Sep 3, 2009

Transferring Design to Fabric

Can you keep a secret? Lean in close and I?ll tell you one about me. Promise not to tell anyone? Ok, here it is. There is an anal side to me. I know, I know. It's hard to believe considering I work Japanese Embroidery and have a ball doing it. But, it's true! Perhaps it's the Japanese Embroidery that brings it out. Maybe it's the fact that for hundreds and hundreds of years our fore-bearers developed this very exacting art which brings a special beauty to silk and gold. I don't as carried away with other forms of needle art -- ask me to you knitting sometime.

Several phases ago I was worked and reworked a snowflake in weft valley layer about a dozen times. It was driving me nuts! My stitching looked good. My local stitching buddies thought that the stitches looked fine. But it was driving me crazy -- something was just not right. After two (ok, maybe three) glasses of wine I figured out what bothered me so much about it. I could see the blue pattern lines through it. The lines are on there permanently so there was no way of removing them. That was a teachable moment to me because I learned that in any other piece I do, I never, ever want to see the design lines again. Told you?. Anal!

So come with me while I stitch on (I did write ?stitch?) my design for Urigusu reflects on Ume (URU).

There have been a couple of times I've had to really insist on this method with instructors so I thought I?d lay out all the benefits I've discovered since I've chosen this time intensive route just in case you suddenly feel the urge:
  • No distortion of the design. I find the design is far more accurate when applied after it has been put on the bars.
  • Freedom to remove a line - this allows me to take out a line that may show through well placed stitches.
  • My mind and hand learn the design in the process of stitching in the design.
  • Strengthening of the silk fabric - this helps hold the fabric for cords, etc.
My Technique:
Step one is to use the copier and print the design on one or more thin pieces of paper. I like to use the stuff my grandmother used to type with called Onion Skin. Here is the resource I purchase the paper I use. Next I anchor it to my ground fabric with either magnets or basting stitches. Then stitch in the design.

There are some tips I'd like to share with on how to stitch in the design. Choose your thread and color wisely. I love YLI silk thread because it's easy to work with, you can use long lengths, it'fs thin or fine, and it comes in a ton of colors. The color can be a little tricky depending what color ground cloth you?re using and who needs to see the lines. With this silk I have two colors in my background but need something neutral that will disappear if I spread my design stitches too wide. It needs to be dark enough for you to see. Also important is to make the line color dark enough so that your instructor can see (personally learned this lesson the hard way).


Your stitch choice is also important. I like to use mostly a backstitch. They are 2-3mm in length because I have found the paper tears away easier and it strengthens the cloth nicely. If I had not stitched Karahana at this length then the fabric would have completely worn away for all the pulling out and re-stitching that went on.

Start your stitches in the middle of a line instead of a corner or beginning of the line so the stitches do not pull out when pulling paper. When I round a corner (not curve) I back stitch into it then do one regular or forward stitch to begin it to make a nice sharp corner without leaving a line of thread on the back of the fabric. Here are some examples:



OH! And one last little tidbit that will make your life much easier. Before you begin to pull the paper off, take your tekobari and run the point along the stitched lines. This will crease the paper and make it really easy to pull out although a good pair of tweezers will quickly dispatch any itty-bitty pieces of paper.

Below is a sneak preview of how the design will look on the ground fabric:


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