member to keep them going through this period of uncertainty and I am more than happy to pop your gift message in with the parcel as well. Just add your message to the notes at checkout.

And speaking of Summer Sweet II, this special limited edition Stitchscape kit is now available in Etsy. There will only ever be a short run of 20 packs of this design so once they're gone, they're gone! This is a re-worked version of my original Summer Sweet kit, which itself is now down to its last few packs and which is no longer going to be produced due to fabric unavailability. Buy your Summer Sweet II kit in my Etsy shop here. 

Following the success of the Felt Flower Garden embroidery which I designed for a couple of Brownie units to stitch for Mother's Day, I have now released this pattern on Etsy as a digital download. If you purchase this pattern it will ping into your inbox and contain 5 pages of instructions, stitch how-tos, templates and images that can be printed or used. The materials you will have to provide yourself but the majority of it you are likely to already have at home if you have young stitchers, or they can be substituted for other things. If you would like to download this pattern, visit my Etsy shop here. 


And finally, just to say, that I will hopefully be able to continue posting orders out as long as the Post Offices are able to stay open. I have noticed that some parcels may be delayed a couple of days longer than usual but other than that everything seems fine. Thank you again for your continued support of my business and I really hope that these Stitchscapes bring you some moments of mindfullness and peace whilst we navigate this tricky time together. Stay safe everyone xxxx

Sunset Sea Stitchscape

For my Stitchscape workshops I always take with me a couple of sample hoops with fabric layouts in so that I can demonstrate how to initially layer up the fabrics and discuss how the fabric placement affects the final finished look. For a standard landscape you would start with the sky (top layer) being put down first, with the lower layers of background and foreground being layered on top of that so that bottom piece is last to go down. This helps to bring the landscape towards you as you would normally view it.
You can also completely flip that and put the bottom fabric down first then layer up which will give you an incredibly dominating sky (this isn't often used) which would work beautifully if you are doing the Northern Lights or something similar and want to create the impression that the viewer is small with the sky, or something, looming over them.
A third option is to put the central piece down first and layer upwards and downwards from that point, creating a sense of perspective and zooming in towards a far reaching horizon line.

I have repeat students in my workshops so after a while this spiel probably gets boring and they'd notice if I used the same example pieces over and over. I like to mix things up so every now and then I finish the Stitchscapes to make room for new sample fabric layouts. This Stitchscape is one such example, although has actually been hanging around for quite a long time. I occasionally need little projects for working on the bus with and this is a perfect thing to grab and go - this one in particular had such strong colours in the fabric that it didn't need a lot of complicated stitch work (or any complicated stitch work actually as none of these stitches are hard).

The very top layer isn't stitched at all, other than where the long stitches end for the sun's rays, because I couldn't think of how best to compliment the batik fabric I had chosen. That's one of the beauties of using pre-printed cotton fabrics, you only need to stitch where you want to or where you think it will enhance your image the most.
The second layer has a very simple, single strand back stitch around every bold patch and a couched full six strands of embroidery thread at the top. Because I knew I was going to do big sun ray stitches I didn't want any chunky stitching underneath because that would interfere with the rays.
The sun itself is mostly covered with a couched 100% silk roving yarn which was stitched down in twists and also used to edge the fabric. Gaps in the couching are filled with french knots and I've just gone around the edge again with a two stranded back stitch in orange to help bring the sun out off the hoop.

The orange fabric behind the sun has been very simply treated with two strands of seed stitch using a variegated thread colour. I really wanted to bring a lot of colour changes to this piece, without it being massively obvious, so that I could enhance what the batik fabrics were doing. I love how in these photos the real sun is doing a similar thing and casting light and dark over different areas.

The bottom layers are very repetitive to try and bring the water towards you. The top blue layer has been covered in seed stitch, with a horizontal whip stitch creating battling waves further out at sea. The middle blue layer is rows of running stitch with a single strand of a DMC Silky thread whipped through each line to create a softly shiny wave. At the top of this layer I have also occasionally whipped through the line of whipped back stitch I've used to edge the layer to create a larger wave appearance.
The bottom blue layer is a really sweet batik fabric with bird shapes within the print. I have gone around the birds just to highlight their shapes, which I think of as reflections of birds that you cannot see as they are flying out of the hoop, and then working running stitch between them all. On occasion I have used the DMC silky thread again and worked Pekinese stitch which helps to pull some of the lines of running stitch out as an independent wave. Funnily enough, I originally worked the Pekinese stitch so that the loop was on the other side, and the solid line that is created, on top of the running stitch, which didn't work at all and quickly got pulled out! The same stitch, but the other way up, looks totally different.

Metallic gold thread was added to the rays of the sun, and also in the 'water' to bring the piece together, and I've added silhouettes of birds flying in from the sun to join the group that are larking about out of eyeshot.
There's a subtle colour thing I tried with the sun rays in case you haven't noticed - the sides of the sun have orange rays which do not appear at the top and I've used a variegated thread again around the top of the sun so that the colour changes but stays fairly light. I'm not sure whether it's noticeable but I wanted to create the impression of darkening rays to make the sun look like it was sinking into the sea. Did you notice?
This piece is staying in the hoop as it has such a fantastic shape to it that is really enhanced by being in a circular shape and I love the textures that are within it! Ah to think of those warm and sunny days where we can sit on the beach and watch the sun go down over the water.

Felt Flower Garden Workshops

Before the world was plunged into a virus tinted lockdown, I was out and about at a couple of Brownie meetings running a Mother's Day themed sewing workshop. These easy little hoops aren't Stitchscapes as such - I've been referring to them more as 'Flowerscapes' - but the Brownies wanted something that they could finish in an hour and a half to be able to give to their Mums.
I have previously done landscape themed Stitchscape workshops with Brownies (who are ages 7 -10) but we didn't ever finish their hoops in one meeting, they always had to take them home to complete so this time I needed something really pared back, cheerful and pretty.

My solution was this flower garden! (And please excuse the random text on some of these photos - I'll explain why that is later on in the post.) It comes together really quickly as the flowers only need stitching up the stems, the button and layers of felt circles for the flower heads are stitched on together and the leaves need only three stitches at the bottom to hold them on.
The design itself is also really easy to customise and the Brownies had great fun choosing their colours - each one ended up looking different and none of them were the same as my example piece.

This only uses up little scraps of felt so chances are everyone has oddments floating around at the back of their cupboards and can have a go. I've used calico fabric for the backing because that's what I have lots of but any stable backing fabric will do, similarly, with the trimming at the top of the grass felt piece, you could change yours to suit what you have at home. I've used a length of Ric-Rac but you could use string, ribbon, twists of multicoloured embroidery thread...whatever you have to hand really.

For the workshops these pieces were kept framed within their hoops so that they could be easily propped up on the mantle or hung with ribbon on the wall. I really must get round to writing a tutorial on how to properly frame within a hoop as it's so easy but neat and effective. All you have to do is make sure all of your fabrics are tucked and pulled through both of the embroidery hoops and made tight (with no bubbles on the fabric at the front), trim your backing fabric all of the way around about 5cm from the outer hoop and then secure a long length of strong sewing cotton (or doubled up sewing cotton to be safe) to the fabric about 1cm from the raw edge. Work even running stitch all of the way around the circle and once you are back at the initial knot, carefully pull the thread so that the fabric bunches up and pulls inwards. Tighten this as much as you can and tie off securely. I usually go around again, nearer to the hoop, to catch any fabrics I missed the first time around and add extra security.

I can't seem to find the photos I took of the Hailsham Brownies' hoops. They had the lovely idea of asking all of the Mums in to sew their hoops with the Brownies as a joint project which worked beautifully well. The Mums were just as pleased with the finished hoops as the girls were!!

These montage photos were from the Uckfield Brownie workshop where they approached things slightly differently, asking Grandmas or other relatives and helpers to come in to help the Brownies sew so that the final products would be a surprise gift for the Mums. We didn't have quite the same ratio of adults to Brownies as the Hailsham group so the girls didn't all finish (there's a lot of time spent threading needles and knotting or un-knotting that requires adult supervision!) and I ended up taking them home to tidy the backs for them - which worked out nicely because I had the opportunity to really look at everyone's and take photos. Aren't they great? I love the individuality of them all.

Overall this pattern received a lot of loving online in various places and I had several people asking for the pattern. It isn't worth my creating a physical kit for this but I have put together a 5 page PDF digital download which includes a printable template, stitch how-tos, instructions and inspirational images which can be purchased from my Etsy shop (or click here).
The Etsy listing shows several of the photos I have used in this blog post (which is why there is writing on them) and the download, once you have completed your transaction, will be sent to your inbox straight away by Etsy for you to print and use.
This is a perfect little project to teach young stitchers how to sew and start them off on a creative journey but older, more established stitchers will also enjoy this stress free project.

Summer Sweet II Stitchscape Kit

I started to upload the photos of my Summer Sweet II kit onto my blog to share the details of the kit itself, only to realise I never shared the initial photos of the finished Stitchscape!!!
This Stitchscape is a re-design of my first Summer Sweet kit, which was actually the very first kit I ever designed, and uses all of the same templates and a lot of the same fabrics as before. The main reason for my needing to re-design this kit is because the floral fabric I initially used I couldn't get hold of anymore so I had to find a substitute.

It was also an opportunity to work out any little bits of the kit that I had received comments about or suggestions on improvement. Unfortunately this will only be a limited run of 20 because I've now discovered that most of the other fabrics are also now unavailable, which isn't a huge surprise as I first started doing this three years ago in 2017, so I will have to start collecting other fabrics and will redesign it all again! Summer Sweet III anyone?

I have changed a couple of little things from the previous design (see the first Summer Sweet blog post here), the sun is now filled with seed stitches rather than little satin stitches and I've made the cross stitches bigger for the blue square fabric behind the sun as that was a comment I'd previously received where they were too small. Everything else about the top layers stays the same, although I have added additional diagrams in the kit booklet to help explain what I mean in certain areas.

The big change is the bottom floral fabric as I couldn't find a more similar one to the original. I really love the sweet little daisies in this layer and each daisy pattern will be different in every kit. I've also added in a new thread colour so you now get 11 different colours of thread in a combination of DMC and Anchor stranded cottons. Due to a popular demand for trimmings, this layer is edged with a couched strip of 1mm yellow leatherette cord which is blended back in to the landscape by stitching the daisy flowers over it where they fall off the fabric edge and also stitching the green stems for the bullion knot flowers over it in any gaps in the flowers. This arrangement will also stay totally unique as each kit will have different gaps in the daisies.

I really hope that you like my re-worked version of Summer Sweet - I don't think there's any harm in purchasing the second one if you have already stitched up the first, it's almost like you have stitched the same scene but at different times of year when the flowers are different in the field. Perhaps I should try and do a winter version where everything is covered in snow? Winter Sweet doesn't work quite as well as a name though.

So this kit is up and ready to go on Etsy and once they're gone, they're gone - never to be repeated!! As before you get all instructions, fabrics and threads within your kit, but you will need your own 15cm/6" embroidery hoop (or you can now purchase these as a separate product from my Etsy shop in the Embroidery Kit section), sewing cotton to neaten the back and your regular sewing tools. Separate template pages are included if you want to use them or feel free to just dive in with the scissors and make your own version!

As always, I love seeing the finished results so do send in photos of your finished pieces!! Or if you have any questions along the way just drop me a message on any of my social media platforms.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Autumn Madness Stitchscape

Hello everyone! I hope you are keeping well, whether you are at home self-isolating, or still out and about. It's a very worrying and uncertain time and I do feel slightly lucky that I have a job that can easily be done from home as it is most of the time anyway - plus the huge sense of mindfulness and calm that I feel when I'm sewing is second to none. Immersing myself in the stitched landscape and methodically working through a layer of seed stitch is a godsend when it seems like the whole world has gone totally bonkers with shoppers fighting over the last bag of flour from the apocalyptically stripped supermarket shelves!

I have just finished this brazenly fiery and flamboyant Stitchscape, which has a little bit more mixed media stitched in than I usually stretch to. The vision in my head was quite clear and there were a few tense moments when I thought I had ruined everything by including the dyed yarn as initially it didn't look like much, and definitely didn't look like the image in my head.
I don't know whether you have been lucky enough to see an English woodland when it has its full Autumn garb on? You can't tell which is floor and which is tree branch as everywhere there are leaves in multiple shades of orange, yellow, gold, brown, red, crimson, ochre, mustard and everything in-between. It's a total bogglement for the eyes (yes I did just make that word up) and I think this piece does give that sense of optical illusion as the colours and textures merge and blend from the background to the foreground. Or maybe I'm overthinking it?

The lame title I've given this piece for the purposes of the blog post is totally rubbish so if you have any suggestions I'd be interested to hear them!

As always, I've started on the background layers first and, in the case of Stitchscapes with trees, I always work the horizontal layers first then do the trees afterward which seems to help reduce any bubbles being left in the background fabrics. The top blue layers have been worked really simply using a single strand of back stitch to edge the pattern on the uppermost fabric and then a seed stitch on the darker blue fabric. I did try something a bit more fun for the seed stitch (not that you can really see much of it now) by using two strands of one colour but leaving gaps which were then filled with a single strand of a different shade. I have done the same thing on the seed stitch in the yellow layer actually but the yellows are quite similar so it's not as obvious.

I had originally intended on all of the more autumnal fabrics to be considered as leaves but, actually, the top autumn fabric - which is a Kaffe Fassett design - now reminds me more of a russet tinged hillside or mountain. As with lots of Kaffe fabrics his designs are enormous and I believe this one is actually a massive Delphinium flower or similar and what is shown is only a tiny zoomed in part of the flower head. Some parts of it I have covered with thread, the same colour as underneath, in a sort of rough satin stitch but then I have left areas of more open stitching by following the lines of pattern with whipped back stitch and I love the contrast of the two types of stitch together like that. The layer has been topped really simply by couching on a few strands of embroidery floss that I've actually stitched through at certain points so it's only edging the areas where the satin stitch hasn't gone over the fabric edge.

The next fabric layer down is actually a print of lots of autumnal leaves so the colours are perfect!! I didn't want to try and pick out any individual leaf so instead I have blurred the pattern by working running stitch rows along it, and coming back down in three different colours of single strand embroidery thread, working a perpendicular whip stitch.
The bottom orangey layers have again been quite simply worked- quite in contrast to the top half - with either satin stitch/french knots over the dots on the pattern for the little humpy orange bit, and then for the very bottom layer with the flowers, each flower on the fabric has been gone over with detached chain stitch topped with a french knot middle in a couple of colours and the brown leaves worked in a really rough assortment of gathered straight stitches. A row of straight stitch stalks blurs these two fabrics together and helps to fix down any rough edges.

The trees took quite a long time to do and I started with the tree on the left hand side, going around each of the larger circular fabric marks with a single strand of back stitch, or filling in the really small holes with a french knot.
The middle tree was then worked slightly differently, this time filling in the spots with a some rough satin stitches in a couple of colours and the third tree was a combination of all of these techniques - the back stitch, satin stitch and french knots - and using lots of different shades of green as I found a treasure trove of nearly finished thread cards in my embroidery box that needed using up. I also added some lines of whipped back stitch working up this final tree to try and make it seem closer to you with more details being added in.

Underneath all of the mad sections of wool there are actually satin stitch branches! You can't actually see all of them any more as I went a little bit bananas, but they appear every now and then and it really helps to build up your trees so you know where the leaves need to go. I wanted to leave a gap in the centre to kind of hint at the leaves parting ways slightly to reveal a clearing showing my Kaffe Fassett mountain.
The wool itself was just couched down in sections over the branches and was part of a pack of rainbow dyed wool that I picked up years and years ago at a craft fair somewhere. I actually went rooting through my boxes in the attic trying to find a selection of fancy yarns and bits and bobs and I found all sorts of things, including the yarn.
My initial reaction, once the wool was on, was that I hated it and it wasn't 'orange' enough, so I started adding other bits to it like the yellow Stylecraft DK acrylic yarn french knots on the central clump (still too pale and yellow), followed by the 100% silk twisted roving yarn (the right colour and depth but too linear in the way it's been stitched?) and the different shades of orange, four strand embroidery floss french knots (starting to look more orangey and autumnal), finally topping it off with assorted steampunk bronze/copper sequins.
On their own these things wouldn't work I don't think but, actually, combined together, it makes a mad autumnal look that works really well and makes your fingers itch to touch it. The sequins also make the piece glint like sunshine is coming through - although we haven't got any sunshine at the moment for me to demonstrate that properly.

I have started leaving my Stitchscape in their hoops for display purposes. This is because a: my studio is full and I don't have room to frame anything else, b: other Stitchscapes are just hanging around on mounted squares of card and don't look very good outside of a box frame, and c: it makes a really impactful photo and is much more flat pack for storage!
The hoop for this piece is a 20cm circular hoop, although I actually stitched most of it in a 20cm square hoop so there are a fair amount of stitches that have been pulled to the back of this piece which is slightly wasteful - I shall remember that for next time.
If you want to mount your own work in this way, all you need to do is set the hoop so that all fabrics are trapped between the two rings and pulled taut across the hoop with no bubbles on the front. Trim the fabric around the edge, a couple of inches from the hoop and then take a long length of strong sewing cotton and securely knot it about a centimetre from the fabric edge. (I like to work a couple of rows of running stitch around my Stitchscapes, with the first circle round only going through the calico.) Work an even running stitch all of the way around the circle until you are back at your initial knot and pull the thread so that it gathers up the fabric towards the centre, knot this securely.
(My second circle round is worked closer to the wooden hoop so that I can trap the other fabrics into it.) Make another round of even running stitch, passing your needle through both the calico and the fabrics, trapping any trimmings you might have used in your stitches - again, once you are back at the beginning pull the thread and knot securely.
I will then trim back my cotton fabrics (not the calico) so that it makes a neater circle.

I do really enjoy the back of this Stitchscape, which is almost more bonkers than the front with the threads that have been carried over and knots created! I say it in all of my classes, but if you are embroidering your own Stitchscape, don't get bogged down in what the back looks like. You are unlikely to have the embroidery police coming round to inspect it so just enjoy the process and don't worry about the back.