Grapes and Leaves

Published on 16th November 2014

A few weeks ago I saw this beautiful obi on Ichiroya, I was very tempted to buy it but decided against it in the end. It wasn't too expensive but I'd just treated myself to a full set of Kusano sensei silks so I was trying to be sensible!  By the by, if you fancy doing a Kusano sensei design check out the Japanese Embroidery Academy site here.

A few days later  after a change of heart I went back to the site but couldn't find the obi so thought it was not meant to be. 

Obi with Japanese embroidery

The fates however were on my side when a little while later I spotted the obi again. This time I didn't hesitate and within 10 days it arrived at my door.

Obi detail, embroidered leaf

When it arrived I was so pleased. The embroidery is exceptionally good and it's much more beautiful than in the photos. The colours are just lovely, much bluer than I had expected.  I hadn't been able to tell but the fabric is metallic which was a lovely surprise. The grapes are padded, they may have card underneath to give them such a perfect shape but when I used my tekobari to move the threads aside I could only see padding cotton so maybe it's just good stitching!

Detail of Japanese embroidery

Detail of Japanese embroidery

Inspired by my new acquisition (and because I'm still deciding on colours for my next JEA module design) I decided to start a design I've wanted to do for ages.  It's of grapes and leaves from Kuranai kai portfolio 6.  The portfolios contain design sheets so it is possible to put the designs onto fabric of your own.  Sadly they are out of print now and are very difficult to get hold of but I'm lucky enough to have a few. The design was heat pressed onto the fabric, this wasn't as successful as it can be as the fabric is so shiny.  What I could see I outlined and then from what I had I could work out where the rest of the design needed to be, more or less.

Green kimono fabric

The green kimono silk has a randomly woven silver thread which gives a shimmer to the surface.  The leaves and grapes are much larger than on the obi and are very different colours but the techniques are much the same.  Here a grape in #3 gold, round and round.

Japanese embroidery goldwork

Japanese embroidery grapes

Flat gold (905) for a grape foundation. This will have a gold maize effect over the top.

Leaf detail

On the obi all the leaves are embroidered with twisted thread, but on this piece they in either twisted or flat silk. The leaf above is 11cm across, the one below 9cm. I'm using 4-1T or 2F for the foundations.

Japanese embroidery leaf completed

After putting in temporary holding I embroidered the veins and outline of the leaf in line of staggered diagonals.  You can still see the lines where the temporary holding was on this leaf but they will disappear when I do the finishing process.

Japanese embroidery foundation

This two tone leaf is about 10cm across, worked in 2F.  I stitched the 2nd colour through the stitches of the first colour and then put some holding across the join to blend in the colours.  I forgot to do this before I put in the veins on this one so I had to work round them a bit but it worked out ok in the end. 

Embroidered leaf

On the original this leaf is outlined with a katayori but I decided to outline mine with #4 gold.  I really like how this has turned out.  Next time I'll tell you about the leaf you can just see on the right, what you can see is version 2, I got it right with version 4!

Japanse embroidered leaf with gold edging

For anyone who wants to get hold of the Kurenai kai portfolio designs there are a few individual designs on ebay at the moment - check them out here. For JEC students you'll recognise these designs as the Phase 9 Kombuin Fukusa designs.  I'm lucky enough to have this portfolio so I've not snapped them up.


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