Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Battle of the Bullions

I think the bullions won.

Though I must admit that I learned a tremendous amount about bullions. I ripped out the first five or so. I then got out my A to Z of Embroidery Stitches book and that provided a number of tips: keeping my thread taut and pulling away from myself as I come through the wraps, pulling the stitch taut toward myself next, keeping tension on the thread and fenagling (sp?) the wraps to make them look nicer, etc. This did help a lot. I think I made all the mistakes: too few wraps, too tight tension, too loose tension, etc.

I discovered that you can play with the stitch a lot to try to improve it's look, unlike french knots where, if you screw up, the stitch stays screwed up. I definitely have a better feel for bullions now and more confidence. I think I'd like to try different threads. But it's all about the journey isn't it?

Speaking about journeys, thank you all for your comments and interest in Japanese embroidery. Japanese embroidery is all about the journey that you take with yourself, your threads and your needles. It's about spending enough time with your embroidery that it begins to speak to you, and you know where and how to place the next takes a great deal of patience. It's not uncommon to stitch for 6 hours straight and not have accomplished much that is visible. However, you've exercised a tremendous amount of decision-making, eye-hand coordination, breathing, rhythm, and grace.

A perfect end result should not be the expectation. One just can't expect to stitch a piece as well as someone who has 20 years of Japanese embroidery experience. This is the one observation I have of American students new to Japanese embroidery -- they expect their embroidery to look just like the teacher's or they want their gratification to be immediate.

Japanese embroidery takes time and intent. The Japanese understand that the struggle is part of the lesson. It's why you have to complete instruction in phases. I wish we had more opportunity to learn embroidery this way whether it be whitework, stumpwork, or crazy quilting. All too often, we take a class expecting our work to look just like the example and are surprised when it doesn't. I admit that I struggled with this myself when I began Japanese embroidery, having a little of the perfectionist in me. Having completed close to seven phases of embroidery, I now know differently.

I have learned to live with my imperfections as part of my path. Therefore, I am happy with my bullions, for they show where I've been...


allie aller said...

"Japanese embroidery is all about the journey you take with yourself, your threads, and your needles..." This is music to my ears...
Long ago I did some pattern weaving, and one inch of weaving would take me a few hours. But it was the interiorization, the rhythm, and mind/body coordination that made it so special to practice.
And your bullions are just great. Love the color with the black and white, too.

Debra Dixon said...

". . .a little of a perfectionist in me" Surely, you jest! From the first picture of your work I would never have guessed that!!

This is a great looking treatment and one that I will do shortly as a dominant feature in one of my blocks. Right now I am working to finish a section and it doesn't need anything dominant. My struggle is to find a way to balance dominance and subordinance in stitching. I believe this project will help me tremendously.

I showed my Mom your tea piece and she loved it!

sharonb said...

This is so true - I think we have lost the abiltity to tell oursellves that it is OK to take time to learn something and time to master something.

Lelia said...

When it comes to bullion knots -- I have better luck using perle coton #8. Something about the 'twist' makes those wraps work for me.

Wonderful post re. Japanese Embroidery. Perfecting our needlework skills is quite an adventure & we all seem to enjoy the ride

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