Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Japanese Embroidery

While it may not look like a lot, it feels pretty big to me.
Last week we had our semiannual Japanese Embroidery Studio with our wonderful teacher (sensei) Karen Plater. It was magical. I was sad I wasn't able to attend whole days, but I was very happy to get in what I could. I was there every day for the opening lecture, or Morning Talk. Karen always comes with lectures prepared, based on what each of us is working on or something new she thinks we'll enjoy. They set the tone for the day.

But often she shows her depth of knowledge and flexibility when she creates a spontaneous morning talk based on something one of us brings up in class. This session it was a lecture discussion of a piece of Arts and Crafts era English silk embroidery in the Japanese style that one of the students owns. We learned a lot about the piece itself, but also about aesthetic styles and influences and different types and twists of silk thread.
What I actually stitched in the class was the flat silk for the second green fan blade at the bottom and the grid layer of twisted silk over it. Now it's ready for the honeycomb metallic layer. The metallic layers that will go over both green fan blades were discussed and practiced with colored pencil on paper until we "got it." You can faintly see one green "star" shape (flax-leaf) on the upper blade. I couldn't get it to show up in a photo.

My next step is to play with color and determine what colors should go where in the flowers and leaves. I've made some copies of the design and have my colored pencils gathered.
On the final day of class we put down our needles and made thread twist sample sheets. The sheets show samples of threads twisted with soft, medium and tight twists and also what they should look like when they are overtwisted in the needle.  I added short pieces showing the size loop (in general) that each twist makes as you are making it and testing the twists. 

It was really hard!

Making a soft twist was pretty easy. Making a tight twist was okay, too. But it took me, I think, six tries to get a good medium twist. I felt like Goldilocks, looking for the one that was "just right." I felt like I was learning so much, though. Not just about the twisting, but also the overtwisting, which I tend to forget.

Once I had the basic twists done, I made an s-twist sample appropriate for knots.  After I got home, I dug in my stash of leftover twisted threads and found more to add to my page. We'd feared that my very dark wine-color thread wouldn't be as easy to "read" as a lighter thread, although I think it is actually okay. Then I added some finer twists--1>1 and 1>2 as samples.

I began a notebook with my samples, color copies of my teacher's twist sample pages, and other pages and instructions that I've acquired over the years.  (I know, I should have started that long ago.)

So, now I'm immersed in Japanese Embroidery once again. I'm looking for long weekends when I can set up my frame and get up early to stitch before the day gets rolling away from me.

1 comment:

coral-seas said...

It is worth taking time to get those foundations right and yours look beautiful. I enjoy the special effects, I hope that you have fun with them. Your classes with Karen sound very good. I keep meaning to do some sample twists but still have not got around to it!

What you have done looks very good.