Saturday, 6 December 2008

Still here ...

Had an email from one of my JE friends the other day saying I'd been very quiet lately. So just a quick note to say I'm here and stitching. It's slow going at the moment, lots of layers, lots of stitching but it doesn't really look very different. I got a new book from Amazon the other day, the fourth in a series by Katsumi Yumioka, published by Pie Books. This one is on Obi and the colours of Japan. The first two are on kimono and their colours, the third on childrens kimono. Well worth getting hold of, lots of interesting information and lots of beautiful pictures for inspiration. So off to read now for an hour and then off to work.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Braided Chrysanthemum - the stitiching begins

I've spent some time outlining the petals on the Braided Chrysanthemum, they aren't all done but I decided that the time had come to start putting in some colour. Besides I really wanted to see how the colour scheme looked on the red fabric. Because this is such a different colour scheme and for those Japanese embroiderers out there who might be interested I'm including the numbers of the JEC silks I'm using. (Incidentally, I had occasion to use some non-JEC flat silk recently and it is amazing just how much difference it made to the stitching. Nothing wrong with it I could put my finger on, but definitely not the same quality. I'll never complain about the price of JEC silk thread again, well I will but just in a general way!)
As usual the working is from front to back so the first thing to go in was the turnover of a petal. On the original some of these turnovers are worked in metallic threads and as this petal was going to be my most favorite green (474) I decided to work the end in a metallic green, using four strands of #1 thread.
All the twists on this piece will be worked with a basic 4-1, but on this one I took out .5 of a strand of silk and replaced it with one strand of the green metallic. It doesn't show up very well in the photo but it does catch the light in daylight.
Next went in an orange (228) and blue (518) petal both in a 4-1 twist. These don't have the turn overs on the end so they look slightly flatter than the green one. Next to go in were another shade of orange (226), red (106), white (801), and gold. Sorry these photos were taken after it had gone dark so the colour hasn't come out very well under the electric light. The white petal on the left is stitched using flat silk rather than twisted, it was a bit of an experiment, not sure I like it so it might come out and be replaced with a twist. The petals on this piece are a mix of diagonal stitch and cords. Now I enjoyed working the cords on my phase 5 piece, and it seemed to be one of those techniques which I 'got' straight away, which doesn't happen all the time (don't even talk to me about realistic technique!). But in all the pieces since phase 5 I haven't had to stitch any double or single central cords which this piece calls for. So the question was would I be able to get them right? And the answer, no ... This is a single central braid worked in light blue (514). The turnover was worked first with the 4-1 twist, then I started on the braid. This first attempt just didn't work, I couldn't get the angle of the stitching right. You can see here that the little squares in the middle of the braid aren't. Out it came and in went the second attempt which worked ok. These are a much better shape, it is awkward working braids round a curve, but starting on a curve is even trickier, so although these aren't perfect I'm quite happy with them.
All the braids are worked with flat silk in a 2-1, this white braid is a double central type.
This next petal was worked with an outline of dark blue (518), and the turnover was worked with shell gold. Shell gold (and silver) is a metallic thread which contains other colours (reds, greens, blues) as well as the basic gold or silver. I thought it would add an extra dimension to the piece. I like how it's turned out so I think I'll be using it again on other petals.
After I'd done the blue and white braids I could stitch some of the other petals so I made up some more twists and this is what it looks like at the moment. The yellow petal towards the bottom right is actually a bright acid yellow (308) which is really a bit over the top, but I think it looks great.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Spot the difference - 200 times!

Work is on-going on treasure ship but it is slow going at the moment, hence the lack of posts. Some NEWS I have just reached the 200 HOURS stitching point so thought I'd share it with you. Have been doing some work on the pines which is very repetitive but they are starting to come together and look the part. This photo shows the various stages, flat silk foundation, veins, and gold section.

This is the 'spot the difference' section :-) There is about 10 hours difference between the first and second photo.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Braided Chrysanthemum - what colours where

I've not been doing much stitching since I got back from Bournemouth. After five days of intense stitching I always seem to need some time away from it to gather my thoughts. Over the weekend I spent a few hours doing some planning on the chrysanthemum. As I changed the colours from the original it is not now possible to use the colour picture as a guide for stitching, so I decided to get out the felt tips and do some colouring in. I wanted to make sure that I didn't end up with too many petals of the same colour or with all the same colours in one section.

Version one

The petals which were white on the original I decided to leave white, so I marked them and then coloured the rest in. There is also a light blue in here, but I only had a light blue pencil rather than a felt tip, so it doesn't show up very well.

Version two

Then I did a second version just for some variation. Then I thought what would it look like if I used one of the colours more that the others (well I suppose that should be two colours, since the white petals are a colour as well of course), and so we have version three.

Version three

I think I've pretty much discounted version three, or at least in this colour way. The colours don't look the same on the white paper as they will on the red silk of course, perhaps when I actually put thread to fabric I'll change my mind.

No work next weekend so I'll be able to get some stitching done and will hopefully have an update on this and Treasure Ship.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Braided Chrysanthemum - the beginning

Wow, this is my 50th post, that crept up on me a bit. Happy Blogging to us all. This is the start of a new piece, Braided Chrysanthemum, you can see the original here on the JEC site - second row first on the left. I saw this on the Kurenai-kai site and just fell in love with it. The pictures here don't do the colour of the fabric which is a wonderful rich red. Each of the petals of this big spider chrysanthemum is formed either by a braid or diagonal layer. The size of the piece doesn't really come across in the photo here, but the flower goes almost from side to side of the fabric (about 30cm) and is about the same from the top petal to the bottom petal. This piece isn't either a phase piece or a practice piece, it comes from an obi design, so there were no instructions with this when it arrived just a colour picture, a design sheet, and a list of colours. If you've been to look at the original you'll notice that on this picture there is no blue dyed section in the centre of the flower. I was very disappointed by this when it first arrived, and really quite upset as I loved the original so much. However I was busy with Iris Stream and Treasure Ship, so I put my disappointment aside, put it in the 'to do' folder and tried not to think about it.

Having completed Iris Stream and with my stitching week in Bournemouth coming up I thought that I'd go back to this one and frame it up so I could sort out the colours when there. I also started doing some outlining of the petals, this helps support the cords during the stitching process.

Actually when I took this out of the folder to frame it up I decided I rather liked it without the blue section in the centre of the flower. So all turned out ok. I may decide to put some blue in with fuzzy effect once all the rest is stitched. Only time will tell. I always enjoy choosing colours but I haven't yet developed the skill of my tutor for putting colours together. So this is how we came up with a new colour scheme, first I placed onto the fabric a tube each of the colour scheme sent by JEC. Then I got out colours I liked and/or brighter versions of the original colours. Then they all went back again and I got out wild and wonderful colours, including the bright green I used on Himotabe below (which strangely seemed to work with the red) but I wasn't convinced. Enter Sensei Margaret stage left to save the day. After swapping colours around for a while we kept some of the colours I choose (including the green), added a couple of new ones, and kept a couple of the originals. I'm not going to share the final colour scheme with you here - it will be revealed over time. You can be sure that it'll be very bright and I think will make Himotabe quite dull!! Following the previous post about the copyright problems JEC are having. I'm not going to include links on any of the photographs on this blog any more (plus I'll be going back to take the others out). This means that it will no longer be possible to download any photos from here. Sorry, but I feel very strongly about this copyright issue. However, if any JE student out there would like a copy of a photo for reference when they are working on a piece I'll be happy to send a copy over - just drop me an email.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Copyright Theft

I found out recently that the Japanese Embroidery Center have been experiencing some problems with copyright theft of their designs. It seems that this has become such a problem that the Center have had to go to the trouble and expense of using special copy resistant paper for the design sheets which go with our pieces. I've thought about this for a few days wondering why people would do this or why anyone who knows about it would condone it and these are my thoughts. It is outrageous (not to mention criminal) that Kurenai-kai, JEC, and all the people past and present who have been involved in bringing Japanese embroidery to the west are being taken advantage of in this way. I have no idea who may be taking part in this horrible behaviour, or how many innocent people are being taken advantage of by being sold these pirated designs, but I really hope they are not connected to JEC in any way. I would like to encourage any Japanese embroidery student or tutor who thinks that they may have been a victim of this criminal behavior to contact JEC and report it. Even if you only suspect your design may be pirated please get in touch with JEC and ask them to check it for you. Lets all join together to support JEC in stamping out this dreadful behaviour.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Iris & class

Seems ages since I last posted, and having checked the date on the last post, it has been a while. Treasure Ship is progressing slowly but surely, but there have been very few changes which are interesting to share. At this point it requires a lot of repetitive work and one pine is very much like the next! For anyone who's counting I'm up to about 180 hours and the end is in sight. Just had a very enjoyable week in Bournemouth with all my stitching friends old and new. I always feel a bit cut off up here in the cold and damp north, hours away from everyone else, so it is always nice to meet up, exchange news, and catch up with what everyone has been doing. Two of our stitching colleagues from Guernsey are having an exhibition of their work which started yesterday. If you are going to be on the island in the next month visit the exhibition at the Coach House Gallery, Les Islets, St Peters, Guernsey until 7th November. Three of the five days in Bournemouth were spent working on treasure ship, one day was spent choosing colours and doing some preparation for a new piece, and another day on the iris' which are now completed. I am very pleased with how they have turned out and have learned a lot working on this interesting fabric, which will I'm sure stand me in good stead for future pieces. These iris' were always intended to be offered for sale at one of the local galleries here, but I have to admit I'll be sorry to see them go.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

And suddenly as if by magic ...

First take a piece of kimono silk. Think about some colours and techniques and exchange emails with your tutor for some advice on colours, then start to stitch. Then stitch some more ... ... and a little bit more ... ... and a little bit more ... and suddenly, as if by magic (well some 50 hours of stitching later), a lovely bunch of flowers have arrived in my front room!

This has been an interesting piece to stitch, kind of half way between creating a full design from scratch and stitching a pre-designed piece. I have enjoyed figuring out colours and techniques and have learned quite a lot, about what both works and what doesn't.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Iris and treasure

One of the pieces which has been in my 'to stitch' folder for a while was this design of iris' and stepping stones. It caught my eye because of the interesting fabric it was on. It is quite a loose weave with interesting woven patterns some of which seem to represent water and some geometrical patterns. I decided to frame it up last week to have it as 'light relief' from Treasure Ship (which is going on slowly but surely). The plan was to work most of the design in a line of staggered diagonals and a few of the leaves and the main flower in diagonal layer. It took me a while to get used to working on such open weave and after I'd worked a few of the leaves and one of the flowers I wasn't sure if what I had planed was working. So a few emails back and forth for some opinions and guidance it was decided to include fuzzy effect as well. So here is the first of the flowers worked with a line of staggered diagonals and filled in with fuzzy effect. There is another iris behind this one which I am going to work just as an outline.

A close up of the main petal from the iris above. You can see from this photos just how open the weave is.

The start of the main iris and some leaves worked with one strand of flat silk in diagonal or weft layer.

I'm finding it much easier to work on this fabric now. It's a bit odd though, the normal tension we would put on the silk is too much for this fabric and it pulls the warp and weft threads out of place, so I've had to get used to not pulling the thread as much as I would normally. However it all seems to be working out now and I'm very pleased with how it is going.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Front and back, back and front

As regular readers will know I finally finished stitching the Hoitsu Scroll Iris Stream, so on Wednesday evening I spent a couple of hours going through the finishing process. This is quite different to what is done with other forms of embroidery, but is a very important part of the process. Finishing the piece correctly helps to keep the stitches tight which in turn helps the silk keep its shine. This is not a difficult process but it is a bit fiddly and it is important to get it right and to be able to go through the whole process without any interruptions. Even after completing 10 or more pieces the finishing process still makes me nervous as I am aware that at this point it is possible to ruin many hours of work. I was going to go into more details of the finishing process, but it is difficult to explain and probably boring to read so am just posting a photo of the back of Iris Stream once the finishing process has been done.
The Back
And, of course, a picture of the front

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Rain washes up more treasure

As with most of the UK we in the NW have been suffering from yet more wet weather this weekend. Had a few nice hours but then the heavens opened again and down it came, I really don't know where it is all coming from. In any case it didn't stop me stitching so it really didn't matter. I decided I would do some more goldwork so have done some work on the pines and fan. The black and gold clouds on the fan are worked in a twisted black and #1 gold thread and they require short stitch holding to keep them in place. First I completed that and then I edged the fan with #4 gold.

The blue edge on the fan represents the outer fan stick, the lines on the handle of the fan represent the edges of the other fan sticks. I wanted to make these a little different to the clouds and the other edges so I worked them in two lines of #1 twisted gold. After finishing the fan I went back to some of the pines. First I completed the veins on the leaves then couched #3 gold round the bottom of the leaves.

Starting on the outside edge the gold is couched round and round until the top and bottom of the shape touch. As this point the middle of the round shape is filled in, the gold is finished off and the couching starts again on the next shape.

By the time I'd done the top two pines I'd had enough of couching so I packed it in at that point, but I am very pleased with how they are looking.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Shippo, shippo, and more shippo.

Treasure ship is growing slowly but surely and I have had a nice weekend working on the shippo pattern on the sail. Actually I should say I have had a weekend re-working shippo!! I have done some work on this section before, but on going back to it I decided that the red and white lines were a bit skimpy so took them all out to redo them. There are five distinct phases to this section, all the blue shapes are stitched in a twisted thread, then the white outline in flat silk, then the red outline in flat silk, yellow silk padding for the centre flowers, and last the centre flowers in #1 real gold. The white and red stitches are both worked in the same way, a right to left diagonal and in a clockwise direction.

I got all the white outlines done and most of the red before I decided I needed a change, so I went back to the centre flowers and put in padding I had not done the first time round.

I have worked a few of the centre flowers with #1 gold, but it has been difficult to get a good picture so here is a close up of one of the flowers. This picture makes it look quite big but the shippo are only about an inch across, so the gold flowers are really quite tiny.

I have enjoyed stitching the shippo, but I thought I needed a break as there is another 1/3rd or so to be completed, so I decided to break it up a bit and have a go at another section of goldwork.

The broom is first worked with a flat gold silk and then it is overstitched with #4 gold which form the twiggy branches of the broom. The yellow lines you can see on the flat silk are guide lines for the gold thread, only the main branches are marked, all the little twiggy offshoots are stitched randomly.

I have tried to get an overview of the broom but the flash bounced of the silk a bit, will have to have another go in natural light. I think this gives a pretty good idea of how the broom will look once all the twiggy sections are completed.

If anyone out there is counting, we are up to 158 hours!!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Iris Stream & Treasure Ship

Yay, Iris Stream is finished at last. I have really enjoyed stitching this piece and am very pleased with how it turned out.
In no way does it have the same impact as the Hoitsu Scroll stitched by the professionals of Kurenai-kai but every time I look at it it will remind me of the original.

Sadly I don't have a picture of the full scroll which I can share with you. But if you would like to see some there are some pictures on the CD of the World Exhibition 2007 which is available from JEC.

It has taken me longer than I thought to get back into the routine of stitching, but now I have and have finished Iris Stream I am looking forward to getting on with Treasure Ship.
This picture shows the lines on the boat in progress, I have completed this section, just need to take some photographs.

Couching gold work is my least favourite part of Japanese embroidery. This piece doesn't have much couching work on it, these clouds on the fan and part of the mast of the ship, but on going back to this piece I decided to work the fan clouds first so then I can relax and enjoy the rest of the stitching.

The gaps between the couching look quite obvious here, partly because it is a close up and partly because the black fabric shows through the gap. It looks ok in real life though so I will not be taking it out. Actually the spacing on the middle cloud is better then the one on the right. I worked the one on the right first so by the time I worked the middle one I had had a bit of practice. The third cloud on the left will also be filled in, I'll do that next.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Japan Day 2008

Well there has been a bit of a gap in my posts. Life here has been very busy for the past few weeks, so I have done very little stitching.

Last Saturday was Japan Day 2008 in Liverpool where we had a stand and were demonstrating our stitching. We had a great day and were overwhelmed by the number of visitors we had to our stall and by all the lovely things they had to say about our work. A big thank you to everyone who came along and said hello.

We had lots of interest from all age groups

I am surrounded by Japanese embroidery every day and see so much beautiful work by my fellow students that I forget sometimes there aren't that many of us and am always surprised by the reaction of people who are seeing traditional Japanese embroidery for the first time.
I shouldn't be really as it is the same response I had, but it is lovely to experience and even more lovely to talk to new people about my passion.

Lena and Carol-Anne deep in conversation with some visitors
Me working on Iris Stream (it's nearly finished I promise!)
Carol-Anne working on Bridge Between East and West - a new design introduced at the 2007 World Exhibition
Sue working on Bouquet from the heart of Japan
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