Monday, 18 February 2008

A Trio of Treasures

Jane is a fellow Japanese embroidery student whose stitching I admire greatly. When I first met Jane, three years ago, she was stitching the Phase III design that I am currently working on, Venerable Friends. As I looked around the work room, there were stitchers who were further along their Journey than Jane, but some of the techniques they were learning seemed beyond any level I ever hoped to attain when I was taking the first step on my journey. The beautiful woven technique that Jane was meticulously stitching was as high a goal as I dared set myself back then.

Jane is currently working on a challenge design called Bamboo Circle. Each of the four bamboo leaves is decorated differently. One of them is covered with tiny treasures. You can read about treasures and their symbolism on John Marshals site.
The cloud that I am currently stitching is covered with a design of interlocking circles known as Shippo that is a sort of shorthand for seven treasures. The method technique used here is called cut paper preparation (uwamoyo-nuki-nui). The design is cut from paper which is stitched onto the silk foundation. The stitching is then worked over the paper templates which serves as padding as well as a giving a neat edge to the shapes.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

This is the first time that I have used this technique and I somewhat naively thought that it would be relatively simple. In fact I found it rather difficult to begin with. The paper templates do give a crisp edge to the shape but only if you place the stitch correctly and it is very easy to catch the weft layer foundation stitches with your tekibori when you are stroking the flat silk. As with most techniques, I did improved with a little practice but it takes a lot of concentration.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Jane has progressed through the phases more rapidly than I have and this March at our class she will begin Phase IX. The design Jane has chosen to stitch is called Treasure Ship; it is a symbol of good tidings and blessings to come.

I hope all these treasures bring good tidings and blessings to Jane on the next stage of her journey.

I am about to start on a journey of a different kind. Later tonight I am going to Marrakesh with my partner and my parents for a week. I don't expect to be on-line while we are there, so my next blog will most likely be at the end of next week.

Until then, Happy Stitching

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Taking it Slower

Thank you for your ouches, I like a little sympathy when I’m hurt. The hand is healing quicker than I expected. It has put on a colourful display throughout the week (I should have taken a daily photo for the blog) and has been very sore but I don’t think any serious or lasting damage has been done.

The main thing is I can still stitch, but only for short periods at a time so progress on all fronts has been painfully slow (excuse the pun). I am right handed but most of the time I stitch with two hands. It is necessary for Japanese Embroidery but long before I began JE, I learnt to use two hands when I started to use a floor stand. Now it seems awkward to stitch only with one, but when needs must! More awkward for me is using the mouse right-handed. The first PC I used belonged to my left-handed boss who grumbled if I rearranged his layout, so I started to use the mouse with my left hand. It is very convenient as that leaves my right hand free for all the things I can’t do left-handed – that is everything except control the mouse!

Thank you also, Jeanne, for the You Make My Day Award, I am honoured that you have included my in your list. I have already listed ten of the blogs that make my day so I hope you will excuse me if I do not make another. However, I would like to say You Make My Day to everyone who takes the time to leave me a comment, it is always a thrill to read them.

Considering I decided the basic idea for my February TIF on the first day of the challenge and had a firm design in mind within a couple of days, I have not progressed very well. My design includes a lot of stitching so I decided to keep the format small, just 4 inches square. Approximately one third of that will be cross-stitched. I have worked out that I have to do just over 1500 cross stitches alone. Working slowly and for short periods, it is taking me a long time.

I am using the three shades of blue from the colour scheme and trying to fade gradually from one shade to the next. The stitching is a single strand of DMC worked over two threads on 35 count linen. Elizabeth of Quieter Moments very kindly sent me a sample of linen to try some pulled work stitches on. After playing for a few rows I realized it was just what I wanted for my TIF design. Thank you, Elizabeth.

By the way, did you spot my deliberate (not) mistake? And I don't mean the extra long stitch in the middle. As progress is so slow, both mistakes are staying!

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Of Roses and Thumbs

The nice man at the garden centre gave me half a dozen long-stemmed roses I had admired while he was extracting a large sum of money from my credit card ...

... for seven 5 ft yew trees I had just ordered for the next phase of our yew hedge ...

... which we are gradually planting to replace the rotten white fence along the side of our garden.

So that we can plant the trees as soon as they arrive, next weekend, we have dug the trench ...

... and started to remove the large lumps of concrete around the fence post.

While J swung a large sledge hammer at said lump of concrete, I supported the fence at a safe distance from said hammer. Unfortunately, the hammer caught on a branch an tore it from the lilac tree ...

... that fell directly onto my hand, crushing it between the branch and the fence post I was supporting ...

... which is why I am typing this with one hand :(

Saturday, 9 February 2008


© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Both of these clouds are stitched with two lines of staggered diagonal stitch. The top pic was stitched nearly a year ago when I first began Venerable Friends. The second pic was stitched today. Do you see any improvement? I think I do.

Happy Stitching

Friday, 8 February 2008

Persian Flower Challenge - 2

At first I thought that I would embroider the petals in bright jewel colours but when I was selecting threads as usual I went for the safe option. I am always hesitant with colours and rarely take risks with them.

These are the blue silks that I used for The Blue Eyed Boy and I chose them because I like their similarity to the denim. I have other things planned that I hope will lift the design but I still think that I should have taken a bolder approach.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Chrysanthemum - 4

I had a little unexpected stitching time this morning. Only an hour but it was just enough to complete the final two petals on this chrysanthemum.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

In terms of stitching time, this is the largest motif on this design and, although I have enjoyed stitching it, I am ready to move on. There are 25 petals but because every one is padded and most have two layers of padding, it is like stitching 60 petals, and these chrysanthemum petals are what I find most challenging to stitch.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Ouch! I don’t know if it is such a good idea to use the super macro feature on my cameral, it shows the faults in too much detail. I can see that the angle of the stitches is wrong on many of the petals; the outline has completely missed the marked line in places and the shape of some of the petals is not good.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

On the other hand! Some of this is pleasing. I like the shape of the petals; the one point open space between the petals is fairly consistent and I am pleased with the twist on the thread. Don’t you just love the way the light plays of the silk and how it changes colour even though the same shade has been used throughout (I can’t take credit for that bit).

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Compare the left hand side to the centre, which I stitched several months ago, and I think I can see definite improvement in my work. That pleases me!

Happy Stitching

Monday, 4 February 2008

Persian Flower Challenge

My Nan had a birthday book, much like a diary but not specific to any year. For each day there was personality description. I always thought the description on the day I was born fitted me perfectly. Among other things, it said that I would make elaborate plans that I would not carry through. So true! It is not that I am unreliable, if I make a commitment to someone else, I will honour it. It is more because I make far too many plans, and too elaborate plans to fit them all in. Something’s gotta give.

I keep old clothes and fabric remnants that I am going to do something with. I collect patterns and instructions for projects I am going to make and I see challenge after challenge that I want to join in with. There simply is not time for all of it.

Some time ago I kept an old denim skirt that cried out to be made into something else. Many months ago I saw a pattern for a handbag that I simply had to make and several weeks ago the Hand Embroidery Group began a new design challenge that featured a Persian Flower design that I really wanted to join in with. Suddenly I had an aha moment. I could embroidery the Persian Flower onto the flap of the handbag that I could make from the denim skirt.

The design is traced onto tissue paper and transferred to the denim by back stitching along the key lines with fine pale thread. As the first layer of stitching will cover each petal there is no point transferring the details at this stage.

I wanted the centre of the flower to look raised so have padded it with three layers of padding cotton and one layer of white silk. As the silk will be covered with the final stitching, this may seem extravagant, but the silk will smooth out the cotton padding and will look better than the cotton if there is any show through (which there will be).

This is not a raised as I would have liked but I’m not going to redo it. I thought that it needed jazzing up a bit and also thought that the long stitches would benefit from some couching so that they would not get caught so easily.

Again, this is not as regular as I would have liked but it was not easy stitching through I layer of calico, 1 layer of denim, 3 layers of cotton padding, 1 layer of silk and a layer of imitation silver metallic thread.

Happy Stitching

Friday, 1 February 2008

February TIF - Initial Thoughts

For the key concept in February’s Take it Further challenge, Sharon has posed a question, "What are old enough to remember?"

Many of the things that Sharon mentions stirred fit easily on my own list. Although we have always had an indoor bathroom, I remember a time when we had no television, telephone or car, in the UK today, living without any of these is a life style choice in most cases. I’m old enough to remember when no one I know even considered taking a holiday abroad. I’m old enough to remember when children played with toys and each other, rather than computer games and virtual opponents. I’m old enough to remember when family outings were to the local park rather than to a Theme Park and we went swimming in the river instead of Waterworld. I remember when the only labels on our clothes with the name labels our mother stitched into our PE kit and we all wore black plimsolls for games, rather than the latest fashion designer trainers. I think childhood was more fun when I was growing up and I considered doing a piece about that but as of yet don’t know how I would convey that.

When I started thinking about historic events, it occurred to that most of the things I remember are not really ‘my’ memories at all. I was not actually present at these events; indeed, some of the things I remember actually took place before I was born or while I was too young to have taken notice. Things from recent history that I have learnt about at school, or are revisited so often in the media that they have transplanted themselves in my memory.

I looked up the key events for the year I was born and some of those gave me plenty of inspiration to work with. One in particular caused me to think and research a little more. It was not the first event of it’s kind by any means, nor sadly the last and although it did not have any direct impact on my life, in some ways it has always been there, like a cloud on a distant horizon. This event conjures up a very powerful image and one that I think I can translate into embroidery.

I feel like it would be cheating to go with a concept that has come me so easily to but the image I have in mind is so powerful I feel compelled attempt it.

Happy Stitching