Thursday, 23 April 2020

Etsy Pebbles

I had fun photographing and adding these Stitchscape Pebbles to my Etsy shop yesterday (or the day before? Days are really difficult to tell apart at the moment!!). They aren't new pebbles, some of them I've had for a while but they weren't on Etsy and have just been living in a little plastic bag waiting for a chance to shine. You may have seen them photographed before on my blog.

I had the idea, because they are so postable (they are only stuffed with toy stuffing so they barely weigh anything), that people may wish to send these to their loved ones rather than cards, or just as a way of saying hello, bringing a smile along with the happy mail. I have slightly re-designed my compliment slips and now also have a special gift compliment slip where I can hand write your messages (photo at the bottom of this post).
Amazingly, even without really advertising them, a big portion of the pebbles have already sold and are winging their way to Hong Kong and the USA among other places.

The light was so pretty whilst I was taking these photos. Imagine me, if you can, lying fully stretched out on my sitting room carpet - in front of the french doors with the sunshine streaming in (about half past four so turning slightly golden). There's a square of natural linen fabric folded on the carpet and covered in a giant rock, faux leaves and flowers, and the pebbles working it and doing their 'thang' whilst I zoom in and out on my camera lens and try different exposures and the like. It's all very glamorous.

Of course, all of the pebbles did really well and showed their best sides so I thought a group shot would be in order! They look really lovely with shards of sunlight filtering through the leaves (which don't look half bad considering they're painted fabric and plastic!).
There are still pebbles in my Etsy shop, and I have grouped some of them in terms of colour to make them easier to find. At some point I will finish a batch of large pebbles which have been patiently waiting in the hoop for me to carry on with them, and they'll get added to Etsy as well.

Did you know, you can filter my Etsy shop to make it easier to find what you are looking for? To only see the pebbles, filter the section to: Embroidered 'Pebbles'.

And this is my lovely new compliment slip especially for gift orders!! The logo is even wearing a party hat. Each pebble is posted in a turquoise organza bag, wrapped in turquoise tissue paper and with a logo sticker on the front. There are no prices on anything so no need to worry about that. Who could you send a little bit of happy mail to?

Rockpool Stitches

Do you remember the little sample I spoke about in my last post? I said that it was an example of a sample that got away with me. Well it kept getting away from me and I kept thinking about it, wanting to improve on it and just keep going as that yarn is seriously fun to use and you all know how much I love bullion knots!
I ended up starting another sample as I also wanted to include some kind of water in it this time, having hinted at water with those blue tube beads in the previous sample.

The tube yarn actually alternates between two colours along its length, with patches of a matte, cotton feel thread and patches of a shiny silky polyester type thread. Generally I prefer the cotton areas but if you're looking for a wet-look seaweed then the shiny section works just as well! I started by grouping loops of this down, couching it at the bottom to hold the loops, then stretching it out a bit more and playing with different shapes when I got to the matte section. The contrast of this is really lovely I think and you can't tell it's actually all from one length of the same yarn.

Gaps in the yarn were filled with more of my three-strand bullion knot barnacles, as well as clusters of single strand french knots. I have deliberately tried to make these bunny-eared french knots which you do by not fully forming the french knot on the surface before pulling the needle through. Usually you try and avoid bunny-eared knots but if you are wanting to re-create moss or trees leaves or something that benefits from being a tad shaggy, then these are brilliant! They work much better with thinner strands as well.

Once most of my shells and greenery was down, I started working on the waves.
I actually tried two different types of wave, the first being lots of overlapping curved lines in stem stitch which was too chunky and bold and got unpicked once I had tried the second type and fell in love with it.
These delicate watery lines have been made using a single strand of blue thread and working wavy rows of back stitch. On top of these rows I have used a single strand of white and worked blanket stitches at different lengths, going into each of the back stitch holes. Having started at the row nearest to the shells, the rows going further out towards the edge of the hoop overlapped and gave a sense that the water was coming in.
Little white horses were added with one or two twist french knots worked in any wave gaps (using two strands of thread).
I just absolutely love love love this technique!!

Any remaining gaps in the centre were then filled in with either my watery tube beads, or some fun sticky-up beads which add a lovely texture and were wedged in with iridescent orange beads that kind of look like wet pebbles. It's such a lovely piece to run your fingers over as the textures change so much throughout it and I can totally imagine this at the seaside!!

My original intention was to stick this in my sketchbook as well but once I had finished it I couldn't bear to just tuck it away. Especially as I'm really missing going to the sea and watching the waves or searching for seaglass along the sand. Instead, I decided to add it to the hoop wall that's developing in my bedroom (rather than redecorating) and pulled up the back ready to go.

It was a tricky one to pull up as it was only using a scrap of calico which would have been fine if I was taking it out to trim down. Luckily I had the smallest of strips on the two sides and could gather everything up but it's not very neat. No one will see the back when it's in situ though, sssshh!!

Sketchbook Samples

I've been setting aside some time for myself to play with leftover threads and fabrics. With all of the kits being made up there's often a lot left which would be considered wastage as it isn't large enough or long enough to be put into the kit.
I can't waste these odds and ends though and they all get put somewhere for the next time I need to work on something mindless, which doesn't have to be neat or perfect, and can be stuck into my sketchbook to inspire students in my workshops.

I often over-complicate my samples and get bogged down but sometimes it's the simplest techniques that can fire off the imagination. This example is just couched threads using the full six strands of embroidery floss and looping it in random directions. I've couched it using leftover single strands of other embroidery flosses so sometimes there's a contrast in colour and sometimes there isn't.

It could have been taken further with experiments in changing the thickness of the threads, using yarn instead of embroidery floss, making the couching stitches bolder and more of a contrast in colour. Blank sections with loops could have been filled with other stitches like some kind of Picasso painting or I could have not looped new colours over previous colours but kept them all separate as a patch of colour. These are all ideas that could stem from this one sample which took probably about half an hour to do so well worth it.

This is an example of a sample that ran away with me! I was rummaging through my stash draw for odds and ends and came across the gorgeous tube yarn that I was given at some point and used in my Barnacle Bay Stitchscape as seaweed. I loved worked on that piece with the real shells in it and wanted to have another go at creating that seaside feel.
The tube yarn was couched on in big loops and then, because it's knitted and has a lot of give in it, the loops were stretched and stitched to create bobbles or flatter areas where you can see the structure of the yarn. On top of this I worked a moss stitch (a bit like seed stitch but you don't pull the thread all of the way through on the front, leaving a loop on the surface - you do have to be careful not to pull anything too hard with this stitch!) in green to add a different texture, and bullion knot 'barnacles' using 3 strands of embroidery floss so they're quite chunky.
I have several tubs of little beads and I had a light bulb moment with some fabulous ice blue tube beads, gathering them in clusters so that they would hint at trapped water in my little rocky seaside crevice. Definitely a fun little sample for my sketchbook!

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Bluebell Woods During Lockdown

How's everyone doing in lockdown? We are in week four of official lockdown here in England and I think generally my household has been coping with the changes pretty well although today I just feel really bleurgh. I can't settle down to anything and, although I have lots I could be doing for Dotty Textiles (so many kits to make up, a new kit in the middle of the designing process, Stitchscape pebbles in their hoop waiting to be embroidered), I just can't bring myself to do any of it with any enthusiasm. This is totally fine I think, these are very odd circumstances and, although my family have so far been very lucky, it is very scary not knowing whether COVID-19 will strike and how bad it could suddenly turn. It's a bit like discovering an old war bomb, accidentally dropping it and then waiting to see if it will start ticking or not.

Usually when I get antsy I can go off somewhere and get my mojo back but with the travel restrictions in place this is slightly tricky. We are very lucky to have a woodland within a 10 minute walk from the house and yesterday evening I dragged my lovely other half (who was unfortunate enough to be at my house when we went into lockdown and has stayed with us throughout) out for a walk. He's working from our sofa as a key worker looking after the IT issues of hundreds of clients also all working from home so he spends a long time sitting or lounging and can't really say no when I ask to go for a walk.

We came to these same woods last week but the Bluebells weren't quite ready then so gave it a week before returning. The smell as you enter the woods is amazing - you don't really think of these flowers as having a smell but once you get a woodland full it's fabulous!
I came Bluebell hunting here last year in April and spent several hours photographing them (as you can see in my post about it from then). We weren't here quite as long this time round because the sun was starting to go down and it gets dark pretty quickly under canopy even though the leaves aren't fully out on the trees yet. The sunshine dappling through was really lovely, picking out random patches of blue for special scrutiny.
We were pretty much alone in the wood which was nice. Although I'm aware of some people finding lockdown really isolating, with five of us in the house we can't really escape each other and there are so many different things going on with everyone doing their own thing - I've taken over quite a lot of the living room to be fair, having had to empty out some of the studio so that I can continue to work and post items.

I'm slightly worried about whether I should continue to post items out for my shop. I have various reasons for doing so that I've explained before, but there are almost as many counter-arguments for closing up shop and I've started getting lots of anxious messages, especially from customers in the USA, where parcels aren't arriving or are delayed way beyond normal postage times and I'm having to pay to send additional items out (costing me both the kit and the packaging and posting). It's a tricky situation all round.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Shiny Green Stitchscape

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, in the Sunset Sea Stitchscape post, about the example hoops I put together for my workshops to demonstrate how fabrics can be layered and things to watch out for. This is the other example hoop I had lying around waiting for something to happen to it (which means that I can now create completely new hoops having cleared my deck!) and, quite honestly, this is the one I found the least inspiring.
It was put together such a long time ago that I can't remember why these specific fabrics were chosen, other than the colours were sort of co-ordinated with the zestiness and blue tones. There are still fabric bits I'm not that keen on - the shape of the third fabric down from the top bothers me because of its flatness, and I'm not overly keen on the two fabrics above. It's all quite busy I think and there are no other colours in this piece to bring certain areas out. No focal point.

I wasn't bothered enough by it to re-do any of the sections though and each layer called out for certain stitches (funny how that happens). I actually started stitching this in the middle blue grid batik layer because that one shouted the loudest. It has been really simply worked with lines of back stitch following the grid pattern created with the batik technique and, originally, it was left just as simple as that. Much later on, however, I decided that the blue from the berries a couple of layers up needed to be brought down further in the hoop to help colour balance it so I added tiny blue (one or two twist with two strands of thread) french knots scattered across in drifts. The very last thing I did to this piece was to return to that layer and add in some tiny greeny/blue beads, which were also used to secure the sequins in the bottom layer, to try and take some of the shininess discreetly up into the piece.
It often happens this way, I will leave a layer as 'finished' but return to it over and over again as the piece develops.

The green 'cactus' layer is very easily treated, with the stylised cactus motif being covered in a rough satin stitch to pad those areas out, and then a single strand of a darker colour matching the fabric was worked in a seed stitch around. At the time of putting the french knots at the top of this layer I hadn't thought about the little french knots going in above it so there's a lot of knotting there but I like how they change in size. The blue ones remind me a little bit of Bluebells.

The top three layers are very simple as I knew I wanted something shiny at the bottom to help lift the whole piece. The beautiful colour wash print fabric has had some colours brought out in long straight stitches, not quite worked into a satin stitch. I used three strands for this and separated each strand before starting stitching to help smooth them out and create a flatter texture with no thread twists.
I wasn't sure how to edge this one and ended up twisting my own cord using the three colours stitched in, it's a really nice way to edge something and keep it all looking cohesive.
The layer above has a single strand straight stitch down the centre of each leaf and satin stitch in blue over the berries. Each spot between these motifs has a tiny two-twist french knot.
Finally, the top layer has whipped back stitch along one side (the right hand side) of each curved line. I tried working both sides of the line but it was too much, and I had used the wrong colour so it all got unpicked and started again.

The bottom layer is my favourite. I love batik prints like this anyway, nothing can go wrong if you use them in my opinion. The top edge of the fabric has been covered in a lovely braid with a metallic strand braided into it (the braid pattern reminds me of snail shells!) This is quite dark in contrast with the two fabrics it's wedged between but matches the darker, muddier tones in layers above.
I've toned it in with straight stitch stems, again mirroring muddier shades from above, taking the stems along the braid and also down into the fabric pattern. I will often work over stitches that I've done in the background to create deeper layers - sometimes you can't see the original stitches because of the new ones over the top!

I think it was The Mother who gave me a small stash of really lovely iridescent sequins which have blue, green and bronze in them. There are three different shapes; flowers (which I used in the horrifically named Gold Meadow Peaks Stitchscape), leaves and these little satellite dish shapes which catch all of the light and appear to glow from within, even in dingy lighting. They look spectacular in the sun and I'm so pleased I've used them - it really changed the whole piece for me. I'm almost so blinded by the loveliness of the sequins I can forget about the top half that I'm not so keen on.
They did look slightly odd just plonked on the fabric though, and I wanted some of that really lovely bright zesty green from further up to be brought down so I've worked some chunky four or five twist, untidy french knots around the sequins to bed them in a bit, which has worked really well as that colour is reflected in the sequins themselves.

Of course, once finished (and this one will be added to a hoop wall I've created in my bedroom rather than redecorating it), I had to go outside to our Bluebell patch and do a little photoshoot of the Stitchscape among the Bluebells. I think it fits right in!

So, the final stitch round up is; stem stitch, straight stitch, french knots, seed stitch, satin stitch, back stitch, bullion knots, long stitch, whipped back stitch, couching and beading. Not a very long or complicated list!

I was trying to think of other words to describe these sequins. I could only come up with iridescent (pearlescent wasn't quite right as there is too much colour in them) and Dad ended up researching all sorts of other words that could be used. I thought you might like to read some of them to see what you think:

Iridescence Definition:
(also known as goniochromism) is the phenomenon of certain surfaces that appear to gradually change colour as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. Examples of iridescence include soap bubbles, feathers, butterfly wings and seashell nacre, as well as certain minerals. It is often created by structural colouration (microstructures that interfere with light).

Synonyms:changeable, mutable, opaline, shot, pearlescent, nacreous, opalescent, changeful, chatoyant, uncertain, unsettled.

Antonyms: colourless, dull

(Further definition search turned up this description of Nacreous; having a play of lustrous rainbow colours, "an iridescent oil slick" - which fits quite well!)