Monday, 22 September 2014

A little bit of progress

This nice late burst of summer has encouraged me out into the garden once all chores are complete and both children are fed/changed/dressed/off to school/down to sleep (insert child-care related term here). I even managed to spend a little bit of time with the embroidery WIPs as well.


For one of the pieces I'm working on, I'm trying to depict camp-fire smoke (albeit magical camp-fire smoke). I've done quite a lltlet of stitching on it already, using whites, greys and blues - stitched in split and chain stitch. Its looking good, but also a bit flat. I've started adding some french knots, but thought it needed something more - perhaps some buillion knots?
Campfire smoke - with added smoky dragons. See, I told you it was magical smoke!
I love french knots, who doesn't? But I remember trying to learn them from a diagram in a book and struggling. None of the flat drawings I looked at really got across the crucial role of the left hand holding the thread taught. Once I got it though, there were french knots appearing in everything I made - and there still are - because those knots are so fun and cute dammit! 

Well, I had much the same problem with buillion knots. My first efforts were poor, but slowly got better. I wasn't at home when I first started to practice so didn't have access to online videos -  I only had a book at my disposal. As with many things, only practice could help. I haven't got them perfect yet, but as the piccie below shows, I am slowly getting there! 
From left to right, those buillion knots are getting gradually better!
Just realised that I never got around to posting any baby pics of my little boy, and it's a bit late now as he's almost four months old! Anyway, he joined me outside while I was doing the stitching above and had his very own 'hoop' to play with while I worked!

"I have a hoop too Mummy! Though mine is for biting, not stitching..."
Jules

Monday, 4 August 2014

Blog hop!

Well, this post has come a lot later than I intended! Not only has regular, crafty and blogging life been somewhat side-swiped by the arrival of Tiny Little Human no. 2, (a little boy born in late May) but two weeks ago my laptop rather suddenly refused to play ball, trapping this post and all my photos in limbo. To those few who were actually expecting this particular post a lot sooner (you know who you are), my apologies for the delay, but better late than never, right?

Anyway, back to the real theme behind this post - a bloghop! I was happy to be tagged in a blog hop by Cate at Bees Knees Industries. If you haven't already come across her work, I recommend popping over to her blog. Her illustration style is wonderfully quirky, and she turns many of her fab drawings into wonderful embroidery patterns. This particular blog hop involves nominating other bloggers to answer some questions about their creations, and then passing the questions on to others to answer. So, here we go with the bloghop questions..

1. What am I working on? 
I usually have a few things on the go at once, as I like variety and like having options depending on what I feel like working on. I mostly work with paint, pencils and thread. 

I'm currently working on a series of embroideries that are inspired by the many stories and comics that I have started to write or draw, but never developed further or finished. These embroideries are a way for me to pick out small yet important scenes from these unfinished stories , and complete them in minute stitchy detail as a way of enabling these stories to exist in some finished form. I was inspired to make this series of pieces after completing my wolfman picture - an image that was created without a story but which could suggest any number of situations or scenes to fit the mood of the piece.


The pictures below show the completed wolfman, and another three pieces in this series in various stages of completion. Watch this space for progress!


On the paper side of things I have a few paintings on the go, which I dip in and out of (such as the moon and badger picture below) , and I've also recently been delving into the world of papercutting  (see this post), and I have a few more ideas still in the design stage. 
Moon and badger - sketch transferred and currently getting the watercolour treatment
Papercutting practice
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
This is such a difficult question, but has been interesting to think about! I suppose since I follow my own muse and have my own illustration style, that that makes my work different. I'm very driven by character and story, and most of my pieces have a story or events behind them, or certainly the potential for interpretation beyond the image itself - I have written and drawn stories since I was small and probably always will - it's just the way I'm wired. 

My embroidery style is very illustrative and detailed, a little like painting with thread which I think makes it different, but it does mean it takes ages to complete each work!

3. Why do I write/create what I do? 
I have no idea! I have created and drawn for as long as I can remember - creating was a constant childhood companion, and its always been an intrinsic part of who I am. If I don't get regular creative time then I can start to feel a little (or a lot) out of sorts! I find it relaxing, re-energising and so very fulfilling. 

I am relatively new to embroidery, having only been working with thread for a few years, but I'm loving this new way of bringing my sketches and stories to life, and Iove losing myself in it's calm, measured movements of needle and thread.


My brain so full of ideas that I have to get out somehow, and the drawing and stitching helps!

4. How does your writing/creating process work?
Sometimes I have a very firm idea of what I want to create, especially if it links to a story that's been growing in my head. However, I frequently put pen to paper and just see what happens - it's exciting watching an idea come out of nowhere, though of course sometimes this approach doesn't always produce something worth developing.

Pretty much all my ideas start as a sketch or series of sketches in my sketchbook. For embroidery I usually use my lightbox to trace the sketch I like onto plain A4 printer paper, often repeating this process and adding new elements until I get a final design I like. I'll then use the lightbox again to transfer to my favoured calico before stitching. I try and choose colours and floss before hand but sometimes I'll just dive right in.

I also frequently look back at old sketchbooks and doodles to get ideas, or look through some of my own stories for inspiration. A large diet of books, comics, films and inspirational creative blogs also keep the creative juices flowing!

So, that's a bit about me, now on to my blog recommendation.

Asking for Trouble - A fellow maker based in Scotland, Marceline's blog Asking for Trouble highlights her illustrations and the wonderfully cute and cheery products she designs. I especially love how she incorporates her passions, such as Japanese culture/design and a love of astronomy, into her work. Go check her out -  I defy you not to lust after her many lovely creations!

So thanks Cate, for giving me some fab motivation for finding time to blog, and apologies for the long (yet surely understandable) delays in getting there!

Jules



Thursday, 8 May 2014

Papercut playing

Back in February I mentioned that I bought Emily Hogarth's wonderful book on papercutting. I've had it for a while now, and though I've been determined to try my hand at papercutting since I got it, I'd just never really made the time! Well, over the last couple of weeks  I've deliberately sat with my sketchbook and tried to come up with some papercutting ideas. I've always quite liked working with silhouettes, but trying to put together lots of elements in a way that would cut easily wasn't as straightforward as I'd thought! Still it's been a learning process, and I've certainly had fun with it.

The first sketch that I liked the look of was one of an Irish setter, which I thought would make a lovely Christmas present (I know, I know, it's May and I mentioned the 'C' word!) for my in-laws. I did a quick tester to get used to using the knife and scissor combo, and to see how my sketches would translate before working up a more complex version on nicer paper.
Tester cut - simplified design but loving the effect!
Added some complexity and fancier paper - I think it looks almost classy!
Next I decided to go for something a bit more complex based on a few cat and plant sketches I'd worked up from my sketchbook. As usual I dived straight in at the deep end rather than giving myself time to get used to a new technique, but after a bit of time and maybe some cursing, I managed to finish my 'wild cat' papercut as well.

Original sketch on the right - cutting in progress on the reverse on the left 
Completed grumpy cat! I like his attitude
I'm very pleased with how they turned out overall, though they certainly do require a lot of patience. The drawing and designing is definitely the more fun part for me, the cutting not so much - though you can get into sort of a cutting zone when you are working. Eternal vigilance is essential though, as one slip of the blade and you suddenly have a three-legged cat or something (I may be speaking from experience here). Now just to carefully glue them down onto the backing paper and get them ready to frame.

Lessons were certainly learned in this foray into a new craft.The main lesson I learned, even though it was made very clear in the book, was that I need a very sharp cutting blade. I just picked up my nearest craft knife to have a go at the first dog attempt (goodness knows how long that blade has been in the knife), and it did made things difficult and resulted in a few rips. Oh and of course a self-healing cutting mat is ESSENTIAL. Still, I wanted to at least see if I enjoyed the process and the results before trying some fresh blades, and boy does it make a big difference! 

Have you tried papercutting before, and how do you like it? I'd love to hear from you if you have any top tips to share!

Jules

Friday, 2 May 2014

Blocking the wolfman

Unfinished projects, UFO's, WIPs - whatever you want to call them, we all have them don't we? For me, I usually manage to complete the actual stitching part of the project without problems - it's the finishing of the project that usually stumps me, at least for a while. I think for me it's that I've poured out my creativity into the stitching, and the thought of preparing that piece to go in a hoop or a frame or as part of a cushion etc., for some reason just doesn't seem to be as exciting. It's a poor excuse, but there you go!

For finishing some pieces, I must admit that there is an element of fear involved. My biggest and favourite piece of embroidery, my wolfman, is currently languishing in that unfinished pile. I really want to finish this piece and frame it, but since I completed it last year I've been afraid of well...ruining it if I'm honest! However, I was determined to finally get this piece finished and displayed on my wall. The timing seemed perfect, as right about when I made the decision to finally complete this piece, what should appear but an excellent tutorial on 'Blocking your embroidery' with Jessica from Paperstitch on the excellent '& Stitches' blog. If you haven't seen this post, it's definitely worth a read, and inspired me to fight my fear and have a go!
Before picture - pretty wrinkly huh? Let's see what we can do about that
I used an old cork board which luckily I had hanging around. It took almost all of my available pins, but I duly pinned out the piece and misted it with water with my handy water spray that I often use for ironing. After this I put the piece away on a flat surface and tried to stop checking it every five minutes! I actually repeated the process too. Once dry, I took out each pin a line at a time, tightened the piece and sprayed it again to try and maximise the results.
So...many...pins!...
Ah handy little water spray from a 99p shop!
Results
Well, I don't think it got out every wrinkle, but it certainly looks better than it did before. It's those tricky little bits between the different sections of embroidery which seem difficult to entirely erase! Still, at least I feel that I have more confidence in this method than I have before! 
The After picture - looking much better!

Next steps

Lacing and framing! Both scary steps that I haven't tried before, but doing the blocking has given me a shove to get this piece completed. How about you? How do you finish your pieces? Hoop, frame, or something else? Have you blocked, laced and framed, and if so, do you have any top tips?

 

There has recently been some great discussion on this very topic "Finishing a piece… what's your favourite method?" over on Weave. What's Weave? Well, if you love cross stitch, hand embroidery, machine embroidery or the like, you'd do well to get yourself signed up for Weave, a wonderful new online social network for us crazy stitchers started by Mr X Stitch. You can find it by following the link here.  I'm on there as The Awkward Niche, and would love to see you there!


Jules

Friday, 25 April 2014

April - In the Works

Wow,  getting on to the end of April already! I always stop suddenly one day in April every year and think...where has the year gone so far? I can't believe that we've been in our new house for almost six months now! Sometimes it feels like we don't have a lot to show for it, but we've been doing bits and pieces, and we've been pretty busy otherwise too. The weather has been lovely the last few days so we've been enjoying lots of garden time and getting used to things we've never had to do before, such as mowing the lawn. Exciting!

So, this is an 'In the Works' post, and boy do I have a lot of things going on! Here's what is in my current work pile for this week.
1. Moon badger colour sketch: I like this coloured sketch that grew out of the little badger picture I posted at the end of my 'sketchbook' post. I've been thinking about whether it should be a stitched project or a painted one, and I'm pretty sure I've settled on developing it as a painting. So, just to transfer my sketch over to some watercolour paper and get started. I haven't done a lot of painting so far this year, so it will be good to have a project on the go that I can dip in and out of.
  
2. Noticeboard: I wanted a bigger noticeboard in my kitchen and I wanted it to be colourful, so I bought a large one and covered it in fabric. It's not up on the wall yet as I want to finish the edges with something, but not sure what.
  
3. 'Manse' embroidery: Almost complete, this is the second piece in a new theme I'm developing. More to follow in a later post about this one! Manse is the characters name in case you were wondering!
  
4. 'Dust Devil' embroidery: As above, another new piece in my new theme. Loving doing this one, and working on it at every opportunity. Again, Dust Devil is the name of the character. More on this when it's finished!
  
5. Hedgehog embroidery: Still working on this one which has stalled a little. Must try harder!
  
6. Bed is best embroidery: New cutie embroidery that I might even put up on my own bedroom wall. Just the fur to do on this, hurrah fur time!
  
Oh and I am working away on something else this month. Well actually, I've been working away on it for the last eight months, but have just never gotten around to mentioning it on here! Here's a picture of the bulk of the washing that has been out in the garden the last few weeks. Can you guess what I've been working on yet?
Here's a clue, these clothes are far too small for me, the husbandbot and the four year old!
Yep, baby number two is due in less than four weeks, which I guess could technically mean anytime! I'm hoping to manage to still get some crafting and blogging time, but if I go quiet you'll know the reason why! And no, the pink items on the washing line don't mean anything significant. We don't know what we are having, I've just been washing all of my daughters old clothes in readiness, as most of her newborn things were neutral as she was also a surprise package. So, May is looking to be very busy and exciting indeed!

What about you? What do you have 'In the Works' for April?

Jules

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Have embroidery, will travel

These last two weeks have been so busy - what with fulltime childcare in the Easter holidays, and having to pretty much abandon my crafting room to prep for some plumbing work taking place this week - that any stitching time has been snatched either late at night or briefly and out on the go. Although I do all my project planning, photography and writing in the two and a half hours each morning my four year old attends playgroup, I tend to do most of my stitching while out and about. I have my local 'STITCH' group every Thursday for two hours, which is when I do the bulk of my weekly stitching. I also take my stitching along to many of my daughter's activities, so while she's bobbing along to Zumba I have a fine hour of stitching to work on in another room. Beats heading back home for half an hour to do housework!
 
Because I may want to grab my embroidery to take with me at any time, I keep all of my current embroidery projects in a rigid A4 plastic box that I picked up from a standard stationary shop. I copied this idea from an excellent embroidery friend of mine Bea, who used the same type of travel storage. This box is fairly rugged and solid, and protects the work inside, and fits in my usual A4 satchel-type handbag.
Ready to go!
The great thing about keeping all my current work in this box is that  I can just grab it and go - everything is kept neat and safe, meaning that everything I need to get on with those projects are all gathered in one place. When it's very full, I use large rubber bands just to make sure it stays shut.

The contents of the box are usually as follows:
  • Scissors - large for snipping fabric, small embroidery scissors for thread. Note though that my lovely small embroidery scissors I featured in this blog here when I bought them aren't in the picture. They haven't turned up since the house move, but they must be somewhere!
  • Needle book - I use my own handmade needlebook that has plenty of room for needles and pins, bits and bobs of fabric  etc. in here, and the small scissors.
  • Current projects - my box can just about fit two 15cm hooped projects, or one 20cm hooped project, and that's usually enough to keep in there for heading out for short periods or a holiday.
  • Ziploc bag of floss - and some on a pretty pink horse thread holder for those projects that are a bit more 'ad hoc'.
  • Fabric pen - for those last minute pattern additions!
Surprisingly spacious!
I must warn you however - maintenance of this travel pack is essential! Usually after a few weeks work the box needs a clear out. No matter how much I try and keep it tidy, there is always a moment when I just have to stuff the thing back in my bag at a moments notice and loose threads are just thrown in. Keep doing this and everything becomes a bit of a tangled mess. See the picture below - only two weeks use after the last clearout!
How do the threads do that? One time, before I started a regular clear out, I couldn't even open or remove my needle book from the box, it was like some kind of thread ivy had grown around the book and attached it to the box, slowly taking over everything. I had to use scissors and put lots of potentially usable bits of thread in the bin that day.

The ziploc bag also needs to be cleared out, and skeins no longer being used should be put back where they belong. To make this process easier I use a small 'thread to be filed' box, where I can stuff these partly-used skeins until I have time to return them to the appropriate colour box, or wind them onto cardboard bobbins for my bobbin box. Also, I often forget to 'de-hoop' my projects, which of course you should always do rather than leave your projects in hoops for days (maybe even weeks - ooops), which is one downside of the 'travel pack'.

So, I'm hoping that my craft room will be back in use next week, after the new pipework gets boxed in, and I might even get some paint on the walls! Here's a picture of how it looks now with all the furniture crammed into one corner *sad face*.
Wahhhhhhhhhh
To make up for the sad looking craft room, at least I'm been taking my photos here this week in the sunshine. Kinda makes up for the disruption a little.
Maybe lunch outside today?
Jules

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sketchbooks

I love sketchbooks.

I love the feel of them, the thickness of the paper, the possibilities of all those blank pages.
Current book open at the last used page - ballerina bunnies!
Although I have a general passion for stationary in general, sketchbooks for me are extra special - even when they are not necessarily pretty things in themselves. For me, they have to be A4, square bound, contain nice thick cartridge paper, and be black. I don't know why I became fussy about the colour and the dimensions (especially when I love my stationary bright and bold), I think I just like the look of them together on the shelf. Seeing all that work past and the blank pages and books yet to be filled (I usually keep a new book waiting patiently to take over when one is filled) is quite inspirational.
My small row of sketchbooks at the very left of the picture
Here are 16 years worth of mine. I know the timescale is accurate, because the first one in this sequence is dated 1998. Wow, that would have been my last year at university studying zoology. That seems a long, long time ago! It seems like that's not many books to cover such a long time period, but some took years to be filled, others only a few months.

I also went through large periods of rarely using them at all, especially when I was working as a natural history curator full time, mostly I think because my job was quite creative, there seemed to be little creativity left when I was at home. I still drew though, obsessively. In between filling sketchbooks I likely just doodled on any scrap bits of paper that came to hand (especially at work, I was forever doodling idly at work, not that I wasn't working, I can just doodle and work at the same time. Especially when working on tricky Excel formula or pivot tables, that always seemed to require doodling). So, I also have a large box file full of random doodles that seemed worth saving. Here's a picture of it bulging full of scraps. What exciting ideas might be lurking within?
The boxfile of random stuff
Although my sketchbooks are openly displayed on a shelf in my crafting room,  I'm also quite shy about them. I would never feel comfortable with someone taking one down from the shelf and flicking through it, not even the husbandbot! I guess it's to do with that outpouring of creativity; it feels quite private, quite personal, until it's distilled into a format I feel I can share, like a completed painting or embroidery. However, here's a sneak peak of a few pages that I feel brave enough sharing with the world!
Of course, spot the predominance of animals :)
I've mentioned a few times in the course of this blog that most of my sketches and doodles sat unused for a long time. An untapped resource. In the last few years though, through getting back into producing art, and paintings and now embroidery, I finally feel that some of these sketches and doodles are finally beginning to breathe, and have a life of their own. Now I use my sketchbooks almost every day.

For me, I use them for the following:

  • To jump start creativity. When I'm stuck, a flick through a sketchbook reminds me that I can draw, and can create. That usually fires me up.
  • To get ideas. Over the last few months, flicking through my sketchbooks has given me quite a few jumping off points for new paintings or embroidery! One little rushed sketch from years ago might just have something about it that sparks off new thoughts in my brain, resulting in a new, finished piece.
  • Letting the creative part of my brain flow. With embroidery and painting, I know what I am doing before I start. In my sketchbook, I let myself be free. Just grab a pencil and see what happens. Sometimes nothing, but other times you can really surprise yourself! Just put pencil to paper and don't think, just draw!
  •  Idea development. Sometimes I have an idea for something, but it needs work. I often use my sketchbook to work ideas up from something simple, to a finished idea. It's nice looking back on that process sometimes!
  • Forcing the issue - in opposition to the above idea, sometimes I find it useful to force myself to do a certain thing. If I want to develop some new embroidery hoop art, I'll actually fill a few pages in my sketchbook with hoop outlines, with text headers to fill in such as 'title, 'idea', 'thoughts' etc. These can really work as development tools that make me think.
So yeah, I love my sketchbooks. Oh looky, there's one right now, open at a blank page, with a pencil just sitting there...I wonder what will pop into my head. Oh hello little badger!

What about you? Do you keep sketchbooks? If you do, how do you use yours?
Jules

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Too cute! - bunny ballerinas

  
Look! Tiny little stitched ballerina bunnies! Squeeeeee! Okay, these are almost too cute -  even for me, and I like cute things. I've no idea where they came from either. One morning I came downstairs for breakfast, and these little ladies were in my head demanding to be sketched. So, out came the sketchbook at the breakfast table, among the usual mix of toys and breakfast detritus.

My daughter does attend a dance class, though she's recently switched from ballet to Jazz. I also remember her getting a book from the library a few months ago about a rabbit who wanted to be a ballerina...what made all these different threads coalesce into a need to sketch bunny ballerinas one morning I have no idea. Sometimes however, you just need to go with the flow and follow what the muse insists you have to do.
Bunnies being stitched in the sunshine.
Middle bunny close up
I thought maybe others would like to stitch these up, so I've written up a little pattern, free to download as a .pdf HERE. The .pdf features a main pattern to stitch the three bunnies above, fitting in a 6 inch hoop when completed. I've also included larger version of the bunnies individually, each fitting in a 6 inch hoop. When I stitched the three above I deliberately used different stitches and approaches to vary the look. If you stitch these bunnies up, I'd love to see them!
 
Jules

Thursday, 13 March 2014

March - In the works

I was going to name this new semi-regular sum-up post 'in the hoop', but then I thought that would mean I was restricted to only featuring embroidery, so I thought I'd go for a different name. 

I love showing finished pieces on my blog and patterns ready to go, but of course, that's really the image of the beautiful swan gliding effortlessly on top of the water isn't it? We all know that the time between an idea and showing a pretty finished piece can be quite long, and involve a lot of work (the swan legs peddling furiously under the water!) If we all waited that long to post every time we might be waiting very long indeed! So here's a sneak peak at what March is all about for me in 2014.

The embroidery
These pieces are all in the works. A cute hedgehog carrying flowers, some ridiculously cute ballerina bunnies (I have no idea why they popped into my head one morning, but they just had to be stitched), and final pattern designs for my 'time for adventure pattern' (which you might remember from it's first appearance on my blog here - which oh my goodness was two years ago...better late than never right??).

The life around the making
This week we actually had sunshine! I don't mean a hint of shivery spring light, but sunshine enough that we spent several days in the garden and had to find where we'd packed away the outside tables and chairs. This couple of days of lovely weather meant lots of...
 
Outdoor playtime! Hurrah
Outdoor embroidery for goodness sakes!
Making food with the kitchen door open, light streaming in and listening to birds signing rather than the radio. We're not quite onto the eating outside yet, but for some reason the nice weather is encouraging more bread making and bread eating. 

How is March treating you?

Jules

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Loving the machine part 2 - giving it a home

So this week I thought maybe I should make some sort of gesture of friendship to my machine, extend the hand of partnership and do something just for him (yes, for some reason my machine is a 'him). Well, the first thing that popped into my head was of course to make him a little cover. Many of the wonderful blogs I read have featured the fantastic covers they have made for their machines, so I thought that would be a good place to start. After all, the plastic dust cover that often comes with your machine isn't the most gorgeous thing around is it?
"I just look a little...sad...Please love me..."
 I spent a while browsing the internet, looking for cover ideas to prompt me rather than a full pattern or tutorial - well, if you fancy making a cover for your machine, there is a fantastic wealth of great free patterns and tutes out there, offering different styles and approaches. Even a browse through Google Images will give you a wealth of ideas! After a brief browse, I decided I wanted a full cover rather than one with ties, and I thought pockets on the end would be a great way to keep the cables tidy when the machine was not in use. I also wanted to keep it simple, no lining or added fanciness. I mean, let's face it, me and the machine are not bosum buddies yet!

I had plenty of the medium weight bright IKEA fabric that I used on my daughters seat cover here, so I used this, some solid purple for the side pockets with light blue bias binding for the pocket top edges. Having the aforementioned sad little plastic dust cover was useful, as I based my measurements on it, adding a few centimetres to each as the dustcover was snug, and I wanted my pockets to have some give. Here's the finished cover - much cheerier!
"Hooray!...I am loved!"
Here is a shot of the end pockets, showing the power cable neatly stowed away, but easy to grab for its next use. Oh and in case you're wondering, yes, I label my plugs. It's to make sure I'm unplugging the right thing without following a tangled cable. You all do that...right? right???
So in summary, one of my first big tips for loving the machine is to give it a home, but in two senses. As I mentioned in my last post here, my machine now lives on my desk permanently. If you can keep your machine in plain sight ready to use, it really helps encourage to you use it. Even if its just thinking 'Hmmm...I could just mend that popped seam now...it would take me like...two minutes!'. It makes a difference. And if a new cover makes you smile every time you see your machine, well then so much the better!
    
Jules

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Signs of spring

There have been one of two mild days around here recently. So much so that the tree in my new garden (some sort of ornamental cherry perhaps? - I'm no good with fancy garden species!) actually started to blossom at the end of January. Woah there, little too early don't ya think? End of January? Really? Well, now we're into late February and the tree is almost in full swing with its spring finery. 

I've been noticing a few other spring-like behaviours in the birds as well so far this month. There's nothing quite like being scolded by a blackbird for daring to venture down into your own garden to retrieve the washing you put out there only this morning. I've always loved the boldness of the male blackbirds. With their perky tails, serious attitude and strident calls as they let you know in no uncertain terms, that you are actually in their territory thank-you-very-much. The image of these cheeky blackbirds stuck in my mind so much, I flipped back through my latest sketchbook, knowing I had a blackbird sketch that could perhaps be turned into an embroidery. As soon as I saw the sketch my needle fingers started to twitch, and here's the result.

I like his serious expression, though it does perhaps border very slightly on grumpy! Well, it must be annoying when all these people keep walking in and out of the territory you are trying to defend mustn't it?
Extreme close-up! Bird body mostly split stitch with some stain stitch in the smaller areas.
Determined to do this the right way, I spent a good bit of time working up the sketch, and developing a border pattern that I liked. Here's a few pictures of how the design process went - I even practised my border stitches on a separate piece of fabric, determined to find a finish I liked before adding them to my final piece. The bottom picture is a re-post of one of my recent Aberfeldy holiday pictures, showing the sewing in progress (I actually finalised the border pattern in my sketchbook when I was on holiday).
Original sketchbook sketch
Idea being developed...
Border design in sketchbook
Working on the border and the lettering
Blackbird in progress on holiday, with hot choc and cake of course!
I like the way this fella came out, and I carefully noted every stitch type and colour used, with the plan that I will work this up into a full pattern. Here's to spring!

Jules x