Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Embroidered Caskets and Boxes

 I've always wanted one of these.  

 And when I saw an on-line course offered by Thistle Threads to make a reproduction of one of these I was very tempted.  So I read all the details and looked at the cost and thought about it.  But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to make my own rather than a reproduction, however lovely it would be.  So I decided to give it a miss, but it did ignite the idea of an embroidered box so I decided I'd make a start on my own.

I'd just ordered some koma so my first attempts were to start by making a simple box to keep them in. 

I''ve never made boxes before but I do have a number of books on the subject.  I also did a whole load of research on-line and found lots of helpful information and tips.  I didn't want to make the box from scratch so searched around, found a supplier of plain wooden boxes and sent off for some samples.

Kimono silk was used to cover them.  I used heat & bond to glue tissue paper to the back of the silk to make my own book cloth.  This makes the silk easier to handle, you can get a really sharp edge.   There were one or two glitches on the early ones.  Different silk appears to be more or less porous, the brown silk above soaks up the glue at the edges however careful I was and appears as a stain.  I'm keeping this box to keep my stock of koma in.  Another section of fabric was spoiled when I messed up the process for making it into book cloth, but each box I made was better than the last. 

I had a tan of sample silk which had turned out not to be suitable for embroidering onto but the sections were just the right size to use for koma. This blue one is another of the early ones, the corners aren't quite right, so I've kept this one to keep my own koma in.  It holds about 10 pair. 

I took some of the completed boxes to my Bournemouth class earlier this year and sold some of them.  I have a few left and will be offering them on my Etsy shop soon. 


 They are lined with hand made paper.


When I started looking for ideas for something different to do with the JE challenge we did on stitchin fingers I thought I might use the finished piece for a box.

The kimono silk I used for this piece is also from a sample tan, so there was a limited amount to work with, I also wanted to match up the colour change in it as much as I could.  Once the embroidery was complete and off the frame I measured up all the sections I would need to cover the box and realised I'd need to have a couple of extra joins to achieve the colour match.  Slightly annoying but unavoidable given the restrictions of the silk, and I was able to cut the pieces so the joins are at the back. 

The box measures 12"x7" and is 4.5" deep.  My plan was to sell this in the Gallery but it's turned out so nicely I'm tempted to keep it.

I'm not sure what I'd use it for though and I don't have anywhere to display it so I'll enjoy it for a while until I take it to the gallery.

The embroidery on this piece took about 25 hours, and then another day to make up the box.

Friday, 11 May 2012

JE Challenge 2012

In our Japanese embroidery group over on stitching fingers we run an occasional stitching challenge.  There are no strict rules or timescales, just a design with some general guides to be worked in our own way and own time.  Last year a design from a book of Chinese ornament was selected.

It's a small design of a couple of lotus flowers.  There are no details in the book on how the original embroidery had been worked so I decided to work this as simply as I could using the minimum of colours and techniques. After some research on images of lotus flowers I found that there are often just one or two blossoms in a sea of leaves.  I had this lovely variegated fabric which I though would represent a pond of lotus leaves very well.  It's from a bolt of fabric samples so it the only piece of this colour available. This means it'll be a truly unique piece, even if I wanted to I can't make another.

The stems were worked in diagonal layer with self padding.  The leaves were worked in horizontal layer in two different greens. The veins are soft gold metallic.

The bud and one of the flowers were worked in random realistic in white and pink.  I wanted the pink to be finer that the white so rather than working from the tip to the centre of the flower which is how we normally work this technique I worked from the centre out and padded some of the petals with cotton padding. EDIT-to answer Elmsley-Roses question - if you follow this link it will take you a post from my friend Carol-Anne which shows how we usually use this technique in JE.  Rather than fading out towards the centre of the flower I used thinner thread towards the point.

 The turn overs on the petals were self padded and embroidered using diagonal layer.

For the second flower I used all the same techniques and padding but swapped the pink for a soft gold metallic. 

The top section of the seed pods were embroidered in flat silk, I then put in short stitch holding, and then 6-1 soft twist knots on the top of that.

The fabric I used is lovely but it's not as tight a weave as some I've worked on, so it's quite difficult to get a good tension on the stitches so the foundations are not as firm as they might be on a different type of fabric.  I've had to use short stitch holding on all the long foundations.  Although the seed pods aren't very large I wanted to make sure the knots didn't sink into the foundation too much.  So I put the holding in before the knots.  It turned out very well.

This is the finished piece, worked in two shades of green, pink, white, and gold, and using only four main techniques.  In the end I it didn't take that long to embroider, about 30 hours. The techniques were worked out before hand, and only at a couple of points did I have to re-think things.  Either I'm getting better at figuring things out, or maybe keeping it simple did the job.   In any case I really enjoyed embroidering this piece.

The darkest green in the fabric is darker than it shows in this photo, but it's been too rainy here to get a good photo outside.  You do get a reasonable idea of the colour variation in the fabric though. 


My plan for this piece is to mount the embroidery onto the top of a wooden box.  The remaining fabric will be used to cover the rest of the box.  It'll be offered for sale in the Gallery at the Wharf when it's complete.

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