Monday, 14 December 2009

JE challenge - finished

Well, it has been a busy couple of stitching days. I met up with some stitching friends from our new class here in the NW on Saturday, it's really nice to see them taking their first steps and they are doing great work. I worked on Kusudama on Saturday and then on Sunday I completed my little Japanese embroidery challenge piece. Well, I thought I completed it. I posted a photo of it on my page over on stitching fingers, but I wasn't completely happy with it as it didn't seem finished. This is the piece as it was on Sunday before I went to work. After I got back from work on Sunday evening I went back to my original sources of inspiration for turning this ... ... into an embroidered version of this ... This is one of the inro in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection that I had checked out when doing research into this piece (click on the image to visit the collection pages at the museum). As soon as I went back to the originals I realised what was missing, the bead and netsuke. Today while doing other things some ideas were ticking over in the back of my mind and this evening I completed the piece. I decided to embroider the netsuke as a large plum blossom. I padded it with two layers of padding cotton and then covered it with flat silk. I didn't want to introduce another colour into the piece so I used the same colour as for the inside of the inro. This red is darker than we would normally use under gold thread. However it gave the gold a really nice rich effect. And after the red silk was complete I covered it with twisted gold. I've used twisted gold before on small motifs, but on this larger one it looked just fabulous. I'll have to use this again! The full impact of the gold is lost in the photograph, it's such a shame I can't find some way of making photographs of Japanese embroidery look as good on photos as in the flesh (as it were). Anyone who has seen originals of traditional Japanese embroidery will know what I mean.
Shiny! The plum is a triple blossom and after I'd held down the twisted gold foundation (the light yellow lines - you can't see these on the original), I twisted up some karayori threads which were couched to form the pattern of petals.
The next trick was to figure out how to get the cord joined to the netsuke. I couldn't sink it or somehow put it under the stitching because it is a real cord and is quite thick.
In the end I bound a bit of twisted gold round the cut end of the braid and couched it down right next to the embroidery, which seemed to work.
I also added an embroidered bead in black silk and used the twisted gold again for the accent. This is how we depict plum buds in Japanese embroidery so I thought it would add a nice touch.
So here we are, it's really finished this time and I am very pleased with how it has turned out.
Edited - 20th December - thank you all for your comments. I have listed this piece in my Etsy shop and on the On-line Saachi gallery.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A weekend of embroidery

I spent most of this weekend doing more work on Kusudama which is progressing very nicely. It doesn't seem like a lot of work looking at the photos, but all these techniques have a number of layers so each one takes quite a time to complete. This plum blossom shape is worked in a pattern which represents the famous shibori dyeing technique. This pattern is almost always worked with a white foundation in flat silk which fills in the shape, then a twisted thread is used to form a square grid and, in this variation, the incomplete squares round the outside are filled in. The shibori effect is completed with smaller stitches in the middle of the squares and at the cross over of the lattice.
Another flat foundation in a cherry blossom shape, with the start of a flax leaf pattern.
For a touch of extra colour I used shell gold to form this flax leaf pattern and outlined the shape with #4 silver.
All these motifs are from the background flower ball and none of them are worked in a realistic colour scheme, so why not have a nice purple maple leaf I thought.
This bell flower is outlined with a katayori thread and filled in with sagara nui (knots).
Ultimately all five of the larger sections will be filled in with knots.
I also worked half of another bell flower shape with #4 silver.
I am enjoying this piece very much. It is nice to go back and review a lot of techniques that I haven't used in a while.

Friday, 4 December 2009

And then there was more ...

Well it's been a while and progress has been slow, but it continues slowly and surely. On the challenge piece I've completed the plums, just have to give them all an outline. I had various ideas on how to decorate the other portion of the fan, but couldn't decide which one to use. In the end I went with a curly version which I think works quite well. Above is the paper pattern which has been embroidered over the top, and below with the tissue paper in the process of being removed.
As regular visitors will know I've been avoiding working on Kusudama until I got my head on straight as life has been a bit fraught over the last couple of months.
A few days after I did the work above I went to spend a few days with my tutor, Margaret, at her house near the sea. Now the south coast in the UK should have better weather than the north west even in November, sadly this wasn't the case, but I didn't care I was in seventh heaven. A friend to talk JE to all day, a library of fabulous books to raid, a house filled to the rafters with treasures to explore, and a new friend - gorgeous George.
And although George did develop quite an interest in my toes, my own fault for forgetting to pack my slippers(!), I had a wonderful time. Lovely to be by the sea, even in rotten weather, to spend time with Margaret who never stints to share her love of Japanese embroidery, her skill and knowledge, and the aforementioned library of books and treasures, with all of her students and friends. I returned home in yet more rain (where does it all come from) inspired and energised and ready to stitch. I put aside the challenge piece and went back to Kusudama, and I have to say it is all going very well. I'm very pleased with what I've done so far and am looking forward to this weekend with no work and lots of stitching hours. First I worked a chrysanthemum. Then a pine with a sayagata pattern over the top.
This is the completed pine, it's a lovely shade of green and the flat foundation looks lovely. The sayagata pattern is worked with one strand of twisted gold.
I also worked a pale pink plum blossom in flat silk, which had some of the dreaded short stitch holding over the top. Only takes a few stitches on each petal though, so it wasn't so bad. Also worked a plum in twisted silk, and another pine with a twisted foundation. The plum buds are embroidered in the same colour as the plum with some self padding underneath. Since taking these photos I've put in the diagonal holding on the pine and have completed the third camellia and its leaves. More pictures and progress to come after the weekend, happy stitching. And before I forget for any doggie fans out there, George is a sussex spaniel.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The story continues ...

... so I've got a bit further on the JE challenge piece. I completed the foundation and am pleased with how it has turned out. To make the top a bit different I embroidered it at a different angle to the side.Using flat silk I embroidered the inside of the inro. This red works really well, and is a great contrast to the black outside. In went the temporary holding.
And then over the top I used a stitch transfer to outline the plum blossoms and fan.
Embroidering the plum blossoms has proved a bit more of a challenge, but this is a challenge piece after all. Originally I wanted to work the plum blossoms in white silk, then I changed my mind and decided I would use gold.
As these plums are only very small, less than 1cm across, I decided I would embroider them using a simple style, like this one on a haori jacket from Ichiroya (click on the picture to see the whole jacket).
After some exprimentation I finally settled on using twisted gold for the plums.
I am outlining them in #3 gold to give them a little more definition. It's hard work embroidering motifs which are this small, so decided to have a break until tomorrow. No work this weekend, so might be able to get the plums completed tomorrow, we'll see.
While I was looking for a nice picture of an embroidered plum on Ichiroya not only did I find the lovely jacket above, but I found the one below which is decorated with some very nice hand embroidery. Both are silk haori jackets and both a bargain at only $18. Follow the links to Ichiroya for more information.
Kimono and haori often have very beautiful linings, this one has a lovely shell box design on the lining.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Chapter 2

Another post in quick succession - what is the world coming to? I blame Jane from Chilly Hollow Needlepoint, she did ask me to stitch faster. By the way Jane, very impressed with how your Rabbit Geisha came out, so glad you overcame the damage problems. No embroidery pics in this post, but I have made some more progress. I mentioned in the last post that I was going to embroider the inside of the inro in red as though it had been lacquered. Last week in discussions about colour schemes I couldn't decide which of the reds would be best to use for the lacquer. So this morning very early I took some pictures of this lovely box I own (from Ichiroya of course, are you surprised?) And of the inside ...
Then I got out some of the red silks to try them out to see which matched best. The photos don't get an exact colour reproduction, but they give you the idea.
#119 seemed to be a bit too orange.
#106 was a bit too red.
But, #228 was almost right.
#228 is a tad dark, but given that on the design the inside of the inro would be in a shadow created by the top of the box I think this colour will work. It will be worked in flat silk with short stitch holding over the top as I don't want it to be too shiny.
So all I have to do now is get on with the embroidery, watch this space ...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Cracked it ...

... or should that be twisted it! Remember the story of Goldilocks and the three bowl of porridge. Well this is nothing like that, ha ha. Well a bit, it's the story of the brunette and the three foundations. After my last post I went back to the box chart for fan papers and checked out the instructions for the orange foundation. Turns out it is a 1F + #1G, so a ratio of one silk thread to one gold thread for any non JE readers out there, so I thought I would give that a try to see what it looked like (sorry, no pic). Decided it wasn't robust enough and was still too stripey. So foundation number three was created - 3-1T + #1G - three threads twisted into one, including a gold thread. I made this twist really, really soft, and the gold thread I used has a red fleck to it which adds a little touch of extra colour. This worked very well and I decided to use this version of the foundation.
So, this is it so far, a bit more foundation to do, then the lid and the inside of the inro which I'm going to do as a lacquered red colour.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The challenge continues

Spent four days last week in the company of some stitching friends old and new and had a great time. Didn't get much time to stitch myself but I did make some progress on the JE challenge.

I completed the stitch transfer outlining the inro, then put in some padding.
I couched some holding threads down over the padding. There are three layers of padding and I wanted to make sure that it doesn't buckle under the silk once it comes off the frame.
I had a long conversation with my friend Denise about the colour scheme for this piece. We looked at a number of pictures of inro and decided it needed a very simple colour scheme so I ended up scrapping the original version and decided to make it just back and gold. Good job I kept the gold really as I'd already made the cord for this!

My original plan had been to embroider the foundation in flat silk, and when I decided to change the foundation to black I thought I would include a gold thread to add a bit more texture. I've used this technique before in one of my early phases (see photo below) and it gives a lovely finish.

I tried this with the black thread but I think the lines of gold are two regular and it doesn't work the same. Might be something to do with the colour combination of course, the gold doesn't stand out quite as much on the orange. I'm still in two minds about this, I really want the sheen of the flat silk but I don't want the gold to stand out quite so much. I might increase the ratio of silk to gold to see if that makes a difference, otherwise I'll have to go with a twisted foundation.

I also couched down the braid I've made along the edges of the inro, this will be covered with the embroidered foundation and then I'll add some couched threads to add to the shape of the whole piece. Back soon(ish) with an update.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Kusudama and JE challenge

Well, the plan for the last post went out the window, so here is a catch up. JE CHALLENGE - I decided to use the plum fan for the challenge design. I feel a bit sorry for the Japanese plum, for years it was the practically the national flower of Japan then along came the cherry with its flashy ways and the plum was relegated to second place. :-( ;-) I drew up the inro, shrank the fan to size and put them together to come up with the first draft of the design. I was pretty happy with this but even with the cord I felt there was not enough movement. I did some reading on inro and discovered that they are made in sections so I thought if I showed the piece as open or partly open, that would add more movement.
I traced the outline and cut off the top section of the inro. I then played around with the two pieces of paper until I had decided on positions and pasted them into place, then traced over the top of both sections to get the next version of the design.
If you followed the link to the V & A website on my previous post you will have seen that inro come in all different types and styles. This is going to be worked on a deep green silk and embroidered in gold and white, I am intending to use a fair bit of padding to give the inro shape. This piece is not large and its scale means that the cord is very narrow so I decided to use a real braid and couch it to the fabric instead of embroidering one.
It's a while since I did any Japanese braiding (kumihimo), so I got out my books and bobbins and decided which braid I would do.
The first plan was to make a 16 bobbin braid, so I wound the silk onto the bobbins and made a start.
I really like this braid, particularly the contrasts in the twist, but after I'd worked a section I decided it was too big for the scale of the design. I went back to some pictures of inro and the cords on them were all quite simple and were sometimes knotted into decorative shapes. I went back to a 8 bobbin braid and worked it with a random colour scheme.
This is a hollow braid so will be very easy to couch and to twist or knot into decorative shapes. I have made enough of the braid that it can run down the edge of the inro, as it would on a real one, this means it'll double as the padding and I can embroider over the top.
So that is it so far, meanwhile on KUSUDAMA ...
The gold chrysanthemum is completed.
I've embroidered some camellia leaves.
The stripy camellia is half done.
The two tone camellia (also known as the 'aghhhhhh this technique is really difficult' camellia), is done, well I just have the centre to complete. I'm not entirely happy with this one, but it's better than it was, so it's staying in.
The solid camellia, came out and then went back in again. The picture above shows the shell powder lines which were used to guide the couching of the edging thread.
Short stitch holding is used all over this flower, so I left the temporary holding threads in to use as a guide for the stitches, and once the short stitch holding was done I them out and completed the centre of the flower. So that is it for Kusudama at the moment, I've done some work on the small chrysanthemums but no pictures to show yet.
When I was printing some of my pictures I took a close up of the centre of the camellia so I could have a reference for the knots which were worked with a thread of gold included. I thought this made an interesting picture as you can also see the gold running through the fabric, so thought I'd share.
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