Thursday, 30 April 2009

To Err is a Moments Carelessness

As I have said before when the stitching is finished Japanese embroidery still has to be 'finished' and I have described the finishing process in this post. I asked if you could see a difference between the before and after pictures. I hoped not, as my concern is that I will spoil my work during the finishing process. In some respects I should hope that you could see the difference as the process is supposed to optimise the shine of the silk and the metallic threads, but truly I am happy to get though the process without any disasters.

When I came to finish Venerable Friends I noticed a loose stitch on the clouds. I was able to correct that simply by gently pulling the thread on the reverse of the work.

I also noticed a lot of dust coming out of the silk during the beating process. This piece has been on the frame for more than two years and has taken more stitching hours than previous ones so it not surprising that it is dustier that the others. I continued beating and whipping away the dust until I was certain that I had removed as much as possible. Already the silk was looking brighter.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I also took extra time and care with the gluing, there are of loose ends on the reverse from all of those couched threads. The thicker twists and metallic threads can be a bit stubborn but with patience and the aid of a cocktail stick they eventually stay in place.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Steaming was the most satisfying part of the process. Never before have I seen such a difference in the silk, the steam really brought out the shine and vibrancy of silk, as I have been told it should. I am really pleased with how the finishing went.

Last night I began that process of lacing my work onto board ready for framing. I prepared my workspace, placed a clean folded towel on the surface and covered that with tissue paper. I carefully removed VF from the frame and began stretching and pinning her to the acid free board. When I enough pins to hold her in place I decided to double-check the positioning. I took a small ruler, measured ... and stopped in horror. There on my silk fabric was a smudge of purple ink.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

After all the care I had taken, the one thing I had not cleaned before putting it anywhere near my work was the ruler! How could I be so careless!

I resisted the urge to weep - tears would have caused the ink to bleed and only make things worse!

All is not lost but, at the moment, I am really upset. I’ve discussed it with my tutor who made some sensible suggestions. J also made a suggestion that I initially poohooed but on reflection is a very good one.

I decided to sleep on it for a day or two and seek solace in two dear stitching friends and a large glass of wine.

Not so happy stitching.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Travelling Book - 6 February

Even by UK standards, Oxford is a temperate area; we rarely experience any extremes of weather. When the weather forecasters predict heavy snowfall for the region that usually means that the Cotswolds to the north and west of us, and the Chilterns to the south and east of us will get several inches of snow but Oxford will get a light dusting.

Unusually, in February we had several inches of snow one night and the following morning - the very night a friend and I were planning to drive to Manchester. According to weather reports, the North of England would escape the worst (or is that the best) of the snow so we delayed our journey to the following morning when we would at least be driving in daylight.

The forecasters predicted correctly, although snow was still falling heavily in Oxford when we set out, it gradually petered out as we travelled north. By the time we joined the M6, the snow had stopped and the cloud was beginning to break up.

The cloud formed two broad stripes across the sky, each dark grey at the top fading to the palest grey at the bottom. A small hole in the cloud revealed a patch of bright cerulean blue.

This scene provided the inspiration for my Travelling Page but I did not know how I would go about stitching it until I met Jan Beaney. I was inspired by her wonderful stitched fabrics to attempt making some for myself. Jan has spent years developing, practicing and perfecting her FME skills so obviously I did not expect my first attempt to come close to her artistry but I enjoyed doing it.

On the left-hand page I painted the scene in watercolours and gouache and attached my small fragment of FME fabric to the right hand page.

Happy Stitching

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Guest Speaker, Jill Flower

As I said before, I'm not terribly good at remembering names, but sometimes I don't recognise the speaker because I have genuinely not heard of them before. Actually, I like it when the speaker is a complete revelation to me, as was our speaker this month. I have a very vague recollection of having seen a picture of her work, perhaps in the blurb for the Knitting and Stitching show when her work was selected by the Embroiderers Guild to exhibit within the 'graduate showcase' in July 2007. Other than that Jill Flower and her ruffs came as a complete surprise.

At the end of the evening, I heard Jill say that it was only the third time she had given a talk. I think that was evident and endearing. While she was slightly less confident than more seasoned speakers, this gave her talk a very human quality. Jill gave us a brief overview of her early interest in stitched textiles, which began over 20 years ago, included achieving City and Guilds part I/II in 1995 and being selected to exhibit an elaborate and brightly coloured handbag at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2003.

Jill then gave us a detailed insight into the thoughts and experimentation that went into deciding the subject for her final exhibition piece. An interest in lace and edgings, eventually lead Jill to the idea of combining the formality of Elizabethan ruffs with Shakespeare’s speech 'the seven ages of man' from his play 'As you like it'.

Jill's exhibition comprises of three ruffs representing man, women and child. The two 'adult' ruffs are constructed of seven layers of 'lace' made from magazines that might interest and influence each generation, Beano for a small boy, Cosmopolitan for a young women followed by Bride then House and Home, Financial Times for a maturing male and finally the Obituaries. Jill carefully crafted appropriate colours, words, and images from the magazines so that the ruffs have a feminine or masculine quality.

The third ruff represents a child and is constructed of a lacy paper fabric containing the words written by Shakespeare.

From a distance the ruffs are impressive and easily identified as Man, Woman and Child. Close up, the lace, with its button and bead embellishment is delightful. I think the ruffs are inspired and found Jill's talk inspiring.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Venerable Friends, Finished

Last weekend was mostly spent gardening in the lovely spring sunshine but I did couch the remaining pages of the last book with tight twist karayori. I love this thread, its tight overtwist creates a smooth firm thread, similar to gimp in appearance. Sunday evening I twisted a white and gold kinkarami no katayori, another thread that I particularly like. The gold twisted with the silk appears as random flecks throughout the thread.

All that remaind was sinking the ends of the couched pages and couching the book binding in place, I thought that I would complete that easily with my 30 minutes stitching plan.

On Monday, I sank the page ends. I always underestimate the amount of time this process takes. On Tuesday I only had time to twist a 2-1 white couching thread. On Wednesday, no stitching as I had an early dentist appointment. Thursday, a full 30 minutes for stitching, threads made and ready to go, surely I would finish today!

I have been working on Venerable Friends, on and off since February 2007. I think the last few stitches should be savoured, not rushed. After 30 minutes I was tantalisingly close to finishing but I had to leave for work. It took great strength of will to pack up with only 10-15 minutes work remaining.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

This is a long bank holiday weekend, our intention is to begin decorating the hall, landing and stairs, but recognising the significance of finishing this particular journey, J suggested that I do that before the decorating (he swore it was not an avoidance tactic on his behalf). It took a mere 20 minutes to couch the last length of thread in place and sink the ends. After 2 years and 44 days I have finished my Phase III.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

But wait! I've missed a bit. I still have to couch the outline of the top right-hand corner of the book.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Another 40 minutes twisting threads, couching and sinking and this time the stitching is finally finished.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

This design has truly become my friend. I liked the design when I saw Jane stitching it on my very first Japanese Embroidery course, but to begin with I was unsure about the colours selected for me. They were a little dark for my taste but they have grown on me and now I would not change any of them. The green for the gold leaf cloud, which was the colour I was most at odds with, looks stunning twisted with the gold and the blue background of the shippo cloud, which I also strongly disliked, is, I think, the perfect foil for the red, white and yellow used for the shippo.

This has been very happy stitching.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

British Summer Time

British Summer Time began on Sunday. I can't tell you how happy I am that the lighter evenings are here ... but, it always takes me a week or two to adjust my body clock. I am finding it very difficult to wake up in the mornings. Also we are enjoying a really pleasant spring in this part of the UK so I have been cycling to work this week. Between getting up later and leaving earlier I am struggling to find 30 minutes for stitching in the morning, however, I am determined to make a little time each day.

On Monday I only managed to spend 10 minutes twisting 2->1 threads, but this meant that on every other morning I could spend time I had just stitching.

Slowly, very slowly, I outlining the pages of the last book and Venerable Friends is nearing completion.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching