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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Japanese Beading: Hana

Within hours of finishing my 'Anastasia' Japanese beading project, I had begun on the second project, Hana, from Inspirations 91.  My Japanese beading learning had become an obsession. I was a woman on a mission. I needed to perfect the technique - and I needed scissor fobs.
Hana was an easier project than Anastasia - largely because the basic pattern was a simple repeat of a flower motif. While the colour varied, the technique for each was the same, encouraging practice.
This did not prevent me from making the most fundamental of errors - not reading the whole set of instructions through carefully before plunging in. I discovered, rather late in the piece, that the lower petals had fewer beads than the upper petals - which left me with a shortage of beads. This was exacerbated by the blue beads having holes too small for the beading needle provided. As I could barely thread the needle provided. I improvised by borrowing beads left over from Anastasia and living with the colour variation.
The trickiest part of this project, in terms of manipulating beads, was getting the stems crossing over each other.
To help hold the tension on the long string of edging beads I used the traditional Japanese wooden koma - which I had bought from Merrilyn Whittle. This is designed to tension your needle when laying a long line of beads. I found it a bit light for the task. For me, tensioning my needle in a heavy pincushion served me better. I hope, however, at some point (I've enrolled in a Margaret Lee Japanese Beading Class at Beating Around the Bush in October) to learn a bit more about this tool and improve my technique.

Although far from perfect, I was pleased with this piece. I like its stark simplicity.

Again, I constructed it without glue. Another pair of scissors with a fob!

An addendum to this post is that I began using these scissors with fob and inadvertently dropped them unloading my car at my daughter's home in Adelaide. By the time I realised what I had done, they had spent a night on the wet grass. They seem, however, to have recovered!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Japanese Beading:Purple Anastasia

Yes, I did continue my Japanese beading frenzy and finish the third project I had purchased - the purple Anastasia. As the pattern is the same as the original Anastasia, I will not post photos of every stage.

This time I decided to vary the order in which I worked. Instead of working the centre, then each of the corners in sequence I worked the centre, then one corner, then all the leaves, all the stamens etc. I have found this method works for me when doing tapestry or cross stitch and it seemed to work here too.  When working with thread, it enables me to use up the thread in my needle. Here it enabled me to place more beads on the 'shoe' and reduce the number of times I dipped into little plastic bags of beads.

One thing I enjoyed about this beading technique is the use of two needles (once I figured out I needed to store both to them above rather than below the hoop)-one with a double thread for threading the beads and one with a single thread for couching them. I eventually developed quite a good rhythm with this.

In this project it was the pink beads that the beading needle provided didn't go through. I managed to find a 'between' needle that was fine enough yet with an eye I could thread.

Once again, I made this up as a scissor fob.

This exercise in Japanese beading was prompted by this year's Embroiderer's Guild Ethnic Studies Group focus on beading. It's given me a feel for the process and tools of Japanese beading, and raised some questions I'll be able to raise when I do Margaret Lee's class at Beating Around the Bush next week. I'm particularly interested in any tips for threading a beading needle (or whether some brands or styles are easier than others), how to effectively use a koma and ways of laying out beads while working.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Punto Umbro

I am interrupting my account of my beading adventures to record my experience of last weekend. when I spent a fantastic two days attending Christine Bishop's Punto Umbro class at the Embroiderers' Guild. It was an energetic and friendly group, including quite a few country members who had come down for the class.
Christine had designed a mat - about 30cm square - that requires five stitches for the embroidery, two of which were likely to be familiar, and a couple more for the hem, once again demonstrating her ability to design a project to fit the time and capacity of her class. It was a challenge but possible to learn the stitches and complete much of the work in the two days.                                                                                                                                                                                       My first challenge was to get my Palestrina stitch sitting with the knots in the centre of my line, not to one side like railway tracks.
I eventually got the rhythm. I then had to work to get coverage I wanted on the 'elephant tusk' arms. My spacing needs some work.
I really loved working the needlelace bits - which is where we got to at the end of Saturday. Some of the country members were planning to enjoy a night socialising. I was by now hooked - and couldn't wait to bunker down to complete most of the outline that night. 
On Sundaywe began on the curly bits. I really enjoyed this stitch and the challenge of getting the mirror images right. It was so satisfying to see the pattern take shape.
While it wasn't finished at the end of the two-day class, it was very well advanced. We had also been through the steps for blocking the finished piece and practiced the stitch to finish the mat edge. I was highly motivated to finish it and went home to work on the last curls.
I did just that, finishing over the next 36 hours before I left for a few days in Canberra. 
I was able to block the piece the night before I left so I can finish the edging on my return. I tightened the piece just before I left. It was looking very smooth, promising a nice straight edge without ironing.
It's been a most satisfying and enjoyable little project - achievable, lots of learning, great company and an elegant product to reflect the experience.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Japanese Beading: Anastasia

The Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia's Ethnic Embroidery Study Group is looking this year at beading in a range of different Ethnic traditions. When, earlier this year, I saw a project in Embroidery and Cross Stitch Magazine Volume 23, No 5, based on Japanese beading techniques, I thought it would be interesting to try it out as a contribution to the group's study. The project is by Merrilyn Whittle, who produced a kit for the project. I sent for the kit.
Merrilyn generously sent me a free 'shoe'. Made from non-static beading-mat fabric, this is a tool to hold beads while you are working and proved to be most useful.
This form of Japanese beading is worked on patterned fabric, using part of the pattern as a template for the beads. You mark off the section to be beaded with couched thread, then fill in with beads. It sounds easy - but not (for me at least) so in practice. The beads are tiny, need to be subtly varied in colour and secured firmly. I found threading a beading needle very challenging. I took to using long threads to minimise the number of threadings.
A symmetrical pattern, like this one, also presents some challenges for description of parts and direction.  "Top of" and "bottom of" are terms only meaningful if 'top' is agreed!
The pattern, however, was lovely and the rich colours most rewarding as they emerged in beads, giving the piece dimension and depth. 
My efforts were a bit wonky in places - but undoing was only rarely an option. The technique requires continuous thread, rather than stopping and starting, and beads are firmly couched down as you go. I could correct a bead placement if I picked up the error immediately - but otherwise correcting was, for me at least, limited.
Once the pattern was beaded, the edging cord was attached and the background beaded. All this, of course, took several days. I did it while recovering from my knee operation - and it filled many hours.

Although I was finding somewhat tedious the process of taking a few beads of a particular colour, out of a small plastic bag, placing them on a 'shoe', threading and stitching down, it became addictive - I really wanted to finish the next little section. I even developed a way of doing it in front of television!

The construction process was relatively straightforward. I chose not to use glue, but to tack down the edges over the wadding.

I had by now found two more similar projects by Merrilyn - one from her website and one from Inspirations Magazine No 91. The latter is used as a scissor fob, rather than a decoration. I bought kits for both of them (in for a penny... when you're on a good thing....)

All my projects, I decided, would be scissor fobs. (I am using the term here as defined way back in a  blog in 2012, when I settled for 'keep' as a term for a pouch to keep scissors in, and 'fob' as a tab to attach to the scissors themselves). I have a lot of unattached embroidery scissors - here's an opportunity to tidy that up. So I included a couple of coins in the stuffing to give it weight.

Anyone sense obsessive behaviour?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Tabbed phone pouch

I was in my 40s before I owned a pair of jeans. Now I live in them. One reason for my late addiction is pockets. I carry my phone - link to communication, information and photography - in the pocket of my jeans. On the day I go to Pilates - and wear leggings - I reluctantly carry my phone in my bag. Recently I have bought some fabulous leggings from Bundarra and would love to wear them more often, but not at the expense of having my phone in my pocket.
The problem, however, has been solved thanks to the ingenuity of Barbara Mullan, of Kantha fame. At one of our last Embroiderers' Guild workshops Barbara showed me a zippered pouch she had made that attaches to her leggings. She has sewn buttons to her leggings and loops on to the pouch. This is my version, using her idea.                                                                                                                                                          
I used some squares of fabric from Indigenous artists, backed it with wadding and roughly quilted it.
I added a zip and tabs
as well as lining.

It is sized to fit my phone.
I found a range of interesting buttons that fit snuggly into the loops.
Following Barbara's example, I stitched 2 buttons on to each of the leggings, with small buttons on the back for strength. 
I admit to being impatient and guessing the position of the buttons rather than trying them all on. It would have been better to try them. I have made an adjustment on one pair of leggings so far.

It works a treat. Something else for which I have to thank Barbara Mullan and the Embroiderers' Guild - the benefits of membership extend beyond classes and groups - there's also a great exchange of ideas and solutions!