Sunday, 20 September 2020

Vintage House Stitchscape


Having said in my last post that dusky purples weren't really a colour theme I usually go with, it's perhaps slightly odd that I've just finished another one in a complimentary colour combination to Pink Moon! This is one that started out as a good idea and then sort of faded away as I was uninspired by the direction I was taking. Eventually I took this piece out of the hoop to use the hoop elsewhere and this little bundle of fabric and thread was stacked away in a pile, not knowing if it would ever be completed. 

During a lockdown tidy up, I came across it again and felt immediately guilty so found it a new hoop and started stitching during those little pockets of spare time. The house was mostly finished and I had started on my flower 'sun' with some satin stitch plus around the sun with seed stitch but that was about as far as I had got. 

The story behind this piece starts last year when I was asked to run a private workshop for two ladies who had come down from London to attend a workshop a couple of months before. Both were lovely stitchers themselves and had previously attended courses at the Royal School of Needlework (the pressure was high!). I didn't need to teach them how to sew but they were more interested in how to put fabrics together and choose the colours to create a landscape, working on the composition of the pieces. They were really pleased with what they produced during the class and both finished off their pieces afterwards, sending me some rather fabulous photos. One of them I even ended up framing in a box frame for the lady so when they asked if they could come back for a private workshop I was more than happy to oblige. 

The plan for the workshop wasn't to do any stitching but literally put together pieces to take away and stitch at their leisure. Each of them brought bundles of fat quarters and fabric scraps that they were inspired by and we put together two or three hoops each based on different themes using a combination of their fabrics and mine. As a return for using the scraps and taking skeins of matching threads from my stash, they donated a big bag of fabric scraps which had been used to make a themed quilt and the majority of the fabrics used in this Stitchscape came out of this bag as a challenge to myself to see what I could make of it. 

In hindsight, I should have used bondaweb (fusible fixative) for my little house as being lost in a pile of things hasn't done it much good and there are slightly frayed edges up the side. I did go back over the door and window with some texturing straight stitches to hide the frayed edges there and also to give the appearance of wooden frames.

The roof and chimney I really like. They are long stitches that have been woven into a grid, and then every now and then at one of the cross sections I have done a tiny little holding stitch diagonally over the perpendicular lines to help secure these threads and the fabric. The roof is edged with a couched full six strands of embroidery thread and the chimney with whipped back stitch. I toyed with the idea of adding some chiffon or something loose and light at the top of the chimney to look like smoke coming from it but the french knots had already been added above and I think that would have looked better if the house was nearer to the middle as the smoke would be lost round the side of the hoop. Maybe something for next time. 

I was talking about drizzle stitch a lot in my last workshop and the idea stayed with me to add some texture to the bottom of this piece. I started with a spray of woven wheel flowers in different sizes, filled with two colour french knots - already fairly textured and high off the fabric surface - then added some golden drizzle stitches between them to give a wild, untamed garden underneath my wild, grassy, hessian fence. It's great because I wasn't really sure what to do with the fabric pattern underneath, the print is not really all that interesting and I wasn't keen on going around it or embellishing it on its own so this is a good compromise. 

The circles for the woven wheel flowers are all drawn out on the back to give me a pattern to work to, then around those I've added some horizontal straight stitches to act as the ground for them to sit on. There were a couple of parts of the fabric pattern which were picked out to go over in satin stitch but mostly the fabric has been completely ignored and is just there to provide a base colour and interest.

I love the wild mass of stitches, whether it's the swirly drizzles, the pistil stitches behind or the fraying hessian - which was just a strip cut from a length of hessian fabric and some of the weft (horizontal) yarns pulled out. 

If you look closely you can see where I started and stopped on the single strand of seed stitches above the house. On the left side of the flower it's in one colour, and on the right hand side of the flower it's a slightly different colour where I haven't been able to find that exact shade after rediscovering this Stitchscape. The flower itself was a slightly laborious labour of love as it's all satin stitch, and some of the lines are fairly skinny so it is made up of lots of little short stitches. To me it is acting sort of like a sun coming up over the dark hill below. 

The dark fabric layer itself has been enhanced with whipped back stitch in a single strand to keep it quite delicate. I could have done this in more colours to match the areas I was going round but I kept it quite simple and just tried to match the background colour as best I could. Same with the layer underneath really; because it had frayed a bit my focus was getting the edge finished first (which is unusual, normally I would do the edging on each fabric last because that usually helps stop fraying but this had already started) and decided to work a blanket stitch which would help with that edge. It didn't quite work on its own though because of the undulating shape so I ended up working a whip stitch along the top of the blanket stitch to thicken it, and then went over it again in a lighter colour. I love these happy accident type things as it looks really realistic for a fence. (In my humble opinion.) Most of the pattern within this fabric has been ignored as well and I quickly whip back stitched some of the darker pattern outlines, and filled areas with straight stitches. There's so much going on at the bottom of the piece it has actually helped to balance it out and provide some relief from the busy-ness below.

I had obviously started this piece using a scrap of leftover calico so there wasn't very much to work with on the backing fabric when I went to draw it up and neaten it off!! Ideally you'd want to leave a couple of inches all of the way around but I went from a couple of inches to barely half an inch! It's not the neatest but it will do. 

So, the stitch run down for this 15cm piece is; running stitch, bullion knots, french knots, seed stitch, satin stitch, couching, straight stitch, whipped back stitch, blanket stitch, back stitch, pistil stitch, woven wheel stitch and drizzle stitch. A fun little collection!! 

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