Monday, November 12, 2018

Japanese Embroidery Phase 1 - Knots

Saturday was my monthly Japanese embroidery meeting. I tried working on the cords to continue what I started at the October retreat, but things just weren't working.

Instead of keeping at it and getting frustrated, I switched gears and decided to work on Japanese knots. There are quite a few in the piece, but I started with the bush clover flowers since those were started. Can I say, I'm not a huge fan of French knots but I love Japanese knots. They come out so cute.

The bush clover flowers are made up Japanese knots and covered with flat silk floss.

Sunday morning, I was still in the mood for Japanese embroidery. I set up my frame and continued doing Japanese knots, this time on the Chrysanthemums.

The knots of the chrysanthemums have a thread of gold mixed in with the silk. This is done for the orange and purple flowers. It makes a super pretty thread.

3 + 1 #1 gold/1 S-twist

Here are my three chrysanthemums all finished.

After lunch, I moved onto the valerians which also had knots along the upper edge. I was hoping to get both done but I underestimated how much time they would take. The valerians are still my favorite in the bouquet. That yellow is so beautiful and it looks even better once you add in the knots with the gold thread.

I though I took a final picture of the overall piece but I guess I forgot. I will take one when I finish the second valerian. Hopefully this weekend.

If you're wondering about Hanabatake, yes I did get my beads. And yes it has been finished. Yesterday evening I started the finishing process. I'll share a post as soon as I complete it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Thick Necks

After a week to give the group time to catch up, I went to work on the head and neck of the Heron. The head and neck is made up of couched passing using the Italian shading technique, which is similar to or nue.

I did take progress shots as I was working but lost all of them. Just a warning, if you don't want to lose your pictures, don't take them while using Instagram's direct messaging feature. I was working on my piece while chatting with Pam and sharing progress shots with her. By the time I realized it, I was finished putting in all the rows.

As I got closer to the body, I started realizing that I would need more rows of passing than mentioned in the instructions to cover the neck. Below you can see Becky's version from Instagram. I was very careful to follow the curve of the neck so I'm not sure what went wrong. The nice thing with Instagram is that I'm able to get feedback from the designer within hours. It seems that earlier patterns were done by hand, new ones are printed, so maybe I got a bird with a thicker neck. I've checked in with the other ladies from the group who all ordered kits at the same time and two of them are going to run into the same issue.

I originally planned to work on my Japanese embroidery after putting in all the passing, but figured since I made a hairy mess, I should clean it up. The instructions suggested using the lasso method for plunging, but I just used a crewel needle since there is no danger of ruining the fabric.

I moaned through the entire process but thankfully it didn't take that long to plunge all the passing and tie them down.

Here is a close up of the stitching. He came out okay, but I really wish he had a thinner neck that herons are known for. If I could have I would have shaved off a bit at the back of the neck on the bottom so we can get an exaggerated curve.

I didn't only work on the heron, but also did a bit of beading. I'm officially out of beads now. I have a small area in the upper left corner to do. Now to wait for the replacement beads. Last I checked the tracking number for my order, my package had arrived in Canada and was processed by the carrier. So hopefully I will get them before end of week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Introducing the Heron

During the summer Becky Hogg showed off her latest design on Instagram. If you'll remember, last year a group of us were doing a stitch-a-long of of Becky's kits. I was working on Foxy, while Natalie (Sew by Hand) and Catherine (Hillview Embroidery) were working on the Owl. As soon as we saw the Heron, we decided that this would be our next stitch-a-long.

This time around, our group has grown to include two more members: Carolyn and Pam. They don't have a blog but you can follow them on Instagram.

The plan was to order our kits once they were available and plan for a start in October. Things got delayed a bit on account of many of us being busy with other projects, but we finally agreed to start this past week.

As soon as I saw the pictures on Instagram, I really fell in love with the color palette. The blues goes very well with the silver. The design also includes a material I never used before which is silk wrapped purl. I always like to try something new when I pick a kit.

Our first goal is to put in all the padding and stitch the legs. It just so happened that the instructions said to put in the beak before the legs, so that was done as well.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

So here is the beginning of my Heron. The next step is the head, but I will give the group time to catch up, while I work on Hanabatake.

Speaking of Hanabatake, I'm almost done. I need a week, at most two, to finish. In my last update I mentioned planning to order more beads. That's been done, now I just need to wait for them to be delivered and hope I don't run out before then.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Growing like weeds

Last week, I spent most of my time beading the background on Hanabatake. I put in about an hour a day, except for Sunday when I was able to spend more time, on it.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Is it just me or it's looking like weeds crawling among the flowers? At least it's pretty weeds. I'm hoping to get to the half way point by end of week. This means covering the upper right side by Friday. Let's see if I can meet my goal.

Here is a disclaimer: If you're currently stitching or thinking of stitching this piece, and want to stitch the background the same way, I haven't gone through all the beads in my kit yet and it does look like there is a lot left. However, I'm not taking any chances and plan on ordering extra. Luckily, the beads are a standard Toho seed bead so I was able to find a source for it. I'll keep you posted on whether I run out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

October TUSAL

I completely forgot about TUSAL this month. I think I'm over a week late. I don't have much to show since I spent most of my time beading. There is a bit from my work on the sashiko panel and bearded iris.

By the way, I had a few animated images in my last post and I forgot to put a comment. I've updated the post since. If you want to take a look at them, click here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Japanese Embroidery Retreat 2018

Our Japanese embroidery retreat came to an end yesterday. We had a lovely 4 days stitching together in the same space, talking about embroidery of all kinds and exchanging tips and ideas. A friend came all the way from Victoria, B.C. to attend the retreat with us and I hope she decides to make the trip again in future. It was amazing to have her as she has a lot of experience in Japanese embroidery.

The retreat started on Friday and I had taken a day off to attend. The first thing we did was to double lace our frames, in the opposite direction. This was something one of our members learned from her favorite teacher. When we set up the fabric on the frame, it's laced going one direction and the bars pushed apart with pieces of bamboo. We're always supposed to loosen the bars if we are travelling with our piece or weren't going to stitch on it for long periods. By double lacing the frame in the opposite direction, we would never have to loosen the bars anymore and now there will be an even tension on the fabric.

Once that was done, we could start working on our piece. My plan for the retreat was to work on the cords that wrapped around the wrapping paper. The first step is to put in twisted string padding. Below is my flat string padding hitched onto a koma ready to be twisted.

This technique is very familiar to what is done in goldwork but there is no wax involved. You also have to make sure to maintain the twist as you work with the string.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

By the end of Friday, I had most of the string padding in place.

Saturday morning, I continued putting in string padding this time over my pretty flax leaf. Before I could do that, I needed to put back the outline of the cords that were covered when I put in the foundation layer. The outline took all morning as I needed to make sure there was a stitch every millimeter or two.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Once the outline was in, I could finish my string padding.

On Sunday, our third day in, I was finally able to start stitching the cords. This is done with flat silk in a combination of white and red or white and blue. I'm starting off with the red. It took three tries for me to get the angle right. You can see how my angles changed until I got the right one. The trick is to aim for LONG stitches.

First attempt
Second attempt
Third attempt
Sometime during the day we got a refresher on how to make karayori. It was good as I have many to make in my future for all the stems.

I unfortunately had to go to work on the last day of the retreat, but I did join the group at the end of the day for a supper. Looking back at my progress, I'm very happy with the amount of stitching I put in. My cord has a good angle started thanks to the guidance of my group. Now I just need to make sure I go around that curve without losing length on the stitches.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Long Weekend Progress

I meant to post this yesterday but got derailed. Canada celebrated Thanks giving over the weekend. I'd been really looking forward to having three days of stitching. I ended up only having a day and a half but that's okay.

One of the projects I wanted to work was my seminar piece Bearded Iris by Alison Cole. I put in the last piece of felt and cleaned it up a little. I had to take out some cutwork and chipping that was applied with a single thread (we're supposed to use a doubled thread). I also cut out any outline stitches that were showing.

I also put in the last petal. I forgot how fiddly these things are. I'm looking at the overall shape and it looks okay, I just hope I'm able to hide those stitches when I go in to outline the petals.

I finished the leaf I had started in class and plunged all the passing. These are not the regular Japanese passing I'm used to. These suckers are slippery! I didn't realize till I started plunging the other end that I had pulled too hard on one of them and it slipped way to far. I had to carefully pull it out and re-couch it. It did unravel a tiny bit but it probably won't show unless you look at it too closely.

It looks good from the front, but I still have to clean up the back. I'll leave the boring work for the days when I'm too tired for a long stitching session.

I started beading the background on Hanabatake. I had initially started on the lower left corner but felt like I was crowding my beads too much and took it all out. I re-started this time on the lower right corner. They're not as crowded as my initial start but it's still more densely beaded than the original design.

I've decided that I like how it looks and will just keep going. I only hope I have enough beads to do the entire piece. If I thought the leaves took a long time, the background will feel like it will take forever. I've gotten into a rhythm where I stitch a scoop of beads at a time. It's not a huge amount, about 20-30 beads I think. Once I finish those, if I still feel up to it, I would get another scoop. I'll have to keep at it if I want to finish before the end of the year.

Here's a project that hasn't appeared for a long time. It's been almost a year actually. I've been finding that my eyes have been too tired lately. I think it's because of the materials I've been stitching with. I decided to test it out with some cross stitch. Every time I felt like stitching but too tired to work on my bigger projects, I would take out Bramble and the Rose and put in a few stitches. I've been doing that on and off for about 2 weeks and it seems to be paying off. I just might be able to reach my goal of finishing one page this year.

For this week's stitching plan, I want to try to put in some time on Hanabatake between today and tomorrow. Maybe reach the lower left corner?

This weekend is my monthly Japanese embroidery meeting, but instead of a single day we're doing a retreat over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The group is also meeting Monday but I have work, so I will join them at the end of the day. It will be great to play hooky from work on Friday at least and spend the entire day stitching. My plan is to work on the cords that wrap around the bouquet's paper. That should keep me busy and if I get bored I have a ton of twisted thread to make for the stems.