Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Phase 9 & Japan Day 2008

Well the first steps on phase 9 have been taken. I've put in some foundation in advance of my next class which will save me at least two days stitching it all seems a little less intimidating now and I'm looking forward to getting on with the more complicated sections.


Broom foundation, this will eventually be overstitched with gold thread. The tissue paper has been tacked over the foundation to protect it while working other sections.

One of my favourite effects is when metallic threads are combined with silk which can be done with either flat or twisted silk. The photo below is from my phase 2 piece, Fan Papers, where the gold thread is combined with flat orange silk and then over stitched with a sayagata pattern in gold.
This is a section of phase 3, Venerable Friends, where the gold thread is combined with a twisted gold silk, a much more subtle effect.
I've not used this effect since phase 3 and have enjoyed working this section. In Treasure Ship the gold thread is combined with a twisted thread of black silk. It doesn't show up very well in the photo but it is a lovely effect.


If you can make it to Liverpool on 19th July the Japan Society North West is holding their Japan Day 2008 where we will be exhibiting, I'll have Treasure Ship with me so come along and see how I'm doing. I'll post more about Japan Day as I get the information or visit their website for more information.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Bamboo Circle Cords

Well after planning to put this piece aside to start work on Treasure Ship I decided that, since it's such an important piece to me, it was a good idea to leave the framing up (onto the embroidery frame) until the weekend so I could spend a good amount of time getting it right and not rush to get in done in an evening after a day at work.
Since it's not possible for me to go more than a day without stitching, I've spent the last few evenings doing some work on the cords for bamboo circle.


I'm not entirely happy with the tight curves on the cord, so I might go back and re-work them. But I'll put it aside for a while as I concentrate on Treasure Ship and then go back and look at it with fresh eyes. We have a class coming up so I'll take it with me and ask for my tutor's opinion.

Another step closer to phase 9 (how scary is that), it's starting to become very real. Still a little overwhelming to realize how far I've come already on this journey, and how far there is to go. But I have enjoyed every minute of it, have made some good friends, and I feel confident that this journey will take me to many more interesting places.

I've not put down in this blog yet how I came to start on this journey, so perhaps this would be a good time. In 1990/01 I went on an introductory course on Japanese embroidery. Two of my fellow students, Mary-Dick Digges and Dolly Fehd from America, were students of the late Master Saito and the current Master Tamura. One of them, I don't remember which, had brought with them their phase 7 piece, Pansies, the image of those pansies, their colour and the shine of the silk has haunted me for years. Four years ago after various changes at home and work I finally had the time to take some classes and the rest, as they say, is history. Strangely I've never wanted to stitch the pansy design (I did Camellias for my phase 7). The image of those pansies no longer haunts me as it once did, but I can still see them in my minds eye.

I never got the chance to study with Mary-Dick who became, along with the Japanese tutors, one of the first tutors from JEC to teach in England as very sadly she passed away before I started taking my classes. However it is nice to know there is some continuity in all this, or maybe the fates were taking a hand!, as two of my tutors were students in those first classes in the UK.

Margaret, Pat, Jenny you all deserve a huge thank you for all your help and support over the last four years. You have been a constant source of support and inspiration, always encouraging your students to expand their knowledge and skills and always, always happy to share your knowledge and passion for Japanese embroidery.

Thanks must also go to the late Master Saito whose dream it was to expand Japanese embroidery beyond Japans borders, to Master Tamura his family and all the staff at JEC in Atlanta, and to Master Saito his family and all the staff at Kurenai-kai in Japan.

Last, but by no means least, thanks to my fellow students who are always supportive of each other, and who make our stitching weeks so enjoyable.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Bamboo Circle

I've had a lovely weekend doing some more work on Bamboo Circle, and I must say it's starting to look pretty good and I'm very pleased with the progress. I've never seen this piece in its stitched form only in a photograph and the colours are much more vibrant in real life.

In this piece the cord is an imitation wicker style, which means it has a twisted foundation with a gold thread stitched over the top. I'll leave the gold thread till last as it'll be a nice way to finish everything off. When working cords it is important to change the angle of the foundation stitches to reflect the bends in the cord. This can be tricky, especially on tight angles, but it's important to get it right otherwise the cord looks a bit odd. I've still got the tight turns in this cord to work, so that'll be a whole post on its own.

The cord has a number of colour changes in it, these are made by using two needles at the same time and gradually fading one colour in which the other one is faded out. These changes can be as suble or a sudden as you like depending on the effect you want. I didn't want too suble a change in this one so I didn't stitch a very long change over. It looks a bit odd in the photo because it's so close up - but against the gold background of the fabric and from a little bit further away it seems to work.

I have worked outlines on two of the leaves using two different types of twisted threads, a katayori and a karayori. The first is a bobbly thread and the second is smooth, but neither of them are stitchable so once they were twisted I wound them onto a pair of koma and each were couched as a pair.

I've just invested in some new koma from Brian Goodwin. Brian makes lace bobbins and equipment, but he very kindly agreed to make some koma for me. After our phone call he sent over a sample and by the end of the next week a box of shiny new koma had arrived. The pair below are made from ash and they have a lovely feel to them. Thank you Brian for such quick service and lovely work.

The thread shown here is the katayori, I made it from two different colours of thread to get a mottled effect.
Below are the koma in use with the karayori (smooth) thread.

Well here you go, progress so far. This design looked a bit empty for ages, but it's definitely starting to fill up now. The top leaf with the treasures is finished, the one second from top is complete except for a little bit of the edging, the third one down still needs some work, and the bottom one is complete except for the edging. Just above the leaves on the right will be some more cords, so not much to do now.

I've got my next class in just under three weeks so I'm going to have to put this and Iris Stream on hold for the moment and do some preparation work on phase 9. It's a design called Treasure Ship and is taken from one of the famous Konbuin fukusa, you can see an image of it on the JEC website here (it's the second of the phase 9 pieces). I'm stitching my version on black shusu. I'm still very nervous about starting phase 9, it really doesn't seem two minutes since I was at my first class and I can't quite believe that I've hit this level. I can still remember sitting in class that first time (four years ago this week in fact) looking at the work being produced by the more advanced stichers and thinking I'll never get to that point, and yet, here I am.

Well, deep breaths and calm thoughts as one more step on the journey is taken.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Craft fair - thank you to all our visitors.

Denise, Sue, and I spent the last three days at the Stitch and Creative Crafts Show at Manchester Central Convention Centre (GMEX). We had a wonderful time talking to lots of visitors who were very complementary about our stitching, and we were bowled over by the number of people who came to talk to us, thank you to all of you.

The lovely uchikake (wedding kimonos) were lent to us by another member of our group. Thank you Pat.
Denise and Sue talking to one of our visitors. Bottom left is Iris Stream, still not quite finished! We'll be at the event again in August, I'll try and have it and Bamboo Circle finished for you by then. Come and see if I've succeeded...
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