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.


  1. How wonderful to get together with like minded stitchers! I love retreats. Your project is amazing.

  2. It does look like a lot of progress - and a lot to build on while you are working alone.

  3. What a lovely way to spend a few days! You were certainly very productive during your time there. It’s interesting to watch this develop, Japanese Embroidery has always somewhat terrified me because of the exactness of it! You are obviously very skilled and talented to be able to work this so well.

  4. Interesting work Dima and patience to get the angle and length correct when stitching the cords.

  5. Wow, it's incredible how much preparation some of these techniques need before you can actually start stitching! When you do, it does look gorgeous though. I'm a little surprised that the fabric is forgiving enough to make several attempts at things, it looks so delicate!