Friday, 11 January 2019

Something Different

Shortly before the Millennium, Jane-Beth graduated as a teacher of Traditional Japanese Embroidery (Nuido)  through the Japanese Embroidery Centre in Atlanta. This is, in my opinion, her masterpiece.

It is called Sake Boxes and is based on one of the 17th Century Konbin No Fukusa. Fukusa are highly decorative gift covers which are placed over the gift before it is presented.
It's a large piece , two feet high, and a bit over a foot wide. Everything you see is hand stitched in the traditional style using flat silk threads and gold.
And yes, that fabric behind the embroidery is silk woven with gold.

Photo. by permission of Jane-Beth, Design © Japanese Embroidery Center, Atlanta
When she graduated, and this is how I remember it, I made a comment that if she was going to teach Japanese Embroidery then she should find a numpty (translation; idiot, not clever, know nothing, ham fisted - any or all of the above) to practice on. Again as I recall it, her reply was 'I have your first phase piece ready for you'.

To be honest, I was quite keen to try it. This is the result, my Japanese Embroidery Phase One, "Nejiri-Bana" (Twisting Flower).

Design © Japanese Embroidery Center, Atlanta

In Phase One I learned how to mount the silk fabric on the frame. The fabric is stretched through and around split dowel rods until it is drum tight, then it has to be laced onto the side bars of the frame and the lacing pulled as tight as you can get it, to stretch both the warp and weave. The weave has to be kept at right angles to the side of the frame.

The basic thread for Japanese Embroidery is flat silk. You learn very quickly to treat it with respect. If you don't, it can become quite obstreperous.

Sometimes the silk is worked flat, sometimes you need to use a twisted silk, in which case you have to twist your own. In Phase One I learned how to lay flat silk using a Tekobari (Tr. Stroking Needle), and how to twist multiple strands into a perle-like thread. This involves gripping one end of tightly twisted silk in your teeth (I'm not aware of a better way to hold it taut) while you twist the next part. Don't let it go loose, is the big lesson. If you let it go it springs back into a knotty coil and you have to start again.
I also learned that you have to be patient, disciplined and focused. Let your mind wander and you lose rhythm and your stitches go anywhere but where they should.
In Phase One you learn how to stitch the basic flowers used in Japanese Embroidery. Working clockwise from the top they are; Chrysanthemum, Maple leaves, Cherry Blossom, Plum Blossom and Pine Trees.

While I was working on this Phase Jane-Beth was invited to display and demonstrate Japanese Embroidery under the "Something Different" section of the Lace Guild annual get-together in Scarborough. Guess who got to do the demonstrating?
Well it certainly was "Something Different", a YOUNG MAN in a KILT doing JAPANESE EMBROIDERY. It certainly gathered a crowd.
It was fun, but it was also freezing in the demo area. My hands were so cold I could hardly stitch and at one point I dropped my 'snips' point down onto the silk. They bounced, but only after piercing the fabric.
What do you do when the point of your scissors make an inch long hole in your silk?
Once I stopped panicking and realised that the rip was not getting any longer I came up with a solution. Add a second cord.

It took me a year to complete Nejiri-Bana. It taught me patience, and the importance of being disciplined and accurate in my stitching. I also learned that the best way to start a period of stitching is to sit at the frame and think of nothing for ten minutes. It clears the mind and allows it to focus on your stitching. I apply these lessons to every piece I stitch or design, and I'd be lost without my Tekobari.