Monday, December 10, 2018

Disappointing Weekend

Ever have a weekend when you're just not happy with your stitching? Not because your skills are not up to par but the circumstances are stacked against you. This weekend I worked on the same projects, the Bearded Iris and the bouquet.

On Saturday I added the rest of the veins on the petals. The more I work on this woven metallic mesh the less I like it. It looks nothing like the piece Alison Cole stitched, and it's really hard stitching through it. I have what feels like huge holes where my couching stitches are. I'm also working blind since it's not opaque, putting in punctures where I don't want them. I know, I know, it looks fine when you look at it from afar, and no one will be pressing their faces to the piece. I just can't help being disappointed in how it looks. Maybe I will like it more when I put in the outline on the petals.

Sundays have become my day for Japanese embroidery. As planned, I worked on the cords wrapped around the paper. I had to unpick it twice before I got the angle right. Not only do I have to get the right angle for the cords but I also need to stitch through multiple layers of stitching. Not to mention try to avoid the gold thread at the front and back. It seemed like every time I tried to bring my needle up I hit a metal thread. Small blessing, I managed to avoid having to stitch through the center of any of the motifs. Not all of us are so lucky.

While stitching the blue cord, my angle was better but I can't help but feel like something went wrong. Does it seem like my blue cord is smaller than my red? Think I can get away with saying the red cord is going over the blue?

I'm really disgusted with my stitching, it looks so sloppy. At the same time, I'm not sure I can do any better if I redo it. I'm going to wait and see what feedback I get from my group at our next Japanese embroidery meeting, which is this weekend. So all in all, it's progress even if it's progress I'm not happy with.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Tansy Beetle - Finished

If you'll remember, last Friday I introduced Tansy Beetle. I had to stop working on this project because I ran out of beads for the head. Kate was really quick to respond and I received my replacement beads on Tuesday.

Now that I had the beads to finish the head, I was able to move onto putting in the legs.

The beads for the legs are so pretty. I love the flower sequins. The green beads are called SuperDuo that are Czech glass seed beads. I initially put them in with the metallic foil facing up, but quickly realized my mistake and flipped them. I want the green side to be face up to match the green in the sequins on the body.

To make sure my legs were symmetric (or as close to symmetric as I could get them), I worked on all the legs at the same time.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Here is my beetle all finished. This design was a very quick stitch. It took me about 7-8 hours to stitch from start to finish. A little too quick a stitch for me considering the cost of the kit, but I really like it and I wanted to encourage Kate Tume's design business. I would be very happy to buy another kit in the future.

I do have some beads and sequins leftover. I'll have to think of what I can make with them. They're too pretty to set aside in a drawer. Maybe a brooch?

I plan on finishing Tansy in a hoop to hang on my corkboard with Foxy and Mr. Blue. The hoop that came in the kit is bigger than I need, so I need to buy one. I'll share a picture once they're all hanging together.

If you're interested in making your own Tansy Beetle, Kate still has kits in stock here. Speaking of kits, I got another "small" project kit in the mail this week which could be my next mini project. I'll share more in a future post.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Revisiting Japanese Knots

Since my post on knots, I received a lot of questions about Japanese knots. Many of you were curious Since I received so much interest on Japanese knots, I thought I'd make a video demonstrating how they are made.

(click on the post to see the video below)

In order to be able to use this method, the thread needs to have an S-twist. To find out more about the difference between S and Z twist, Mary Corbet has a great article explaining the different twists. DMC thread has an S-twist, so technically this technique should work with any of their threads. I decided to test this theory out. The one on the left is a DMC cotton a broder and the one on the right is a sashiko thread by Olympus. I was able to create knots with both threads and they come out really great.

So now, I leave it for you to try out. I'd love to see your attempts and what you think of this technique. Would you start switching French knots for Japanese knots? I certainly will.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Weekend Update

I'm the type who likes to plan their weekend. With that in mind, I picked two projects and devoted my days to work on them. The first one was Alison Cole's Bearded Iris. I hadn't touched this piece since October and have been feeling terribly guilty about it. Not to mention I need the frame that piece is one right now.

I worked on it on and off last week trying to get those leaves done. I love couching, but the plunging and tying down is so tedious.

And there was a lot of it as you can see from the back of the piece. Most of my Saturday was spent plunging and tying down.

With the leaves finally done, I could go back to working on the iris. I started putting in the veins on the petals.

On Sunday, I devoted the day for Japanese Embroidery. I continued working on the iris leaves. I ended up unpicking the top leaf near the clover flowers and fixing it. It looks better now.

The leaves are almost done, just need to stitch the bottom portion. Before I can do that, I need to put in the outline on the wrapping paper. And before that happens, I need to stitch in the cord wrapped around it. So that will be my main focus this Sunday.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Tansy Beetle - Textile Art Box

There are quite a lot of very talented embroiderers in Instagram and one of them is Kate Tume also known as Mother Eagle Embroidery. She makes beautiful bead embroidery pieces. Currently, she is working on projects around the disappearing natural world, and lost species. My favorite is her Extinct Icons series which you can check out here.
Saint Sultan by Kate Tume
For the past year she has been producing a line of textile art boxes. The first one was of a beaded stag beetle. Now I'm a fan of beads but not bugs. The beetle was a little too hairy for me so sadly I had to pass. In September, she released two more beetle kits: Tansy beetle and Ghost beetle. Still not a fan of bugs but the colors on Tansy beetle were so pretty (Ghost beetle creeped me out). So after seeing it multiple times on Kate's Instagram feed, it grew on me and I decided to order it.

 The kit came in beautifully packaged. 100% plastic packaging free, and entirely vegan friendly.

If you want to have an idea of what comes in the box, check out the video below of my un-boxing.

(click on the post to see the video below)

I'm still trying to figure out how to merge videos, so for now here is part 2 of the un-boxing. All the beads came individually packaged in tiny envelopes with numbers on them to make them easy to identify while stitching.

(click on the post to see the video below)

The kit came with everything for me to start, except scissors and something to hold your hoop so you can use both hands to stitch. It's an excellent starter kit for those wanting to try beading.

The fabric that came in the kit is a twill fabric. It has a nice weight to it so I didn't feel the need to back my fabric.

I started this kit immediately after finishing Mr. Blue. In fact I put in the felt padding Saturday evening.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Sunday morning, I woke up early eager to start putting in some beads. I'm in love with the colors of the cupped sequins. I'm happy to say I have a bunch left to play with.

The head of the beetle is partially covered with an iridescent vinyl. It's stitched down the exact same way you would in goldwork but so much easier to pierce than leather. I put in lines of holding stitches to keep it in place while I was couching.

I was really speeding through stitching the beetle, but this is where things started to go wrong. See, I had noticed that I didn't have the same number of sequins in the first row as the model in the picture. I put it down to my not crowding the sequins, because I did start exactly where I was instructed to. However, when I saw the amount of beads I was expected to use to cover the head, alarm bells started going off.

I contacted Kate (love social media!) and she pointed out exactly what I had noticed: I was one sequins short on my first line, which is why I have bigger head area to cover. I knew this but at the same time, I knew I didn't make a mistake when I transferred my center line. So I went back to the cutout and did a comparison between my beetle and the actual instructions, to discover the center line in the instructions is longer than the one in the cutout. Mystery solved!

Future kits will be corrected, but in the meantime Kate offered three solutions for my problem: she can send me more beads, I could unpick and restart, or I could unpick just the head replacing it with beads from my stash. I went with option one as I don't mind if my beetle's head didn't match the model exactly. So now Tansy has been set aside until the extra beads arrive. Pity, I was so close to finishing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Japanese Embroidery Phase 1 - Which Green?

After completing my second valerian, I moved onto the Iris leaves.

I've been holding off on stitching these leaves for a while now as I was debating switching the light green on the iris leaves for a darker shade. I always though this piece should have a second green as there are four different types of leaves all stitched in the same color. Also, aren't iris leaves darker anyways?

I went back and fourth multiple times. Had a poll up on Instagram, a post on Facebook. Many preferred the dark green, but I received comments from Japanese embroiderers not to change colors while others (certified teachers!) thought a color change was acceptable. Lots of conflicting answers. Someone even mentioned that by changing colors, the JEC might not approve my phase 1 piece if I wish to pursue teacher certification. Hearing this, I contacted the JEC to see what they said. Their answer:

The color scheme can be arranged. Please talk to your teacher and decide the best color of your choice!

Unfortunately, I'm in between teachers right now which means I don't have a teacher I could ask. I mentioned this and they never replied back. It's moments like these when I'm happy that social media exists. Stitchers are so nice and are always happy to help. I had a long discussion over Facebook messenger over the pros and cons of switching greens on the blades and came to this conclusion:

  1. Iris leaves in Japan are not dark green, they're a greenish yellow. In fact, bush clover leaves are darker.
  2. The iris leaves are supposed to be at the back of the bouquet, by using a darker green it will bring them "forward" in the bouquet when the flowers are supposed to be the focal points.
  3. If I want to change the color of the iris leaves, I would have to change the color of the other leaves to coordinate and I wasn't prepared to redo all the leaves. No matter how much I enjoyed stitching them.

So in the end, I didn't make any changes in color. It wasn't a total loss thought, it was a good lesson in color choices and how one change can affect a whole piece. Also, if I plan on switching colors it's better to do it at the beginning and not when I'm nearing the end. Now that I had a firm plan I could go ahead and work on the leaves.

I'm not particularly happy with how the top leaf was stitched. I think I need to redo the portion where the leaf is under the clover leaf flowers. I'm going to leave it in for now to stew on it. I'm really happy with my second leaf though.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Mr. Blue the Heron

Yes, I decided to give him a name. From now on he will be called Mr. Blue.

Last Wednesday I finished his wing and got the chance to play with silk wrapped purl. Saturday morning I woke up early itching to stitch and finished his body.

Unfortunately, I had to leave him to go brave the malls. They are packed with Christmas shoppers. But I was back to work on him as soon as I got home, putting in the last few details. His crown is made up of shiny blue leather with small strands of silver wire check. I really love the color of that leather, I must see if I can find more.

Becky added in a detail in the heron that her other creatures didn't have, she included reeds in the background. They were a lovely touch and put Mr. Heron in his habitat.

With this, the stitching is complete. All that's left is to pop him into a hoop and hang him for display. I'm waiting on some felt for that, but will share a picture once he's hanging.

I have a few other things to share this week as I was very busy. I have an update on my phase 1 Japanese embroidery piece as well as a brand new kit that I got last week and couldn't wait to start. In fact I started it immediately after finishing Mr. Blue on Saturday night.