Sunday, 13 December 2015

the many people I spoke to

I finished "Signs for Lost Children" today. In the acknowledgements, Sarah Moss wrote
"Most of what I know about late nineteenth-century Japan began with the study day at the Ashmolean Museum held in November 2012 to mark the opening of the "Threads of Silk and Gold" exhibition of Meiji-era textiles. Dr Clare Pollard, the curator of Japanese art at the Ashmolean, spent hours sharing her expertise and did me the great favour of commenting on a full draft. …"
Not only did I attend that study day, I demonstrated Japanese embroidery while my dear friend Jane delivered a lecture about the stitches and techniques of Japanese embroidery. It is entirely possible that Ms Moss was one of the many people I spoke to that day, perhaps I even answered some of her questions about Japanese embroidery.

It's a small world!

Happy Stitching

a memory stirs within

We have a book club at work and through that I have read some very enjoyable novels, the latest of which was "Bodies of Light" by Sarah Moss.

"Bodies of light" tells the tale of Ally and her battle to gain her mother’s affection and approval while striving to become one of the first female doctors in England. I enjoyed this book so much that I immediately started to read the sequel "Signs for Lost Children". This book continues the story of Ally and her new husband Tom Cavendish. It would have been enough for me to follow the progress of Ally, Doctor Moberley-Cavendish, but, as she plunges into the institutional politics of mental health, Tom travels to Japan to build lighthouses. I found the chapters that explore Tom’s experiences in late 19th century Japan totally captivating. I was easily able to imagine him in Kyoto as the descriptions of the streets and building so clearly matched my own memories of when I was there.

Tom is appointed to procure Japanese antiquities and artefacts during his stay in Japan and this quest takes him to the textile producers of Kyoto. The passages about his visits to the weavers, dyers, and embroiderers are all too brief and tantalizing but still ridiculously thrilling for someone interested in Japanese textiles. But this book had one more, exquisite surprise for me.

In the chapter entitled "hortus conclusus" Tom is taken to an exhibition in one of Kyoto’s Palaces. At first Tom thinks there is nothing different from the dozen such things he has acquired for his patron.
"And then he sees the cranes, first as five white shapes glowing like moons in the dim and filtered daylight. He approaches and finds himself before some kind of painting or drawing of five long-legged birds wading under overhanging wisterias. …"
A memory stirs within me of standing before a screen, a scene depicting five long legged birds wading under overhanging wisterias …
"He has seen flowers like that, dripping the full height of the trees in a mountain forest, and he has seen cranes bowing and dipping, their white wings raised like the arms of the dancer about to begin. …"
I have seen flowers like that, cranes like that, not real flowers nor real cranes but their image …
"The five cranes are sociable, like a Japanese family preening and teasing in the bath. One is drawn up to its full height to peer down at the others busy at their toilette, and another leans in, neck outstretched so that the black markings on its silver plumage draw Tom’s gaze across the darkness at the picture’s centre and towards the arched breasts and glossy wings of its companions. Behind them, the wisteria blossoms fall like streams of water and it’s not paint, he realises, but silk, the filament of each feather drawn in stitches smaller than a mouse’s hair."
By now (1.12 am in the morning) I was so convinced that I had seen this very panel at the "Threads of Silk and Gold" exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum that I had to fetch my copy of the book of the same name and flick through its pages until on page 116 I found the image I was looking for, "Cranes, wisteria and cycads".

"Cranes, wisteria and cycads"
© The Ashmolean Museum

"Cranes, wisteria and cycads", detail
© The Ashmolean Museum

As this exhibition was in a museum in my home town, I was privileged to visit it many times and to explore the embroideries through my own eyes and those of my knowledgeable friends. It was a delight to me to see it again through the eyes or Tom Cavendish or, perhaps more realistically, through the eyes of Sarah Moss. From her biography, I discovered that Sarah Moss studied in Oxford. It is not beyond the realms of my imagination that on a return visit to Oxford she visited the "Threads of Silk and Gold" exhibition. Perhaps we stood side by side, mesmerised by the beauty of the silk and the skill of the stitchers. Certainly her writing has transported me back to that exhibition and to my trip to Japan in the following spring – memories I am happy to revisit any day and a journey I would gladly make again.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A Murder Mystery Weekend

Case History

Amy Mitten first came to my attention when she entered, and won, A Mirror to my Art in 2012. Her entry, The Mermaid Mirror, seemed innocent enough but my instinct told me that this was someone worth keeping an eye. Over the next couple of years Ms Mitten's name came up from time to time and it was becoming apparent that more and more women were falling under her influence. I began to collect together evidence of Ms Mitten’s activities which can, and will, be used later. These 'Keepsakes' seemed as innocent and harmless as the Mermaid Needlework Treasures but further investigation of Ms Mitten's business, Fibres to Dye For, revealed a shady side to her nature. To find out more, I had to find a way to meet the mysterious Ms Mitten.

© Carol-Anne Conway

For several years I have been closely monitoring a similar organisation, Thistle Threads. I have been posing as one of the cult's loyal followers who call themselves 'Casketeers'. Over time, I have earned the trust of other Casketeers and now have infiltrated their secret network on NING where I am able to monitor their communications. It was through this network that I discovered Ms Mitten was widening her net and ensnaring more unsuspecting victims with her 'Keepsakes'.

Although NING is an effective tool for gathering information, I still needed to get closer to Ms Mitten. I hooked up with a local chapter of Casketeers, called "The Sampler Guild". Although not a Sampler myself, my activities on NING have convinced them that my interests are sufficiently aligned with their own to give me an in to their circle. Originally, they agreed to 'casual' meet-ups to satisfy our unquenchable thirst for antique embroideries. Later they invited me to join them at an embroidery workshop and eventually I hit pay dirt when they asked if I would be interested in attending a training camp lead by none other than Amy Mitten, herself.

The event took several months to organise but eventually everything fell into place and last weekend I travelled to a secret location in deepest darkest Oxfordshire for my rendezvous with Ms Mitten. On my journey to the training camp I tried not to let the beautiful English countryside distract me from my mission but little did I know how dark the weekend would turn despite the bright autumn sunshine.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The project for this training camp was called 'Ten'. Was it purely coincidence that training began at 10 am on the tenth day of the tenth month? I noticed several of the ladies began taking notes; pretending to do the same, I made some notes on Ms Mitten.


As the class progressed it became apparent to me just how cleverly Ms Mitten's sting was constructed; the detailing was meticulous. I could tell that 'M' had researched her subject thoroughly and new exactly how to draw her victims in. Later that day I arranged to spend some time alone with 'M' by volunteering to chauffer her to the restaurant and back. By feigning interest in her 'story' I was able to interrogate her about her modus operandi. After I had returned 'M' to her lodgings I made some notes on what I had learned.


Despite the mysterious death, 'Ten' proved popular and Ms Mitten repeated it several times; each time there was another mysterious death. Now that I was aware of the dangers, I wondered if it was wise for me to return to the training camp the next day but I had a strong desire to get to the bottom of this case. My worst fears were realised later that day when I found myself staring at the body of a woman slumped across a sampler stained blood red! The curse of Amy Mitten had struck again!

Conclusion

Case unsolved!

A great deal more investigating is required and I shall, at a future date, look in depth at all of the clues gathered at the training camp. One thing is becoming evident; although apparently working alone, there are several more women operating similar schemes. The advent of the internet has afforded them the opportunity to ensnare their unsuspecting victims, indeed it seems that the victims themselves are unwittingly drawing in like-minded people. They all warrant serious investigation but my department is seriously under-resourced; I fear it may take more than one life-time to complete my mission. For now, I will continue to gather evidence of their activities and hope that one day I will have more time to dedicate to my investigations.

Disclaimer

All people and events are entirely real; no names have been changed to protect the innocent. The facts have been seriously distorted. Any suggestion that Amy Mitten or her company, Threads to Dye For, are involved in nefarious activities is a blatant lie made up by the author; they are not the views of any one else. The defamation of Amy’s nature is scandalously libellous. I whole heartedly apologise to Amy for this feable attempt to parody her own, beautifully crafted 'Ten' and can only hope that she can forgive me!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Long time, no post

Recently, my group leader at work asked if I have given up blogging. I said, “no, but I’ve not had much to blog about, because I’ve not done much stitching lately”. It is true that since April my mojo has been mostly absent but I have been doing some stitching and I do have some things I could write about, including a couple of classes.

My last few blogs were mostly about boxes so let’s continue on that theme. Last year I stitched the Silky Glow Sampler as a group project with some members of the Embroiderers’ Guild, Oxford Branch. When my friend Michiko saw it, she asked what I intended to do with it. I had no plans so Michiko suggested that it would make a nice box lid. Michiko makes beautiful boxes so I ceased the opportunity to request a box making lesson with her.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Michiko is so obliging that she not only agreed to help me make a box, she sourced all of the materials and pre-cut everything so that during the lessons all I had to do was construct the box*. My lessons were conducted as “evening classes” during our week long residential Japanese Embroidery course in March.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The box is made of a very stiff board. The inside is lined with paper and the outside is covered in fabric (linen). All of the components are glued. Because we had limited time each evening and because we needed to do things before the glue dried, we had to work quickly. I did not take a single photograph during the lessons (and, stupidly, I did not take any notes either) so I only have pictures of the finished box.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Actually, this is not the box that I made, there was a small problem with it so Michiko took it home to adjust, which turned out to be more of a reconstruction than a simple adjustment. Michiko made a whole new inside and returned the box to me at our next Japanese Embroidery course in April. This box was designed by Michiko to hold reels of silk and I use it to hold the silks for my current JE project.

© Carol-Anne Conway

But Michiko did not want to waste the inside tray that I had made during our classes so she removed it very carefully … and put it into another box for me.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I am using this one to hold supplies for my "evening" project so now whenever I am stitching I am reminded of my wonderfully talented and generous friend, Michiko. Thank you, so much, Michiko for all the work you put into preparing for the lesson and during the lesson, and thank you for my two beautiful boxes.

Happy Stitching

*to say "all I had to do …" seriously understates the amount of work involved in constructing the box!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Happy Tenth Anniversary

Monday 14 February, 2005. I have been looking forward to this day since Wednesday, 8th September 2004. Now it has arrived I am feeling sick from a mixture of excitement and trepidation but I still have no idea how much affect this day is going to have on my life.

I am at a hotel in Bournemouth with complete strangers. I met ‘the strangers’ at dinner last night and again at breakfast this morning. They are very friendly and welcoming but they talk about things I don’t yet know about and use words I don’t yet understand. I think that everyone knows everyone else except me – that is not entirely true, there are two other ‘new girls’. I miss my (future) husband and feel very home sick. I think that I have made a mistake coming here. I don’t think I am up to the task ahead. I think I am going to make a fool of myself. But I am here now and this is something I really, really, want to do. I am about to take my first class in Japanese Embroidery.


© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

When the class began those concerns were soon forgotten, not because I was feeling any more confident but because I simply did not have time to feel nervous or inadequate; there is so much to learn just to get going with Japanese embroidery. We ‘new girls’ were each assigned a mentor to guide us through the framing up process. Our tutor that week was also my mentor. Poor Jenny, I think I drove her mad with my incessant questions but she bore it with patience and good humour.

In order to keep up with the syllabus Ruth, Maggie and I (the ‘new girls’) were assigned homework at the end of each class. Ruth was staying at a guest house with her husband and took her homework to do there. After dinner Maggie and I would return to the class room and put in many hours to complete our homework sometimes working long after everyone else had retired for the day. The beautiful Maggie is a beautiful stitcher, I was in awe of her work right from the beginning.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

By the end of that week I had learnt so much and some new and precious friendships had begun. Since then Japanese embroidery has become my passion. When I enrolled for my first class, I had not thought beyond that. I certainly had not envisaged that one day I would be aiming to go to Atlanta to do my Phase X. At that time I had not heard of Japanese bead embroidery (or even bead embroidery for that matter). Once I knew about it, I knew I wanted to learn it and as soon as a tutor qualified in the UK I enrolled for her first class. That was the beginning of a new adventure for my dear friend Sue and me but we never imagined that it would lead us to the JEC in Atlanta for Phase V and that we ourselves would qualify as Japanese Bead embroidery tutors.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

At first, I only attended the spring class in Bournemouth once a year. Gradually I started going to shows to demonstrate JE and I think it was then that I realised how my confidence had grown since that shaky start.

When the lovely Denise and equally lovely Jane began classes in Garstang, whenever I could I joined their class. It has been a privilege to watch that group grow under Denise and Jane’s gentle tutoring. I was honoured to celebrate their 5 year anniversary with them in October last year. And there I have made more new friends. I travelled with a group of them to Japan in 2013 for a fantastic holiday. Something else I never imagined I would do.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Although I did not begin blogging because of Japanese embroidery, the majority of my posts have been about JE or beading. When I started blogging I searched the internet to see if anyone else was blogging about JE. At the time the only other person I found was Susan of Plays with needles. Over the years we have become good friends and I am very much looking forward to meeting Susan in Atlanta later this year.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Unfortunately there have been some sad points in this adventure. In the past couple of years we have said good bye to three friends. Pat Hooper, a tutor I barely got to know but whose embroidery and knowledge made a lasting impression on me. Jenny Orchard, a beautiful stitcher and gentle soul. And my dear, dear friend Sue. Sue was the first person to befriend me and the one who encouraged me to help at exhibitions and to join the group in Garstang. Sue was the one who would not let me stich at home on my own and made my join in. I miss her so much.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Sad times apart, the last ten years have been the happiest of my life. That is in no small part down to Japanese embroidery and the friends I have made through it. Both have become so much part of my life that I cannot image a life without them now. And it all began one evening in September 2004 when Margaret Lewis, my sensei, gave a talk at the Oxford Branch of the Embroiderers Guild. When I walked into Iffley village hall that evening and saw Margaret’s work, I thought they were the most beautiful embroideries I had ever seen. I was fascinated as I listened to her talk about the silks and the techniques involved. And as I watched her twist threads from the flat silk, I knew this was something I had to learn.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

To Margaret and all of the other tutors who have patiently guided me, and to all my other JE friends, thank you for all that you have taught me, thank you for your support and encouragement, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Happy Stitching.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

And Still Speaking of Boxes

For the past two and a half years I have been doing an online course, Cabinet of Curiosities Parts I and II by Thistle Threads. The course is as much a history lesson as an embroidery course. Part I focuses on the cabinet and provides the fundamental information needed to design, embroider and cover a wooden cabinet to make a replica of a 17th century casket. Part II focuses on raised embroidery (stumpwork). I have completed Part I, or rather I have read the history lessons of Part I, and am two thirds through Part II. The embroidery for the casket is a massive undertaking and I have decided not to make a start on it at least until I have completed Phase X of my Japanese embroidery and possibly not until I retire. There are some ‘small’ projects in Phase I and I hope to do some of those before I retire but have not started those yet. Part II has instructions for a raised work mirror which would be a good way to practice some of the techniques before I make a start on my cabinet but I’m not sure if I that I will do that. Beautiful as it is, I think I would rather invest the time in doing my cabinet.

Last November a group of ‘casketeers’ went on a Cabinet Tour of the east coast of America. I was not able to join them (I am saving my pennies and my holiday to go to Atlanta in October). One of the lessons in Part I is how to cover the wooden cabinet in fabric. Participants of the tour were given a practical lesson on how to cover the wooden trinket box that comes in the supplies kit for Part I. Grace, a UK based casketeer who did go on the tour very kindly reproduced this practical lesson for a few other UK casketeers including me! That is how I spent last Saturday.

All of the wooden carcases have been embossed with the Cabinet of Curiosities logo and Thistle threads so even in 300 years they will be easily recognisable as 21 century reproductions even though they will be antiques in their own right by then!

© Carol-Anne Conway

Here is the naked box waiting to be covered.

© Carol-Anne Conway

All services are covered. The outside is covered with paper to which the embroidery will be applied.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The inside is lined with coral silk and a stamped paper, made especially for this course is applied to the rim of the box. Marbled paper is applied to the inside of the lid.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I have met up with fellow casketeers a few times already so it was great to get together with them again. This get together took place in Marjan's home. Marjan is a prolific stitcher and her walls are adorned with an impressive display of her samplers. She also has a newly acquired glass cabinet which she is rapidly filling with Thistle Threads and Amy Mitten projects. As well as enjoying the company and perusing Marjan's work, I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop, thank you Grace for leading it, and was pleased to actually complete the task in a day.

Now all I have to do is the embroidery so I apply that to my trinket box!

Happy Stitching.

Speaking of boxes

Bento is the Japanese version of a packed lunch. They usually contain a selection of rice, fish or meat, and pickled and/or cooked vegetables. Commercial bento boxes are readily available at convenience stores, bento shops and at railway stations. We made several long rail journeys while in Japan and usually purchased a bento box for our lunch. I enjoyed everything about them, the beautiful packaging, the ornate tooth picks and most especially the food (I absolutely loved the food in Japan!).

© B2C

Bento can also be homemade with the maker often taking time and care to arrange the contents in elaborate styles. Rice balls are sometimes decorated to resemble animals or popular characters from cartoons or comic books.


The boxes that contain the bento are as important as the contents. They are available in a dazzling variety of styles and even the ‘plain’ ones come in beautiful colours. Again cartoon characters are popular images on bento boxes as are traditional wood block pictures. Other boxes might be shaped to resemble something, such as houses, books or kokeshi dolls.


Not all bento boxes are mass produced and some of them are exquisite works of art.

I found this one at an antiques fair in Japan. We spent a morning there where Denise and I soon noticed, and then started actively searching for, the beautifully decorated boxes. Not all were bento boxes, in fact most of the boxes that caught our eye were writing boxes.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I can’t imagine putting my lunch my bento box. I did envisage using it as a ‘current JE project’ sewing box but I have not been able to bring myself even to do that. It sits on the top a book case in my sewing room and is the first thing I see when I enter the room.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Travelling Sewing Kit

Sanjo-Honke Misuyabari also sold a range of sewing boxes made of kiri or paulownia wood. Kiri wood is thought to be ideal for sewing boxes as they can be closed tightly which keeps needles from rusting. The boxes came in many sizes but I choose the dinkiest box they stocked. This darling travel sewing kit. The lid fits so precisely that the lettering on the front is stamped across the box and the lid to show the correct alignment when replacing the lib. The small characters on the right appear to be 三條本家 みすや針 (Sanjo-Honke Misuyabari). I would love to know what the characters on the left say.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The accessories fit very snugly inside their box and are all made of the same fabric. There were many different fabrics and colours to choose between.

© Carol-Anne Conway

In the lid is a pin cushion and the box contains three spools of thread, a pain of mini snips and a packet of needles.

© Carol-Anne Conway

© Carol-Anne Conway

I have not used this yet but now I am reminded of how lovely it is, from now on this will accompany me on my travels.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy Stitching

Monday, 9 February 2015

Needles and Pins

So, would you like to see what I bought in Sanjo-Honke Misuyabari?

© Carol-Anne Conway

It may not look like much but to me it is a precious haul. The first thing on my shopping list was some handmade Japanese needles. The needles are so precious that each one is individually wrapped. The proprietor wrote the needle sizes on the front of each packet.

© Carol-Anne Conway

And on the reverse he wrote their names.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Inside each paper packet the needles are kept safe within a little foil package.

© Carol-Anne Conway

And here they are, my beautiful hand made needles purchased in Japan, from left to right oo-buto (#10), ai-chuu (#8) and kiritsuke (#5).

© Carol-Anne Conway

The needles purchase from the fishing shop were slightly less lovingly packaged. I imagine that the outer wrapper gives the name of the shop as well as the telephone and fax numbers. The needles were wrapped in a second piece of paper something like gress proof paper.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Inside that the needles are threaded into a piece of the same paper. I have no record of their sizes and cannot remember exactly what they are but I believe that they are #11, #9 and #7.

© Carol-Anne Conway

And here, for comparison, are a some of my JEC needles (far left), the Misuyabari needles and the fishing shop needles. We are told that there is only one needle maker left in Japan. The JEC and Misuyabari are so a like that they are most likely to be from the same manufacturer but the fishing shop needles are distinctly different and I suspect that they come from a different manufacture. The do not appear to be of the same quality. I have not used either the Misuyabari nor the fishing shop needles yet.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I also purchased this pack of pins. They are not hand made but these are useful when beading.

© Carol-Anne Conway

The other item on my shopping list was a tekobari. I already have two but again but, hey!

© Carol-Anne Conway

Happy stitching

Sunday, 8 February 2015

A Needle in a Market

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit Japan with a group of Japanese embroidery friends and my lovely hubby. The despoke tour was arranged for us by Gill Clay who also served as our tour guide while we were there. As well as a few of the countries' vast array of cultural and historic delights, our tour was taylored to our interest in textiles and included visits to some places that we had specificly requested. We had a very full intinary.

© Carol-Anne Conway

We were based in Kyoto and many of our visits were based in and around this ancient city. One such trip was to the Nishiki Market. The oldest, and most famed, part of the market is a long narrow shopping 'street' that specializes in food and is a great place to explore some of Japan's culinary delights. This lively part of the indoor market is what Gill had taken us to see but we knew that beyond "Kyoto's Kitchen", within a part of the market that had been modernised, and whose shops were more akin to western shopping centres, lie hidden a glimpse into yesteryear and an absolute gem as far as we were concerned. When Gill let us of the leash to expore the market for a couple of hours, a few of us set of to find Sanjo-Honke Misuyabari - the needle shop.

© Carol-Anne Conway

One of our group, Dee, had learnt of the needle shop from a post on the blog JustHungry. This post provided a good description of how to find the Misuyabari shop but, unfortunately, we had neglected to take this information with us on the day we visited the market, we had to rely on our memory of the blog and our inginuity to reach our goal. We searched for some time and were on the point of giving up when a flash of inspiration from Maggie lead us to the prize. We knew that we were in the vicinity and Maggie had spotted a shop selling traditional knives; she asked them where we would find the needle shop and they furnished us with directions. As it turned out we were standing virtually next to the small and inconspicusious allay way that lead to a small Japanese garden and there, in this oasis of tranquility, was the even smaller traditional store that is Misuyabar.

© Carol-Anne Conway

© Carol-Anne Conway

The shop is tiny, consisting of one counter and some shelves along one wall, but the contents of the shop are enough to make the heart of any needle(wo)man race. Needles - hundreds of needles beautifully arranged in the glass counter - and pins - exquisit little pins - and gorgeous wooden sewing kits. Everything a needle(wo)man could desire. Had we had the resources, I think that we would have purchased the entire contents of the shop. However, we could not initially see the items for which we had made this pilgrimage - hand-made embroidery needles. Luckily, Denise had come prepared with some sample needles and when she showed these to the gentlemen behing the counter they reached below the glass cabinet to retrieve the tray containing our quarry.

© Carol-Anne Conway

When we went our seperate ways, we had agreed a time and place to rejoin Gill and the rest of the group and we were aware that our time was rapidly running out but this was an experience not to be rushed. And besides, the gentlemen were not to be rushed; each item that we purchased was lovingly wrapped and labelled for future identification. I should perhaps mention that the gentlemen spoke no English and we speak no Japanese so the entire transation took place through a series of jestures, hand signals, smiles and squeels of delights.

© Carol-Anne Conway

I find it hard to express how much I enjoyed my holiday in Japan - every moment was a highlight - but this little excursion to Sanjo-Honke Misuyabari is one of my most treasured memories.

Here is a link to the post on JustHungry that describes how to reach the shop and has some lovely pictures. Here is a link to another blog post that describes their visit to the shop and has more lovely pictures. Happy Harikuyo

p.s. We had a second, unplanned, needle adventure in Japan. We visited an embroidery house in Kanazawa where a few of us took part in an embroidery workshop. I'm not entirely sure how it came about but the proprietors of the embroidery house arranged taxis to take us to their needle suppliers who were closed that day but agreed to open there store especially for us. When we arrived, we were a bit perplexed to find ourselves at a fishing tackle shop but, sure enough, they did stock hand-made Japanese needles in a range of sizes and were more than happy to sell us some. As at Misuyabari, the proprietors spoke no English (or so we thought, wait for it) so the transaction was conducted through the now familiar jestures and smiles. When we left the store and climbed back into the waiting taxis one of the gentlemen ran after us calling "Where from? Where from?" "England" we called back as we waved good bye. I had visions of them in the local sake bar that evening telling their friends "You'll never guess what happened today - a group of English ladies came into the shop and bought our entire stock of needles". And I can hear their friends saying back "Ha! You and your fisherman's tales!".

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Progress Report - January 2015

I began Sake Boxes in March 2014 at my annual five day class. At the end of that week I had completed the foundations on the sake box and on the outside of the ladle, one leaf and a pointed petal chrysanthemum.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

I made little progress over the summer completing only the foundation on the inside of the ladle and one round petal chrysanthemum. It was only during, and after, a four day class in October that I really connected with this design and since then I have made steady progress. At first the piece seemed to grow very slowly and the amount still to be done seemed daunting. But I tried not to think about the whole task and to simply focus on the motif that I was stitching. Keeping the work covered with tissue paper and folding it back to reveal only the area you are working on helps to keep you focused on that area as well as protecting the rest of the work from dust and sunlight.

Before long, I had completed the silk embroidery in one small area. Then another. And piece by piece the picture is building.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

Now, when I look at the whole picture, I am pleased to see how much I have done. This is quickly followed by a sinking feeling when I think about how much is still to be done and this thought is quickly chased away by a reminder of how much I am enjoying stitching this piece and a further reminder to just focus on one small area at a time.

© JEC/Carol-Anne Conway

In the past few posts, I have looked at the foundation layers, a pointed petal chrysanthemum, a round petal chrysanthemum, the leaves and the noshi papers. Until I get to the gold work on the vessels there will be nothing new to say about this piece, except for an occassional progress report.

Happy Stitching