Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Satin boxes

I attended my first Japanese Bead Embroidery class 5 years ago this month. At that time our teacher, Marion, was the only qualified Japanese Bead Embroidery teacher in the UK. Marion designed this satin box lid as a taster project and it uses many of the Phase 1 techniques. If I'm honest, I only tried the class because I wanted to learn the standard Japanese Embroidery and I saw this as an easier way in. Jean, a local  JE teacher, hosted the class. She had been learning Japanese Bead Embroidery herself and had already completed a large number of the JEC bead embroidery bag designs. It was when Jean brought her bags out to show us that I was sold. Bead embroidery comes alive when you shine a light on it and I was hooked by the bling. By the time I started my Phase 1 piece  a couple of months later, Jean had qualified as a bead embroidery teacher, so we then had 2 teachers. This meant we were never without a Japanese Bead Embroidery teacher in the UK, even when Marion moved to New Zealand a year or so later. I think Jean's current count of bead embroidery pieces is 17, so she's a very experienced teacher.
Earlier this year I finished Poppy Pouch, my Phase 3 piece. Before starting the Peacock Mat for Phase 4, I fancied doing a smaller project, so another satin box lid seemed like the ideal project. I had some Valori Wells patchwork fabric which I thought might be suitable as the base fabric. This would also give me a chance to take some baby steps into design. So here is my first attempt at designing bead embroidery.

Patchwork fabric isn't the best base for bead embroidery because it doesn't have a high enough thread count. The fabric needs to be stretched quite tightly on the frame, so it tends to get distorted, especially as the weft and warp stretch will be different. For this first piece I didn't use any stabiliser at all and as you can see in the picture below, the circular motif was anything but circular once it was on the frame. There was also a lot of give in the fabric when I was stitching. In the end I had to average out the design elements to make it look reasonably regular. It was fun to do and the colours made a welcome change from the black beads in Poppy Pouch.

Learning from this experience, for the next box lid, I backed the patchwork fabric with medium weight vilene. This time the fabric was much more stable to stitch but I can't honestly say there was any less distortion. In the photo below the motif is decidedly egg shaped. It didn't matter quite so much because the flower in this design could be more random. There was another disadvantage with the vilene. When you design something there's a lot more trial and error, so I did far more undoing an redoing on these pieces and over time the vilene started disintegrating. I think the best solution is woven interfacing but the result would probably be too heavy for this particular project.


When choosing the beads, I amplified the colours in the base fabric and this was the final result.

I was initially worried the background green was a step too far. However, when I took this photo at the weekend with a hint of the garden outside, I realised that however bright I thought the colours were, nature can always rack it up a notch!