Saturday, 22 October 2016

Beautiful Saturday

This is what I miss. Sunshine in the early morning. There is something about the light of a fresh sun that is different- the same way the evening sun has that special golden glow- and at this time of year, I can only experience it at weekends. I really wish that I had a job that meant I could stay in bed until the sun came up, rather than waking and dressing in the dark (usually putting clothing on inside out), and then returning home and going to bed in the dark.

At weekends I can pootle about the garden in my crocs, clutching a mug of steaming coffee in my hand, inspecting the changes the seasons are bringing to the garden. Although the leaves are starting to turn, it is considerably mild and I've noticed Crocuses flowering already, and our lovely Pink Rose is having another go too.

Looking out of the French doors at the back of our house, directly in front of the patio, is a Staghorn Sumac (Rhus Typhina), and yes I did just Google that. It is one of the first trees to turn a brilliant red colour although the leaves all eventually drop off and the tree looks very forlorn. It is a definite sign that Autumn has arrived though.

Crisp, cool, mornings are the best way to start a day, and The Cat loves it. He gets distinctly grumpy during the latter part of the year and spends a lot of time moaning and moping around the house before settling somewhere and refusing to come out. Food is rejected as boring and uninteresting and he spends more and more time indoors. During the summer he's a totally different cat, you only see him at mealtimes when food is  wolfed down so he can get back outside in the sunshine to melt completely into the patio or collapse, exhausted, in the shade of a flowerbed. So far, on these in-between days where it is still sunny but not hot, his moods swing wildly but this morning he is quite content which is lovely to see.

At lunchtimes this week I have been working on a new Stitchscape, which is inspired by a view I get every morning coming over a high hill and looking over rolling hills and fields below. The sun is just about starting to come up then and the valley is shrouded in wisps of mist, the colours bleeched out of the landscape and looking soft and shadowy. So here is me, trying to recreate that in stitch! It is such a challenge to get the mental image in my head out into the hoop but I'm game to give it a go.

I like how, when you hold the hoop up to the sun, it reveals all of the layers of fabric, the bits you can't see. It does actually look more like my imagination this way than flat where the layers are hidden. The prints on these fabrics are just beautiful don't you think?

So here we are then. I am working downwards, row by row, adding stitches as I go depending on what I feel like or how the print inspires my needle. It's all still quite an organic process, I never know what the finished piece will look like- there isn't a scrapbook of designs and options and thought processes, it's just throwing some fabric on the calico and seeing where it takes me. The best way to work!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Silver Birch Stitchscape

It's finished!! My Silver Birch inspired Stitchscape. I have absolutely loved watching this piece come to life- especially with the little birds in the background. They somehow developed characters as the trees grew themselves in, peeking out from behind the trunks and perching inquisitively on the branches whilst the last few orange leaves fluttered on the twigs.

There are lots of very tiny stitches layered on top of each other. Each leaf was already part of the bird print pattern, covered in a satin stitch in white and then overlaid with a single chain stitch to add autumnal colour. The mini spot fabric has had tiny seed stitches put in the occasional spot to give a touch of lustre and texture should you run your fingers over the fabric. Even the stitches up the side of the tree trunks are multilayered whip stitches.

I think this stitchscape uses the most variety of stitches of all of my scapes so far, it has; backstitch, whip stitch, seed stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch, pekinese stitch, bullion knots, french knots, straight stitch (long stitch), and running stitch (also known as kantha stitch when in rows).

I've already tried it out in one of my test frames, the mount of which is just slightly smaller than 20 centimetres, which is the size of the hoop I used. It does mean that some stitches get lost in the framing as the position and composition- where the centre of the piece is positioned and how much of an edge is created- is quite crucial. In this case the top of the piece needed to be lighter so more was lost off the bottom. I think this must be one of my favourite stitchscapes so far!!

You've Been Framed

I bought a couple of test frames for my stitchscapes which arrived this week. They were both meant to be white as I really love white frames that make the piece inside pop, but for some reason I got sent a black one instead and, actually, I quite like the option.

I absolutely love how 'finished' these pieces look inside the mount. It might sound strange but there are rough and unfinished fabric edges in the stitchscapes, stray threads and loose stitches which all have a really soft appearance, nicely contrasted by the clear cut edge of the mountboard.

A conscious effort has been made not to over-finish these little pieces and to keep the rough edges. I'm usually a lot neater and at one time would have gone back to finish adding white French knots to the white 'cloud' in this embroidery, or would have added more fabric to fill in the corner, but I am really enjoying this more primitive look.

Now I just need more space to keep all of my frames !

Monday, 10 October 2016


Odontophobia:: (noun) an unnatural dread or terror of teeth.

It seems a bit strange to have a terror of teeth; unless it's those jagged pearlies in the smile of an approaching shark. I have no problems with teeth themselves, but visiting the dentist- 'dental fear'- is definitely on my most hated personal chore list. The lady dentist herself is lovely but the prodding and poking and 'open wide please' is a problem, plus there is the ever looming threat of a possible filling or tooth pull. Luckily my teeth are in pretty good shape so I am on a yearly checkup and it's usually an in/out scenario, but I still get shaky whilst waiting in the waiting room for my name to be called out. The room itself also looks like a poshed up torture chamber with the monstrous, all bells and whistles rising chair in the centre surrounded by bright lights and sharp, gleaming torture tools- it doesn't help with the nerves, however many smiling dentists and nurses surround it.
Today was, unfortunately, one such day and I have taken the whole day off of work to recover from any possible horrors that may have occurred. Thankfully all looks well and she was very impressed with my newfound wisdom in the wisdom tooth that has broken through, and has no plans to unceremoniously yank it out any time soon.
The relief of a painless examination resulted in more shakes so a quick visit to the coffee shop next door for a takeaway, and a calming walk to one of my favourite places in the world was definitely required. My dental practice is in Lewes, East Sussex, which is such a beautiful area of the world and has featured many times on my blog. It has a castle (pictured at the top), lots of quirky buildings and twisty side roads, and has many surprises hiding away behind shop facades.

A walk down one such twisty side road, which drops very steeply downhill, leads to my favourite post-dentist recovery place, Southover Grange Gardens. Elvis visited here with me last year around the same time- again after a dentist appointment (I have definitely developed a routine) and it was interesting to see many of the same plants re-planted again this time around.

It's such a lovely place to sit and drink coffee. The bench was, admittedly, slightly damp, but soggy bottom ignored, the sunshine was gently warming from behind, there were birds singing, children laughing as they played hide and seek in the garden next door, the wind playing with the trees and grasses so they rustled together, beautiful views all around and the smell of coffee wafting out from the cup. A peaceful oasis to relax and recuperate.

The Dahlia bed was there again this year and was as stunning as last year! If only I was able to have a rainbow border like this in our garden, how amazing would that be?! Spiky, soft, curled, flat, spherical, flat, puffy, pointy...every shape imaginable and in all sorts of colours and sizes!! Absolutely the best part of the garden for me.

Of course there are sections for all kinds of people here. This little gateway leads through to the Knot Garden which is walled and separated out with hedges. It has a similar atmosphere to that of a library or museum, rather hushed and serious; as if, if you spoke too loudly a stern looking elf would leap out from behind a bush and stare you back into silence with a finger to their lips.

There are also raised rockery type beds, shady little corners, a formal rose garden (past its best so I didn't photograph), loose tree and grass areas, tree covered walkways... nearly every kind of garden imaginable, all squeezed into this tiny little space.

Wildlife is abundant here as well. I saw a little mouse scurrying around in the undergrowth and there are tiny birds under every bush and in every tree, rummaging through the dried leaves underfoot and making a surprising amount of noise for such little creatures in their quest for a juicy snack.

I now feel fully recovered from my toothy appointment, and even went on to have a rather drastic haircut earlier this afternoon!! 8 inches off!! I'm feeling much lighter now. x

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Autumn Approacheth

Today has been a perfect Autumnal day- well so far at least, as I write this I can see great big black clouds looming over the treetops so it looks like a downpour is imminent. It's probably a good thing as the soil is generally quite dry around here and some rain might keep the remaining plants going for a little while longer.
This weekend has been one of celebration. The October season for our family is full of birthdays, one after another. Yesterday heralded the start of a seemingly endless chain of cakes, candles and singing as it was The Brother's birthday and we travelled up to Guildford to visit him in his University house to celebrate. It's only an hour and a half's drive up there but we got back quite late so this morning was a cause for a lie in, followed by a brisk Sunday walk to visit The Grandmother and mooch around her garden, picking the last of the apples and rhubarb, and foraging for some late season raspberries. I foresee crumble in our future. This afternoon we have been partying yet again for one of my Cousin's birthdays (his 21st) which is tomorrow, and have just got home to finally squeeze in some weekend relaxation in the last few Sunday hours.

The travel time and sitting-around-post-buffet time has allowed me to be able to stitch some more details into my Birch Trees Stitchscape which is coming along rather nicely I think. It's good to have a little portable project that can be slung into a bag with the tin of threads and useful items and carried out of the house and into the car at short notice. I'm currently trying to create a linear bark effect on my middle tree, and am testing out whip stitch in a pale brown colour over a running stitch in white; so far I am liking the effect it has created so I will continue for the rest of the tree. However, investment in more off white/cream/pale ochre/soft brown embroidery threads is definitely needed!