Textile inspiration can start with anything really. But normally, for me, it begins with either an illustration, croquis (which is a small test pattern) or photo. Illustrations, especially fashion ones give a lot more information than the other options. This can be really helpful in deciding things like fibre, density of the fabric, and even how much detail may or may not be added. Like any form of design outcome (and probably like most things in life?) the more you know, the better off you are.
So while it’s been quiet here on the website it’s not because I’ve been busy behind the scenes getting my new projects underway… instead I’ve been on holidays. Or a textile adventure, as I like to call it.
I’ve just got home from Japan, which was amazingly full of lovely crafts and craftspeople. Some of which I’ll try and cover over the next few blogs.
One of my favourite stops was the village of Hida-Takayama, which is the birthplace of the Japanese embroidery technique of sashiko.
Sashiko is one of those needlework styles that look really easy. And it kind of is, ultimately its just running stitch. There are things to consider though, like perfectly straight lines, sharp corners and the basic requirement of consistent stitch length. All of which can mess with you, if you let it.
I was able to get a quick lesson from a sashiko master who did in fact make it look ridiculously easy. She was also the fastest hand embroiderer I’ve ever seen!
Here are the top three tips I learnt about sashiko on my visit:
1. Never use knots to start or finish the thread lengths. Instead they are left with approx. a 3-4cm end and depending on the finishing of the product the ends are hidden in seams or by backing, allowing the inside of the embroidery to be just as interesting and lovely as the outside.
2. Instead of doing one stitch and pulling it through the fabric, anchor lots of stitches on a long needle. So much so that the fabric gathers together before you pull the thread through. This will help keep all your stitches nice and straight.
3. It’s pronounced sa-shi-ko, not sash-i-ko.
Recently I’ve been running my very first competition, #MakeMyBeanie. To enter you had to colour in the supplied beanie template with the winner receiving his or her own beanie made.
I had some great entries but from the start I was hoping to get one that would push the creative boundaries a bit, something that may be a bit of a challenge. And I always look at a kid’s artwork and see amazing textile potential, so for me choosing the winner was a pretty easy choice.
Normally I create adult size beanies but because of the design it seemed necessary to scale down a little. So firstly, a bit of math and some basic planning was required.
Because in knitting we start at the bottom and work upwards the first real challenge was how to create that rib. I thought the easiest way to achieve a similar black and white mix was to simply knit one black yarn and one white yarn together to create a marl effect. Interesting as it knitted it created obvious horizontal lines which initially I wasn't so fond of but grew on me (probably because there was no easy fix).
Once the full piece of knitting was done it was time to embroider the coloured design into the fabric. Using both swiss darning and backstitch techniques I did the design by eye rather than drawing it out first. While it means it's slightly disproportionate in places I hoped it would help recreate the free loose line work of the original.
From there it was just a matter of finishing touches like the pom pom and tidying up all the loose ends. I have to confess I LOVED this project (enough that I'll probably run another one next year), and I am SUPER happy with the result. I hope it's new owner will be as well.