Friday, 20 February 2009

Fabulous Fabrics

Japanese Embroidery is taught in Phases. You begin by learning the basis stitches and techniques, at each Phases you build on what you have already learnt and introduce more advanced techniques. While you are learning embroidery stitches, more subtly you are also learning about fabrics.

At Phase I, Hanayama, I was barely aware of the fabric. I know that it is a crepey fabric and vaguely remember thinking that it was a very forgiving fabric that readily healed whenever I removed stitches. I removed a lot of stitches during Phase I but the fabric withstood everything I could throw at it.

I noticed the fabric for Phase II, Suihiro, immediately. It has a crisper texture from the Phase I silk and has small, shiny splodges woven into it. Splodges is not a pretty enough word to describe the effect but I cannot think of a more appropriate one.

The fabric for Phase III, Venerable Friends, is much heavier. It needs to be to support the padding and superimposed stitches that are the techniques taught at this Phase.

Phases IV, gold work, also needs the support of a heavier fabric. My Karahana is stitched on red Shioze.

During the first 10 Phases to accreditation, the student is encouraged to us a metallic fabric at least once. Nishijin has narrow strips of gold-leafed paper alternating with silk threads for the weft. I have heard tales of how unforgiving Nishijin can be; the paper in the weft threads does not heal in the same way that silk fibers do. The stitcher cannot afford to make too many, nor too obvious, mistakes. I am stitching Phase V, Himotaba, on Nishijin<. When the fabric arrived, I was immediately struck by it's rich, smooth finish.

My piece of fabric comes from either the beginning or the end of the bolt. The weaver began with a section of pure silk before introducing the gold paper. On the plain silk I have placed a single strip of gold paper that frayed away from the raw edge.

It is a beautiful fabric but I am a little bit intimidated by it. I still have to remove a lot of stitching, sometimes more that one. Will the fabric withstand this? Now that I have begun stitch, albeit only the prep work, I like the feel of the fabric. I am finding it easier to place the stitches precisely than with any of the fabrics I have worked with before. I think this is because the needle pierces the paper where as the needle finds a path between the threads on purely silk fabrics.

I was horrified when I realised that I had couched the imitation gold in the wrong place. When I removed the threads, I could see what they mean about the fabric not healing; there was a clear stitching line left in the fabric. Fortunately this will be covered by stitching. Also, the original printed line was now barely visible. I decided to outline along this line with Japanese running stitch. Partly to make the line more visible when I come to do the stitching; partly to give more support to the stitching.

Despite taking great care, I removed a short section of paper along with the couched gold. I sticks out like a sore thumb, but again it is fortunate that it lies within the cord and will be covered by stitching.

Happy stitching.


MargB said...

This is fascinating fabric. Thankyou for showing us what the gold 'paper thread' looked like. I am not surprised it is so unforgiving. There are depths to Japanese embroidery that I have never dreamed about.

Christine said...

I also have made many mistakes that require removal for correction. Oh well. I think Himotaba may be a more forgiving design for the Nishijin, due to the design perhaps fewer needle holes would show since they can be covered up. Here's a link I like showing how silk/metal woven fabrics can be made: I agree with you about the prep work, it is so important!