Thursday, 28 May 2009

Japanese Bead Embroidery, Phase II

Two weeks ago I attended a Japanese Beading class to learn the techniques used in Phase II. The Phase II design is a folio entirely covered with just two shades of bead, jet-black and pewter. The beads are tri-cuts that reflect the light beautifully and they are arranged either in flowing lines or as random seeding to maximise the effect. The design is called ‘Calm Flow’.

The guidelines are printed onto the background fabric, black polyester satin that I laced onto a Japanese embroidery frame in the usual manner. The design of Japanese frames allows you to make the fabric drum tight which gives a lovely surface for stitching. After tensioning the fabric, the printed design can distort slightly so I stitched around a template cut from the master design to create a true outline.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I first outlined the folio with a double row of black beads. Most, but not all of the guidelines indicate the position of a line of pewter beads.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The beads are threaded onto a double strand of polycotton and wound onto a pair of koma.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The beads are attached by couching over the thread every other bead. This method gives a smooth line of beads.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I apologize for the poor quality of the photographs. I have heard others say that it is difficult to get a good photograph of beads, especially black ones. I experienced the same difficult!

Happy stitching.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Travelling Book - Crocus

As winter draws to a close, I can hardly wait for the spring bulbs to bring colour back to the gtarden. While I eagerly anticipate the snowdrops, daffodiles and tulips, there is one delight that I ofter forget. Even before the snowdrops have completed the opening act, in the first breath of warm sunshine, small hummocks of species crocus burst open and turn their saffron centres to face the sun.

For this page, I adapted the technique learnt at the Kathleen Laurel Sage workshop. I used tiny pieces of organza, sandwiched between two pieces of organza. The pieces where arranged to create the shading. I stitched over the entire design with a decorative stitch on my sewing machine to secure the pieces. I then outlined my design with free machine embroidery using a metalic thread and cut away the void areas.

The sepals are needle woven picots made from hand twisted silk and the orange centres are a single turkey stitch using several strands of flat silk.

I had great fun creating these pages but they were suprisingly time consuming.

Happy stitching

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Rainbow Squares

The Rainbow Squares Project was devised in 1997 to promote the Embroiderers' Guild. Each branch in the South East Region was allocated a colour and members of the branch were asked to stitch a 4-inch square using predominately the allocated colour. Squares of the same colours were then joined into strips and hung together to produce a wonderful display. When the South East Region was split into two, the South East Region and South East West Region, the squares were divided between the two new regions according to branch. Each region ended up with an abundance of some colours and none of others. Branches in both regions are now making more squares to redress that balance. As news of the Rainbow Squares spread, other regions have joined in and are making their own Rainbows.

The real beauty of this project is that is every member can take part. Participants can use any design so absolute beginners and more experienced embroiderers can choose or design something suited to their own ability. Any technique can be used so it is appeals to those who enjoy traditional techniques as well as those who enjoy experimenting with contemporary ideas.

My local branch, Oxford, was originally allocated indigo. We all used the same indigo background fabric and stitched our own designs. At the time I researched indigo and discovered that it was the colour of the sixth Chakra, Anya - the Third Eye. I did a design based on the symbol for Anja but sadly I don’t have a picture of it. The branch members are now making red squares again everyone taking part has been given a square of the same red fabric as a base. I have not started mine yet.

The members of the Embroiderers’ Guild forum got to hear about the Rainbow Squares and decided to make a set of their own. Those taking part were each allocated a different colour. By coincidence I have been allocated red for this square as well. We want the squares to make a cohesive set so we are using unbleached calico (muslim) for the background and basing our individual designs on a three inch circle.

I decided to do mine in bead embroidery. First I outlined the design in petite silver lined clear beads. The beads are threaded onto a double strand of sewing thread which I then couch in place between every second bead. This gives a nice smooth line.

I used petite silver lined red beads to outline the circle, then filled the rest of the outer circle with petite red beads.

I used two shades of matte red beads to fill the large triangles but the difference in shade is not obvious now they are attached. These beads are also couched but over a row of beads that serve as padding. I think that a second shorter row of padding and possibly even a third would have given a better shape.

In the next row of triangles I couched the beads round and round. These are silver lined red beads. I can see that I have made my usual error of packing in too many beads. I always try to cover the background fabric but I should realise by now that beads, like stitches, need room to breath.

For the small, inner triangles I used petite red beads. I made stitches in random directions with three beads on each stitch. The stitches are short so the beads do not lie flat on the surface, this and the changes of direction give a very textured finish. I don't know the name of this technique.

In the center, I attached a shisha mirror with a bezle of beads. I did not have any instructions for this so I kind of made it up. I would have liked the bezle to sit flatter against the shisha. I filled the remaining space with red matte beads attached with a petite silver bead.

My aim was to choose beads of a similar colour in a variety of finishes, shiney, matte and silver lined, then to use a variety of techniques to create texture and reflect the light in different ways. This was a fun project but I was surprised by how time consuming bead embroidery is.

Happy Stitching

Monday, 4 May 2009

It's a Cover Up

Thank you everyone who commented or emailed directly with words of comfort and helpful suggestions, both were really appreciated.

My initial thought was that any attempt to remove the ink could result in making things worse. My concern was that the ink would bleed as soon as I added any substance to it. I may have eventually removed most of the ink but thought it more likely that I would end up with a large pale ink mark rather than a small dark one. Further more, I was really concerned that the chemicals capable of shifting the ink would eventually rot the silk fabric. My tutor echoed the same concerns, so we discussed methods of concealing the mark.

There are several motifs on the books that I could have repeated over the stain. The clouds on the top right-hand book in a colour similar to the fabric colour would have been inconspicuous but I thought that the line of staggered diagonals would not be thick enough to cover the stain.

On the top left-hand book is a design in gold and silver fuzzy effect.
Although we considered this, my tutor felt that the ink would still be visible as fuzzy effect is worked in the valley between the weft threads but the ink will have settled on the peak of the weft threads.

The stain is basically a line of ink but there is a slightly larger blob as the end, I thought that it would take something more to conceal it and suggested a plum bud. Of course, I could not just embroidery a bud out of context, it would need a branch and some blossom so it would not look out of place. The motif on the bottom right-hand book is ume, so there would be some continuity. I gave this option serious consideration.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

With each of these options, my main reservation was that these motifs occurred only on the covers or pages of the books. In the end, I decided to go with a suggestion made by J. I have to admit that I originally poohooed his idea; it was made very soon after I discovered my mishap and I was feeling very negative. There is a gold ribbon that lays below the books, across the scroll and disappears under the central book. J suggested that I stitch another length of ribbon as if it reappeared from under the other side of the books.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The ribbon is not quite as wide as the mark so I made a fold in the ribbon to give extra width over the blob. Even so, it did not fully cover the stain; I had to make the new section broader and I could see that it was thicker than the original. I decided to make the original ribbon the same width as the new section.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I really like the design and was hugely disappointed to 'ruin' it with a moments carelessness. I think that this was the best solution; the ribbon does not look contrived or out of place. It does alter the balance of the design, or perhaps that is my perception because I know that it is not part of the original design. I will always know what the extra ribbon hides but it won't distract me from the rest of the design.

Happy Stitching