Tuesday, 30 September 2008


Why do I love Japanese Embroidery so much? Well there is the silk of course. Silk, IMHO, is simply the loveliest of all fibres. Then there are the designs – I find them exceptionally beautiful. Colour is something of a mystery to me but Japanese colour aesthetics speak to me – they use colour in a way that I never would but instinctively I know that they work.

All of these things make my soul soar but there is another less inspiring (to some people, perhaps!) reason why Japanese Embroidery and me go together. Measuring.

When Margaret Lewis came to the Oxford Branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild to talk about Japanese Embroidery I was in awe of the beauty and skill of her embroidery but the moment that I knew this was a technique that I had to explore was when Margaret told us that essential tools of her trade were rulers, set squares and triangles!

I know that there are some textile artists that cringe at the thought of measuring and stitching in straight lines but my orderly mind is never happier than when things are measured and calculated to be in precisely the right place!

I stitched the Higaki foundation way back in March 2007, and then covered it with tissue paper onto which I had traced the Higaki design. When I came to stitch the design I was not satisfied with the traced pattern. The lines did not seem to be evenly spaced and some of them were not aligned. This may have been a fault with the original design, or distortion from repeated photocopying or (more likely) because the tracing paper moved while I was making my tracing. Whatever the reason, it jarred with me so I decided to mark out the design with couching thread.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

With my guidelines in place I began stitching the design. At first I had to keep referring to the traced design and finished pictures, I could not formulate the pattern. The logical part of my brain was satisfied that everything was straight and aligned but somehow I could not separate the traced lines from the guidelines and the final stitching and see the pattern.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Only when I removed the guide stitches would my heart believe that my head knew what it was doing.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The tracing was only out by fractions but that was enough to unsettle my eye, now that every thing is aligned I feel much more comfortable with my Higaki.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The two pages are stitched separately and when I came to stitch the second half I found the pattern far more easily, this is almost certainly to do with experience (although limited), the stitching went quicker and my eye was more capable of spotting were the stitches should go.

When it comes to doing I am definitely suited to regular.

Happy Stitching


The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Fascinating! I enjoy seeing how the JE stitches are done and it is just as interesting to see how a measuring person approaches them. I am your exact opposite--counting and measuring are impossible for me to get right without a lot of painful effort.

Thank you for pulling the curtain aside so I can see how it all comes together.

Jane/Chilly Hollow

Plays with Needles said...

This higaki pattern in just beautiful. Love it!

Jane said...

A lovely garden fence to go with your chrsyanthemum. Well done. You are bing much missed by everyone here.

Hideko Ishida 石田英子 said...

Sometimes we are tend to be unconscious with our own culture when inside. Carol, you let me notice how beautiful Japanese embroidery is. Thank you very much. Hideko