Sunday, 29 July 2007

Slow Progress

I have removed the blue and silver twist and stitched a single strand of flat silk foundation on the left hind wing. I think it balances better with the fore wings. It needs something more and I still want to incorporate some silver but I haven't decided what I will do yet.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

I like to have my frame by the patio door, looking out at the garden. Today it is cloudy, but every now and then the sun breaks through the cloud. When it does the shine off the silk is so intense that I am temporarily dazzled by the glare.

I am making very slow progress with Flutterbys. I am a slow stitcher and I don't have as much stitching time as I would like but that does not account for why I have done so little. The reason I am not progressing is self doubt; my choice of colours and stitches is wrong; my stitching is not good enough. I love this design and the project is very dear to my heart; I should be relishing the stitching. Instead, I am allowing self doubt to paralyse me. I want it to be perfect, but I have to accept the it only need be the best I can do if I am going to get past this and fully enjoy the experience.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

House Keeping and Comments

I did a little tidying up on my blog last night. Mainly, I have added or altered some of the labels and titles, so that it is easier to find all the related threads for various projects.

I have also added photo albums for some of the projects. These include a few pictures that I have not previously posted. Links to the albums can be found in the bottom right-hand corner.

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who visits my blog and a special thank you to those who have left comments. Like the authors of some of the blogs I visit, I am honoured that someone would want to visit and take the trouble to leave a comment. I have wondered about the correct etiquette for replies. I have not replied individually to every comment received but do read and appreciate every one. To be totally honest, your kind words about my work please me greatly, and your input and advice will always be welcome.

Lisa: I stitched Hanayama (the flower mountain) for Phase I. Now that I have added labels you can select all the threads on Hanayama from the labels list. I have included notes about some of the symbolism behind the designs; I know that like me, you are interested in this.

Lisa is also learning Japanese Embroidery and is stitching Bouquet from the Heart of Japan for her Phase I.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

The Best Laid Plans

One of the elements of my Phase III piece, Venerable Friends, is the gold leaf cloud. The foundation is worked in a green silk twisted with #1 gold. I liked the effect so much that I always intended to use it on my Flutterbys. As soon as I saw the pale blue, I thought that it would look beautiful twisted with silver and I thought that the hind wings of my Blue Eyed Boy was the ideal place for it. After only a few stitches I had decided two things.

1) I think the blue and silver combination is stunning.

2) The twisting silk and metallic thread is too baulky here.

I decided to stitch a larger area and look again the next day before ruling it out. When I looked again in the morning, I was certain, this effect is too heavy and ridged looking next to the delicate fore wings. Time for plan B, but I didn't actually have a plan B.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

I am certain that the pale blue is right, so I stitched a vertical foundation in a single strand of flat silk. Ever reluctant to unpick, I could not bring myself to remove the left wing before stitching the right one, but now that I have done that it is all the more obvious that my original plan was not a good one.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

My original plan was that the four butterflies that represent my brothers and myself would each include a colour from the Mother and Father butterflies. The dark grey I used for this body will be one of the Father colours. The Mother butterfly will be pink and silver (and maybe white). The obvious colour to combine with blue, I think, is silver. All I have to do now is decide how!

Happy Stitching

Monday, 16 July 2007

TAST Satin Stitch

This TAST seems to have taken me forever. That is partly because I only work on this when I want to stitch but can't work on Flutterbys and partly because I have done so much work on this sampler.

Satin Stitch is probably my favourite stitch. It is the basis for so many of the Japanese Embroidery stitches. I have seen ladies lay a foundation that looks like they have poured liquid silk onto their fabric. Simply stunning.

Initially, I was pleased when Satin Stitch was announced on TAST, but then I thought what can I do with it that I haven't already done. I think it is more difficult to explore a stitch that you know well than one that is completely new to you.

Completely lost for inspiration, I thought I would start with a simple border of blocks of alternating horizontal and vertical Satin Stitch and see what developed.

Once I had completed about half of the border, I decided to look at negative as well as positive spaces and worked a small triangle design that gave me the same shape in the voids as the stitched area.

Then I thought I would try to create some movement with the stitch by stitching several rows of zig-zag in varying widths and lengths.

The following two samples in pink and green where experiments in trying to create texture from the ultimate in smooth stitches.

Finally, I wanted to try a Japanese technique. First, I filled the entire area in long satin stitches. I then superimposed my design on top of those stitches. This has not come out as well as I had hoped. Partly because I did not have the linen taught enough in the frame and it had distorted. Partly, because I did not use a holding stitch on some of the long threads before removing it from the frame. In an attempt to rescue it, I have added some beads to hold the longer stitches in place.

Except for the dark green, I have used DMC linen for the samples and space dyed stranded cotton for the border. Then middle zig-zag that looks like the space dyed cotton is in fact four shades of DMC linen stitched at random. I chose the linen partly because I like working with this thread but mainly because I wanted a totally different look from the silk work that I do. I was challenging to work with. When you use one or two strands of this thread it is a little fragile and breaks if you are not gentle with it.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Soft Twist Centers

In May, I learnt that Hideko of Wind from the East was coming to the UK and would be staying in a village barely 30 miles from my home. Hideko's was the first blog I started to visit and dared to leave a comment on. I asked Hideko if her schedule would allow time for us to meet up and was delighted when she said it would. The very evening that Hideko arrived, we went out to dinner in a quaint, thatched pub. The meal was lovely, but meeting Hideko was much lovelier. A few days later, we spent nearly a whole day together when, together with my partner and Hideko's daughter we visited Newstead Abbey. I had not even heard of Newstead Abbey, home of Lord Byron, until Hideko introduced it to me and it is a fascinating historical home.

On our first meeting, Hideko gave me some wonderful gifts including a book called Summer Kimonos and the Colours of Japan. Hideko must have incredible insight for although I had not mentioned it to her, this book was on my wish list. It contains hundreds of pictures of kimonos, including close up shots of the details. The text includes descriptions of many ancient Japanese textile treatments, covering weaving, dying, painting and embroidery techniques. It is fascinating to me and I am really pleased to have it. Thank you, Hideko, for this and your other generous gifts, I treasure them and I hope we will have the opportunity to meet again one day.

One detail shot is of embroidered pinks. The flowers are embroidered with flat silk at their outer edges and softly twisted silk nearer the center. I really liked the effect and had decided to use in on my blue butterfly.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Now, I have to tell you that my attempt is nowhere near as impressive as those pinks in the book, however, I like it. It slightly alters the texture of the silk on that part of the wing in the way a butterfly's wing is sometimes fluffy in that area and that is the effect I hoped to achieve. I am pleased with the way this butterfly is turning out so far.

By the way, Hideko's blog is one year old today. Happy Blogaversary, Hideko.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Right Wing Revisited

When I first completed the stitching on the right forewing, I was rather pleased with it. It was my best attempt at long and short stitch and I thought the dark blue and light blue had blended well. I have left the last section of the wing for now as I am thinking I might try something different there. I turned my attention to the left forewing. Even as I worked it, I felt the stitching was better than on the right wing by the time stitched to the same stage as the right wing, there was a noticeable difference between the two wings. I am always reluctant to unpick work and redo it. I was especially reluctant to here. It took a long time for me to do the stitching and I was not certain that I would make as good a job the second time. When I showed J my progress, he commented on the difference between the two wings. It had to come out! (J is complimentary about my work, but I can depend on him to give an honest critic when necessary. He knows that this project is very import to me, and that I want it to be the best I can do.)

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

At first, I thought I would only need to remove the blended section, but kept removing progressively more until only the foundation row remained.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Before I removed the stitches, I tried to analyse why the left wing looked better than the right wing. I concluded that it was because the stitches lay in the same direction on the left wing but on the right wing the angle twisted slightly as I got closer to the body. The second time, I took more care to keep them in line.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

As reluctant as I was to redo the wing, I am now pleased that I did. I think that I have made a better job of it the second time and the two wings look better matched now.

Happy Stitching