More Than One Maple

Published on 31st August 2015

Be careful what you wish for they said!  Well I have commented in the past that I wanted to be learn more about weft valley layer (fuzzy effect). Whether it was luck or the fates taking a hand but I was asked to come up with designs using this technique for Japanese Embroidery Academy, so I got my wish. 

I started thinking about this design back in 2013, my immediate thought was a design based on maple leaves as they work so beautifully in this technique. I wanted something that was a challenge but not too big or complicated.  I was unable to make any decisions so put it aside to concentrate on other things.

Eventually inspiration came in the form of these books - Japanese Design in Art

There are two sets, one with 12 books the other 16.  I took the photo below after the lovely man from Parcel Force pilled them up in my front room and before I went out to buy a new bookcase to put them all on!

They are wonderful books, each is about 18 inches square and an inch think, they are filled with high quality colour photos of screens, ceramics, textiles, metalwork, anything that can be decorated is illustrated here. One set is split into seasons, the other into motifs.  I've dipped into them over the years, sometimes just to look at the beautiful pictures, or sometimes for reference or inspiration.  It was in one of these books that I came across a photo which gave me the inspiration for the first of the Module 8 designs. A beautiful fall of maple leaves in reds and greens.

I set about drawing up some maples into a large design including lots of layers so students will have to use a number of variations on the technique. For my original I'm using a mustard colour crepe, the plan is that students will be able to choose their own colour of crepe and leaves if they want.

Since this is a work in progress and it might change as I work through the design I opted to do a stitch transfer as that will be easier to edit. Once the design is finalised I might make up a pricking for a shell powder transfer, we shall see.

Rather than couching and then stitching as I would usually do on a large design, I did all the couching at once so I could judge the overall size of the design.  It didn't take that long, maples are simple shapes so I could use quite large stitches (this also makes it easier to take out the transfer).

I deliberately used a contrasting colour thread for the transfer, again so it would be easier to see to take out.  I've been stitching and taking out the transfer as I go so I don't damage the various layers of leaves during its removal.

I wasn't happy with the first few leaves. I'd spaced the stitches in every other valley but they were still too close together and were too dense. Even the background leaf, left in the above photo, was too dense and this had been stitched into every third valley.

After some deliberation and comparison with some other crepe silk I had I discovered that the crepe I am using has a finer weave so the valleys are much closer together.

I left the green leaves as they were and did some experimenting with different twists on the first lot of red maples.  A tighter twist solved the problem and the leaves now look much better. It's still quite hard to make sure I hit the valleys, you can see one of the stitches across the centre of this leaf is off line. I only noticed it when I was looking at the photos, of course then I had to go back and fix it.

For the veins I used an urushi thread as a contrast.

The design is coming along well now, it's still difficult to see the valleys and my eyes get tired quickly.  I'm trying to do an hour each morning before I go to work, the light is good, so it's generally a very productive hour.  I've now completed the top green section of leaves and nearly completed the first section of red leaves.  More to come in the next post.



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On 01-09-2015 at 11:37, Carol-Anne Conway said:

You have spoken of your plans for this design many times and I have always liked the sound of it. Now I like the sight of it :-) I think this is going to be beautiful.

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