Saturday, 2 May 2020

Bluebell Garden Stitchscape

I think it was around this time last year that I was sat in the little cafe next to the-stitchery in Riverside, Lewes, with the owner of the-stitchery (the lovely Saira) and a fabric rep, Margaret. Margaret had come to show us what beautiful materials her company had to offer and Saira and I had agreed to have a look to see whether we could do a joint order to keep the costs down for ourselves and share the carriage charge.
It was a most exciting meeting and there were so many gorgeous fabrics!! I was particularly drawn to the batik fabrics and could have ordered way more than the restricted bundle I kept myself to. "Great" said Margaret, "these fabrics should be with you in August."
August??? I thought, golly that's a long time to wait to get my hands on these now that my brain is fired up and ticking over. But wait I had to, and they actually didn't arrive until September and October, and then I was caught up in the Christmas rush so I still didn't have time to do anything with them but one of the benefits of being stuck at home is that I get a little bit more time to work on projects so out they came!!

I knew I wanted a kit that had a heavy batik influence. I love these fabrics for their ability to make everything unique - a huge ethos for my Stitchscape kits and business. Hand embroidery is so personal, sometimes actual blood, sweat and tears goes into hand made projects and I don't believe in cloning work. If you've made it, it should be yours and, even if you've followed a pattern or a kit, something in it should be unique to you. Five out of seven of these fabrics are different types of batik so I'm really intrigued to see how my customer's work with them and how much each kit can change purely because of the hand that's been dealt to it in each little strip of beautiful batik fabric.

I had the idea for a Bluebell themed kit this time last year - I've made several Bluebell Woods themed Stitchscapes over the years and always had really lovely comments about them, but I wasn't sure whether I would be able to turn a woodland Stitchscape into a kit. These are slightly more advanced than the kits I've done previously, with fabrics going in different directions, and using tapestry yarn for the french knot leaves. There's a lot of patience required for the bullion knot Bluebells too although in this case I've added in beads to try and speed the process up a little.

I have lots of little hints and tips so I think the booklet accompanying the kit will be quite a lengthy one, and I'm not planning particularly on setting exact positions for the Bluebells or the leaves on the trees. You can copy me if you like but where you put these in your hoop is up to you. There will also be health and safety notices for your hands and posture towards the end when the stitching gets very knot heavy- not that I want to put anyone off, it's well worth the effort!

During lockdown I've been lucky enough to still be able to walk through my local wood which, just so happens, to be a Bluebell woodland. Thanks to the lovely weather we've been having, the sun filters through the fresh new tree canopy and bathes little areas in gorgeous sunlight, something that I really wanted to bring through to my kit. The colours are slightly over bright and zesty, but that really speaks to me of new growth and a new year. The trees aren't quite full of leaves yet but its enough to bring a blur of greens to offset the yellow sunshine and blue Bluebells.

The stitches in this kit are still very easy, the top layer uses long straight stitches, or a little bit of back stitch in a single strand of thread, depending on what bits you get of the pattern. The yellow/green layer beneath it has a single strand back stitch around every shape and is edged with french knots. The green layer beneath that uses stem stitch to go around the chunky shapes, with a seed stitch filler in the green areas and a whip stitch to the fabric edge.

The green leaf patterned fabric has each leaf pulled out and covered in satin stitch and the blue layer at the bottom has single strand back stitch along the wavy lines of the print (that you can't really see now) to give the straight stitch stems of the flowers a base to sit on. There are two colours of green for the stems and these are topped with two colours of blue tube bead and four colours of blue bullion knots, focusing the darker colours to the higher edge of the fabric (near to the lace fence) and working down to the lighter blues at the bottom of the fabric, trying to recreate that shaft of sunlight.
In front of the largest tree, the straight stitch stems have been doubled up to make them appear closer, and the bullions have been worked with three or four strands to make them chunkier.
The size of the knots is also different in the main Bluebell 'garden' with the darker colours being worked in two strands and the lighter ones in three strands, again pulling these lighter ones towards you.

The trees have been kept very simple, the central tree (with grey leaves) has a straight stitch dividing each leaf and flanked with a fly stitch 'v' shape either side of it to fill the leaf. The stems have been worked in back stitch. Four strands of thread have been couched down to the sides of the tree to neaten the edges.
The beige tree on the left has been filled with a single strand of seed stitch and again used embroidery thread couched to the sides.
The larger tree at the forefront has also used seed stitch, but in two strands so they are bigger, and the tree appears closer, and this time uses a vertical whip stitch which is a new technique to my kits but something I use all of the time in my Stitchscapes. Hopefully I will be able to include a diagram in the kit booklet to help explain how to do this. Again the tree has had thread couched to the sides.

The leaves again use this idea of size to push objects back or to give the overall image depth. The tapestry yarn has four strands twisted together and I have split this down to two (a: to make it easier to find a slimline needle to fit the yarn through the eye and b: to make it easier to pull the yarn through the tightly woven layers of cotton and c: to make the yarn go further).
The 'furthest' tree is the beige one on the left hand side and the french knots here are only two twists so they are fairly small and compact. The central tree is closer in our landscape so these knots are mostly four twists, although I have also put some two twist knots in there as well for 'baby leaves'.
The closest tree on the right has six twist leaves so they are super chunky and sit out proud from the hoop, I've also mixed colours on this tree (for both leaves and bark) because you would be able to see more definition of something that is closest to you whereas further away it would blur more into a single shade.

One of the things I love most about this piece are the beads that I've used. I wasn't sure at first about using both a matte bead and a shiny, pearlescent bead. I thought that they might be at odds with each other but, actually, it works really well as the lighter beads flash and catch in the light whilst the darker ones are cast in shadow so wouldn't be flashing. The difference in texture between the lace, the tapestry yarn, fabrics, embroidery threads and beads is also really interesting and makes you want to run your fingers over it all of the time.

Whilst this piece is finished now there is still most of the work left to do!! This kit is also slightly different because when I 'asked the audience' for their advice on what trimming to use for my fence, it was a toss up between this navy guipure lace or a turquoise jute trim, they couldn't decide and it was such a 50/50 split I have made both of them. So I still have the turquoise jute version left to finish as I am intrigued to see what it would look like.
I've also got to write and design the kit booklet which will probably be very word and diagram heavy, get that printed, design and print the template pages, get the thread cards made up, cut all of the fabrics, weigh out or count the beads, cut the trimmings and package it all together. There is a lot more involved in this kit than ever before so it will be a real learning curve for me!

The stitch round up for the Bluebell Garden Stitchscape is; BULLION KNOTS, french knots, straight stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, stem stitch, seed stitch, couching, beading, satin stitch and fly stitch. Not too hard huh? Do you think you'd have a go at this kit?

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