Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Japanese Embroidery Phase 1 - part 4

On the third day we got to learn something I've been wanting to try for a while now, the Japanese knot. It's not a French knot or a colonial knot (it is a little like a colonial knot). I found a video a while back that makes it looks so easy (they do it with one hand!) and they always come out looking pretty. By the way, from here on out the light is horrible. We had rainy days for the last two days with zero sun.

To stitch a Japanese knot we had to learn how to do a new twist. So far we'd been doing a Z-twist, but for knots you need an S-twist thread (read more about twists here). I'm not a 100% sure but I think that if you use a Z-twisted thread, you lose the twist when you do the knot. We did some practice on the side first before we worked on our actual piece. Once we were ready, we stitched some knots at the tip of the petals which were then covered with flat silk. So all in all, it didn't really matter if the knots looked pretty so we got some extra practice there. I love how mine came out, they're so plump.

I left my flat silk in there so that I can cut thread and re-use it later
From there we moved onto more flat stitching on the diagonal. This is very similar to how we stitched on the large petals of the iris but with flat silk instead of twisted. I had a better time with the flat silk, not sure if it's because I had practice or it was the thread. The flat silk plumps up more than the twisted, covering more area, making it look nicer.

I started off with a smaller leaf as they are harder to do. I did pretty good with the first one, but kind of lost my way on the second. They don't say it in the books but there is a better side to start on: if you start on the wider side, then by the time you get around you can angle your stitches better. I'm not going to take it out, instead I will try to figure out how to fix it.

We got more demos than we did stitching on the third day. Sue showed us how to twist silk with a strand of metal thread and how to make our own couching thread. You can buy couching thread from the JEC, but they come in limited colors. Knowing how to make your own means you can use any flat silk from the more than 200 colors they have in stock. We also covered how to make a tight twist which involves wetting your silk to set it.

At the end of the day, we prepared the wrapping paper for stitching the next day by putting in guidelines. This time we also outline the edge of the paper. The reason for this is once the paper is embroidered, we will be stitching a couched outline all around it. Putting in the guidelines lets us know where to start and end our stitches.

Day four started out just as dreary with bad lighting. I found the bad lighting affected my stitching. I was very frustrated with my morning progress. You can clearly see in the picture below that my line is not perfectly straight.

After a talk with one of the more advanced stitchers (thank you Pam) I realized two things. One, all that I'm doing now will be covered with so many other layers plus the couched outline that you won't even see much of the foundation I'm embroidering much less the jagged edge. And two, I was stitching in the wrong direction. I should be stitching top to bottom, not bottom to top as I had been doing. After flipping my frame around, things progressed much better.

Afterward, Sue gave us a demonstration on the wrapping paper on Pam's piece which was ready for the last layer to be applied. I'll have to check my books, but I think on top of the weft layer foundation we started stitching, there are about 3 or 4 layers of held lines and on top of those we stitch a lovely geometric pattern with gold threads.

While Pam was preparing her piece for another demonstration, we jumped to another area of the piece. I'm really loving flat silk stitching.

I had time to finish my strand of silk before we got called over to Pam's frame for a demo on padded cords. There was so much to cover but so little time to do it in. Luckily we have an excellent group of advanced stitchers here in Montreal that we can consult later and Sue isn't very far away from us (she lives in Ontario).

In the confusion of the packing, I forgot to take a picture of the entire piece. Sue demonstrated how to stitch the pinks last. I had already cut the flat silk and didn't want it to get ruined, so I started a bit of the first petal.

And then it was over. I'm sad and annoyed it passed so fast. Just when we finally got the hang of things and were ready to really do some stitching, it was time to pack up. We also had so much fun just being together under one roof, I wish we could meet up more often. Many of us live in Montreal and work full time, two members of our group had to travel to Montreal (Patricia from Quebec city and Pauline all the way from British Columbia). So understandably we can't meet very often.

Top from left: Pam, Suzie, Marilyn, Sue Sprake, Patricia, Jose, Pauline
Bottom from left: me, Natalie with Eva and Noah, Nancy
But I will be seeing some of them next month. We've scheduled to meet at Nancy's house on December 2 and for the first time I will be doing actual Japanese embroidery at her house instead of beading :) It won't be the last time I will see Pauline and Patricia either, they'll both be going to PEI in July for seminar. Something else to look forward to.


  1. Thank you for sharing all that you learned. Wow. Look forward to reading about your continued progress on this piece.

  2. Thank you so much for your detailed report Dima! Laying flat silk over a knot, what a great idea! Will try too :).

  3. I hope you made lots of notes as well! You've learnt so much, and it would be a pity for it to disappear into a haze!

  4. I am very confused by all the new terminology but it all looks beautiful!
    I am so pleased that you will be meeting up again soon, I am sure you will inspire each other to keep using your new skills.

  5. The flat silk stitching looks amazing. All those silks are so pretty! I'm looking forward to seeing you work more on this design in the future.