Monday, 28 December 2009

A Little Light Relief

As usual, I hoped to get plenty of stitching time over the Christmas break and, as usual, things conspired to keep me away from the frame. Never mind.

Tomorrow we are off to Amsterdam to spend New Year with my Sister-in-law and her partner. It has become an annual event that J and I look forward to. I anticipate good food, good wine and extremely pleasant company. We usually do more walking than during the rest of the year, exploring the city and taking in the museums. My only care for the next few days is that A and S will remember to feed the cat and not throw any wild parties while we are away.

I usually fit in some stitching while we are there but like to take something that I can do while chatting or pick up and put down easily. A while ago I purchased a kit from Beadalot that I have been keen to start but have saved it as I thought it would be an ideal project for A'dam. Yesterday I prepared the base.

Apart from the fabulous fabric, it doesn't look like much yet, but when it is beaded it is going to be amazing. I know this because I have seen the finished article, in fact I have seen three of them and each was uniquely beautiful.

As well as the delightful fabric the kit constists of some very yummy beads. I did intend to leave the beading for when we were in A'dam, but could not resist making a start.

I may not be able to post again before we return, so until then Happy New Year and Happy Stitching.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Beginning of the Ends

I've turned the frame! That feels like the half way mark but in fact I have done considerably more that half. I've stitched each of the cords beyond the center of the fabric, which means that I have done at least two thirds of each and all of the prep is completed, so Himotaba is a least two thirds complete. I estimate that I have 20-30 hours stitching remaining.

Usually I am eager to turn the frame but this time I was hesitant. I had got used to stitching the cords top right to bottom left. I thought that when I turned the frame I would have to stitch on the opposite angle but in fact turning the frame 180 degrees does not alter the stitching angle at all.

I have been looking forward to finishing the cords. I don't mean completing Himotaba but rather finishing each individual cord. I like how they fade away.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Earlier this month I passed my third anniversary of blogging. In those three years I have made so many new friends around the world from many different countries and cultures.

'Christmas' has become such a big festival that I am sure most of the world is aware of it, even if it has no significance in their culture.

For me, Christmas is a celebration of Joy and Goodwill and I have found both in abundance within the stitching community. The Joy is in my own stitching and all the lovely stitchy creations I have seen on the blogs and forums I read. The goodwill is in the comments I have received or read on other blogs, the tutorials, the tips, advice, gifts and swaps exchanged or freely given. It is hard to imagine a more generous, friendly or appreciative community than this.

Whatever you believe in, whether or not you celebrate Christmas, whenever your New Year begins, I wish you Peace and Joy today, and for the coming year. Above all, I thank you for the friendship and goodwill you have given to me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Making Progress

Although I have blogged my progress in the space of about 2 weeks, I have been working on Himotaba throughout the year. I prepped during February so that all of my class time could be spent learning how to stitch the cords. And I got on well during class. I picked up the techniques better than I expected to and made good progress. This is how Himotaba looked at the end of the week.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Following my week in Bournemouth I put Himotaba away so I could focus on finishing Venerable Friends. I didn't look at Himotaba again until my next class in October. By then all my initial doubts and insecurities had risen back to the surface but it didn't take much stitching time for me to resettle and rediscover the joy of stitching cords.

I did struggle with cord #4 for a while but overall I progressed well again. I don't have a picture of where I was at at the end of this course but I know that I these cords were stitched during the couse.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Since than I have been making steady progress, an hour here and an hour there.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

And I am a little surprised to see how far Himotaba has come.

Happy Stitching.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cord #8

I like to save the best to last.

That's not always possible in Japanese embroidery because there are certain 'rules' that should be followed. One 'rule' is that you stitch from left to right. Happily for me the 'best' cord is on the right.

Cord #8 is a double central braided cord. I think this is the most impressive looking cord and it is very satisfying to stitch. It needs a little more preparation than the other braided cords. A #4 imitation gold is couched just inside each edge of the cord and padding cotton is couched down the centre.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The design is formed by sets of left diagonals stitches alternating with sets of right diagonal stitches. Each set, consisting of 4 stitches, overlaps the preceding set resulting in a double row of diamonds. Because of the padding this cord is three-dimensional. I have stitched this cord in 4-1 twist of 905 gold silk. Although I was initially disappointed with the colours selected for me, this was one colour I was really pleased with. Further, the gold silk fades into metallic gold resulting in, I think, a really lovely cord.

I began the fading by introducing a strand of gold into the twisted silk and randomly substituting the all silk stitches with this thread. I then introduced stitches in gold metallic thread in the same way. Initially, I stitched with a single strand of #1 real gold half hitched on the needle (therefore stitching with the thread doubled).

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I thought that the gold looked too skimpy. After consulting my tutor, I tried again with 2 strands of #1 gold doubled in the needle but not half hitched. I couldn't 'see' this working. I thought that the 4 stands of gold would bunch and look messy but Margaret, my tutor, is very experience and a beautiful stitcher. Having sought her advice, I was not about to reject it out of hand. I gave it a go.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Teacher knows best. This is heaps better.

Real gold is more delicate than imitation gold and doubling the thread in the needle causes more wear than half hitching. The gold shreds easily so extra TLC is called for stitching with real gold this way but I think the result is worth it.

Happy Stitching.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Cord #6

Cord #6 is another "imitation wicker" cord worked in the same green as cord #1 but this time in flat silk. I worked the foundation stitches at a slightly steeper angle this time.

The second step of this technique is to superimpose alternating left diagonal and right diagonal stitches on top of the foundation with #1 gold. Each stitch covers the end of the preceding stitch giving a chevron effect.

I worked this technique before on Suehiro but that was nearly 3 years ago. I had to read the text book to remind myself how it should be done and it took me a while to figure out the correct length and angle of the stitches. The first couple of stitches went well but then the spacing went awry.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

After a couple more attempts the spacing is better.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The little I have done so far looks right but I don't feel I have 'got' this technique yet. I am having to think hard about each stitch.

Happy Stitching.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cord #7

I nearly forgot to mention cord #7. In some ways this is the most dramatic and attention grabbing of all the cords but it terms of stitching in is very quiet. Like the imitation wicker cord, it is stitched in two stages. The first stage is to couch rows of #4 gold to and fro. I did this at the same time as prepping the other cords. The gold threads are held with red couching thread in a brick effect.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The rein effect is superimposed over the gold in 4-1 twist of 108 worked in groups of seven stitches with an equal amount of space between. Like many techniques in Japanese embroidery it sounds simpler than it is. The mechanics of the stitch are simple but judging the angles and spacing around the curves make it far more difficult.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Cord #4

Cord #4 emerges from behind cord #5, so cannot be begun until some of cord #5 has been worked.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

This cord is stitched in a wicker braid using 2 strands of flat silk. I had thought that this would be one of the easier techniques but so far I have struggled with this more than any of the other cords.

Part of the cord is stitched around the tightest curve on the design and that caused me such difficulty. My first attempt was far from right. I had to reverse stitch almost the entire length.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

My second attempt was better, not perfect but I decided to leave it. I could see the needle holes from the first attempt and did not want to risk damaging the fabric.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

After this tight bend the cord passes under cord #1 the runs straighter for a short section before curving, more gently, the opposite way. I had expected to settle into the technique along this section but it really wasn't going well. After going two stitches forward and one stitch back for some time, I decided to reverse stitch the entire section. Before starting again, I reread the box chart and the instructions in both the Japanese Embroidery books that I have. I also borrowed a book from a friend and read what that had to say about wicker stitch. I concluded that the angle of my stitches had been too shallow and when I started again, stitching at a steeper angle, the technique finally started to fall into place.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

In addition to my struggles with the technique, there was the colour. This was my least favourite colour in the palette but again I have to admit that it works well with the gold fabric and with the other colours.

When you are stitching, you view the work from nearly directly on top and close up.
When I was photographing my progress, I noticed for the first time the two tone effect that occurs when the light hits this cord at a angle.

I wasn't very keen when I began stitching Himotaba, but gradually it has worked its magic on me and at last I am enjoying the intricacies and subtle details.

Happy Stitching.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Cord #5

I said that there was no particular reason why I had chosen to do cord #1 when I did. It occurs to me now that there was a reason behind that decision. One of the 'rules' of Japanese embroidery is to start stitching on the left and work towards the right. We stitch with your left hand below the fabric and your right hand on top (another rule in Japanese Embroidery), this ensures that your hands are not resting on your completed work.

With cords 1, 2 and 3 stitched as far I a could without turning the frame, the next cord that I could start was cord #5. This cord is another single central braid this time worked in two strands of flat silk, red 108, the same as was cord #1.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

This cord passes under other cords. In stead of an abrupt stop the stitching appears to fade out. The 'fade' is achieved by reducing the thickness of the thread while maintaining the spacing of the stitches. The effect is enhanced by skipping stitches or parts of stitches.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

This is another technique that I really enjoyed and think it looks really effective.

Happy Stitching.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Cord #3

With cord #1 complete, I could resume stitching cords #2 and #3. Cord #2, "imitation wicker" is done in two steps. Step 1 consists of a diagonal foundation. The only real complication with this step is adjusting the angles around the curves. However, the basic angle for the stitches should be quite steep to support the over stitching that will be added in step 2. I am not confident that mine are steep enough. I will soon know when I move on to step two.

I find "single central braided" used on cord #3 one of the most difficult to stitch. Essentially, it is four diagonal stitches the full width of the cord, then four short stitches worked across them at the opposite angle. One end of the short stitches 'tucks' under the previous set of stitches; the other end will be covered by the following set. The trick is to get the angles correct and to space your stitches consistently so that regular diamonds are formed in the centre of the cord. Difficult enough on a stretch of fairly straight cord, perplexing when working around a curve.

Cord #3 also has an optional colour change. The transition from the first colour to the second should be gradual. It is achieve by twisting several threads with varying quantities of each colour, eg, thread 1 - 4 parts colour A; thread 2 - 3 parts colour A + 1 part colour B; thread 3 - 2 parts colour A + 2 parts colour B; etc. Thread 2 needles; one with thread 1 and another with thread 2. Continue stitching as before but randomly switching between threads, initially using mostly thread 1 but gradually increasing the use of thread 2. Then substitute thread 1 with thread 3 and continue in the same vain until you are stitching entirely with colour B. Got that?

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

It is because of techniques like this that I love learning and doing Japanese Embroidery.

Happy Stitching.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cord #1

Although the box chart suggests cord #8 is worked next, any of the remaining cords except for #3 could be started at this point. For no particular reason I started cord #1.

Double central, braided looks like the most complicated of the cords. In fact, once the pattern is established, I found it one of the simplest to work, although getting starting was a little complicated.

I didn't dislike all the colours in my palette. I am very happy with the red, 108, which is a deep, rich crimson that looks stunning with the gold. This cord is stitched in 108 using two strands of flat silk.

Except for where it passes under the start of cords #2 and #3, which are already stitched, this cord lies on top of the others so I was able to stitch the entire cord as far as the tassel.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

As Sue commented on the previous post, the joy of cords is watching the braid appear from your stitches.

Happy stitching.