Thursday, 21 February 2019


It took me nearly a year to stitch this. I started it in June 2001 and completed it in May 2002. The design is from the JEC in Atlanta and is called Suehiro, or Golden Fan.

Design Copyright Japanese Embroidery Center

This is my Phase II piece. It was a big step up from Nejiri-bana (post of 14th September 2018). The second, 4th and 6th sections from the left are motifs I learned when stitching my Phase I. Compared to the rest they were the simple parts. The 1st, 3rd and 5th sections are worked in flat or twisted silk and then a further pattern stitched on top, while the 7th is couched Japanese Gold.

All things are comparative, that is to say that compared to 3 and 5, section 1 is comparatively simple. First I covered the area with flat silk satin stitch, the stitches running in the same direction as the weft, then I added the superimposed pattern. The pattern is called Sayagata (Lightning) and is achieved by couching a Japanese Silver metallic over the stitched area in a series of zig-zags in a traditional format. What's really clever about it is that all of the couched silver is one unbroken length.

Area 3 is a base of twisted silk which is then topped with a grid of thin metal threads couched at the meeting points to form a star like pattern known as Flax Leaf. The position of each of the superimposed threads has to be measured accurately (in millimetres) or the pattern will not work. Trust me on this, I know how many times I had to take back a thread because it was a fraction out.

Segment 5 is called Tie-dye. It is created by stitching the dark thread between and over (never through) the base of flat silk (again stitched with the weft of the fabric) and is achieved by careful counting.

The far right, 7th segment, including the circular end, is Japanese Gold, couched every other twist, working from the outside into the centre. You might ask why not work from the centre out? What can I say? It just doesn't work if you do that. The angles at the end will not meet properly and the circle will want to become an oval.
Whatever else you learn from what feels like miles of couching, you do learn patience. I suppose you also learn to be accurate first time. All it needs if for the couching thread to cross the gold at anything other than 90 degrees and it screams out at you, giving you no choice but to pick it all the way back and correct it. Yep, I had to do that a number of times!

At first sight many people assume that the background of the superimposed areas is applique, but every part of Suehiro is stitched by hand, including the cords.

I wasn't counting hours at the time, but looking back I consider that every hour I spent working on Suehiro was time well spent.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Atlantic Crossing

This post is NOT about the Rod Stewart album of the same name, though I must admit to having owned a copy of it.

In August 2001 Jane-Beth and I attended our first ANG Annual Seminar, held that year in Washington DC, well actually on the other side of the Potomac in Alexandria.

Mind-blowing? Well, I had never seen so many stitchers or so much floss in one place, and then there were the needlework shops! I was overwhelmed (and probably overspent). There were threads and flosses I'd never heard of, canvas in different sizes and colours. I fell in love with the USA within the first few days!
Seminar was an experience I'll never forget. I think I was in awe of just about everything I saw and everyone was kind to the two strange speaking foreigners. I was able to take design and colour classes with some of the most respected teachers, and of course I had to take one class with a project.

This is Tony Minieri's La Torre Teapot, based on the La Torre clock tower in Kansas City. It is stitched on Congress Cloth using Silk ' Colours, Fiore and Kreinik Bijoux. I learned a number of new stitches and discovered that UK English and US English can be two different languages.

Being in foreign parts, I had to wear my kilt. It was a great ice-breaker, but it did lead to one amusing 'phone conversation. I overheard one of the ladies calling her friend, and in answer to an unheard question, reply, "There are four guys here, three of them are Gay and the other one's wearing a skirt!" Was I offended? Not in the least. I'm not that easily offended.
And it's an amusing story to share with fellow embroiderers, guaranteed to get a laugh if I use it when I gave a talk.

We had time for a little sightseeing too, including a walk up The National Mall and a visit to part of the Smithsonian. I'm not sure whether the highlight of the day was seeing Oscar The Grouch or the apple pie in the cafeteria.

Seminar ended, we came home and we knew we'd go back again.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Chalet School Goes To It

I'm not quite sure what they were going to, but judging by the cover it may have been a vegetable market.

Having sold a few charts of the first Chalet School cover for The National Osteoporosis Society, I thought I'd have another shot. This one did not go so well. I couldn't get the detail right and the faces just wouldn't do what I wanted them to.

Lesson learned?
If you are going to go for detail either go big on the finished size of your design or small in the count of your canvas. Or do I mean that the other way round? I think what I'm saying is that if it's a very detailed piece you need more holes to the inch. If I was doing this again, which I will not, I would have made it larger and I would have done it on Congress Cloth. Knowing what I know now, and with 20-20 hindsight, I'd also have looked at threads other than DMC Medici. This was designed to be simple for a beginner (not sure I achieve that either) and if I had been more experienced and doing it for myself I might have considered using other stitches for effect.

We stitch and learn.