Monday, November 17, 2014

Japanese Embroidery: Foundations

For the last 25 years or so, I have been studying Japanese embroidery...but not really.

I began taking Japanese embroidery classes when I lived in Japan when I was in my 20s.  I've written about that experience before here and here.

Since then, I have had a push-pull relationship with the art form, taking lots of side trips and adventures that have led me far from my coursework.

I have had the most wonderful teacher in Tonie Evans, you may have met her on this post when she taught at our Guild last Spring.  Through no fault of hers,  I have been a fair-weather student, at best.

Well...I've set about to change all that by setting an intention to finally complete all nine Phases of Japanese Embroidery instruction so that I can attend Phase X in Fall 2015 at the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta.   As further incentive, I'm thrilled that one of my very oldest Blogging Needle Friends, Carol-Ann from Threads Across the Web, is also planning to be in Atlanta next Fall for class so we'll finally get to meet! CA was one of the first commenters on my blog in 2006 so we go back quite some time.

The piece I am currently working on is Phase IX, Sake Box, and it consists of a sake box, sake ladle and lots of mums.  The picture below is not the exact piece I'm doing, but it's close.  You can see the sake box in the bottom center and the "ladle" to its left.

Currently, I am working on laying a foundation of twisted threads on the sake ladle.  The foundation is satin-stitched which makes for fairly long stitches covering the shape...

In order to keep them in place, temporary holding stitches are laid 1cm apart and tacked down each cm, piercing the threads to keep them from shifting...

If there will be additional embroidery stitched on top of the foundation, aka "superimposed", then temporary holding would hold the stitches in place while the design can be transferred on top of the threads.

Below is a great picture showing the tissue transfer to the left, the tissue removed in the middle showing the transfer lines, and the actual superimposed goldwork embroidery to the right...

I've already completed the foundation work and design transfer for the sake box, now I am working on those same steps for the sake ladle.

The sake ladle won't have any superimposed work on the orange interior of the ladle so I am firmly stitching those foundation stitches in place using a technique called short-stitch holding.

In the picture below you can see where I am making 8mm stitches on a diagonal, going over the temporary holding stitches, to secure each foundation thread so they don't move.   Short-stitch holding can take a good bit of time but it is worth it.

Next, I'll be transferring the design for the goldwork vines that go on the outside of the ladle.

Now I'm off to stitch my two hours.  I'm still working on other things but Japanese embroidery will most likely show up here more frequently over the next year or so.

And if it doesn't, feel free to check up on me to make sure I'm still on task!!  I do have a big habit of getting distracted...

P.S.  You can see my prior completed Japanese embroidery pieces on this post here.

P.P.S.  You can see my BNF Carol-Ann's foundation work as well on her blog post here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ravens Wrap

It's Purple Friday here in Baltimore...

And even though we have a Bye this week on the football schedule, I've suited up anyway with this new wrap bracelet.

It's freezing here today so the more wraps the better.  This bracelet has five.

I've completely fallen in love with these wrap bracelets because they allow so much flexibility in design.  And because of the wraps, it feels like you're wearing five separate bracelets instead of one.

I was psyched to find these vintage black glass buttons that kind of look like footballs in my stash.

And you can purchase official NFL charms from  You might want to check around for a cheaper price.  I noticed they had gone up a few dollars since when I bought mine.

There are great video tutorials on on how to ladder stitch between leather cording.  Once you master that, you can make bracelets for any occasion.

Remember the ones our family made for Fourth of July?  They're here on this post.

These bracelets would make great Christmas gifts.

A big thank you shout-out to the Friendship Bracelets website.  I modified one of their friendship bracelet patterns for the "Ravens" logo.

Have a great weekend everyone~!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Party Hats and the Fountain of Youth

There is a fountain of youth.

It lies in our minds, our talents, and the creativity we bring to our life and to the people we love.

Did you see the New York Times Magazine two weeks ago?  

The entire issue was on the Fountain of Youth and aging.  There were two articles in particular that are worth a read.

The first...Old Masters:  After 80, some people don't retire.  They reign. [The online version is a longer article with more pictures and in-depth interviews than the printed one.]

They Reign.  I love that.  

And if you're going to reign, you need to wear a party hat. Why they didn't include that little tidbit in the issue, I'll never know.

After all, party hats represent so much that is youthful: joy, frivolity, free-spiritedness, happiness...and the list goes on and on and on...there's just no underestimating the power of the party hat. 

So, I've added a very important, new job title to my curriculum vitae:  

Maker of party hats for Octogenarians, Nonagenerians and Centenarians

My first hat was for Jim's Aunt Ruth who passed away last year at 92.  

My second hat was for my friend Dolores who turned 85 last month.  Since I wasn't able to make it to her birthday party, I sent a party hat along instead.

At 85, Dolores is still studying Japanese Embroidery with me and is full of life.  

Which brings me to the second article in that NYT that was worth reading...What if Age is Nothing but a Mindset?

It discusses much of the work of Ellen Langer, a behavioral psychologist at Yale University who has spent her life demonstrating that using mindfulness to overcome our habits and ingrained biases can have profound effects on our outlook and performance.

My friend Carolyn (seen below assisting Dolores with her party hat) called me a few months ago to ask me a few questions.  She was doing some research for a psychologist friend of hers.  Her question, "How often did I look in the mirror?  And what did I see when I look?"

I don't know about you, but I tend to look in the mirror only once in the morning to make sure that I'm groomed properly: hair straight, nose clean, chin hairs plucked.  I wear no makeup most days.  And when I look in the mirror, I see myself at about 24 years of age.

It turns out that seeing yourself younger than you actually are might be a very successful strategy in defying age.

The other big takeaway from the Old Masters...

The tree of knowledge and the fountain of youth are one and the same.

Happy Birthday, Dolores!  Time to get crackin' on that Japanese Embroidery...

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