Hearts stitch journal, 08 February 2018

A beautiful, clear, cold winter day – purple clouds, and orange sunlight streaming across the hillside and lighting up everything from wheat stubble to the wooden sides of barns. For the first time this winter, the ground was hard enough, and the light sufficient enough to walk the dog out on the back field rather than in the lane, which meant I was walking into the sunlight rather than away from it – a really glorious feeling. Today’s heart shows my crab apple tree, still heavy with waxy red fruit that the birds ignore until all else is gone. It has a somewhat weeping habit that I’ve tried to capture here (I did a little sketch on paper first, which is rare for me). The threads are a lovely orange variegated vintage Cartier-Bresson ‘Brilliante d’Alger’ six-strand cotton; purple-grey six-strand modern polycotton; pink 1920s rayon floss; lilac vintage rayon shawl fringing; brown vintage DMC six-strand embroidery cotton and variegated red Anchor six-strand embroidery cotton (I bought it in the 80s, so that’s quite vintage now too).

The stitches are Pekinese for the outline, which I did on a base of alternate running stitch rather than backstitch, to get a bit more colour in; stem stitch for the branches and French knots for the fruit. The variegation shading in the orange outline is a bit of an accident – when I was halfway around the heart, I realised that if I tweaked it a bit, I could get it to shade from dark to light and back again, so I held back a section of the thread behind the work to get the colours to fall correctly – I must admit to being quite pleased with how that turned out, although it’s far from perfect. The purple-grey thread I chose for one of the running-stitch passes looked brown once it was in place, so I oversewed it with lilac rayon to punch it up a bit, resulting in a rather dotted effect. Again, I quite like it and will consider doing it again in the future.

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