Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Module 2 Chapter 12 Interim Progress Report

I've been working away on my ideas for my kimono but thought it would be a good idea to post something, if only to crystalise my thinking and see how I am progressing.

First I got together all my fabrics: the printed ones I'd done recently and the shibori dyed ones from chapter 6.  I laid them all out on the carpet and sorted them out by tone into light, medium light, medium dark and dark, half-closing my eyes and squinting to try to judge the tone.

2.12.F1 Light fabrics

2.12.F2 medium light fabrics

2.12.F3 medium dark fabrics

2.12.F4 dark fabrics

Next I tried piecing some of them to see how they looked together.  Seminole patchwork was one of my favourites when working on piecing in an earlier chapter so I started with that.

2.12.P1 seminole block

I am not so keen on the regularity of pieced patchwork blocks, so I tried laying out some of the fabric pieces in a more random way.  This reminded me of a book I had bought on impulse a couple of years ago on the Japanese technique of Sashiko stitching.  (Sashiko by Mary Parker, Search Press 2002)  In it, I read that Sashiko had originated as a technique used by Japanese peasants to strengthen fabrics worn thin with use and to anchor patches on places which had worn through.  This was done with parallel rows of running stitch.  Later, the technique evolved into a purely decorative one, still based on running stitch, but arranged so as to make repeated patterns, all of which had a meaning and symbolism.  Mary Parker had a dictionary of traditional Sashiko patterns at the back of her book. 

Although Mary Parker had adapted the technique for machine stitching, something about the original hand running stitch appealed to me, and so I tried two of the patterns.
2.12.S1 chidori or plover
The above pattern, 2.12.S1, symbolized autumn.  It is a stylised representation of a sea bird found in Japan.  It appealed to me because it reminded me of the stylised bird shape I used in Module 1.

2.12.S2 Asanoha or hemp leaf
The above pattern, 2.12.S2, is one of the most popular of all sashiko designs.  It is based on the hemp leaf and has strong associations with Buddhism, early paintings often showing Buddha clothed in fabric patterned with an asanoha design.  It symbolised winter and was often worn to express a wish that the wearer would survive the winter, as the perennial hemp plant did.  In modern Japan, this design is often sewn on baby clothes, conveying the wish that the child would grown as vigorously and strongly as the hemp plant.

The symbolism of the patterns appealed to me very much and thought I would try to devise a few Sashiko type patterns of my own which would hold my own personal symbolism.

2.12.S3 feathers like scales
The above pattern, 2.12.S3 came from a drawing of how feathers were arranged on a bird.  It makes me think that one feather on its own could not do much, but all the feathers laid together function to keep the bird warm and enable it to fly.   For me, then, this pattern symbolises working together with others.

2.12.S4 downy feathers
The above sample, 2.12.S4, reminded me of a much-loved goose down duvet which is a great comfort in the winter and so, for me, this Sashiko design symbolises warmth and comfort.

2.12.S5 wing

The sample above, 2.12.S5 came from a drawing of the wing of a swallow.   The flight of the swallow is so joyful and free that this Sashiko pattern, for me, symbolises freedom and joy.

I also intend to stitch some Sashiko patterns which have secret symbolism and meaning for me, and to put them in hidden places on my kimono, inside a sleeve or a hidden part of the lining, so that only I know that they are there.

As well as being interested in the decorative and symbolic use of Sashiko, I was also attracted to the original, utilitarian use and thought it would be ideal to join together my randomly pieced fabrics.  I laid out a selection on the floor, so as to make a piece large enough to make one front of the kimono and started stitching it by hand with running stitch.  So far I have spent 12 hours on it with quite a few still to go, so this will be a nice, relaxing, on-going part of the project, ideal for stitching in front of the telly!  I thought the repetitious stitching would be very tedious, but I am enjoying the rhythm of it and I love the effect.  The patterns on the fabrics still show through it, but it blends the different pieces in a delightful way and I like the pin-striped effect.  Because of the size I have found it hard to photograph this piece, but I have tried to show one overall picture and a few close-ups as shown below.

2.12.K1 left front of kimono
2.12.K2 first detail of left front

2.12.K3 second detail of left front

2.12.K4 third detail of left front

2.12.K5 fourth detail of left front

While researching Sashiko on the internet, I came across a reference to another Japanese technique, Sakiori.  This is recycling strips of fabric by weaving them into a new fabric.  It is usually done on a loom with thread as the warp and strips of fabric as the weft.  I decided to try the concept, but weaving strips of cloth for both warp and weft.  I have only just begun, by pinning the strips onto an old ironing board, but so far I like the effect.  Something to experiment with perhaps.

I am still puzzling as to how to use my fabrics for the other partse of the kimono.  It would take too long to do the whole garment by the technique used for the left front, and besides, I want to showcase different techniques in the garment.  I have had a try on Photoshop with some thoughts, shown below, but I feel that my ideas will evolve as I piece more blocks.

2.12.W1 woven fabric strips
2.12.K6 idea for kimono front
2.12.K7 idea for kimono back


  1. I think you're right - random works better - blurs the line between darker and lighter fabrics. The stitching of feathers is amazingly effective but the weaving is knock-out stuff and I really like the kimono designs. It's so easy to lots of samples (I find) but so difficult to pull it all together but I feel you must be on the right track.

  2. Phew, what an enormous amount of thought and work have gone into this masterpiece. Love the stitches and the whole concept of bringing such a wide range of samples into one whole piece, looking really good.

  3. Hello Catherine
    I'm following your progress with bated breath, what a fab project.
    Well done so beautiful and carefully thought out.

  4. Catherine, I admire your work and thinking how you have added your different pattern pieces together. It is a very harmonious result. The running stitch is a great choice, and establish a good connection between your dyed fabrics.

  5. This definitely has the WOW factor! I love the different fabrics you have created.I am looking forward to the developing piece.