Sunday, 23 September 2012

Four days in September

In my last post I'd completed White Blossoms and, for the first time since I started on my Japanese embroidery journey, I had nothing on a frame to stitch.  Well, the empty frames lasted four days. 

I have a number of JEC pieces in my stash, but they are quite large pieces and after White Blossoms and Autumn Shell Box I didn't want to start another large piece.  So I spent the four days reviewing the smaller designs and ideas which ready to go and ended up with two small pieces on frames. 

This is the blue iris design I embroidered last year for my Godmother.  At the time I did think about stitching more in other colour variations.  In fact, I'd got some fabric from my tutor precisely with this design in mind.  It's a creamy white kimono fabric with a gold thread, this give flecks of gold on the surface, it's a bit like the fabric JEC use for their fractal pieces or the Hoitsu scroll pieces.
So I dug out the fabric and transferred the design using chaco paper. 
 My original idea was to embroider it as I did the blue version, flat silk in one colour.  I started this using self padding under the main petal but decided that the contrast wasn't enough. So I decided to go for a white a gold version, following the same idea as for Black Heart, using the same colours for the flower as in the fabric. I used JEC #341 and #1 soft gold.  The standard #1 gold was too harsh. 
The main technique is random realistic, going from 2F, 1.5F+#1G, 1F+2G, 2G.  Most of the flower was embroidered while I was at the Stitching Show in Manchester.  And it has worked very well. 
My first working of the bud used four strands of #1G for the final layer but it was too thick and started too far up the bud, so the following day I took it out and re-worked it. The bud on the right is the final version.
The smaller petals were embroidered with #1G HH, some of them were padded with 2F.  
This colour combination has produced a very elegant design.  Sadly there is only a limited amount of this fabric, my tutor has only one bolt.  I feel a phone call coming on to reserve another piece to do another chrysanthemum - Gold Heart!
Yet again I've run out of one of the colours before I finished, so am waiting for the green silk to arrive to finish the leaves. 
The other design is a small fan with orchids. For some reason I didn't take many pictures of this one in progress so only have one to share with you.  This is the most beautiful colour of fabric (from my stash this time).  It doesn't come out on the photo, if you have the JEC colour chart it's like #637/638. It came from Ichiroya,  it's for making a raincoat, so has a very, very smooth and shiny surface which makes it shower proof. The water just rolls off. It's very closely woven but very soft, so ok to embroider onto, but it wouldn't support too much weight.  
It has been embroidered with either 2F or 1.5F and one section of twisted thread for a flower calyx.  I've used JEC #674 for the orchids.  This is a very bright pink but it works well on the dark plum background. 

Next up a black and red iris on the same fabric at Black Heart.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

White Blossoms and empty frames

After a hectic few weeks which have included long stitching sessions, no stitching at all, a death, and the arrival of new life, life is pausing for thought.  Although the death of my Aunt was expected and came at the end of a long life was still sad but instead of putting me off stitching it made me want to focus on nothing more than the frame so as not to think about anything else, so I made lots of progress on White Blossoms.
As I've worked on this piece over the last two years it has annoyed, frustrated, and fascinated me.  The concept of using just two colours has been interesting and there are some techniques I will certainly use again. 
I'd got a bit stuck on this piece truth be told and hadn't worked on it for a while.  I just wanted it finished and off the frame.  The two marathon stitching sessions following my Aunt's death got me over the hiatus and into liking this piece again.  A parting gift perhaps.  
Last week our family numbers increased with the arrival of my cousin's triplets.  He and his wife have waited a long time for their arrival and I'm very pleased that they finally have the family that they have waited for for so long. 

The final task on White Blossoms was to put in the flat gold.  I'd left this for last having been warned it could be quite fiddly and I didn't want to do it any damage while working on the rest of the piece.
The flat gold consists of very fine sections of paper with gold leaf on both sides, each end is still attached to the main section of paper as you can see below.  
Each section is cut as it is used, the rest stays attached to the ends and wrapped in paper to keep it safe. It is real gold leaf and is very expensive, you don't want to loose any.  I used it in half lengths.
This is a single section of the flat gold, for scale the black lines are 1mm apart!!!
Using a #11 needle to stitch with you can see from the picture below the flat gold goes through the eye without distorting the paper.  I found the gold quite wiry and easier to manipulate than I thought.  Slow and sure being the trick.
Starting with one of the small circles I took a deep breath and put needle to silk.  There is no way of knotting flat gold, the ends have to be left loose and you have to try not to pull them through when stitching.  I worked from one end to the other then cut off the gold and did the next line.  I'd put a few sections in leaving the loose ends on the wrong side of the fabric but after pulling sections out by accident a new tack was called for.  I left the loose ends on the right side of the fabric and after finishing the area turned the frame over and gently pulled the loose ends to the back.  This worked well, and though it looks untidy in the picture below once the ends are at the back it is fine.  
It's an interesting variation on the tye dye technique and the flat gold is truly glorious, with the shimmer and shine that only comes from highly polished real gold. 
And so, White Blossoms is finished ... 
... and now I find myself in a situation which has not occurred since I started my Japanese embroidery journey eight years ago - I do not have another piece on a frame or immediately ready to move onto.  All my frames are empty and I really have no idea what I will work on next. 

Watch this space ...................................................   

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