Sunday, 13 April 2008

Eyes in the Tips of my Fingers

Most of my mind was focused on couching #4 gold metallic to Karahana but as always, part of my mind drifted away to do its own thing. It began with the related thought that I needed at least two more hands for gold work. The two I have are needed for stitching, the left hand under the frame and the right hand on top. A third one is definitely needed to position and keep tension on the koma (cones onto which the metallic threads are wound). A fourth would come in useful to hold the tekobari and nudge the threads into place.

I then started thinking what other 'equipment' might I find useful. Well, eyes on the tips of my left fingers to help me see where to position the needle under the frame would be useful, as would a retractable blade under a right finger nail, then I could cut threads that I am holding in both hands so that they don’t unravel or kink when I let go to reach for the scissors. As I was wondering what else I required my mind was brought back to the task in hand - my right hand had detected a problem. As I drew the thread up to the top, it felt too short compared to the previous stitch. Investigating with the sightless fingers of my left hand I found a small knot in the thread about half an inch from the fabric. The knot has to be removed or there will be no tension on the previous couching stitch. Gently tugging with both hands did not do the trick so I had to turn the frame over in order to work on the knot. At this point the wandering part of my mind thought that if I had a telescopic neck it would save me the trouble of tuning the frame. I say trouble because all the equipment I am working with is placed on the end fabric on the frame, that all had to be removed and as I am couching metallic threads, the koma have to be secured by tying them to the frame.

Since I don’t have a retractable pointy tool under any of my finger nails, I used my tekobari to tease the knot open. The tekobari is the tool I use for stroking the flat silk. It is made of smooth steel and has an extremely sharp point. As well as laying silk it is deployed for many other uses, like holding the metallic threads in place while you couch them, gently moving stitches aside so you can position your needle with splitting the thread, nudging errant stitches into place and undoing knots! In fact the tekobari is so useful that is the second most used tool in Japanese embroidery, after needles.

Actually I was quite pleased to turn the frame over. In theory, you don’t see the back of your Japanese embroidery until all the stitching is complete. I find that stitchers generally fall into one of two camps regarding the back of their work. There are those who feel that as long as the front is right, they are not worried what the back looks like and there are those who like the back of the work to be neat. I fall into the latter category. I tend to think that if the back is right then the front will be too. When I turned my frame over, I was really pleased with what I saw. Firstly, I thought the pattern forming on the back looked pretty (yes, I do know how sad I am) and secondly, because the neat regular marks on the back made me more confident about the stitching on the front.

I guess I don’t need those eyes on my fingertips, it seems that when I relax my mind and let my fingers think for themselves, they can see exactly what they are doing!

Back to the couching round and round. Happy Stitching.


shiborigirl said...

i can't even begin to understand how you do such lovely work but i'm learning bit by bit from reading your blog. thanks for the explanation on the gold leafed silk thread on my LACMA post. i always wondered how the gold leafing stays intact on the thread as it is pulled through the fabric......seems tricky!

Jackie said...

A really good description about extra hands,I know just what you mean. Happy stitching


paulahewitt said...

Thanks for the explanation of the tekobari. I enjoy your explantions of your embroiderery. Like you I care what the back looks like (but mine rarely looks neat)

Jane said...

I'm in the camp that doesn't mind what the back looks like. But I do think you've come up with some cool ideas to help with our embroidery. I wonder if we have any geneticists in our group who could develop these extra bits for us!!