Saturday, 29 August 2009

The best thing about bank holidays ...

... (when they coincide with my weekend off from my evening job) is that I get three full days to stitch. Hooooray!!! I'm just taking a quick break to post this then back to work. In my last post about Kusudama, you may remember I spoke about the couched silver circle and that I wasn't happy about the couching. Last night I went back and looked at it again and decided that I wasn't happy with it, so out it came. Below is a picture of what it looked like after it came out, you can see how the fabric has been marked, and this was only couching thread with a very fine needle. This circle is worked in an outward spiral so no outward edge is marked, a little cross in the middle marks the starting point, then we work outwards until the required size is reached. The beginning of this is a bit tricky, the circle is started with only one of the pair and it's difficult to get the first few round in without loosing the start, but once the second thread of the pair has been joined in it does get easier. I'm much happier with the couching on this version, although it's very difficult to get the stitches exactly spaced as we would with the a larger or more regular shape, still I still managed to get them spaced much more evenly than the first time. I have one of those plastic shapes that have different sizes of circles on them, so I put one over the completed shape and it turned out round again, yay. Actually this gives a good idea of the perspective, this circle has an 11mm radius.
As it's been a couple of weeks since I worked on Kusudama I thought I would do another small motif before going onto one of the bigger ones. The maple leaf next to the silver circle is outlined in blister stitch so I decided to that one next. Blister stitches are formed from a knot with a flat stitch over the top giving a nice 3 dimensional look.
To make sure I kept the definition of the shape I put in all the knots at the points first, then filled in the spaces in between. I'm not sure if this is the right way to do this, but it did mean that the knots were evenly spaced and not all squeezed up together.
Next job was to put in the flat stitch over the top of the knots. This was a bit fiddly and it took me a couple of attempts to get it right.
I really like the effect of this stitch but I've hardly ever used it as it just hasn't been in many of the pieces I've done. I'd really like to get better at both the knots and the blister stitch, but for the moment I'm happy with how this has turned out.
Before I go back to working on the large chrysanthemum just a quick word about the colour scheme on this piece. As I stitch more I'm sure you'll notice that it's not being worked in one of my usual over the top colour schemes! As I decided to go with a special fabric for this piece I decided to do something special with the colours as well. I know what colours I like and am learning more about colour all the time, but I'm aware I have a lot to learn in that field. So I asked Margaret, my tutor, to ask Masa san (Master Tamura's wife and Master Saito's daughter) to put together a spring colour scheme for me. In this way I can take advantage of her many, many years of experience and learn more about colours as well. I have to say the scheme she sent is beautiful, enough bright or deeper colours that I like along with some pale ones which I would never normally work with. I think I will enjoy working with these colours a lot.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Kusudama, flower circle, the beginning

I learned something new about flower circles while at my phase 10 class, traditionally they were made out of medicinal plants and were hung in the home as a preventative measure. Actually flower circle is probably not a completely accurate translation because in reality they are spheres. We see them a lot as decoration on fabrics like in the beautiful kimono below from Ichiroya and there are a number of embroidery designs which incorporate flower circles.

JEC have two very beautiful phase 10 pieces called Kusudama and Double Cypress Fans. I decided to do Kusudama as it was designed to incorporate all 46 Japanese embroidery techniques, and it will be interesting to re-visit techniques that I have not done since the early phases. I also decided to work the piece on gold nishijin fabric as it's going to a very special piece.

In the photo above you can see how the gold leaf coated paper in woven into the weft of the fabric. Gold, or silver, nishijin is very nice to stitch on but you do have to be very accurate when placing your needle as once a hole is made it will not completely disappear if something has to be re-stitched.

During our class we spent each morning going over every single technique in fine detail and then in the afternoon we practiced techniques we wanted help with. I decided to work on one of the couched metallic motifs because, as you probably know by now, this is my least favorite and worst technique so because Kazumi was available I could take advantage of her experience to get some tips to improve.

This little motif is about the size of a 10p piece and is couched from the centre outwards. To create different looks using silver thread it can be couched using different colours, I decided to couch this motif in pink to give it a warmer look. Couching thread isn't available in pink so I had to make my own by twisting a 1 into 2 thread. Starting this motif was a bit fiddly as it's a very, very, very tight turn for the first few rounds. I'm quite pleased with how this turned out, it's nice and round, but there are a couple of bits which need a fix. Although it doesn't show in this picture a couple of sections are couched too tightly together and the thread has lifted slightly, also the fact the couching doesn't line up creating a brick pattern is bugging me so it'll have to come out and be done again!! I know it seems a minor thing, but it's my phase 10 piece and I want to get it a good as I can.

One of the techniques I've never had to do in any of my pieces is long legged knots. So after Kazumi had demonstrated both knots and long legged knots I did a few practice stitches which worked quite well. Haven't done any of these on the Kusudama yet.

And to finish with tonight this is a photo of our classroom.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Back to blogging

My phase 10 and teacher classes are now over, so I'll be back to blogging my process soon. A very interesting 10 days was had. I have been given some good feedback on my embroidery along with some tips on how to improve. There is a huge amount of information to take in and process given that we went right back to the basics and reviewed every technique in minute detail. It was great to meet so many embroiderers from all around the world, 10 countries were represented in all, and to spend days talking about our shared passion for Japanese embroidery. The surroundings at Hawkwood college are beautiful and we were lucky with the weather, a little rain, but not enough to spoil anything.
Huge thanks must go to Jackie Hall for all the organising she did prior to and during the courses. Thanks as well to Tamura san and Kazumi san for travelling from JEC to teach on the courses, they had a very busy 10 days teaching 4 different courses.
Our phase 10 class was taken by Kazumi san, whose patience with all our questions over the 5 days was phenomenal. I did very little work on Kusudama during the week, but did make a start and I'll be blogging my process as I go.
During week 2 Tamura san took us through his thoughts and design ideas for a large instalment piece which will be unveiled at the World Exhibition in 2011. Many embroiderers from all over the world will be working on this piece, I'll keep a track of what I'm stitching for this but won't be blogging about it until after it has been unveiled in Australia in 2011. And just so there is some embroidery in this post - this is a photo of a lovely obi worn by Kazumi san during the week.
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