If you have never been away on a residential course or stitching retreat, I can tell you that you are missing out on a wonderful experience. The first time I went to Bournemouth for a Japanese Embroidery course I was so nervous and full of self doubt – my stitching wouldn’t be good enough; others would laugh at my efforts; they would be a well established group and not welcome newbies. Of course all of these fears were totally unfounded – it was a well established group but they made me and the two other newbies feel totally welcome; not only did they not laugh at my efforts but were supportive and encouraging; and while I still have tinges of doubt about the quality of my stitching, I am learning to view my ability in a different way. Firstly, I try not to expect myself to be perfect at my first (second, third …) attempt at a new technique (that’s not easy for a Virgo). Secondly, I have come to realise that above all I love doing the embroidery. While I still want my stitching to be the best I am capable of, I no longer (well rarely) spoil my enjoyment of actually stitching by striving to reach a level that I may not be able to achieve yet.
This year I returned to Bournemouth for my fourth course. I still get very excited about going. I look forward to seeing friends from previous classes and the prospect of making new ones. This is a five-day residential course, so there is no cooking, cleaning or washing to attend to, just stitching, stitching and more stitching.
Japanese embroidery is taught through a series of Phase pieces, each designed to teach a different group of techniques. As the class is mixed and students are working on different Phases, tutorials are given one to one or in small groups. Typically the tutor will demonstrate a new technique then give you the opportunity to practice it for yourself. It is comforting to have the tutors on hand if you don’t grasp the method at your first attempt. During the week you learn and practice all the new techniques required by the piece.
Phases I – III concentrate on the basic techniques of silk embroidery. Phase IV, the piece that I began at this year’s class, is all about gold work and I will be working on a design called Karahana – Gold Flower. I think that I will enjoy this Phase (I’ve enjoyed I – III immensely) because I am partial to couching. By the end of this Phase I expect to be totally cured or totally wedded to the technique for ever more.
Whether you are looking to learn a new style of embroidery, or wanting to spend time practicing your favourite discipline, I whole heartedly recommend that you attend either a residential course or a stitching retreat, if at all possible. All stitching time is valuable but when you can do it in the company of like-minded stitchers, and share tips and experiences, the benefits are immeasurable.