Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Samara - Part 1

I'm writing this ahead of time. By the time you read this I should have submitted the piece that I stitched for the EAC board challenge I had mentioned in June. The theme this year is "Celebrating Canada". Now whether my piece really makes you think of Canada or not is a different story.

I didn't want to do the typical red and white. I'd found a Japanese emblem in a book with a maple leaf and maple keys. As a kid, we called maple keys helicopters because of the way they spin and we used to love playing with them. We didn't have anything like it in Lebanon or Saudi Arabia where I was born. So for me it was something that was unique to Canada. It's only now I realize these things have an actual name: maple keys or samara.

I decided to stitch this piece entirely from my stash. Last year when Alison Cole started a goldwork subscription box, I signed up but only ended up staying on for two boxes. The first box was gold and greens, which would be perfect for my piece. Before maple keys become dried and yellow they're green.

I spent a lot of time dithering on what I should do exactly, then one day I decided enough! I'll transfer the design and start with the parts I'm 100% sure of. I transferred the design using the paper tissue method. This was practice for when I needed to do it for my seminar class.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

I really loved the piece of green organza that came in the box and really wanted to use it.

I decided to use a technique I learned from Annie Penin. In a class I took with her, she had couched pieces of organza for the leaves and the frayed edges were covered with a line of beads. In my case, I used gilt pearl purl.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Here is what it looks like once done.

To add a little dimension to the piece, I decided to just outline the smallest maple key with a super pearl purl.

From my initial design sketch, I planned on padding the biggest maple keys and completely cover it in cut smooth purl.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Then I got an idea of only partially covering the keys with cutwork. The green area would be covered in the green organza. I tried it on one of the keys to see if it would work out and it looked much nicer to what I originally planned.

I first created a template of the shape of the padded area. From there I covered the open area with green organza. I wanted a clean shape so I went well passed the area that is visible, but it will be covered with felt. Next step, is applying the felt which is then covered with smooth purl cutwork. The key is finished with a line of pearl purl to define the bottom edge.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

Around the maple keys is a tree branch. I knew as soon as I saw it I will cover it in couched gilt passing. So this was an easy decision.

(click on the post to see the animation below)

This is where the dithering started. Because of the shape of the maple leaf and it's size, I wasn't sure how I would handle stitching it. I was originally going to "needle paint" it using colored purl and even bought a lot of different leaf colors, but I wasn't convinced.

I was at my Japanese embroidery meeting and discussing ideas with the group when Japanese silk was mentioned. This reminded me that I might have the perfect green flat silk in my stash.

By this point, I'd started learning how to stitch at an angle in Japanese embroidery but I'm no where near proficient. I had a terrible time with outermost edge and had to do it twice. Doing the other edges helped me get some practice in.

Sorry for the terrible picture, I think I finished it late in the evening. I'm quite happy with how the silk came out. This was a great piece to play with flat silk and practice stitching, now I just have to do better on my phase 1 piece. As a reference, the leaf was stitched in 2F (2 strands of flat silk).

Next is some chipping. You might remember this picture. That's gilt bright check and green rough purl. I'm making use of the pretty metal threads I brought back from Turkey.

I used a piece of paper to cover the stitched silk. We don't want the metal thread to snag on it. I started off the chipwork with just green for the smallest key before inject gilt in the second key, with the last one only having gilt.

For the maple leaf, I didn't want to leave the vein uncovered. First, because it doesn't look nice and second, I really wanted to hide my uneven edges. You might not see them, but I do. I love s-ing and I thought it would look lovely against the green.

Everyone who saw the piece, kept asking "are you going to leave that third one empty?". They were talking about the smallest maple key. I decided to scatter tiny little pieces of check purl.

I needed one last thing to tie the entire thing together, a couched edge going all round. I had a piece of mat cut in a circle that was the perfect size and used that to draw an outline all around.

I thought about using passing for the circle but decided to go with a 3-ply twist that came in the subscription box.

Although, I didn't technically use all the materials that came in the box (still no idea what I'd do with the washers) I'm very happy with how it came out. It looks even prettier in the frame I bought for it. I will show how I framed it in the next post.


  1. What a beautiful and original piece Dima! I think you'll do well in challenge :).

  2. This is fabulous! I appreciate seeing the process as well as the finish.

  3. That's gorgeous! And by starting with the bits you'd already decided how to do, you had guidance from how it was turning out to help you decide what to do next! Well done!

  4. Very interesting design and lovely finish.

  5. Wow, a winner for sure! Love the representation of maple keys. I too played with them as a child in my home state of Massachusetts. Thank you for the detailed photos and how you made decisions as you progressed.

  6. Great design. I particularly like the s-ing with the flat silk.

  7. What a wonderful piece! You’ve made a lovely individual piece. Enjoy Seminar and good luck!

  8. oh wow, this is beautiful! We called them helicopters too... still do as I didn't know they were maple keys until you told me! You are getting very proficient at gold work, choosing just the right type of thread to use in each area. Are the washers just very large spangles?

  9. Oh wow - I think this one is my favourite of all your gold work projects now. The combination with the greens, especially this silk, is just gorgeous - you have such a great eye for colours, stitches, and qhat goes together :)

  10. Dima your piece is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your process from start to finish, I found it really inspiring 💜.

  11. This is such a gorgeous design and you made some great decisions about stitching it. It's nice to see you using most of the materials from the box too, very thrifty!
    We have sycamore trees here with similar keys and we called them helicopters when we were children too!