Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Hoitsu scroll - summer

Well work on this piece is going well. I'm so pleased that I didn't rush into starting this piece and waited until I was more confident with this technique, it has made a big difference.

A few of the leaves have a colour change in them but I've re worked them (or have taken the stitching out ready for reworking) as I wasn't happy with the effect.

The instructions in the box chart call for diagonal holding over the colour change area, but as can be seen here the colour change is still quite marked & I wanted it to be more subtle. I decided to borrow a technique that I learned when doing my phase two piece, Kirigami.

Bit odd to describe without photos, but basically it uses two needles, one has the first colour, the second has a mix of colour one and two and you alternate stitching with these needles, gradually fading in the second needle. Fasten off the first colour and then thread the needle with the second colour and then work both needles again, fading out the mixed thread and in the second colour. It looks like this when it's finished.
I didn't use such a long section for the colour change on the leaf, but it's worked much better and I'm much happier with the result.
The calyx on the iris called for variegated colours, so I used a 1.5 thread in random colourways to create the effect.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Iris Stream

Well things are going quite well with the iris stream, I've completed the main iris and some of the leaves.
The iris' are worked with a mix of twisted and flat silk. The long centre petals use flat silk but I've only padded the centre one. Not sure if perhaps I should also have padded the one on the right, hmm.

On the box chart that comes with most of the designs from JEC we get details on the techniques to use for each section, what thickness of thread or padding to use, and a few other details. What I'm finding with these more advanced designs is that the instructions are not so detailed, which is the point I suppose, as we advance we are supposed to work things out for ourselves.

The late Master Saito wrote about stitching from the heart not just with the hands, and also about getting the sense of a flower rather than an exact representation. "The hands are the exit of the spirit." So despite being a bit unsure about where I'd put the padding on this iris I decided to trust my instincts and stitch what I felt. Looking at it now I think I've done the right thing, I can see this iris in my garden, well not now as it's too cold and wet but as I remember it from the summer.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

How to wear a Kimono DVD

Our friends at Ichiroya have just released their first DVD, here is the information. "This is a KIMONO dressing DVD made as a guide to wear a kimono and tie an obi for yourself. The DVD includes the following information:how to wear a yukata + tie a Bunko obi, how to tie a Kaino kuchi (for men's kaku-obi), how to wear a homongi kimono and tie a Nijudaiko obi, how to tie a Fukurasuzume obi bow for Furisode (a fancy obi bow for a formal kimono). To tie a fukurasuzume, you need someone to help you but for other direction, they are meant to make it possible to do it for yourself by seeing the DVD. The printed direction with illustration is included in this DVD also. A narration is in English by a professional narrator- and we are sure the DVD will help you enjoy wearing a kimono and tieing an obi." The DVD costs just under £14 ($28), to find out more or order click here.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Bamboo Circle

As students travel along their journey most of us end up having more than one piece on the go at the same time. There are a number of reasons for this, sometimes it's because we need a break from a very difficult piece, sometimes it's because the larger pieces take so long, or sometimes it's just because we can't control ourselves!!

This piece is very simple which is why I love it, but I've never stitched on metallic fabric before so it's another adventure, below is what it will look like when it's finished.

This piece is worked on a metallic fabric which means that every other weft thread is actually a very thin piece of paper coated with real gold leaf.

This is one of the metallic threads which I've taken from the cut end of the fabric, the measurements on the right are mm.
There are a number of different variations which give different finishes, this is quite a pale gold and has a lovely shimmer.

Selvedge of the fabric showing the metallic threads.

Metallic fabrics are very difficult to work on as the light just bounces off the surface, so I can only work on this during daylight hours because as soon as the lights go on there is just too much glare. So daytime stitching = bamboo circle & evening stitching = iris stream.
This is the top leaf, first I worked a twisted foundation in white and held it down with temporary holding threads, then I made a tracing of the treasures which was tacked over the top of the foundation, then I stitched round the designs with a very thin thread and removed the tracing paper. Next job - take out the temporary holding threads and stitch the little treasures - watch this space ...

Friday, 16 November 2007

Hoitsu scroll - Iris and Flowing Stream

This piece was bought for me by one of my best friends (thank you Caroline) quite some time ago. It was a very special gift, and I put off starting it until I had completed all the phase pieces which covered the various techniques needed as I wanted to give it the attention and skill it deserved. I saw the original of this piece at the exhibition last weekend and have finally picked up the courage to start it.

You can't see it in this picture, I'll try and get a better shot, but the fabric has a gold thread used in the weft, it gives a nice shimery surface, perfect for water. In fact it's the same kind of fabric used for Loving Couple, phase 6 (see the gallery). In the forground are iris' and omodaka (not sure what the English name is), the long curved lines travelling behind and above the fowers will eventually form the stream.
As with all Japanese embroidery the foreground is worked first. In the boxchart it says to use 8 strands of padding cotton, I've used two layers of padding as I wanted to make sure the petal stood out, petals slightly behind this one will have only one layer, and the next layer back will have no padding at all. I've also made the second layer of padding end at slightly different places to try and give movement to the petal.

Completed petal stitched with realistic effect. The first layers of stitching are worked with twisted thread and the lighter blue section with flat thread. I had some problems with the flat thread getting the shaping of the petal right so this is about my third try. I got one of the gardening books out and looked at some pictures to get a sense of what I was trying to achieve and then started stitching from the top (in the picture) of the petal and worked towards myself which seemed to work ok.

As with all the pieces I've stitched so far it is designed and distributed by JEC who hold the copyright.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Visit to the exhibition

Well, all I can say is if you can make it to Cambridge before the 18th November 2007 and you are interested in embroidery you should go. It takes me about 3 hours to get to Cambridge and it was worth every minute, in fact having seen the work I'd have driven twice that far to see it.
I know the word AWESOME has become to be used for things that aren't really and it has lost some of it's meaning, but some of the work on display is truly awesome.
I can't begin to describe in words just how beautiful these works of art are (and anyone who says embroidery isn't an art should go along just to see how wrong they are!!). Sadly I can't use pictures either, photographs aren't allowed and the CD of the exhibition isn't ready yet. Copies can be ordered when visiting.

This is a piece I stitched called 'Forest Wisdom' designed by JEC and which is on display at the exhibition. I wouldn't describe these as awesome, but they are very cute.
There are a number of pieces which have made a big impression but it's far too long a list to go into without pictures to explain why. However, Flower Screen stitched by Monique a French student (whose surname I can't remember, sorry Monique) was just lovely. Four long thin pieces of silk are stitched with a number of different flowers on each, not in a pattern, but as a study of the plant itself. An equivalent of our western botanical paintings.
And the Hoitsu Scroll, in fact four scrolls stitched by the professional embroiderers at Kurenai-kai, which will haunt me forever (in a good way). Each section represents one of the four seasons and is stitched with flowers, plants, birds, and insects appropriate to that season.

I'm hoping that when the CD comes out JEC will give permission for me to show one or two pieces here. Watch this space ...

During the weekend I attended a dinner arranged by JEC for all the members of Kurenai-kai and JEC. It was lovely to meet so many different embroiderers from all over the world. Even more lovely was to win one of the raffle prizes, this lovely embroidery stitched by Saito san, one of the professional embroiderers from Kurenai-kai. It's called The Seven Flowers of Autumn - Arrowroot.

Close up of one of the arrowroot leaves.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

World Exhibition 2007

Well I've just had a sneak preview of the world exhibition - I had to take one of my pieces down to Cambridge for display. No way I was trusting it to the post. So many beautiful pieces were already hung and many more had still to arrive or be unpacked. I'm sure that anyone who is interesed in any type of embroidery or Japanese art in general will find something they love. I didn't see everything but I've already spotted two more pieces to add to my wish list - oh my poor bank account! Think it's going to be well worth a visit so if you can get to Cambridge in the next couple of weeks you can get full details from the Japanese Embroidery Center website (link on right). Enjoy.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Phase 8 - Final Dress Up

Phase 8 completed
Originally uploaded by Nejiribana

Technique - fuzzy effect.

All our phase designs come from the Japanese Embroidery Center and for most phase pieces they offer us a number of different designs to choose from, for phase 8 it's; Final Dress Up - beautiful autumn maple leaves, Queen of Flowers - a lovely peony, and a much larger design Crane with Reeds. I decided the crane was too big to attempt for a phase piece, but I do like it so might go back to it at some point - watch this space. I liked the peony but it didnt' 'speak' to me, the autumn leaves however ...

Fuzzy effect is a reasonably easy technique to learn when just talking about how the stitches are put into the fabric. Ideally fuzzy effect is worked on a crepe fabric which has very well defined weft valley lines. It consists of a twisted thread being laid in a valley of the fabric which is then couched down either diagonally or vertically with a thinner twisted thread. The threads can be laid in every valley, every other valley, or spaced out even more, the closer the threads are together the more solid the effect.

Now comes the interesting bit, the colour. The colour of the fabric shows through the centre of the motifs, leaves in this case, so this will affect what the finished piece looks like. Very dark colour fabrics will leach out colour from the silk threads so what looks very bright on the reel will be much more subdued on the fabric. How the foundation thread is held down will affect the colour as well, couching with a different colour than the foundation helps to blend two colours together, but using diagonal couching will combine colours more than a vertical couching.

So how did I choose these colours? Well Margaret sensei (my tutor) said to choose the brightest most acid colours of silk that I had in my box and then to experiment with combinations of colours. So that is what I did.
I had hours of fun putting in a foundation stitch and then couching it in different ways and with different colours to see what the end result would be.

On this piece is was possible to choose colours randomly since each leaf could be treated as an individual section. On Queen of Flowers or Crane with Reeds the overall picture has to be taken into account and one must choose colours and technique to create an overall impression. If you'd like to see pictures of these and other designs using fuzzy effect visit JEC, JE UK, Kurenai-kai, or the Nuido Gallery - all linked at the right.

I really enjoyed stitching this piece, it's only just gone to the framers, and I'm looking forward to getting it back and hanging in on the wall where I can enjoy looking at it.

Phase 7, Camellias

Phase 7 completed Originally uploaded by Nejiribana

There are 9 phases in Japanese embroidery (JE) which teach the 46 different techniques. Phase 10 is the 'graduation' piece and contains all 46 techiniques in one piece (actually there are more than 20 phases, but 1-10 are the basics!). I've competed phases 1-8 but since the blog is only just getting started I'll start with the two pieces I've just completed. This phase teaches the technique known as realistic effect, it is often used on flowers or birds to create a nicely curved petals or feathers. The trick is to keep the stitches straight but still to create a curve, sound confusing? Yes I was too. I started this piece in March this year and struggled a lot with it. Often when learning a new technique in JE you re-work a section a number of times in order to get the technique right, or at least right enough to live with because the fabric won't take it forever and if you take the stitching out too many times you risk spoiling the whole thing. However I really wasn't happy with the effect I was getting, there was no movement in the petals and it just looked horrid, so I decided to have a break from it and stitch something else. So, fast forward to October and our next class, I'd already started my phase 8 piece so took both that and my Camellias along hoping that my tutors would be able to help me correct whatever it was I'd been doing wrong. Well suddenly, 'as if by magic', it all came together. Don't know if it was my break from them, something in the air during the class, the patience of my tutors, of maybe I'd just got into 'stitching mode' , but whatever it was the technique suddenly came together and hey presto in a week they were finished.

Think they came out all right in the end?

The Way of Embroidery

The stitiching group that I'm a part of meets for classes twice a year for a whole week, and from day one part of my enjoyment was being able to take time to watch more advanced students stitch, study their work, and talk to them about their stitching journey. Without fail they, and our tutors, have been supportive and understanding of a beginners struggles and a comment so often heard is 'I understand it was like that for me too'. At our last class in October I suddenly came to realise that I was one of those advanced stitchers and I was saying the same to newer students. Now how did that happen? It doesn't seem two minutes since I was struggling with my first piece (or indeed my last piece!). In various conversations during the week it occured to me how much more there is to learn, colour and design are two things that I want to learn more about, and although my stitching has improved beyond what I ever dreamed possible four years ago I still consider myself as a beginner in many ways. I've resurected this blog to track my journey along the my path of nuido (the way of embroidery), I hope you find it interesting and encouraging and that other students of traditional Japanese embroidery will chip in with their comments and experiences as well. If you'd like information on classes, history of Japanese embroidery, or just want to look at lots of pretty pictures check out the links to other Japanese embroidery sites.
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