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Friday, March 25, 2011

Japanese Couching: Starting the Center Waves

The center motif on Ocean Waves is stitched using a couching technique traditionally found in Japanese Embroidery. This is the first time I’ve ever tried it, though. The technique involves couching two strands of metallic (typically Japanese gold or silver) with a silk thread called couching silk (of course).

Here’s the first section stitched in this manner. (You can click on the photo for a closer look.) The couching was started at the far left end of the area. I couched along the bottom edge of the area, made a sharp turn at the far right, and couched along the top edge of the area. The area is filled in by spiraling in to the center. The couching stitches on each row are staggered from the couching stitches on the previous row.

The trickiest part of this technique, I found, was turning the sharp corners. I have a couple of books which explain this well, and Jane Zimmerman has posted a very complete description online, also. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture step-by-step photos of the process.

In Jane Zimmerman’s article, she mentions that the couching stitches have to be exactly the correct length, so the couched thread can’t slide around and isn’t pinched. This is a disadvantage of trying this technique on congress cloth. I was generally able to pierce the cloth threads at least once with each stitch, but it’s next to impossible to get those stitches a precise length with this ground fabric. Maybe someday I’ll try it on the silk fabric typically used for “real” Japanese embroidery and the results will be a bit more precise.

Anyway, moving on. This first section of the waves was in a red-gold Japanese metallic. This was followed by an area of Japanese gold metallic, then a section in Kreinik #4 braid, and then two more sections in the Japanese red-gold and gold.

Up next – the silver froth of the waves. But that’s another post!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Background patterns on Ocean Waves

If you guessed that I actually finished Judy Souliotis’s Ocean Waves a few weeks ago, you’d be right. Several of the stitchers local to me have seen it already.

Since I’ve already moved on to other projects in “real time,” I’m unfortunately not going to describe this project enough to do it justice, but I’ll stretch it out for a couple posts. It was a big challenge, and I have to try to give all of you at least a flavor of what was involved!

Before I dig into the next area of the project though, let me take a step back and respond to some of the comments from the last post about the couched border.

  • Thanks to all for the lovely compliments!
  • Sandi informed us that the technique I used to turn the corner is called underside couching. Thanks, Sandi! I’m going to update that post with the correct terminology.
  • Thanks also to Sandi and Sara Leigh for pointing out that 2010’s ANG Stitch of the Month project used this technique. If you want to try it out, visit ANG’s website!
  • Elmsley Rose asked about a good source for couched borders. I’m sorry to say I don’t know of one. If any of you do have a book or website to recommend, please leave a comment.
  • Sandi also asked what threads were used on the border. The laid threads are two strands of size 5 Japanese metallic in silver, gold, and red gold. Kreinik distributes the silver and gold Japanese metallic in multiple sizes. The black couching thread is a #4 Kreinik braid. And yes, Sandi, the entire project is in metallics, aside from the silk couching thread used to couch the center waves.

Anyway, on to the next section of the project. Inside the border are a variety of non-reversible blackwork patterns. It turns out I took a photo of the completion of the first pattern…

…but then I didn’t take another until all of the rest of the patterns were in place and the couched dividing bands between the patterns were put in!

All of the blackwork patterns are in various sizes and colors of Kreinik braid, and the dividing bands are each several rows of Japanese metallic, couched with the black Kreinik braid again.

On to the center – but that’s another post!