Friday, October 7, 2011

Finishing Japanese Embroidery

I didn't get photos of all of the steps involved in this process, but I did take some as my teacher and a classmate worked on finishing.  First you inspect your piece really closely. This view lit from underneath shows long tails and a couple places where I carried threads on the back where it shows.
This has to be fixed before proceeding.  Also, there's a big gap between the top edge of the paper and the iris leaves. Oh, and one clover stem just vanished into nowhere, incomplete (it matched the design line, but should have been extended beyond).  This was all fixed the morning of day 1.
In the afternoon the entire piece was brushed gently and pounded (not at all gently) with a cotton filled white velvet pillow.  This smooths the threads and gets the dust from many years out. This piece was on the frame eight years!
I didn't get any pictures of the pasting. You mix a wheat paste with water and heat it until thickened and using your finger brush the very thinnest, barely moist layer of it over the back of the embroidery (even the thin stems) making sure you don't get any on the silk fabric. (I tried my best).  Then you brush the back side of the pasted embroidery piece with a barely damp towel, both top to bottom and right to left. 
Next comes steaming. You wet the towel and drape it over a hot iron.  You steam it from the underside, first with the back side facing up and then you turn the frame over and steam it with the front side facing up. You hold the iron upside down just below the frame--never touching the fabric. Occasionally you need to reposition the towel so the wettest area is on the hot plate of iron--without letting the hot wet towel fabric touch your skin, clothes or the needlework fabric. That iron gets heavy!
If you look closely you can see the steam coming through the fabric. The steam is what really makes the silk just glow. It plumps up, smooths out and everyone goes Wow! It also seems to smooth/ease the gold work areas--my piece didn't have any but this piece did.

After this you press the piece very lightly on both sides with a warm iron with Japanese pressing paper (seems somewhat like very light-weight freezer paper), shiny side down.

Then you do all of it again--except for the inspection/fixing and velvet pillow steps. You repaste, rewipe it with the damp towel, resteam both sides, and repress both sides.  Then you let it dry at least overnight.

After that you can remove it from the frame and mount it. Phew!

It seems like a lot but I rather like the ritual of it--rather than pulling it off the frame and jumping into the next piece, there's this segue--you treasure the piece you just did, make it as perfect as you can, really look at the accomplishment, take some time to just enjoy it. I laced my bouquet to a mounting board before framing up Phase II. I felt ready.


Jenny Woolf said...

What a lot of work! But after 8 years, it is worth doing it properly. It looks really, really special!

coral-seas said...

Ha! The finishing stages still terrify me. After all that time treating your embroidery with kid gloves, you start bashing it up, smearing it with wheatpaste and then deliberately bring water and steam near it!

But I agree with you, the ritual is nice and it seems like you are honouring your work.

Rachel said...

It does all sound hair-raising, but clearly worth the effort!

terryb said...

That does seem like a lot of work. Hard for those of us who are looking for instant gratification. But I guess after eight years, what's another day or so!

The light under the piece to check for show through on carried threads and missed stitches sounds like a very adaptable process for any embroidery.