Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Mini SeaScapes


Oh my goodness, I've been having such fun lately!! Having finished my big Camber Sands Stitchscape I was still feeling inspired by shells and the seaside and being outdoors in the fresh coastal air; paddling in frothy waves and inspecting rockpools for creatures. Luckily when my family and I went to Camber last year, we collected a couple of tubs full of shells, plus I was donated some really pretty small ones, so I was fairly well stocked on the shell front. 
There has been a small pack of 10cm embroidery hoops sitting on top of some shelves in my bedroom for a while now and at the weekend I decided to put together three new little hoops, each one with a seaside/shell theme, each one using completely different fabrics and each one trying to play with new techniques and 'stuff' from my 'stuff' collection. 

I am so thrilled with the result you would not believe - I couldn't even tell you my favourite! (Although I would be intrigued to hear what your favourite is.)
This first one has a little slice of one of my favourite sky fabrics, which a lovely lady from my workshops gave to me when I lusted over a bigger piece she brought with her. I must try and find some more of this fabric because I only have the smallest of slithers left and it's just so sweet!

It's these bottom sea-weedy things that really steal the show though I think. Can you guess what they are?
They are actually stamens for when you embroider or create flowers and they've been hanging around in a drawer for absolutely yonks! I used to make ribbon flowers with wire ribbons and these would often be in the centre of them - I think I have other colours as well which would be fun to dig out. 
All I've done to these stamens, which have the little bobble on each end of the wire, is to fold them into quarters so you end up with two bobbles on one side and the folded wire on the other then couch them down. They are so effective don't you think?
In hindsight, I should probably have stitched these towards the end of the piece rather than right at the beginning because the threads kept getting tangled up as I embroidered around them, but I was so excited at my idea, and then at my idea working, that I couldn't wait to see what it looked like!

They've been propped up a little bit with some pearl seed beads in and around the base of them, although a little bit of movement doesn't matter and they are fairly sturdy on their own anyway. 
Around them I've got little satin stitches over the printed pebbles and french knots for texture. 
The other layers are pretty self explanatory I think, two colours of single strand seed stitch around the Gulls, a single strand of running stitch stacked rows on the sandy bit, and not-very-neat satin stitch over each little blob on the blue dot batik layer. The 'string' comes from deconstructed wide jute ribbon that I've attacked and stripped. 

This next piece, which was actually the last to be finished, has much more colour in it and basically all stems around the fact that I found a little tiny piece of Kaffe Fassett fabric with grey on it in the big stash I was bought for Christmas by my boyfriend (what a gem - the fabric, and the boyfriend!). I've carefully-ish cut around this one tiny section, which is part of a much larger fabric print, and teamed it with a smashing orange batik to help bring out the orange and yellow in the pattern above, as well as a lovely pale dashed grey fabric and my sandy print. The sand print has sort of disappeared now which wasn't intentional but I don't mind it because I love all of the frothy textures happening on top of it!

Before I come to that though, the top layers have been treated very simply (which is something I like to do when throwing masses at the bottom of the hoop - your eyes need somewhere to look for respite before diving back in). The grey fabric at the top does have very thin dashed printed lines on it so I've just followed that with a single strand of white running stitch. The gorgeous Fassett fabric has had the bolder coloured areas covered with satin stitch, and then a delicate single strand back stitch around the two grey areas. 
For the orange batik I've gone around each white circle with a single strand of stem stitch - all very delicate and understated but still packing a punch when working together. The string stuff in this case is deconstructed hessian, pulled apart to just the strands of yarn. 

There is quite a lot going on at the bottom of the piece - these fabulous shells were given to me by a work friend and they have such a lot of rich colour in them, quite unlike the pale shells found at Camber. They work so well with the stronger fabric colours and I love the ones that are more grey/black in colour as well to contrast.

The texture started off just being an icy blue bouclé yarn, which was a bit shiny and exciting, twisted and couched around the shells to inspire thoughts of water. Then the bullion knot barnacles were added to use up some of my lingering ends of threads and to fill in some gaps. I was going to leave it there but then thought that some darker contrast with the orange would be nice so I pulled out some silk throwsters waste in this gorgeous oily blue and ruthlessly stabbed down some areas between the shells.
Once I was on the roll nothing was stopping me and suddenly four different bead tubes were in my hand! There are two colours of petrol green/blue seed bead in the middle of the silk throwsters, and a combination of shiny tube bead, and matt white seed beads filling in spaces between the bouclĂ© yarn to really look like bubbles and water. 

This lovely piece is perhaps a little bit more sedate, although still incorporates some fun textures and techniques. I absolutely love this shell fabric, with the shells already printed on there, it works so well when combined with physical shells on top and around them. 

Again the higher layers have been treated very delicately; a single strand back stitch around the pattern at the top layer, then two strands of seed stitch covering the plain (which isn't actually a plain, it's an odd plainly texture printed) fabric and a single strand of vertical whip stitch over those for a bit of interest. 
The batik fabric splodges have been covered with matching satin stitch and the layer topped with a skinny couched leatherette cord that was tangled up in my, rather chaotic, working thread box. 

The printed shells have sort of been loosely filled in with straight stitches following the faint lines of colour or definition within the shells, and highlighted with a dark brown back stitch to bring them out and help provide a shadow. Between the shells (printed and real) I've twisted a jute string which I was given as part of a paper making pack, as well as little pieces of dyed cotton scrim to add a more mossy texture. 

It was all looking a little bit matte so I decided to add sheen with some light brown DMC silky yarn, which I've worked in moss stitch - I think it's called moss stitch; where you don't pull the thread all the way through on the top and leave a loop on the surface. You can either just eyeball it and hope for the best, or stitch over something to hold the loop in place for several stitches. I used an old reed from an oil diffuser but you can use anything that's about the size of the loop you want to end up with. Just don't pull too hard or the whole texture disappears into baggy seed stitch!
Different sizes and colours of bead have also been added between everything, there are some different sized seed beads and a light brown, shiny tube bead to match the moss stitch. 

This piece you may have already seen as it was actually embroidered last year straight after the Camber trip - and features on my 'Adding Shells to Stitchscapes' Youtube video (which is linked here if you have an hour to spare and are interested). It doesn't look like I wrote a blog post about it though and I have added it to my triptych to make a little set of four shell observation Stitchscapes. 

I love to stitch with Limpets that have had their tops knocked off, which you might remember from the Barnacle Bay Stitchscape but we only managed to find three small Limpets at Camber, as well as some super tiny white shells which are just so sweet. I've teamed these with the Stylecraft Moonbeam Lime fancy yarn, using both the wet look bits couched into loops and the matt bits stretched over and around the shells. Again the shell fabric has been used, but the colours embroidered over are much softer because there were less of them so they would seem odd to be boldly sticking out of the sand in this instance. Mixed beads and french knots help to add a sandy/rocky texture to this layer and bed in the seaweed. 

The stripy sand fabric that was buried under the texture of the Fassett fabric piece has also been used, with a single strand of whipped back stitch along every stripe to bring out the texture of the print. More hessian strands were loosely couched on top of this because it mirrored that stitching so beautifully. 
I love the layer above that, which had those arrows printed on already, I've just gone over them with a single strand of fly stitch, working from the top of the row down each time, and filling in those random little circles with satin stitch. 
Running stitch is all the was needed for the top plain blue layer!! Nothing fancy or frivolous going on there. 

So there we go!! Four little 10cm seascape Stitchscape observations! Of course the problem is that now I've discovered some new techniques and ideas, all I want to do is make more! And slightly different, combining them in different ways so taking the lovely folded white stamens and adding the tiny pieces of blue silk throwsters and beads for example. There are so many combinations and endless possibilities with Stitchscapes, they keep the ideas coming themselves!!

They look so tiny against the giant mammoth that is the Camber Sands 25cm Stitchscape though don't they? Just one of those big shells would fill about half of the 10cm hoop space! 
I love seeing them all together though - I have quite a few different Stitchscapes that feature real shells now; White Cliffs, Sorrento Sunrise, Barnacle Bay, Camber Sands....and there's another one that was stitched at the beginning of last year that I can't find a post for that's stuffed full of Limpet shells!

I do have lots of shells left though...maybe there are a few more seaside themed Stitchscapes to come.....

Friday, 22 January 2021

Camber Sands Stitchscape


I absolutely LOVE this Stitchscape!! I am beyond chuffed with how it turned out, and I've spent all afternoon photographing it to try and get the best angles. There are just so many nooks and crannies that have been created (not all intentionally), and the combination of everything is quite realistic I think. 

Initially I was feeling a bit ambitious. I purchased a 25cm hoop on a whim at some point before the first lockdown, but wasn't really sure what to do with it as my biggest Stitchscapes have been around the 20cm mark, either stitched in a square hoop (which makes it slightly bigger) or the usual circular shape. It doesn't seem much to just add a couple of centimetres on to the diameter, but when you're hand stitching it, those extra centimetres all add up!

But in September last year my family had a 'staycation'. There was too much risk actually travelling anywhere, even staying somewhere else in the UK. We instead decided to visit places that we hadn't visited before/for a while in our local area, all within about 2 hours drive from the house, and one of my requests was to go to Camber Sands and Dungeness. I'd never been to either and it was fascinating how different the two beaches were!! Dungeness was all pebbles, eerie but quaint little shacks, big lighthouses, the nuclear power station (elephant in the room) and a miniature steam railway station. I always go prepared to beaches with bags to bring back any finds and the shells we were picking up were all fairly chunky, dark coloured ones with defined ridges which I think are called Common Cockles. 

Camber was completely different!! Just a few miles round the coast and it was a long stretch of sand which just got bigger and bigger as the tide went out. It was just sand, mind you, there were no fun rock pools or anything, but here the shells were smaller, more delicate and lighter in colour. As well as the Cockle shells (ridged ones) there were beautifully coloured smooth triangular shells (Banded Wedge Shells?) which had stripes in peach, purple, soft yellow and cream. I must admit I enjoyed shell hunting more on this beach than the other. 

Because of the scale of the Dungeness shells I thought they would fit perfectly with the size of the 25cm hoop so I set to my stash, pulling out beachy fabrics that worked together. The shell above was a one off find in Camber, the colours are absolutely stunning with those purples, and it absolutely had to be included. This then helped to inform the colours of the fabrics I chose, some of which have a purplish hue to them, like the batik it's sitting on, and the purple sky fabric with the birds. 

There are several ways to stitch on shells, depending on their shape and size. I do have a Youtube tutorial about stitching on shells, which features the initial layout and stitching of these shells, as well as some fabric placement for a much smaller hoop I made also using Camber shells. If you would be interested in watching (I warn you, it's long!) please click here, or visit the tutorials section on my website. Regardless of which way works best for your shell, if you can match the thread colour as closely as possible, most people don't notice the threads. I've had several queries as to whether I've glued these down, and some disbelief (until I pointed out the visible stitching) when I said they were all embroidered only. 

I loved these broken shells and the way they created little caves for me to fill with this fantastic fancy yarn, pieces of dyed scrim or silk throwsters waste. The combinations work really well and the silk waste is fantastic as it's got a mind of its own and just goes everywhere! The yarn itself is couched down leaving huge loops before the next couch so it moves organically. I've bounced it backwards and forwards over the broken sides of the above shell so it builds up layers and looks like it's almost frothing out of the hole. Further out on the sand I've stretch the knitted yarn area to make it flat and wide, like that seaweedy stuff that covers rocks and is soft and squidgy to walk on. 

I've deliberately put some of the silk waste in the lapping water edge to emulate the seaweed that floats and gets caught around your legs when you go paddling. It just wanders backwards and forwards with the tide until it catches on something. 

The waves have been created with rows of blanket stitch, which is an idea I played around with last April with this Rockpool inspired sampler. I wanted something quite lacy and delicate, so worked a few rows of back stitch to create an even base to work from, then worked different length blanket stitches between each of the back stitches. You have to be a bit careful with the layering of these so the first blanket stitch layer to work is the one furthest up the beach so that the next few layers sit on top. 

I've also added a little bit of discreet sparkle with some white beads just on the edge of the white fabric, where the sea horses turn to blue waves. It's not there to be glitzy and that noticeable, but more like bubbles that catch the light where the water draws itself up to have another go at the sand. The blue water is also fairly discreet as all of the attention is on the shells so I've used a DMC silky yarn which has fantastic lustre without showing off - you can just see the gorgeous effect it has in the below picture where a tiny ray of sunshine has crept in.

The layers further up have also been treated quite simply (although they still took a bit of time!!). The Paisley batik layer with its lovely purple sections has a single strand of back stitch around the pattern edges, apart from in a couple of areas where there was a long straight-ish line, where I have worked a whip stitch to create a bolder statement.

The layer above is a brilliant Japanese print with golden print marks. It's actually lots of neutral flowers but the smaller strip reminded me of sand dunes and the ripples you get in the sand. I've filled each layer with single strand straight stitches, working with the shapes to curve round and give movement. Where the fabric is lighter underneath, I've used a lighter thread and in some areas I've added a discreet pink colour between the lines to match the colour in the shells. 

The plain blue layer above that has a single strand of running stitch worked in rows just to give texture, the fabulous purple sky fabric uses a variegated blue/cream DMC thread in the lighter creamier areas, and then a pinkish purple in the darker areas - the lines stitched with stem stitch. The birds in this section are already there in the print but I've picked them out with straight stitches and worked as delicately as possible with a dark navy. Another variegated thread has been used to work french knots on the fabric edge which balances a little bit of dark at the top. The final layer is a space dyed blue and has been worked with single stranded seed stitch in two colours to match the colours underneath. 

As well as all of the fun green bits that have been stitched to the bottom there are satin stitch pebbles covering the pebbles in the printed sand fabric and, the fabric edge for this one, although really broken up has been edged with french knots. The plain sandy fabric has been textured with two strand seed stitches and edged with a super skinny leatherette cord. 
I've used lots of different types and colours of beads - some little brown tube beads, shiny seed beads in various colours and sizes and matt tall beads which came in one of those fantastic assorted tubes. I would really like some more of them but I don't know what they are called to search for on their own. 

Barnacle type 'things' have been stitched on using a bullion knot flower technique. You start with a french knot at the centre, then work two little bullions around it, and more bullions around those....until it's the size you want. I kept mine fairly little for scale. 

I don't know that I'd approach another hoop this big anytime soon, I'm very fond of my 15cm ones or smaller because they give more of an instant satisfaction. But I can't deny that this is one of my favourites and it has so many holiday memories stitched into it as well! There are many more shells left too so it could get quite shelley in my future whilst I'm feeling inspired by them!

Wouldn't you just love to be sitting somewhere near the below photo in the summer? Frothy waves lapping at your feet?

The stitch run down for this one is; back stitch, seed stitch, french knots, stem stitch, fly stitch, straight stitch, couching, running stitch, bullion knots, whip stitch, beading, satin stitch and blanket stitch.