Friday, 4 January 2008

Flutterbies - The Final Stitches

It is usual to sink the ends of the couched threads after all the other stitching is completed but I had already sunk the ends whenever I thought that they would not interfere with any remaining stitching. The exception was the antennae on the Blue Eyed Boy. For some reason I had decided that I would leave them until the very end - it seemed fitting to finish were it all began back in June. I don’t know why, but I sometimes make these subconscious choices and they become strangely important.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Actually sinking the threads is a simple task but it felt as if I were performing a ceremony or ritual - I took my time and savoured the final moments.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

After working on this for six months and having invested so much thought and emotion in it, I had mixed feelings about finally completing the stitching. Like coming to the end of a good book, I was eager to finish it yet, at the same time, I felt a degree of sadness that it would soon be over. Quite apart for the pleasure that I have had designing and stitching each butterfly, I have become emotionally attached to this particular project.

And here they are ... (by the way, if you didn't already know, when you click on any of the pictures, you will get an enlarged pic)

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Even though the stitching is complete the piece has to be ‘finished’ before it is removed from the frame. Finishing is the only part of Japanese embroidery I do not enjoy. It’s not that I don’t like any of the steps per se; it’s just that I am terrified that something will go wrong and my months of work will be ruined in an instance!

While working on my Japanese embroidery, I treat it with great reverence. I apply liberal amounts of hand cream to keep my hands as soft and smooth as possible. Before starting work, I wash my hands thoroughly and wash them again whenever they feel hot and sticky. I go through a little ritual of laying out my tools and materials, and usually I mediate for a few moments to rid myself of any tension before I commence stitching. When I am not working on it, the embroidery is covered to protect it from dust and even while I am working on it I only uncover the area that I am working on. Food and drink are not allowed anywhere near it. I regularly check the tension of the silk in the frame and tighten it if necessary and I checked it again before starting the finishing process. All of my tools and materials are carefully put away and the protective cover removed. Let the finishing commence.

First I take a velvet pad and firmly beat the embroidery to remove and dust or particles. Then, on the reverse of the embroidery, I apply glue made from wheat paste to all the stitched areas, taking care not to get any on the silk fabric. Traditionally most of the embroidery was done on kimono, obi or fukusa (a gift covering), which are all items that are worn or handled, gluing the stitching fixes it. I have wondered if it is necessary to glue embroidery that is to be framed, but until I know for certain that it is not, I will continue to glue mine. Then you take a damp towel and wipe first the glued parts to even out the glue and then, with a clean part of the towel wipe the underside of the unstitched areas to dampen the fabric. Now, with the work right side up, you steam the entire piece from the underside. The steam brightens the silk and really makes it shine but having kept anything remotely wet well away from the embroidery until now, this feels totally alien. Finally, you begin drying the embroidery by moving a very cool iron across the surface, which is covered by a piece of finishing paper. This is done on each side. The embroidery is then set aside to dry thoroughly.

This is a brief account of the process to illustrate the rough handling the embroidery receives after months of mollycoddling. This is in no way a tutorial and I seriously recommend you don’t attempt this based on this description alone.

Happy Stitching


glaucia said...

Hi Carol,
First of all, Congratulations for the finished work. I´ve been following it since the beginning through the list and your blog, and I´m enchanted. Not only because it´s stunning, very beautiful work, but also because of the way you wrote about it and all the respect you have with your stitch. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Have a nice 2008!

Melissa said...

Wow Amazing! It's beautiful, stunning!!! You did amazing work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol
Beautiful work!!, I like it!

Sue said...

Hi Carol Its lovely and I can't wait to see it for real.I also know that it will be more stunning when I see it. See you soon Love Sue XX

Sequana said...

I'm so pleased you have finished this project, but I'm a little sad too. It's been such fun watching.

It's absolutely beautiful......

Anonymous said...

Carol - this is beautiful - I can understand why you don't enjoy the finishing process much - doing some of those things must be nerve wracking!

Debra Dixon said...

Just gorgeous!

KV said...

Although I have seen each individual butterfly come into being, it was still breathtaking to see all of them at once in the completed piece.

A magical piece of work exquisitely done . . .

Kathy V in NM

NormaH said...

Exquisite! that is the only word I can think of that does all your love and hard work any justice at all! Simply EXQUISITE!!!!!

Hideko Ishida said...

Hi Carol, I am leaving this comment to let you know that I have tagged you on my blog for a Make My Day Award. Hideko

Anonymous said...

Carol-Anne, I've just tagged you with a "You make my day" award. Thank you for all your work and posts that have done just that. This post especially is such a stand out as the final stitching has been made to this piece. It is beautiful!

Please feel perfectly free to pass on the award or not just as you please.
Elizabeth at

Jane said...

Hi Carol, how lovely to see the flutterbies in all their glory. I think they have turned out beautifully. Well done.
I always find the finsihing process a bit daunting too, deep breath, calm thoughts, and go for it.


Amy a.k.a. dragonryder4 said...

All I can say is WOW !! I have never seen anything like these butterfly's they are just amazing !! I will be comming by to visit very often .
Hugs and have a great 2008 :)

Melissa said...

I've tagged you for the Make My Day Award see my blog for rules if you wish to participate.

coral-seas said...

Thank you for the lovely comments you have left regarding Flutterbys.

This has been one of the most enjoyable projects I have worked on, made even more pleasurable by being able to share my progress and recieve support and feed back from you all.


die-fadenwerkstatt said...

Very, very beautiful!

Tenshi said...

This is some truly beautiful work! I really like the "daddy butterfly", the sakura flowers and the pattern could easily get cluttered - but it is simply exquisite!

If I were ever able to make something this pretty I would be so proud!