Sunday, 15 January 2017

Textured Clock Rocks

I've had good fun today starting off a new stitchscape. It is in part inspired by the Moorland CAL blanket I am making along with Attic24, and also partly inspired by an image I saw in a gardening magazine last week. The image in the magazine was actually of fields of Cherry Blossom trees in China, but they were so clustered together that it reminded me a lot of swathes of moorland heather coating the landscape.

I had a good rummage through my 'bits' bag which contains all of the little tiny scraps of fabric not really good for anything in particular, selecting the greens and purples to make my moorland. I wanted the background to be more broken up than my 'scapes have been recently, with lots more colour and smaller scraps of fabric. Hopefully the image still flows quite organically though.

I also had one of those flashes of very late night inspiration over the weekend. You know the ones where you are trying to get to sleep but you know you won't be able to until you've written down the thought that suddenly occurred in that half-wakefulness? The thought was to make the forefront of the stitchscapes even more textured with the addition of padded sections, using batting, felt or wadding to pad out a fabric shape and needle-turning the main fabric underneath, catching the very edges with near invisible stitches.

This idea was tried out with some rocks popped into the forefront of my Moorland Stitchscape. I found some scraps of a beautiful clock printed cotton which is just perfect. These were cut to a sort of rockish shape and size, and then a layer of batting cut to just smaller than the fabric.

As you work around the shape, the fabric is carefully turned underneath and the stitches placed so they just catch the edge of the turned fabric. You follow all the way around in that fashion, turning corners and adding extra stitches where needed. My first attempt on the taller rock didn't go that well at the bottom as the fabric shifted and I turned more at the top, leaving not quite enough at the bottom. (It's probably a handy tip to get one of those curved quilting pins to hold everything in place and avoid slippage. Normal pins don't work as they create more of a dip and pull the fabric into the centre.) It didn't really matter though as the rocks needed to be grounded with some stitches that I knew would hide the scrappy edge.

The best part is that any stitches placed through the layers give a quilted appearance which adds even more texture and definition. You could play on this and have some areas more padded than others, or stitch halfway round and top up the centre section with wadding stuffed in. I think this is a technique used in Stumpwork embroidery, but please don't quote me on that.
I've since added to the rocks with lots of intense, grouped french knots, using both tapestry wool and DMC embroidery thread, and am thrilled with how they are looking!

Saturday, 14 January 2017


The snow has all gone. Goodbye snow! It's such a pity, I really love proper snow days when it's freshly fallen and you are the first one to make footprints in the smooth layer of white, hearing it crunch underfoot. There wasn't enough on the ground this time round for that to happen, and actually, I don't recall it being that deep for a number of years down here in the South East. I know lots of people don't like snow, especially those who have to travel in it, but I hope we get some more this year.

It did leave things clear and bright though, we could see all the way over the valley to the top of the next hill  which is usually shrouded somewhat in a mist or haze. The sun was also a rather welcome sight and was actually quite warm as long as you were in a sheltered spot out of the way of that harsh breeze.

We have a shrub in the front garden which isn't much to look at with tiny white flowers hiding behind leaves, and large black berries, but if you walk past it on a still day or in the early evening, the smell is incredible! You find yourself walking round it and sniffing to try and find the strongest point. It's a sort of sweet smell, delicate and pretty, which catches you when you least expect it.

I have enjoyed my week off, although as ever, it has flown by far too fast and I'm having visions of the mountains of paperwork I know will have built up on my desk at work. It has been a very relaxing week, with lots of stitching interspersed with crochet to help my hands, some reading, blog writing (and reading), shopping, a trip to the seaside, hanging out with The Parents and playing with the cat. (Who was also thrilled at the sunshine's return, even if it was only for a little while.)

Little green shoots are beginning to appear all over the garden, bringing hope and excitement for Spring. I can't wait to start photographing the sweet little flowers that will appear, adding colour back into the otherwise relatively bland garden.

I have been feeling a little like Rumpelstiltskin these past couple of days as I decided to turn my bag of leftover Stylecraft Special DK acrylic yarn into little squares. I did this last year as a way to use up the odds and ends of various blankets- it's amazing how much you hang on to 'just in case'- and I managed to put together a full size granny square blanket, as well as a smaller baby granny square blanket.
Do any of you know the story of Rumpelstiltskin? It is a fairytale about a girl whose father (a miller) boasted to the King that his daughter could spin straw into gold. The King was greedy and locked the girl in a tower full of straw and a spinning wheel. He demanded that she turn all of the straw into gold by morning else he would order that her head be chopped off. The girl of course was very upset as she could not actually turn straw into gold, and just as she was giving up all hope, an imp/pixie/gnome creature popped into the room and offered to spin the straw to gold for her in return for her necklace. She agrees to this and the King is delighted to see all of the gold waiting for him in the room upon his return in the morning. As he is very greedy, he takes the girl into an even bigger room with even more straw and demands the same. Again the imp/pixie/gnome creature appears and spins the straw to gold for her in return for her ring. On the third night, the girl is asked the same task, with even more straw to spin, and the King announces that if she can spin it all to gold by morning he will marry her (with the natural assumption that if she doesn't, her head still gets chopped off). When the imp/pixie/gnome creature comes to the room that night, the girl says she has nothing else to give him in return for his spinning services. The creature makes her promise to give him her first born child as payment for the straw to gold, and the King is so delighted to see the room gleaming with spun gold the following morning, that he marries the miller's daughter and makes her his Queen. Of course, eventually they have a child and the imp/pixie/gnome creature returns to take his payment. The Queen begs him to not take the child away and offers him all of the riches in the kingdom instead. The creature is not interested, although eventually agrees that if the Queen can guess his name within three days, she can keep her child. All of her guesses fail until finally, on the last night, she wanders the woods in search of the creature and happens (very luckily) upon his remote cottage in the woods. He is dancing gleefully around his fire, and singing; 'tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll go to the King's house, nobody knows my name, I'm called Rumpelstiltskin.'
When the creature comes to the house on the third and final day, the Queen pretends to have several guesses before telling him his name. Rumpelstiltskin flies into a rage but he has lost his bargain and takes himself away in a temper, leaving the Queen to keep all of her spun gold and her firstborn child.

Every blanket I make makes me feel slightly like a crocheting Rumpelstiltskin. I still find it quite astounding that someone discovered or invented crochet. The act of turning a ball of yarn, a single strand that is not good for much on its own, into a shape or a fabric, to be worn or used is amazing- magic almost.

As before, these are only little granny squares- one of the easiest and quickest things to make. There are three rounds in each square and to join them together I will probably use a single colour to work another round and the join-as-you-go method to create a blanket. There is no hurry for this one though as I am bound to have lots of yarn left over from the Moorland CAL blanket and my simple stripe one. I shall just keep filling up my bag of squares until I am ready to put them all together.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Snowy Alps Stitchscape

It seems quite the right time for it to be snowing as I have just finished my Snowy Alps Stitchscape!! Most of the snow we had yesterday has now melted away, but I managed to find a little patch where some was left. The wind is absolutely bitter out there so I was taking photos like a mad thing trying to get good images before my hands froze to the camera. (The things we bloggers have to do.)

It looks like it might actually be snowing up there on those mountain peaks now I come to think of it, especially with the linear stitches punctuated with french knots. Brrr, make sure you wrap up warm before stepping into this 'scape!

So, onto the finer details. I mentioned before that I was thinking about adding some small french knots to the bottom of these plant groupings to ground them, which I didn't end up doing because I thought of something better after falling in love with the red berries further up the stitchscape. The red really gives a warmth to this embroidery but looked slightly strange just in a band through the middle so I have added tiny little spots of it on the end of my fly stitch fronds which I think bring a lot more interest (if any was needed) to to the bottom part. The colour also works beautifully against the pearl beads which have a warmth all on their own.

I've had lots of fun with my Hobbycraft bead tubes in this piece, adding some super shiny ones to the pale blue sky along with a metallic thread seed stitch- this has turned into quite a blingy 'scape!
The mountain top on the left I had to go back to at the end and add a layer of bullion knots just along the top of the snowy fabric. It got a little bit lost amongst the beads and french knots above with just a simple blanket stitch around it so I added some chunky bullion knots to help bring it forwards. For those new to bullions, the size of the knot is affected by the number of thread strands used, so in these ones I used three strands of thread to make it slightly thicker. In other areas I only use two strands for a more streamlined effect.

The above photo really shows how beautiful the DMC Satin thread is and the lustre it brings. I've used three different colours of the satin thread in this piece, two shades of brown, and of course the white for the feathers. I might have to pop back to the shop and stock up on some different ones...

I LOVE this!! The gorgeous sunshine coming through from the back. I wonder if these would make good lampshades? Now that would be an interesting avenue to explore. I like that you can see where the layers start and finish, everything about these stitchscapes is to do with layers, the fabrics, layers of stitches, being built in bit by bit to represent height and distance. The bottom section for example has several layers of fabrics, then layers of stitch covering the fabric to create an overal texture, then bullion knots are put in to highlight the edge of the fabric; beads are added and long straight stitches put down to represent plants, over the top of that fly stitch fronds are popped in, and finally tiny french knots on top of that. It's all about the layers!

There are lots of different stitches in this one; cross stitch, french knots, back stitch, straight stitch, bullion knots, fly stitch, seed stitch, blanket stitch, satin stitch, detached chain stitch and running stitch. It's always a challenge to see how many I can incorporate, and there are always different ones I could have brought in, like; whip stitch, pistil stitch, colonial knots, chain stitch, pekinese stitch.... the list is endless. Maybe I shall save some of those for next time.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


This morning I had a lovely stroll along Brighton seafront with The Parents. We are very lucky to live so near the sea, just an hours drive away, if that, although I don't usually get the chance to go there that often any more.
I actually went to college in Brighton several years ago; it's such a brilliant and inspirational place for an art student to study in with diverse architecture (the Royal Pavilion for instance), rough textures from the sea air and some rather lovely graffiti adorning the sides of less interesting buildings. Then of course, you have the sea!

The weather wasn't overly fantastic and I did have to keep wiping the rain droplets from my camera lens so apologies if there are strange smudges in some of the photos. The sun was trying to break through the cloud cover though so sometimes the sea had a lovely glow towards the horizon; it reminded me a little bit of my Moonlight Reflections Stitchscape- perhaps I should do a similar idea again but focusing on different times of the day, a sunset one could be rather spectacular!

It was really quiet along the seafront and for most of the time it was just us, listening to the mournful cry of the seemingly floating seagulls, the wash of the waves and the wind whistling through the scrubby plants clinging onto the walls.

There were some surprising plants growing out around the steps down the beach. I really liked this little red/pink bud-like flower, it was such a beautiful contrast against the flecked green paint of the railing and the silvery green of another very prevalent plant growing alongside.

We didn't stroll for very long as we were essentially a taxi service for my Grandmother and her appointment was only an hour and a half or so, just enough time to pop into a really fascinating flea market (taxidermy angel mice....need I say more??), wander along the seafront and back again, before the rain really set in! A great way to start the day.