Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Sake Boxes - Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossom was among the first motifs that I stitched when I began learning Japanese embroidery nearly fourteen years ago. It is possibly the motif that I have stitched more than any other, in more guised than any other.

From the very first, it embodies the fundamental rules that apply to the order of stitching in Japanese embroidery; with few exceptions foreground elements are stitched first.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

On each Cherry Blossom there is one petal that is in the foreground of all others. This is the head or the face and this petal is stitched first. The petals either side of the head are the hands and they are stitched next, usually with a one point open space between themselves and the head. The remaining two petals are the feet. One foot is always atop of the other, this is stitched next and the underlying foot stitched last.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Even the teeny tiny blossoms on this design by Midori follow those basic rules.

© Midori Matsushima/Carol-Anne Conway

I enjoyed experimenting with different techniques on the oversized cherry blossoms on Kusano-san’s Flower Circle; it allowed me to try out some techniques I had seen in books and at an exhibition in Japan.

© Shizuka Kusano/Carol-Anne Conway

The Cherry Blossoms on the black sake box are done in gold work – one of my favourite techniques. As with the very first cherry flower I stitched, the head is worked first but, before that, the entire flower is outlined with a pair of couched threads.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Then, each individual petal is completed in the prescribed order; head, hands, and feet.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

The blossoms are about the size of a ten pence piece so each petal is on the small side and rather fiddly but not too time consuming to stitch.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Sake Boxes - String

Many Japanese designs include cords and/or strings. Himotaba, the design I stitched at Phase V, has five different cord techniques and some of the other pieces I have stitched have cords on them but none of them have included strings! A popular Phase I design, Bouquet from the Heart of Japan, has two heavily padded, candy striped strings. I have always thought they are a considerable challenge for a Phase I student. Konbuin-no-Fukusa has a monotone, padded string tied around the sake box; I found that challenge enough!

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Each section of string is padded with twisted padding cotton which is couched with closely spaced stitches. The padding is then covered with short diagonal stitches (arg!) in flat silk. On this short, gently curved section of string, I did not find it too difficult to maintain the angle of the stitches.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

On this longer section, which turns nearly 360°, I found it far more difficult. At my first attempt, I turned too much and lost the angle completely.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

My second attempt was much better; at least the angle of the stitches is better, the edges could be a little more controlled!

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Sake Boxes - Stitch Transfer

It is quite staggering to realise how long Sake Boxes has been in my life! I won the fabric and design in a JEC silent auction in 2011 but was not ready to begin Phase IX at that time so it went into storage for a couple of years.

I started stitching in 2014 at my spring class with Margaret Lewis. I had visited sensei a few weeks earlier to choose my silks and discuss preparation. As well as any stitched outlines, I hoped to have all the foundations stitched prior to class but did not get that far so the first day was spent twisting threads and stitching the foundation of the two vessels. At first these two blocks of solid colour look very stark but I knew that I needed to ignore that and just remember that they will look very different in the end.

When I last wrote about Sake Boxes, in January 2015, the foundations had been pushed to the back of my mind while I focused on the many chrysanthemums and I wrote “Until I get to the gold work on the vessels there will be nothing new to say about this piece, except for an occasional progress report.” While progress has been slow and intermittent, I have failed completely in filing progress reports!

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

By the time I attended class at Symondsbury Manor House in March 2015, I had made reasonable progress with the round and pointed petal chrysanthemums. Whenever possible, I like to spend class time working on something new so that I can obtain instruction and iron out any difficulties whilst my tutors are on hand. During this class I wanted to begin the superimposed work on the two vessels. As always, there is preparation to be done before you can start on the fun bits! Ahead of the class I traced the design for the sake box and the ladle on to tissue paper and began the laborious process of stitch transfer onto my foundations.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I had been advised to use a different colour couching thread for each of the various superimposed elements. This proved to be good advice even though my colour choices did not always work to my advantage.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Once the entire design has been stitched through the tracing paper comes the even more laborious process of removing the tissue paper. It must be done with care so not to disturb the stitch transfer or the foundation stitches.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

With the tissue paper removed, the two vessels were already transformed and began to get an impression of how they would look with the superimposed work complete.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year, 2019

I wrote only two posts in 2018 and neither mentioned embroidery!

The past couple of years have thrown up a few challenges and have not been all together conducive to embroidery but, gradually, if somewhat patchily, my mojo has returned. In recent weeks, I find the desire to stitch has returned strongly and, while life still sometimes denies me the time to do so, I am more inclined to make time for stitching than I have been for two or three years.

During the past year or two, I have attended some wonderful courses and workshops; have learned some interesting things and begun some projects that, for now, have been put into hibernation. I hope to write about those on here so that I have a record of them for future reference. For now, I want to take a little look forward with what I hope to do in the coming months.

I have several projects in progress and many more that I would like to begin. I am trying to focus my attention on Sake Boxes as my main project. After stalling for a while, I find that I am enjoying it again and have made steady progress over the past few weeks. I attribute this, in part, to taking a break from it and, perhaps more so, to the support and encouragement I received from my friends in the Japanese Embroidery community.

I am a little less settled on my evening project and flit between two or three without advancing any of them by much. I brought one of those with me to Amsterdam.

Ring o' Roses
© Jacqui Carey/Carol-Anne Conway

For the past 18 years we have spent the New Year in A’dam with my sister- and brother-in-law. As we normally only see them once or twice a year, we have much to catch up on, but it is also a time for relaxing and I usually bring some stitching with me. We have been rather busy since arriving doing some of the things that have become traditional for us, and something unexpected (until a couple of weeks ago) but very pleasurable. Last night we saw in the New Year twice, as has become our custom. First, we toast the new year in Holland and watch the extraordinary firework spectacle across the Amsterdam sky line. Then at one o’clock, local time, we toast the new year arriving in England. New Year’s Day, we spend quietly. We take a little walk to blow away the cobwebs, we chat and rest, Susan knits and I stitch.

I did not do much, only one more round, but I am pleased to have done some stitching on the first day of the year and hope that I will do some, if only a little, on more days than not in 2019.

Happy New Year and Happy Stitching