Thursday, 29 November 2007

Shibori no Hana

One day I would like to do SharonB’s on-line class "Develop a Personal Library of Stitches". I don’t feel I can commit to such an intensive class yet and I have never done an on-line class before, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a short class as a taster. Looking at the classes on offer at Joggles, "Shibori no Hana" caught my eye and I signed up. The class began the day after I returned from Cambridge but my supplies did not arrive until Monday this week. The shibori silk ribbons are delicious. The actual ribbon is about 5 inches wide but the arashi shibori reduces the width to about half an inch. By gently steaming and gently teasing out the ribbon you can relax the pleats and the ribbon gets wider. The ribbons are dyed, discharged and over dyed to give a two-tone effect and being silk, the colours are glowing. You can see how the ribbon is made here.

In lesson one I learned how to make a leaf and a simple flower. I found the instructions simple to follow and was able to create a flower that resembled the one pictured on the instructions.

Take a look at these beautiful flowers created by Shibori Girl.

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Long-legged Knots

The third flower that I wanted to start during the classes used another technique devised by Tamura-san especially for this design. The stitch is a variation of another one called blister stitch. This is worked by first making a round knot that is later covered by a straight stitch of flat silk. Tamura-san’s variation uses long-legged knots that are also covered with a straight stitch. I have not done blister stitch or long-legged knots in any of my Phase designs so I asked Ishida-san to demonstrate the stitch to me.

Round knots are similar to colonial knots and long-legged knots are round knots with a leg. The trick is to get the knot to stay at the end of the leg. Watching Ishida-san work, I realised that I have not been working my round knots correctly. It would have been easier for me to concentrate on keeping the knot in place if I had round knots of pat but I wanted to complete some while Ishida-san was still available to advise me so I persevered and finally started to get the hang of long-legged knots. I have yet to add the straight stitches that complete the stitch.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I will get an opportunity to practice making round knots when I add them to the flower centres. Because I knew that the knots would be stitched on top of the yellow foundation, I concentrated on making it as flat as possible in the way Tamura-san had described and I saw his son demonstrate. It still seems strange to me to have spaces between the stitches but I think this is to allow for the silk spreading when the other stitches are added.

This is all I managed to do in 3 days of class but I was more concerned with improving my technique than getting a lot done and, as I feel I learnt a lot in those three days, I am satisfied with what I have done.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

As much as I want to continue with this, it has to go away for a while now so that I can focus on finishing Flutterbys.

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Pointed Flower, petals

I have always been particularly found of padded stitches; I like the added dimension that padding gives. However, when viewing the Hoitsu Scroll stitched by the professional staff of Kurenai-Kai, I was really struck by how incredibly flat some of the stitching is. Unless you look very closely, some of the flowers look as if they are printed onto the background. During the morning lecture, Tamura-san impressed upon us that for Step 1 of the petals on the Pointed Flower we should stitch the foundation as flat as possible. He described how he wanted us to make the stitches barely touch; in fact, he said that a little fabric showing between the stitches is desirable.

I found this concept very difficult; I have always striven to cover the fabric entirely, so much so, that I tend to pack in too many stitches. I had to really discipline myself to achieve this with the first petal and was rather satisfied my stitching especially when Tamura-san nodded his approval* when he viewed it. I’m afraid I allowed this accolade to turn my head, and did not apply myself so carefully to the second petal falling back into my normal stitching pattern. When Tamura-san and his son next viewed my work they commented that I should make the next petal more like the first than the second. I was less satisfied with the second petal already and, upon hearing their appraisal, I promptly removed the stitches.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Shortly after this Arata-san was demonstrating to another student how to stitch the petals. Several others and myself gathered to watch. My tutor has shown me before how to keep the tension on the silk while stroking it with the tekobari but I don’t think that it really registered - when you start to learn there are so many things to take on board. Watching Arata-san stitch a penny dropped and I returned to my frame eager to try what I had just seen. I found the technique a little awkward and cumbersome at first but immediately I thought I could see an improvement in the flatness and shine of my silk. I will continue to practice and hopefully my stitching will benefit. I stitched 2 more petals before the end of class and on the final viewing for the day, both Tamura-san and Arata-san commented that the petals were an improvement on the one that I had removed.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

* Several times during the day Tamura-san would walk around the class, sometimes with his assistant, to observe each persons progress. As he walked around I could occasionally hear him make observations or suggestions. The first 2 or 3 times Tamura-san stopped at my frame, he looked intently at my work and moved on without comment. During lunch I mentioned to another student that I found this a little disconcerting but she explained that no comment meant that was satisfied with my progress. Over the course of three days, I found that if I looked up during his visit, he would nod if my work were satisfactory. If he thought something could be improved upon, he would explain how I could achieve that and when he thought I had done something well, he would say so.

Happy Stitching

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Pointed Petal Flower

While the box chart gave one method for completing the centre of the ‘Pointed Petal Flower’, during the morning lecture Tamura-san gave a detailed description of an alternative method. It was difficult to miss his obvious desire that some of us attempt the ‘mischievous effect’ that he himself had devised. The central circle of the flower is already divided into a grid on the printed design. In both the box chart and the alternative method the first step is to work round knots in the center of each square.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Step two differed according to which design you chose to stitch. The box chart called for a blister stitch to be worked over each round knot but Tamura-san’s alternative method suggested working a weft layer foundation over the entire motive before working step three.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

For both methods, Step 3 is to stitch the grid in #1 gold and to couch the intersections with a small straight stitch.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I am a bit of a teacher’s pet, but also I like to experiment with something new so there are no surprises as to which method I chose!

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Double Flower

I said that the first 3 flowers each contained a special technique, actually this one didn’t! The flower is Tamura-san’s own design, based on one in his inspiration source. The central flower is a cherry blossom, stitched in 3-1 twist with self-padding. Self-padding means that the same thread is used for padding as for the decorative stitching. I chose to stitch this element first as it is one that I am familiar with, I thought that it would calm my nerves, and by and large it did.

The face petal (the largest petal) is always stitched first. The padding stitches are laid perpendicular to vertical top layer. Each petal is padded and stitched before starting the next petal.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

After the face, the two arms are stitched and finally the legs. One leg always sits slightly under the other and this leg always stitched last. This may all sound very controlling but hundreds of years of modifying and improving technique have shown this to give the best finish.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

When all five petals are stitched, the stamens are added. In this case they are created with a single stitch of 3-1 twist with gold. Normally, straight stitches are couched, but Tamura-san’s design stated no couching. The central flower is completed with a single round knot in the same pink/gold twist, that Tamura-san called a seed.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Unfortunately, nearly every photograph I took during the classes is out of focus, I have salvaged some that hopefully demonstrate the various stages.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Embroidery Bridge Between East and West

While in Cambridge, I attended a 3-day class. In all the classes I have attended previously the student’s are working on various Phase pieces or practice designs. In this class, everyone was stitching Embroidery Bridge Between East and West, a special design created for the World Exhibition. During the mornings we attended a lecture by the designer and tutor, Mr Shuji Tamura, President of the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta. During these sessions Tamura-san explained how he came up with the design and what it represented to him. The inspiration came from a design that Tamura-san had traced many years ago, the origins of which he has since forgotten but he said that the design had always spoken to him and he had long since intended to create something from it. Tamura-san explained that the Victorian style urn represents the West and the oriental flowers represent the East. The ornate supports at the top left and right contain the hidden letters ‘E’ and ‘W’. The inspiration for this come from a Japanese art form know as Ashi-de (reed and hand) in which calligraphy is hidden within the painting. The string of spheres suspended from the supports represents the colour preferences of the Japanese and Western ladies that Tamura-san has taught. Japanese ladies, he says, have a preference for the mauve used predominately on the right, where as Western ladies prefer the blue used on the left.

On the first morning we were given a design box chart, a chart that details the colours, threads and stitches used for each element. During the morning lectures, Tamura-san explained some unfamiliar techniques that he had devised specially for this design.

During the class we were given free choice of which order to stitch the elements. In Japanese Embroidery, you begin with the foreground and work the background elements last. Three of the flowers have no other element in front of them so either could be worked first. Each of them contained one of the special techniques that we learned about in the lecture. I aimed to stitch at least some of each of these flowers so that I could attempt the special techniques during the class.

I needn’t have wasted time worrying about the classes, Tamura-san and his assistants - his son, Arata-san and Ishida-san, one of the professional embroiderers from Kurenai-Kai - were wonderful teachers. I really learnt a lot in just 3 days and think that this will help me improve my stitching.

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 18 November 2007


I've been sent this lovely charm by Pat Winter for making a Comfort Doll. Thank you so much Pat, while there was no need for you to send anything, I am thrill and honoured to receive my charm. I really enjoyed making the dolls; it is we that owe you something for all that you have done towards this project. Thank you.

A few people have expressed interest in making Fairy Shoes. I am happy to say that they are a project in the current edition of Stitch by the Embroiderer's Guild. It doesn't say on their website, but I think the article must be by Annette Emms.

Happy Stitching

Friday, 16 November 2007

Evening Bags

In addition to the stunning kimonos and obi worn by the Japanese ladies, several beautiful hand embroidered bags were in evidence at the Get Together Party, some of them stitched by their owners.

I love this beaded bag.

This beautiful bag was stitched by Sachiko-san who sat beside me throughout the meal and did an excellent job of translating between Huyome-san (spelling?) who spoke little English and the English ladies who spoke no Japanese at all. Thank you, Sachiko-san.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

World Exhibition - Review

I have had the most wonderful time in Cambridge. If you have the opportunity to go to the World Exhibition between now and 18 November, don’t miss it. The exhibition includes some of the best embroidery I have ever seen.

There are several kimonos and obi exhibited. Unfortunately, photography was not permitted but you can see two of the obi on display here and here. There is a wonderful series of embroideries of Japanese flowers. These are done rather like a botanical study and the flowers are very realistic.

A group of embroiderers from the UK have reproduced a fan screen consisting of five heavily embroidered panels, and extraordinary undertaking. In addition to these, all the Phase pieces and many of the practice pieces, stitched by students from Europe and the USA are included.

The highlights of the exhibition are the Kombuin Fukusa and the Hoitsu Scroll stitched by the professional embroiderers at Kurenai-kai in Japan. My favourite is the Scroll, which is in fact four scrolls, a faithful reproduction in silk embroidery of Hoitsu’s painted scrolls depicting the birds and flowers of the four seasons. The exquisite design must be credited to the artist, but the sublime embroidery adds another dimension to an already beautiful work of art. It is magnificent.

On Saturday evening I attended a get together meal for approximately 100 students, professional embroiderers and staff of JEC and Kurenai-kai. The Japanese ladies wore kimono and obi, so I have a few pictures of some of the embroidery I have been enjoying for the past few days. The pictures far from do justice to the workmanship of the embroiderers.

These elegant designs are worn by married ladies; only by a young, unmarried girl can wear a flamboyant obi like the one below.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Japanese Embroidery World Exhibition

I am going to Cambridge for a few days. I shall be meeting up with friends from my Bournemouth classes and attending the Japanese Embroidery World Exhibition.

Members of Kurenai-Kai in Japan have reproduced thirty-one Kombuin Fukusa, these and other embroideries will be on display at the Kaetsu Centre until 18 November.

From Sunday to Tuesday I will be working on improving my embroidery skills at a class. Embroidery Bridge Between East and West is a special design created for the World Exhibition.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The design is work on white/gold kimono silk; the weft threads are alternately white silk and gold metallic. This will be the first time I have stitched on metallic fabric and I am more that a little apprehensive about it. Phase III was the minimum requirement for enrolling and I am currently on Phase III but to be truthful, I am not sure that my stitching skills are good enough yet. This is not me being modest, I know how many times I have to redo some bits and I am told that metallic backgrounds will not stand much reworking. However, it is a wonderful opportunity to meet new stitchers and to learn from the masters, and you have to push yourself sometimes.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I took particular care framing up, I did not want to damage the fabric before I began the class, nor could I put aside the thought of how much this small piece of fabric cost. When I told a colleague that these 15 inches of silk cost 81 pounds, she asked how I could justify spending that on material. I told her that I no longer justify spending money on my hobby – I work hard for my money; I pay my bills in full and on time; and I save something every month for embroidery so I can spend it without guilt. None-the-less, I am still terrified that I will damage it before the class!

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Plimoth Sampler - Finished

So, here is the completed sampler. I was able to stitch each motif in an evening and thoroughly enjoyed all the stitches, especially those that I had never tried before. The sampler is now in the post on it’s way back to Plimoth Plantation.

If you haven’t already paid a visit to The Embroiderer’s Story, I recommend that you do and, if you are so inclined, order a sampler kit and support this amazing project. Half the cost of the kit goes directly to the project and all the completed samplers will be used as part of the Exhibition due to open next year.

On a completely different note, I received an email at the weekend to let me know that my first Comfort Doll has finally found her way to Pat Winter. I am so happy as I thought she had got lost.

While I am urging people to take part, this is another really worthy cause. I love making things and often don’t know what to do with them once they are finished, what better than to send it to someone who could do with a little comfort in their life. If you don’t have time to make a doll, visit the blog anyway and see some of the amazing dolls that have been donated.

Happy Stitching

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Plimoth Sampler - Knot Stitch

I found this the most challenging of the stitches on the sampler. Again, the instructions are very clear and I was able to follow how to do the stitch. The difficult part, for me, was getting the correct tension and maintaining an even twist in the thread. However, I enjoyed the stitched and really like the braided look of the line of stitches - Braid Stitch is an alternative name for Knot Stitch.

I would like to try this stitch in a firmer thread or even a metallic thread as I think they would make a nicely defined looping stitch.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Plimoth Sampler - Ceylon Stitch

I am having so much fun with this sampler. All the filling stitches, are fairly new to me, but the instructions that come with the kit could not be more clear. Not only are they well written they also have both line drawings and photographs of each step.

This worm is first outlined with backstitch and then filled with Ceylon Stitch. It took me a while to sort out the tension but otherwise I found this stitch simple and very pleasing.

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Plimoth Sampler - Detached Buttonhole Needlelace

I have done detached buttonhole before but never as needlelace.

Part of the outline is worked as back stitch, and part of the outline is a couched thread. After the detached buttonhole with reverse is completed, the couching stitches are removed so that part of the buttonhole 'fabric' is released from the background fabric.

Happy Stitching

Plimoth Sampler- Spiral Trellis

I thought that trellis stitch was fun, spiral trellis is even more fun! I have tried this stitch once before - on my first comfort doll. Then I had a few problems with tension because I did not 'drop' stitches. This time I paid a lot more attention to tension and I think the results are much better.

Happy Stitching

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Plimoth Sampler

A blog that I am following with particular interest at the moment is The Embroiderer’s Story. The Plimoth Plantation is recreating a 17th-century Embroidered Jacket and the blog is chronicling their progress. The jacket is exquisite and the team are sharing incredible information regarding their research, the materials used, the history of the design and stitches, not to mention frequent bulletins on the actual embroidery. I can’t tell you how much I would like to go to one of their stitching sessions and work on this jacket.

As that seems unlikely to happen, I am doing the next best thing. Before you can join a stitching session you are required to stitch a sampler. These samplers are also available to those who cannot attend. Half the cost of the sampler goes towards the project and the sampler itself is returned to the Plantation to be used in the exhibition. The Jacket will be in a glass cabinet to protect it, but visitors will be allowed to handle the samplers so they can see the stitches up close.

I received my sampler about a month ago but only now have time to start it. So far I have worked two of the motifs.

The sample is worked on the same linen as the actual jacket except it is white where as the jacket is cream, and uses the same silks - soie perlee. I've never used this thread before. I like it a lot; it has a tight twist and lovely sheen. Not in the kit, unfortunately, is a sample of the 'sparkly' thread also used on the jacket. The best photo I can find of it is the photo of the fox gloves under 'nitty gritty', here. If I have understood this correctly, this thread has been specially commissioned for this project and is not currently available to the general public. I for one would like some of this thread in my stash, I hope that the manufacturers decide to release it for general sale.

The top motif has a reverse chain outline and the filling stitch is detached buttonhole with return. The ‘return’ is the straight stitch from the right to the left so that you always work the buttonhole stitched from left to right. I really enjoyed working the motif but found the small points at the top of the calyx difficult and don’t think that I joined them into the chain outline correctly.

The second motif has a back stitched outline and the filling stitch is trellis stitch. I have never worked this stitch before but found it relatively simple to do (although I am not certain that I worked the stitch at the end of each row correctly. I like the look of this stitch a little more than the detached buttonhole stitch.

Happy stitching