The post I forgot to publish

About this time last year I bought a Su embroidery kit, and posted several updates as I proceeded through the project.  When I had finished I wrote this post, but forgot to publish it

 

Su embroidery kit – review

 

Am I pleased that I did it – Yes

Would I do another – I don’t think so.

Why not?

A kit is a good way of trying something new.

The problem with this one is that I was worried until about a week from the end that I would run out of the three of the palest colours.  I did run out of one green shade, and had very little of two pink shades left.  It would be expensive to buy more thread from China.  It’s reassuring to know that the thread being used in a kit can be bought either over the counter or from an internet shop in the U.K.

I also got annoyed with the fabric. Although it seemed to be a firm enough fabric, holes pulled at the edges of petals as I stitched, and they were not easy to disguise. Maybe I should have had a backing fabric after all.  When I had finished, and pressed the work, I was really disappointed at the amount it had pulled in.

And I have too many other things which I want to try competing in my brain to be my next project

For a first attempt at this kind of embroidery a much simpler design would have been better.  There was not much space in which to stitch and blend from the lightest of the darkest colours.

At least I didn’t get to the point of telling myself that I was crazy to the on this project!

What I might have done differently

Often we try things and they either do not work, or we realise that there is a better way.  These are things I decided not to do, or did, and wished I had not.

1.At the beginning I mounted the fabric on a backing fabric.  Then I decided, because it was not the correct way to do things, to take it off, and mount the silk in the way that I did.  It was not the way that this embroidery should be done.  So I have mixed feelings here – it was correct, but did not work out.

2.  Next I cut the brown silk skein, as recommended.   If I had been able to suspend the thread on some kind of rod, it would have worked.  but I couldn’t, and it didn’t, so I would not do this again. It was much easier to use the silk if it was wound onto toilet roll centres – two shades fit nicely on each.

3.  I commented that the needles provided were not shiny.  One of them snapped in two.  In the past I have bent many needles and pins, but never broken one (except machine needles).  So I would say that if a piece of equipment does not come up to the standard expected, don’t use it.

4.  Although I got out a magnet when I set out, I decided not to use it.  Although magnets can be very useful they do magnetise everything which contains iron.  That means needles, pins and scissors for a start.

5.  I divided the thread in two.  If I were doing a smaller piece I would definitely divide it into at least four, possibly eight, for a better finish.  This would mean that the project would take much longer, and there would be a strong likelihood that  would have to put it way for some reason, and never get it out again.  I already have three UnFinished Objects stored away

And what I would do again.

1. Simplify the petals. It was difficult enough with the simplified version

2. Do the preparatory work.  The drawing with stitch directions was particularly worth doing.

And finally

I am pleased that I did this project. It was a challenge, and I have a sense of achievement now that it is done.

Afterthought

My next project is something really small, and quick.

I still have not framed this piece of work.  I had a frame and mount ready, but they were no longer suitable because the fabric had pulled in too much.

January 26, 2017. Chinese embroidery, Embroidery, Filament silk, Filament silk, silk shading, Su embroidery. Leave a comment.

Almost done

It’s almost done now.  I expect to finish by the weekend.  All that remains to be done on the flowers are the bullion knots for the stamens, and possibly a few more stitches to fill any gaps.  Bullion knots are not my favourite stitch by any means.  The dark parts at the bases of the petals look much better now that the in-between shades have been added.

The leaf veins which have already been done are definitely not right, so they will be taken out and re-done.

 

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I still have to decide how to stitch the twig at the bottom of the picture. some knots might be parts of the solution – not out of keeping with Chinese embroidery.

A day later….

Since writing the above I have spent over two hours stitching the twigs.  I tried to get a gnarled effect by placing stitches in different directions.  It didn’t work.  It looked awful.  It drew attention away from the flowers.  So I spent the next half hour unpicking most of what had been done.

Now I am trying something else, much simpler, which seems to be working a lot better.

When the project is finished I will post a review of what i have done, and the kit.

May 24, 2016. Chinese embroidery, Embroidery, Filament silk, Su embroidery. 1 comment.

Silk threads

Spring is here, and there so many distractions. For one thing, the garden needs to be prepared for the seeds and plants, and it is so nice to be out in the sun.

Even so, my Su embroidery project is progressing at a steady rate.  I spend between 2 and 4 hours on it most days, with the occasional day doing other things which need to be done.  I am enjoying it but as the weeks pass my perception could change.  I have already broken off to prepare another, much smaller project which I can take to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting, and it is tempting me.  I once took a project of this size to a meeting and found it very difficult not to keep knocking the people to either side of me.

Today I will address thread problems, knot-problems, and not-problems.

When I unpacked the thread for my Su embroidery project and spread it out it looked beautiful, gleaming up at me. On Youtube I had found how to deal with a skein.  Quite simple, straighten it out, find the knot, and snip through all the threads.  Then hold the thread in the middle and braid before putting onto a rod.  Professional embroiderers simply drape or knot the threads unbraided over a rod which is beside them as they work, so they can select each thread as it is needed.

By the time I got to deciding how to deal with the thread, some of the skeins were a little tangled and the brown was very tangled.  So the brown was straightened out, and cut as described, and eventually braided.  I did not cut the others, as I was not too sure about the length of thread to work with.

Someone who embroiders for a living can probably work successfully with a much longer thread than most people.  The others were just twisted and put onto a card.  It was a mistake not to braid the brown threads, as this stops them getting more messy.

DSC00076

 

The point I want to make here is that this is a problem, but not a disaster. It helps when working with any fine thread if your hands are not rough, to avoid snags.  However, filament silk is very strong, and a tangle like this can be remedied in a few minutes.  I simply took each thread in turn and pulled between my finger and thumb a few times and voila!

 

DSC00077 (1)

 

These are the same threads.  If you closely you will be able to see how the thread splits naturally in two roughly equal parts.  There are still a few fuzzy bits, but these tend to straighten out as the thread passes through the fabric.

The other problem I  had with the thread was to do with the colours.  As I mentioned, the printing was paler than the threads.  This means that I have tended to use less of the darker colours colours when stitching the leaves and stalks.  Maybe I have used the threads correctly, but I won’t really know until I have stitched the flowers.  At the bottom left there were more leaves which were not green.  Cream and coral pink and brown  were needed.  The  yellow thread is too bright and the pinks are too rose-y. I considered using some of my other silk threads, maybe splitting them and untwisting – too much effort.

Eventually I came up with the idea of colouring some of the silk with silk paint.  I tried a length of the first and third shades of pink, using yellow paint in an egg-cup, with a little water added.  It takes a little practice, to drain the thread without squeezing the colour out, before drying it.  Two immersions worked well.  The colour was a little uneven, but it really did not matter in this instance.  The dried threads then had to be ironed to set the colour before they could be used.

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In case you are wondering I am working with a thread length of about 16″ (40cm), which is not so different to the length of a cut skein.  The demos on YouTube show the thread knotted onto the needle, leaving a small tail.  In the demos the stitches are quite long, so the end of the thread is reached before the knot comes undone.  Not so with mine, as my stitches are quite small in some areas.  Also there are a few occasions when I want to undo a stitch or two because the angle is all wrong.  That doesn’t happen in the demos!

As it comes off the skein, the separated thread has a slight twist, which straightens out as the thread passes through the fabric.  I keep giving it a little twist back, as this helps the individual fibres to stay together.

I have found it interesting to use a thread which I had not previously tried, and to learn how best to handle it.  Another thing I found as I used thread straight from an uncut skein, is that it becomes difficult not to tangle the skein.  To avoid this I wound all the threads except the brown onto the middles of used toilet rolls. Two colours fit on one cylinder. They have so many uses!

This has proved successful, as I don’t need to touch the wound thread.  I just pick up the card cylinder, hold the loose end, and unwind a length before snipping it off.

Next time I will discuss various aspects of this project with the benefit of hindsight

April 15, 2016. Tags: , , . Chinese embroidery, Embroidery, Filament silk, Su embroidery, Thread. Leave a comment.

Su embroidery

Now I can unveil my ‘major project’.

I had often looked on eBay at kits for Su embroidery, from Souzhou Province in China, and wondered if they were worth the money.  Postage from China isn’t cheap.  So I looked for a while at the multitude of designs, in different sizes, before I chose one.  Even then I waited for another week or two, then checked the feedback for the seller before I took the plunge.  Some of the kits are offered on a ‘Buy it now’ basis, and some are for auction.  The one I selected was for auction, so there was a chance it would cost a little less. As it was, no-one bid against me so I got it for the starting price.

The things I particularly noticed in the feedback were that there were no instructions (it said exactly that in the listing), and someone had received the wrong kit.  The seller had obviously taken heed, because I soon received two emails.  One offered me a DVD in Chinese, but which would still be helpful.  It also offered scissors and a hoop.  The other asked me to confirm the reference number of the kit.

The correct way to do Su embroidery is not in a hoop, unless it is very small, so I purchased just the kit, in the middle of January. It took about 2 weeks to arrive, so not too bad.

When I opened the package which came from China I was amazed at how small the packet of thread was.   There was also the fabric, printed with the design, but not dark enough that it would show through the stitching.  Also included was a small packet with two tiny needles.  They were smaller than anything I had in my collection, but not shiny like the needles we buy here.

 

Threads

 

I spent quite a lot of time planning carefully, about a week in total.  I was unsure whether to back the silk, which was quite firm, with another fabric, or not.  At first I decided that it would be a good idea, so I tacked the two layers together, but it was till niggling at me.  I consulted with people on Facebook, and the most useful advice was that there were offerings on Youtube.  I had already looked there, so I went back and watched everything I could find.  It’s so relaxing to watch someone stitching, close-up, while enjoying a cuppa!  As a result of this, and reading my book on Japanese embroidery, I took out the tacking stitches, cut up the backing fabric, and applied strips to all four sides of the silk, and mounted it on a roller frame.

 

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The design was traced carefully before it went in the frame,  scanned  into the computer and  three copies were printed , One A3 print at a larger size was used to mark the direction of the stitches. The other A3 print at normal size was used to make notes round the edges about the colours.   The edges of the petals are very indented, which I thought would be a problem, so I decided that they would need to be simplified.   On the A4 print I marked the simplified edges of the petals.

I also spent a fair bit of time making notes about order of work, and making decisions.  Usually the work would be completed by first working form the parts of the design that are further back, then forward, as in some methods of painting.  However, because of the alterations to the petals, I decided that it would be a good idea to use a different silk thread to outline the petals.  I did this before I stitched anything else. It took hours, but I think it will be worth the effort

 

Outline stitch completed

Outline stitch completed

 

Filament silk was supplied.  Professional Sou embroiders divide the thread many times before stitching with it.  I stitched a small practice area using the thread split in four.  If I did the embroidery in that way there was a real danger that I would never finish it.  The thread splits into two very easily, and that is how I am using it, else this project would take too long or even be abandonned to the UFO hiding place. (UFO = UnFinished Object)

A more difficult decision is how to stitch the knobbly twig at the bottom below the leaves.  I have decided to leave this until last.

The two tiny needles provide would not be enough.  I like to have a few needles threaded ready to use.  The smallest needles in my needlecase were just a little larger, but they had a round eye, and a longer eye is better for threading filament silk.  Then I remembered that I had been given a very old pack of Millward size 9 Crewel Needles.  These were what I used most of the time, more so after one of the kit needles snapped.

 

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Here I have shown the two kit needles, the next is probably a ‘between’, and on the right the No 9 Crewel. Unfortulately the print on the needle packet has not fared as well as the contents..  I have also show the pin cushion with the ‘strawberry’.  I like to use this to keep my needles clean.  The ‘strawberry’ contains emery powder, so passing the needle through from time to time removes and dirt and grease.

At last I was ready to start stitching the design itself, starting with leaves and stems.  Two months in, I am thinking that this could be completed by mid-June. Photographs of progress will be given in later posts.

April 7, 2016. Chinese embroidery, Embroidery, Su embroidery. Leave a comment.