Saturday, 24 January 2015

Progress Report - January 2015

I began Sake Boxes in March 2014 at my annual five day class. At the end of that week I had completed the foundations on the sake box and on the outside of the ladle, one leaf and a pointed petal chrysanthemum.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I made little progress over the summer completing only the foundation on the inside of the ladle and one round petal chrysanthemum. It was only during, and after, a four day class in October that I really connected with this design and since then I have made steady progress. At first the piece seemed to grow very slowly and the amount still to be done seemed daunting. But I tried not to think about the whole task and to simply focus on the motif that I was stitching. Keeping the work covered with tissue paper and folding it back to reveal only the area you are working on helps to keep you focused on that area as well as protecting the rest of the work from dust and sunlight.

Before long, I had completed the silk embroidery in one small area. Then another. And piece by piece the picture is building.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Now, when I look at the whole picture, I am pleased to see how much I have done. This is quickly followed by a sinking feeling when I think about how much is still to be done and this thought is quickly chased away by a reminder of how much I am enjoying stitching this piece and a further reminder to just focus on one small area at a time.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

In the past few posts, I have looked at the foundation layers, a pointed petal chrysanthemum, a round petal chrysanthemum, the leaves and the noshi papers. Until I get to the gold work on the vessels there will be nothing new to say about this piece, except for an occassional progress report.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Sake Boxes - Golden Chrysanthemum

This is by far the most challenging piece I have stitched so far. While I am really enjoying it, I don’t think that I am doing my best stitching. However hard I try the short diagonal stitches are just not as even and parallel as I would like. I try to accept that I am doing the best that I can at this time and hope to improve but I get frustrated when my stitching does not match up to my expectation.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

That said, I feel I am improving with each and every flower. I felt that with the first few stitches on this golden chrysanthemum, even the padding, felt better than on previous flowers.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The silk is not as smooth as I would like but the stitches look more evenly spaced and parallel with a nice angle.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I am particularly pleased with the one point open space between each petal.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sake Boxes - Gold Centres

I had not intended to do any of the gold work on Sake Boxes until all of the silk embroidery was finished but when I had done all of the silk embroidery on the central flowers it stuck me that it would be better to do their gold centres before I did the surrounding flowers.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I marked some guide lines to help me with the placement of the couching stitches. A pair of gold threads are couched in a spiral starting at the outer edge and finishing in the middle.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The first flower that I worked is almost in the very centre of the fabric and beyond my comfortable reach. I took my time and tried to keep the threads close together. I thought that I had done quite well but when I stood up and looked straight down I could see that there was a small gap between the pairs of threads.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The next flower (the red one in this picture) is just that little bit closer and I felt more comfortable stitching it. The white one is closer still but its irregular shape made it more difficult for me to stitch.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

And the next one has an even more irregular shape. I am not sure if I like the way I have stitched this one.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

By the time I stitched the last centre in this group of flowers I was starting to get a feel for working with gold threads again.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The gold centres really finish these round chrysanthemums off nicely. I can begin to see how this piece is going to look when it is eventually finished.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Sake Boxes - Noshi Papers

Noshi quiet often appear in JEC designs and, indeed, there are some designs based on noshi papers. The strips of paper can be quite elaborate with a different design on each piece but the papers on Sake Boxes are rather simple - long, thin strips of paper tied into a bundle.

The strips are first outlined with Japanese running stitch and then stitched in diagonal layer – yes, more short diagonal stitches!

The papers change colour two or three times along their length. The colour change is perpendicular to the edge and, unusually for Japanese embroidery, the stitches overlap so there is no gap between the colours.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The noshi tie is done in gold so, of course, I am leaving that until later.

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sake Boxes - Leaves

The same method is used to stitch the chrysanthemum leaves on both Hanayama and Venerable Friends. First the leaf area is filled with a horizontal layer of flat silk then lines of gold thread are couched on to represent the veins. This is a relatively simple but highly effective way to do leaves.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Another common technique used to do leaves is separated layer. This is how the maple leaves on Hanayama are stitched. If chrysanthemums were the motif I found most difficult on Hanayama, then the maple leaves were the second most difficult. Here the challenge is not to keep all of the stitches parallel but rather to gradually adjust the angle of each stitch to follow the shape of the leaf. This is how the leaves on Sake Boxes are stitched.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The lobes of each leaf are divided by a vein. The stitches progress up one side of the lob, around the top, and back down the other side much like the hands of a clock rotate around the clock face. The stitches extend from the vein to the outline of leaf with a one point open space between the stitches either side of the vein.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I find it difficult to judge the adjustment in the angle at the top of the leaf so that the rotation is smooth and the stitches do not become too short.

However, the area I find most perplexing on these heavily lobbed leaves is where one lob meets another. Getting the stitches to radiate around the arc without bunching them up at the outer edge is a real challenge.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

There are plenty of leaves on this design, so as with everything else, I have plenty of opportunity to practice!

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Sake Boxes - Round Petal Chrysanthemums

In addition to the pointed petal chrysanthemums there are about 17 round petal chrysanthemums, depending on how many of the partial flowers you count. These are very similar to the round petal mums on Hanayama but the centres will be treated very differently.

Each of these flowers are arranged in the same way with one uppermost petal that slightly overlaps its neighbours which in turn overlap the next petal. There is one petal, opposite the uppermost petal, that is overlapped by both of its neighbours. As with the pointed petal blooms, the petals are padded with the fore ground petals having the most padding and the background petals having none.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

As is usual in Japanese embroidery the uppermost petal is worked first. It must be padded and stitched before either of its neighbours can be worked.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I then usually work clockwise around the petals, padding and stitching each in turn until I come to the bottom petal which I leave until later. I then return to the petal to the left of the top petal and work anti-clockwise around the remaining petals, again padding and stitching each in turn finishing with the bottom petal.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I stitched the first of these mums back in September when we enjoyed an Indian summer in the south of England. I loved the warm sunny days, except for my stitching time in the morning. I have heard from others in warmer climates than the UK that silk can be difficult to handle in humid conditions but I had never experienced it before. I really struggled stitching these first few round petal mums and I’m blaming the weather!

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Of course the problem may have been that these petals are smaller than the pointed petals but they are still done in diagonal foundation stitch. Same stitch but small and therefore, I find, harder. I’m not really satisfied with the first few blooms I stitched but I have decided to leave them until I have stitched all the other flowers. If I still don’t like them then, I will restitch them.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The centres of the round petal mums are done in gold so I will be leaving that until later, like all of the gold work.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The Fuzzy Effect website has started a new feature called Snippets. Their first snippet is on Chrysanthemums. Jane has put together a lovely selection of pictures show some of the many different ways chrysanthemums are depicted and some of the many different techniques for stitching them in Japanese Embroidery.

Happy Stitching

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sake Boxes - Pointed Petal Chrysanthemums

I found everything difficult at phase I but by far the biggest challenge for me was stitching the chrysanthemums in the summer mountain.

Looking at them now, I suppose they are not bad for a first attempt at diagonal foundation but there is a lot wrong with them. The stitches are uneven; sometimes too close together, sometimes too spaced out. Some of the stitches are not parallel so the angle of the stitches change. But the worst thing, I think, are the one point open spaces; sometimes the space is none existent and other spaces are far too wide.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I next stitched a chrysanthemum on Venerable Friends at phase III. I am pleased to see some improvement in every aspect; the stitches are more evenly spaced, the edges of the petals are neater, and the one point open spaces are much better. The central petals on this chrysanthemum are padded.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I haven’t stitched a chrysanthemum since phase III and I still find short diagonal foundation stitches difficult. The pointed petal chrysanthemums on Sake Boxes are different from both those I have stitched previously. They are most like those on Hanayama but on Sake Boxes the petals are layered more realistically. As on Venerable Friends, some of the petals are padded.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Because the top petals are not adjacent to each other I could pad them all before I stitched them. They have a single layer of padding using four strands of cotton. The padding stitches are laid in the opposite direction to eventually top layer of silk.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The second layer of petals has less padding and can only be padded, then stitched once the petals in front of them have been stitched.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The third layer of petals have a layer of self-padding.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The remaining petals have no padding.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Well, I do think my stitching on this chrysanthemum is better than on those on Hanayama. I would be very disappointed if I saw no improvement in nine years of learning Japanese embroidery. However, I think there is still room for a lot of improvement. I have eleven more pointed petal chrysanthemums, plus some buds, to practise on!

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching