Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Happy 5th Birthday, Garstang Japanese Embroidery Group

The weekend before last, I spent a few days on a Japanese embroidery course in Garstang with some dear friends.


Sue and I often joined the Garstang Japanese embroidery group and we had helped at the Stitch and Creative Craft Shows in Manchester when Denise and Jane were considering teaching JE in the region. We meet several of their first student's at one or more of those shows. We didn't go to the first two classes when all of the students were doing the taster class or beginning Phase I but when we first went to Garstang in November 2010, we immediately felt part of this lovely group.

I had been looking forward to the weekend with mixed feelings. This would be our first embroidery course since we said goodbye to Sue; it was bound to be emotional. Also, Sue and I usually travelled there and back together and I knew I was going to miss her during the long drive. For the first two days we were all very brave but on the Saturday morning our British reserve crumbled and it was all Colleen's fault!

Saturday, 11 October marked the 5th anniversary of the first day of the first Garstang Japanese Embroidery course and Colleen had secretly planned to mark the occassion. She had commissioned the most beautiful celebratory cake.


At first, there was delight at the surprise and admiration of the cake but we could not celebrate the occasion without thinking of our absent friend. The flood gates of emotion opened and, for a short while, we gave way to our pent up grief. But I think it did us good.


... and the cake was delicious!

That evening we remembered Sue with laughter rather than tears. Denise invited us to play Uno, one of Sue's favourite games. Denise had never played before and was surprised at the slightly ruthless nature of the game. Colleen and Jane, particularly, seemed to have a vendetta against each other. But it was all good natured fun, we were not keeping score or even counting who won the most hands. I think that Sue was smiling down on us and perhaps rearranging the deck so that Colleen and Jane always had a card that forced the other to pick up or miss a turn whenever they called Uno!


Happy 5th Birthday, Garstang Japanese Embroidery Group and many Happy Stitching Returns

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 4

By the time I had stitched all fifty petals on the flowers around the heart I was getting the hang of oyster stitch and starting to enjoy it.

© Carol-Anne Conway

So much so, in fact that I decided to use oyster stitch for the leaves as well. I tried to make the leaves longer and thinner than the petals. Because I had chosen a sheer fabric to show up the shadow work, the trailing threads also show through but I rather like the 'sketchy' effect that creats.

© Carol-Anne Conway

There are only twenty leaves around so it did not take me very long to complete those and the stem stitched stem, which I think helps to define the shape of the heart.

© Carol-Anne Conway

This was a fun project, made more so for learning two new techniques, and I am quite pleased with the finished piece.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 3

On projects such as this, I like to try stitches/techniques that I have not done before or ones I have tried without great success. One of the stitches that came up in Sharon Boggon's Take A Stitch Tuesday was oyster stitch. At that time, I completely failed to learn the stitch but I thought that it was the perfect stitch for the flowers around the heart so I thought I would give it another go. I reviewed Sharon's instructions. I also took a look at Mary Corbet's oyster stitch video guide and looked up the stitch in the stitch directories I have. When learning something new, I find it helpful to consult as many resources as possible, what is not readily understandable in one may be clearer in another. On this occasion I found Mary's video guide to be most useful but I had to watch it several times before I put all of the steps together and I had to make quite a few stitches before it could do it without reference to the video.

The first step was never a problem for me, it is just a twisted chain stitch.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The next step was the one that foxed me originally. You slide the needle under the bottom 'leg' of the twisted chain then take the needle down inside the loop just formed. This, apparently, makes a rosette chain stitch.

© Carol-Anne Conway

© Carol-Anne Conway

Pull the thread through but leave a nice loop around the rosette chain and ring the needle back to the front of the fabric inside that loop. Take a small stitch over the loop thus making a chain stitch around the rosette chain.

© Carol-Anne Conway

© Carol-Anne Conway

What I learn was that it helps if you leave the loops bigger than you want them until you insert the needle into the fabric for the next stitch, and then draw up the loop until it rests against the needle. I experimented with how much space I left between the point were I came up through the fabric and the point were I went down to give me plumper petals.

Happy Stitching

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 2

I'm not sure whether the technique I used on the lettering was one of my own invention or an existing technique that I have not come across yet, or simply a combination of two existing stitches.

© Carol-Anne Conway

On the finer strokes of the letters, I did a simple stem stitch but where the strokes broadened I switched to working shadow stitch.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I think it worked quite well.

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Lest We Forget - Part 1

Earlier this year the South East West (SEW) Region of the Embroiderers' Guild held a competition to coincide with The Regional Day. 2014 is the centenary of the start of the First World War so the theme for the Branch completion was 'Lest We Forget'. Oxford Branch created an album of 'Sweetheart' for their entry. This is the card I contributed to the album.

I based my design on a card I found via a Google search for sweetheart cards.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Many of the original cards are stitch on fine, translucent fabrics, so I used a fine muslin from my stash.

© Carol-Anne Conway

To emphasis the translucence of the fabric, I stitched the rose in shadow stitch. I have never used this technique before so there was a bit of a learning curve.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I varied the stitch size to give different densities of colour. I think it works better with closely worked stitches than the more open stitching.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Empresse of Flowers - Part 2

On the second day of the course we again split into two groups. My group picked up were we left off the previous day, experimenting with stitches for our finished piece.

I tried out a suggestion offered by Nicola for the cornflower. Nicola described a technique that she had seen on an extant 17th century embroidery where the petals were divided into three distinct shades of blue rather than the blended change of colour achieved by using long and short stitch shading. In Nicola's version the divisions follow the zig-zagged petal edge. First, I drew guide lines for the divisions and then outlined the petal with split stitch.

© Ornamental Embroidery/Carol-Anne Conway

Starting at the outer edge, I satin stitched the first section in the darkest shade of blue.

© Ornamental Embroidery/Carol-Anne Conway

I split stitched a line along the edge of the next section before filling it with the medium blue, and likewise with the final section, which I filled with the palest shade.

© Ornamental Embroidery/Carol-Anne Conway

© Ornamental Embroidery/Carol-Anne Conway

I don't like the appearance of this method as much as the blended shading but I think it will be interesting to have both techniques on my final piece so will do the cornflower this way and use long and short stitch for the honeysuckle.

In the afternoon, my group were taught plated braid stitch by Lynn. I have done PBS before on the Goldwork sampler, in deed, I experimented with several variations of this stitch but I think you can never learn enough about a technique, especially a complex stitch like PBS so was looking forward to the lesson. Lynn had prepared very good notes for us to follow and went through the steps one by one. Although PBS is not a counted stitch, we used a low count canvas and tapestry wool to learn the stitch before having a go with gold thread on our muslin.

Unless I did it very regularly, I would not be able to do PBS without refreshing my memory so I needed Lynn's input but having done the stitch before, after a few repetitions I was stitching quite confidently.

Throughout the weekend, Nicola spent some time with each of us developing our own design guide, making final colour and stitch choices. This is how I spent the last part of the second afternoon. I had already, more or less, decided on the colours and techniques I would use for the peas, strawberries and cornflower but we considered different options for details I had not yet thought about, like the peas and the strawberry flower. We also discussed options for the honeysuckle, which, as previously mentioned, I think I will work in long and short stitch shading. Nicola discussed some options other than PBS for the trailing vine, including an interesting zig-zag satin stitched version she had seen on an extant embroidery. I think I will probably do mine in PBS; I rather enjoy the stitch and would like to work more than the short, sample lengths I have done thus far.

© Ornamental Embroidery/Carol-Anne Conway

This was a great two-day workshop. I really enjoyed the format of developing our own design ideas for the piece. Lynn and Nicola are extremely talented and knowledgeable and I took full advantage of the opportunity to learn new techniques and better acquaint myself complex techniques that I was not fully confident with.

Happy Stitching

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sue Noble

On Sunday, 13 February, 2005 I arrived in Bournemouth in advance of my first ever Japanese embroidery class. It was a week that was to change my life in ways that I could never imagine not only because of the embroidery but because of the people who were about to become a part of my life.

To be honest, I don't really remember many of the people from that first week but there are a few. Margaret our tutor, of course, and Jenny and Penny, who assisted her and took care of the Phase I students. There were my fellow Phase I students, Maggie and Ruth, especially Maggie with whom I burnt the midnight oil. Beyond these I only clearly remember Jane who sat behind and to the left of me, she was stitching Venerable Friends at that time, and next to Jane, behind me, was Sue. Sue who it is difficult not to notice and remember because, like the sun, her presence warms and brightens the day.

After the 5 day course, I returned home and continued my stitching alone, eagerly anticipating going back the next year. When February finally came around and I returned to Bournemouth, it was Sue who remembered me and welcomed me back like an old friend. Sue befriended everyone and drew them into the Japanese embroidery family.

Sue had started learning JE two years before me but life put a spanner in the works and her journey was delayed for a while. In 2005, the year of my first class, Sue resumed stitching and completed her Phase I, then went on to stitch Bouquet from the Heart of Japan. For the next few years Sue and I learnt Japanese embroidery very much in parallel, sitting together in class and often making the same choice of Phase piece; Suihiro, Venerable Friends, Karahana, Himotaba and Loving Couple.

In 2008, Sue and I embarked on another adventure together, Japanese Bead embroidery. This was something I had wanted to do for some time and when I told Sue that I had heard of a UK tutor she said that she would also like to learn beading. Over the next few years we attended several classes together - at our tutor's home, at Sue's or at the Weaver's Loft - or just getting together for the weekend to spend time beading together. We worked hard to complete our Phase IV beading so we could attend Phase V class at the Japanese Embroidery Center. We had a fantastic 2 weeks in Atlanta and I have very fond memories of that trip. Sue made many news friends, charming our fellow students with her own special brand of sunshine, as she did everyone she met. In the following months, first Sue, then I completed our Phase V beading and qualified to teach Japanese Bead Embroidery. We taught our first class together in Garstang, April of this year and started planning for the future.

On Monday, 25 August, 2015, much to the dismay of everyone who knew Sue, she passed away following a short and unexpected illness. We are still reeling from the shock. Today several of Sue's Japanese embroidery family gathered with her daughters, mother, brothers and sisters to say good bye to a wonderful friend and to celebrate a remarkable life. It was lovely that so many of Sue's friends were able to be there, and I know that many more would have been there if it had been possible. The sun shone throughout the day, a sure sign that Sue was smiling down on us. Sue leaves a huge hole in our lives and it is difficult to imagine our family without her.


Sleep well, Sue, we will always miss you.