Thursday, 6 January 2022

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Embroidery Gave to me ...

Chrysanthemums and a Stream

Every spring since 2005, I have attended a five day residential course on Japanese Embroidery. The 2020 class was a little different from other years as we had a guest tutor, Midori Matsushima. I had attended two classes previously where Midori-san had taught us kinsai; on this occasion her class would be embroidery based. The design we had collectively chosen was Chrysanthemums by a Stream, with Rocks, Midori-san’s interpretation of an Ito Jakucho painting.

The stream is applied to the fabric in gold leaf. Originally we had expected to be doing this on day one of the course but Midori-san, while in Japan, had this done for us by a gold leaf Master. My disappointment that we would not be learning this technique was far surpassed by the delight of having the gold leaf so expertly done.
© Midori Matsushima/Carol-Anne Conway

The chrysanthemum’s at the top of the design are, I think quirky and very appealing. The petals are done in blister stitch. Midori-san instructed us to make a three-ply twist to use for the knots that serve as padding in this stitch. The two straight stitches that form the blister are slightly off set to create the petal shape. It looks deceptively easy but is devilishly difficult. I could not spread my silk enough to satisfy Midori-san and my two stitches slipped off the sides of the padding revealing the knot underneath. Much more practice needed!
© Midori Matsushima/Carol-Anne Conway

A particular feature of Jakucho’s work is that he did not paint perfection; he painted nature with all of its imperfections. He saw beauty in a decaying leaf and depicted it that way. Both the JEC, on the Phoenix and Pine design, and Midori-san have reflected this in their embroidery.
© Midori Matsushima/Carol-Anne Conway

I have a great deal more to do on this piece but, for now, it is in hibernation.

Happy Stitching


In this series of catchup posts I have tried not to dwell on the pandemic or on losing my parents but these two events are what has afforded so much stitching of the past two years.

I had booked this class a year earlier. The schedule included this three day class followed by three days of our regular class lead my Margaret-sensei. I also had an entirely different class booked for the following two days.

Although Dad had been unwell for many years, his death in September was sudden and unexpected. Dealing with my grief was difficult; watching Mum grieve was heart breaking and watching her fade away over the next four months was unbearable.

We buried Mum at the beginning of March 2020 and my brothers and I were busy sorting out the family home and other affairs. I did not really feel like going to the embroidery class but everyone thought it would do me good to take a break. In the end I was persuaded to go for Midori-san’s three day class.

Meanwhile, I was watching the news of coronavirus. At that point was not overly concerned about it but over the three days of the class, the rate of infection was accelerating rapidly. The additional three days of regular class where cancelled and we went home.

The other class booked for the end of the week had also been organized months in advance. As this is a very small class held in a private home, we initially thought it might go ahead but in the end that too was cancelled. That week the company I work for decided that we should all work from home until things settled down.

There is no deneying this pandemic has been awful but my husband and I have been more fortune than many. We have both worked from home since March 2020 and have avoided getting Covid. Like everyone else, we were locked down and unable to go anywhere. Of course, I miss spending time with my friends and family, especially my brothers, and regret the things that we have not been able to do. However, in March 2020, I was exhausted, mentally and physically. Lockdown forced me to stop and take time to grieve and recover. I feel extremely fortunate that I have a hobby that I can do at home and I have enough supplies to last me a life time. Embroidery, the garden, and my lovely husband have been my salvation. I am very lucky!


I’ve got a few more things to catch up on and more stitching in progress so I’ll be back soon … I hope!


Tina Canton said...

Hi Carol-Anne. Thank you for posting your Twelve Days of Christmas. I’ve enjoyed reading about your projects very much. Your obvious dedication and enjoyment in your art during what has been an extremely tough couple of years has inspired me to make 2022 the year I pull out and finish some UFOs, including Jenny Adin-Christie’s Blue Wren Etui. I wish you and everyone a 2022 of good health and happiness.

Rachel said...

I've been aware of what you've been dealing with, and I agree, we are fortunate in loving something that we can do sitting quietly at home and not seeing anyone. Grief, and dealing with the administration associated with a death, are both things that take as long as they take, I've discovered. I'm glad you've been able to find some peace and healing in spite of the pandemic.

Fireflyinva said...

I've been loving your recent posts. These years have been truly tough on you. You've been really amazing both in your stitching efforts and your personal life. Thank you for sharing this--you've really shown how it's transformative. I hope the power of the needle continues to heal. I find an abiding presence of my parents in the quiet moments where stitching transports me--I hope that works for you, too. Oh--and happy New Year!

D1-D2 said...

I'm sorry for your loss at what is already a difficult time. I hope 2022 will be more kind to you and all of us.