Long awaited update
It's been a long time since I published a blog update, it's been a busy few months with a change of role at work, a stay in hospital, water leaks at home, and finding a new venue for our in person classes. I'm hoping that 2023 will be less dramatic and allow me to post more regularly.
For my first post in the year of the Rabbit, here is an update on a new/old design. Quite some time ago I published a free design of peonies and plum blossoms. Last year, in our first class since lock-down, I re-introduced it to the students but I'd not had time to start an embroidered version. Thinking it would be a quick and simple piece to finish (!) I decided to start it to be ready for November class. As with many designs being embroidered for the first time it turned out to be not as easy as I'd imagine. However, in my Christmas holidays I had some very peaceful and productive stitching days and have made good progress.
For those who follow me over on Instagram you'll have seen some of these photos, but they don't really allow for lots of text so here is the detail for Peony and Plum Circle.
I've chosen a lovely plum coloured tsumugi kimono silk. This type of silk is my favourite, it's has a matt surface with varying amounts of slubs adding to the texture, colour and feel. I like how the texture and surface gives a completely different background to the shiny flat silk. It's also generally quite sturdy so will take a reasonably heavy design. I have spoken before about using limited colour palettes and am continuing the adventures of colour schemes where 'less is more' here. The plan for this design was to use only white and silver.
My stash contains a number of different types of silk threads so to add variation, given the limited colours, I'm using what we refer to as weaving silks. As the name suggests this is silk thread in hanks which was originally destined to be used for weaving rather than embroidery. Depending on the maker, or possibly, its ultimate destination, these threads come in various textures. The white used for the plum above is very similar to our standard flat silk with no twist at all. It's not as refined as the usual flat embroidery silk so still adds some texture.
All the plums and buds are being embroidered using horizontal technique. After getting the foundation in for the first few plums I felt that a colour variation was needed. A search of the weaving silks turned up this very pale pink. While it looks quite obviously a different colour in the photos in reality it's so pale as to be almost white.
This photo shows the difference in threads and textures between the white and pink silk.
In order to keep the edges of the plums and peonies nice and round I'm outlining all the sections. I do it as I go as this breaks up the monotony of outlining. It also means that I can alter shapes as I go if necessary. The plums were well underway so time to tackle the ponies. Initially I'd decided on random realistic for these. A lot of peonies seen in traditional Japanese embroidery use this technique so I just assumed it would work here. I used the same white silk as for the plums initially. A couple of tries were needed in order to decide on the number of strands to use but in the end it wasn't working for me so out it came.
Version two and three were vertical technique tried in different threads. I didn't like these either as there was no movement or life in the petals.
Version four, horizontal technique with flat silk and with a silver/which mix for the turnovers. This was a bust as well.
Version five vertical with a mix of flat white silk and a very fine white/silver thread. For this version of vertical I started in the centre of the petal and fanned the stitches out on each side. Success, version five (it could have been six, I may have missed one!) was a winner, it created a good surface and gave some movement to the petals.
After completing most of the 2nd peony I re-stitched the main peony using the same technique but with a different thread.
This white thread is like the pink in that it has quite a tight twist. It looks in the picture as though the white is stained slightly, it doesn't seem to be in reality, I think it's an optical illusion.
The peonies are almost complete. I've got to put some knots in the centres and make some decisions on holding stitches but they are pretty much done. I'm pleased that I found my way with these and am very happy with how they have turned out. I'll do another post to talk about the leaves and branch and give updates on the other designs which are on the go.
In other news, we found a new venue for our in person classes. The first one in our new venue took place in November and I'm happy to say the hotel is great and we'll be back for our next class in April and also for our monthly in person day classes. Dates are in the shop.
In other, other news, I've added a new area to the shop. This has re-productions of antique woodblock prints from my collection. Initially I got these because they are beautiful and to use as inspiration and reference for my own embroidery designs. I've previously had images from the collection made into greeting cards but some of the ones I acquired recently are so lovely that they deserved more than a card. I'm not able to re-produce them as woodblock prints so I've used the same printer who produces the prints of my own work as giclee prints to do the same with these. They are on a fine textured paper and, being giclee prints, are archival so they won't fade easily over time. They are also smaller than prints of my own work which makes them more affordable. An example of two already added to the shop are below. The new batch which arrived just a couple of weeks ago will be added as soon as possible.
In other, other, other news the Japanese Embroidery Academy has a YouTube channel. This currently features videos of me working on my various designs. There aren't loads at the moment but now I've figured out I can upload them directly from my phone (isn't technology amazing) there will be more to come.