Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Neck Feathers

Way back in May, I had put Loving Couple away so that I could concentrate on my entry for the SEW Regional Show competition. I fully intended to get it out and resume stitching as soon as I returned from Amsterdam but my mojo went AWOL and I didn’t stitch anything for a while. Loving Couple stayed in the frame cover until the end of October when I attended a Japanese embroidery class in Garstang, Lancashire.

This is how LC looked the last time I wrote about it.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I did a little more stitching before packing it away, including the white under-tail feathers but I forgot to take a picture of that step.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I made a start on his neck feathers but was finding the technique difficult. While stitching in class my tutors (Denise and Jane) identified a couple of things that I was not doing correctly. First Denise noticed that I was stitching each feather in an anti-clockwise direction. Japanese embroidery has many rules, some are general for all techniques; others apply to specific techniques. When stitching a line of staggered diagonals, as I was, the rule is to stitch curves in a clockwise direction. When I changed direction, I immediately noticed the difference it makes to how the stitches lay.

It wasn’t long, however, until Jane observed that I was stitching away from myself. One of the general rules that apply to every stitch is that you stitch towards yourself. Now I was confused. Originally I was starting at the end of the feather furthest from me and was stitching towards myself but in an anti –clockwise direction. Now I was starting at the end of the feather closest to me so I was stitching in a clockwise direction, how could I also stitch towards myself? Jane explained that 'stitching towards yourself' refers to the direction of each individual stitch, not the order of the stitches – the needle should emerge at the end of the stitch furthest from you and travel towards you. It took a few feathers for me to 'get it' but the stitching did seem to flow more naturally once I got the hang of it.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

There are two rows of neck feathers. They are the last part to be stitched on Mr Duck. When I had finished those I set my frame against the wall and stood back to take a good look ... and was disappointed! Mr Duck is such a handsome fellow but his neck feathers let him down. They were just too skinny and not all that well stitched.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

In the room there were 4 others who had previously stitched Loving Couple. They all said that they had found the neck feathers challenging to stitch and none of them had been totally satisfied with their first attempt. This made me wonder if I was being too self-critical but I was still not sure about them. Sometimes your initial reaction to your own work can be on the negative side, especially at the end of a long class, I decided to re-evaluate the neck feathers after I have stitched Mrs Duck.

Happy Stitching


Angelcat said...

I think it's looking absolutely wonderful. I think we are all over critical of our own work, we know where we might have strayed from a pattern or not been quite as neat as we would have liked. But 99 percent of the time show it to someone else and they'd never pick up on the things we think are wrong.

The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Personally I like the neck feathers. I think you might be judging the success of the neck feathers from too close up. When we stitch, we are much closer to our work than anyone will be to the finished piece. You cannot judge how something looks overall unless the piece is further than stitching distance, so prop this up where you can see it as you go about your business and then see how you feel about it. By the time you do the second duck, you may have decided this is fine as is or you may figure out the neck feathers when you are working the other bird.

Rachel said...

I think you are right not to unpick right away. At the moment you may be too aware of details of technique that you struggled with (thank you for describing those details, but the way, technique is always fascinating!) whereas later you will be able to assess the effect more truly.