Sunday, 23 December 2007

A Good Stitching Day

Having spent Friday doing necessary but boring jobs, yesterday I managed several hours of, guilt free stitching. First, I finished couching imitation silver #4 round and round with 1-2 twisted silk. Silver is traditionally couched with white as it is thought to enhance the appearance of the silver. Here I have I have also used black silk along the line of the veins. I have not decided yet whether or not I like how it turned out.

I then added the green 2-1 twisted green silk to the wing tip. This is not the green that I originally chose. Jennifer Ashley Taylor who supplied the silk thought that the green I had selected was too yellow with my other colour choices and suggested this green in stead. Jennifer had given me a list of DMC colours that most closely matched her silks but the matches are not exact so, as I had not seen the actual silks, I was happy to accept her advice. I love green but this is not a shade that I would have been drawn to but I am so pleased that Jennifer suggested it, I think it is beautiful colour.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

The second wing is behind the first and I have tried to emphasis this by stitching it in flat silk. Also I wanted to mimic the different textures of the front and back of a butterfly’s wing.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

I had virtually no interruptions all day, the light was good, I was totally in the zone and the stitching just flowed. Usually, I will take out most of what I stitch at least once and do it again, but I barely took out a stitch. If only it could always be like that.

Happy Stitching.

PS. I am typing this in the kitchen, but I keep stopping to look out of the window. I have several bird feeders in the garden and they are teeming with birds. This morning I have seen the usual gang of great tits, blue tits, coal tits, green finches, chaffinches, siskins and sparrows; a pair of gold finches, a pair of doves, a robin, black birds, starlings, pigeons and a woodpecker who all are frequent visitors. Recently a fieldfare and a magpie have started dropping in and just now, my favourites, a gang of long-tail tits who only visit us now and then are vying for a place on the nuts. We also have a pair of squirrels who come regularly. I love watching them but they have a nasty habit of destroying the feeders, I scatter nuts on the ground to encourage them away from the feeders but they are greedy and want it all. I want to go and stitch but I can’t tear myself away from the birds!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

TAST Bullion Knots

Forgive me Sharon; it has been many weeks since my last TAST submission! Comfort dolls and fairy shoes amongst other things have distracted me, but I always intended to tackle at least some of the stitches I had missed, especially Bullion Knots.

The last TAST sampler I stitched was French Knots and I found it a very satisfying piece to work on. I worked the bullion sampler as a companion piece but I did not find this one nearly so satisfying. Bullions for me are a bit hit and miss and they did not seem to get any easier with practice. I did pick up a few tips that helped, like twisting the thread around the needle in the right direction and loosening the twists by twisting the needle before drawing the thread through the knot. I found that threads with a good twist, like cotton perle, are much easier to work with the loosely twisted thread and that ‘fluffy’ threads, like Border Medicis ‘drag’ are do not form bullions easily.

It was difficult for me to stick with this piece until I thought it was complete but I am pleased that I did.

There are some areas that I enjoyed working and I like how they turned out.

There are some areas that I seemed to struggle with every stitch and the result looks messy and unattractive.

We may not work in perfect harmony but there is something about this stitch that really appeals to me and I think we will meet again.

Happy Stitching

Monday, 17 December 2007

Why don't I feel the need for speed?

There has been a lot of discussion about slow clothes recently. Much of the conversation has taken place on SharonB’s Blog, In a Minute ago and Sharon has provided links to several posts on other blogs. From all that I have read, I think that Nuido - The way of Embroidery fits very neatly with the concept of Slow Cloth. I briefly mentioned Nuido in a post two weeks ago, and although it is a concept developed by the JEC for teaching Japanese Embroidery, I think that the philosophy applies equally well to any embroidery and indeed to any craft.

The word Nuido is made up of two parts; Nui, or embroidery (also shishu), and Do (the way). The way of Nui refers to the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge. Do refers to the development, and constant discovery, of the spiritual components of the art of Nuido. Nuido has three aspects: the acquisition of technical skills and knowledge (rationality), the development of artistic sensitivity and awareness (sensitivity), and understanding the spiritual aspects of shishu (Spirituality).

I am a slow worker (not only in embroidery) and although I do not think that being slow necessarily qualifies one as being a slow practitioner, I think in my case the two are intrinsically linked. Part of the reason I stitch slowly, cook slowly, read slowly, write slowly is that I am nearly always lost in thought about whatever I am stitching, cooking, reading or writing. I know that it is a source of frustration to some people around me that I cannot pick up a task and simply do it.

I take an eternity to read a book because I keep going back to reread something I have not fully understood, or to check details that I have forgotten. Preparing meals I like to make whatever I can from basic ingredients. Watching me make sauce for a prawn cocktail, my partner will ask "wouldn’t it be easier to buy it ready made." Of course it would, but where is the satisfaction in that. If I bake a cake (which I don’t do often, because my baking leaves a lot to be desired) I like to mix it by hand. I don’t think this is a ‘better’ way than using a food processor, I simply enjoy creaming the butter and sugar far more than getting the machine out of the cupboard and listening to the awful noise it makes. Why make a rubbish cake, if you don't enjoy the process of making it?

I can take months to stitch a design. Before I start stitching, I spend hours admiring the threads and fabric, contemplating the design. When it comes to actually stitching the piece I work in a slow, almost meditative fashion. If it is something I want to stitch I care little about how long it takes to work and rework the motifs. If it is something that I have no interest in stitching, I would struggle to dedicate 5 minutes to it.

I like ‘quick’ projects (something that takes me less me than a month to complete) and may have several on the go along side my ‘serious’ embroidery. I also like workshops that allow me to ‘dabble’ in something completely new to me but now that I have come to terms with being ‘slow’ I find it deeply satisfying to spend several hours couching only a few rounds of imitation silver to a butterfly wing!

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

PS. I took me more than two hours to write this and as I type I am still contemplating the title. Now I am going to cook stir-fry prawns (a quick meal but one I will prepare from scratch) while I think of a title that I like, even if it is not very inspired!

PPS. This title came to me while waiting for the water to boil to cook the noodles in. If I'd used 'Straight to Wok' dinner would be ready but I might not have a title yet!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Double Flower, Outer Flower

While in Cambridge, I had made a start on the outer part of the double flower and it kept calling to me to be finished. The first stage is to stitch the 'curls' on the outer petals. These are done in diagonal layer with bright pink flat silk. I found it difficult to get a good shape to the curls and each one took two or three attempts before I was happy with it.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

When all five curls where complete, the inside of the petals was stitched in fuzzy effect. The box chart suggested the same bright pink as the curls but Tamura-san said that he thought this might be too 'flat' and invited us to experiment with the colour for this part of the petal. After much consideration I opted to use the mauve that will be used elsewhere in the design. I think that the bluey tint helps the flat petal to recede and the curls to stand out.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Tamura-san also suggested that we add a 'shiner' to the weft valley layer of fuzzy effect. He explained that traditionally the shiner is added above main thread since most embroidery is done on kimono or obi and therefore viewed from above. However, Tamura-san is aware that in the west, an embroidery is more likely to be framed and hung on the wall, in this case, he suggested that the shiner might be more visible if placed below the main thread. I elected to use a single strand of 0.8 gold, placed above the mauve thread, where I hope it will catch the light and sparkle when displayed on the wall.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Finally, the main 1T mauve thread and the 0.8 gold thread are couched together with 0.5T mauve using vertically holding stitches.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I am very pleased with the completed flower and the new techniques that I learned stitching it.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Shibori no Hana, Rose

The rose was more difficult to make than the flower in the first class but not as difficult as the pansey. I have used the same colour ribbon that I used for the first flower but this time I used the other side as the 'right' side. The method of producing the ribbon means that on one side the peaks are colour A and the valleys are colour B, but on the other side the colour way is reversed, so although both sides are same colours, the tonal effect is different. Also the tone changes depending on how much you steam out the ribbon; the more relaxed the pleats, the more colour B shows.

I have a short length of this colour ribbon remaining with which I will try to fashion a bud.

I have really enjoyed making these ribbon flowers but don't yet know what I will do with them!

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Happy Bloggiversary to Me!

I thought that I had started my blog at the end of December so when, a couple of days ago, I looked up the date of my first blog I was surprised to see that it was today! It’s interesting to re-read your first post, to see what you choose to say about yourself and what you left out. I am amazed that I didn’t even mention Japanese Embroidery when this has been my main focus of interest for the past three years and has dominated my blog this year. Nor did I mention the main motivation for starting a blog in the first place - Take a Stitch Tuesday.

Fully participating in the challenge included sharing my progress via a blog or Flickr account and I opted for a blog. Although I have not succeeded in doing the nominated stitch every week, I don’t feel that I have entirely failed. At first I kept up with the weekly stitches but as usual I set the bar too high for myself. Instead of experimenting with a few variations of the stitch, I aimed to complete a whole sampler and I wanted each one to be as good as I could possibly make it (that’ll be the Virgo in me!). Even though it took me all week, I kept up with each week until I went to India in April - that set me back by three weeks. When I returned, I started with the stitches I had missed – wanting to do every thing in order is another characteristic of my Virgo personality! When I got to Week 24 – French Knots, my sampler took 4 weeks to complete, so that made me six weeks behind. Torn between doing each stitch in turn, picking the ones that I fancied or doing the stitches as they arose, I prevaricated and dithered and fell more and more behind.

I always intended to continue with the challenge, but in the mean time, I was distracted by a call from Pat Winter to stitch comfort dolls, and a desire to be involved with the Plinmoth Project even though I could not travel to Boston to stitch on the actual jacket, I wanted to do a sampler for them.

So why do I say I did not fail? Well, for one thing, I have done more stitching this year than ever before and that is a direct result of TAST. Most days I have picked up a needle, even if only for a few minutes stitching. On those days that I have not found time to stitch, I have either blogged about my stitching or spent a little time admiring, and gaining inspiration from all the fascinating blogs that I have discovered via TAST. Since SharonB was behind me starting this blog in the first place, it somehow seems appropriate that on my first bloggiversary I have signed up for her next challenge, Take it Further.

Happy Stitching and Happy Blogging.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Shibori no Hana, Pansy

I found the second flower in the class, a pansy, more of a challenge. Something about the construction confounded me but if a thing is worth doing, ...

... it's worth persevering with.

Re-reading the instructions today, I can see that I missed some information that would have helped with one step. I'm really enjoying working with these shibori ribbons. Isn't that colour combination stunning?

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Oh No! Not Another Brother

I have a few details to still to stitch, but effectively only one butterfly remains - my youngest brother. Of all the butterflies, this was the most difficult for me to design and I have had no flash of inspiration like I did with The Optimist’s Suit. I have to admit that I do not know this brother terribly well.

I was six when youngest was born. I understood that Mummy had a baby in her tummy - a new brother or sister. I already had two brothers - an older one and a younger one - I didn’t need any more brothers. I wanted a baby sister and I was very disappointed when I got a third brother. Throughout my childhood, I don’t think I ever quite forgave him for being a boy. My big brother was so cool and clever. My middle brother was great, we played together all the time - we were the gang of two but my youngest brother was just annoying. It’s not surprising I don’t know much about him, when we were children I tried to avoid him as much as possible, as a young woman I was too busy with my own life and see what was happening in his. Of course I know about things he has done and things that have happened to him but I realise that I have never really got to know him and that is a great shame because somewhere along the line the most stupid and annoying little brother in the world grew up to be a thoughtful, caring and intelligent man.

I haven’t committed any designs to paper; I have an idea in my head and I am just going let it evolve. During the lectures Tamura-san reminded use of the three pillars of Nuido: rationality, sensitivity and spirituality. Working on Flutterbys, I have come to understand these three pillars like never before. I have given much thought to the design (sensitivity) and concentrated on doing the best stitching I can (rationality). In a comment on The Butterfly with No Name, Jane mentioned Master Saito's saying "the hands are the exit of the spirit" this is the spirituality of Nuido. Working on each of the butterflies I have thought deeply about the person represented and the love I feel for them is woven into every stitch.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

There is a more detailed explanation of Nuido on the JEC website, here.

Happy Stitching

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Butterfly with No Name

The first four butterflies spoke to me while I was planning them and all the time I was stitching them. They told me their name, how they wanted to be stitched and all the time they kept calling to me to work on them. They could not wait to emerge. This butterfly, the one that represents me, has been a completely different experience. She is purple because that is my favourite colour, with pink from the Mother butterfly and gold from the Father but she gave me no hints about how she would like to appear and I still don't know her name. Until she decides to identify herself to me (if she ever does), I have nick-named her Purple Missus, after a blog of that name.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

I wouldn't say that stitching her has been a chore, I always enjoy time spent stitching, but I have not had the same buzz that I had watching the others emerge. Nor am I as satisfied with the stitching, I feel I could have done better. She is not quite finished, something more is needed on the hind wings but I am going to leave that for now and move on to the last butterfly, my youngest brother.

© Jennifer Ashley Taylor/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching