Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Link to today’s Sewing Street sashiko show

Link to today’s Sewing Street TV sashiko show. I’m on the second and fourth hours.

I rushed to see on some of the borders yesterday after doing Sunday lunch at my mum’s, using my vintage 1970s (not my 153QE in the photo), but I only had the standard foot with me and had to rely on moving the needle slightly to the right to compensate and get a quarter inch seam... but I didn’t move it quite far enough! So a fraction too much fabric ended up in the seam allowances in the centre, so the outer borders were too long. I’ll have to take them off and shorten them, aka fudge the top a bit. Should have checked my seam allowances were spot on when I started!

It was lots of fun to be back in the studio and I'm going to be back for a show on Monday 9th November where we will do a TV launch of The Book of Boro, and probably a bit more with the sashiko sampler stitch along (another blog post on that coming up soon too).


Sunday, 27 September 2020

Sewing Street TV tomorrow!

 I’m on Sewing Street TV tomorrow with the sashiko sampler stitch along projects. This is how far the assembly has got for the first one (not pressed yet!)

My shows are at 9 and 11am, on Sky 670 and Freeview 74 (UK), and the shows will be on YouTube almost immediately too. I’ll post the YouTube link as soon as I have it.

You will be able to buy my panels and the sashiko threads I use from the show, but they are all available on my website as well www.susanbriscoe.com

I’ll be looking at lots of ideas for stitching the panels as well as for making up some sampler quilts.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Sashiko sampler stitch along - more thoughts on colours...

I have been busy stitching several different versions of many of my blocks, before I deal with separate posts on the more complex ones and group the easier ones (mainly the geometrics) together for other posts. First, I need to update you on my next Sewing Street TV show, which has been moved from Monday 14th September to Monday 28th September, to allow more time for the show stock to arrive from Japan. I will be on at 9 and 11am for a full hour each time, on Sky 670 and Freeview 74, and of course the show will also be on YouTube - I will post a link to that as soon as I can after the live show.

The three cranes shown above are from my first block set (all the kamon blocks) on black, my second block set (kamon and geometrics from the first panel set on russet), and a third version on green (all the blocks from both sets - 32 large and 32 small blocks!)  To remind you of the coordinating colours, here are photos of the print fabrics and threads for all three sets - 

I haven't rejected the red and gold 'Victorian' block set, but I wanted to start stitching on the green panels asap, so jumped ahead to that one! I sometimes feel that the green colourway gets a bit overlooked - indigo blue is the most popular, followed by the other colours, but green is always at the end. It is lovely soft green and looks fantastic with this vintage chintz furnishing fabric and I wanted to try stitching with the softer blues, pinks and purples. There isn't actually any yellow ochre in the print, but I didn't want to be restricted to using cream or green for the rice sheaf design, and there are actually not so many green threads that really look right with this multicoloured fabric, so I wanted to use it for the gingko leaves as well.

I thought you might like to see how I dealt with the cranes on each colour. On black, I used red for the top of the cranes' head, with golden yellow for its beak, and shaded grey for the tail, the back of the wing and the neck. Real cranes have black feathers as well as white, and although of course the background fabric is black, I wanted to indicate the different coloured plumage through my sashiko thread too. I've used a mixture of doubled and single threads as well.

For my russet sampler, I don't have a red thread in my palette, because I'm using threads that coordinate with the fabric print. The closest I have is this peach shade. I don't have any yellow either, but the persimmon orange made a good alternative. I tried stitching the beak outline doubled this time, because I thought the persimmon might blend into the background fabric a bit too much.

For the green fabric colourway, I used a pinkish purple for the top of the head and the yellow ochre for the beak, this time stitching all of the beak with a doubled thread. I used purple for the 'black' wing and tail feathers. It doesn't have a strong contrast with the green at the moment, because the value of the green fabric and the purple thread is probably a bit too close, but once I have hand quilted around the crane's outline, it will add a bit more definition - the same goes for the varigated grey on the russet as well.

Here's all three blocks together. I didn't stitch this block first because it was my favourite block in particular, but because I managed to decide on the thread colours quite quickly for the green block. The russet is on the right in both photos, even though it looks a bit more like the brick red colourway in the second one.

Another block that I would put into the 'fiddly but worth it' category (!) is the rice sheaf kamon. On black, I used the golden yellow and stitched the cord around the sheaves alternating between red and white, celebratory colours in Japan. I have taken step by step photos of how to do this colour alternation and will put those in a future tutorial. On the green, I used doubled cream thread for the same cord, with the yellow ochre for the sheaves.

The waves kamon actually uses the same shaded blues/tuquoise thread for all three blocks. I just love that thread! It is paired with white on the black fabric, but with cream on the other two. The green version looks different again because I didn't extend the cream beyond the 'crest' of the waves to go right around the design, but stitched that part in the varigated thread instead.

Once again, when there is wadding (batting) and extra quilting added, it will throw the edge of the wave kamon into greater contrast.

So far, the only geometric blocks I've stitched have been from the russet set, where I drew a circle on each block and only stitched within the circle (see previous post) turning a square sashiko design into a circular one. Again, the circle edge will be defined better once there is wadding and extra quilting. On both these blocks, I haven't washed away the stitch markings yet.  The two black geometric blocks with the same designs were stitched for another project I haven't made up just yet. I've used bright blue and turquoise on the russet, which are closer in value to the background than the yellow ochre and ochre/green varigated thread I've used on the black.

My general thoughts on stitching the blocks in colour so far?

1) Often, you need to compromise slightly on the exact thread colour you want, because that shade may not be available in sashiko thread.

2) Just about any colour (other than black) shows up well against black.

3) I have to think a lot more carefully about thread colour on the mid value fabric colours, like russet and green, than on the darker black or indigo, or the light grey (taupe) or light blue.

4) It helps if you can accept non naturalistic colour and motif combinations! I may have some strangely coloured flowers...

It is an adventure and I'm enjoying experimenting with different colours.

On the TV show, I am going to give some basic techinique demos to go with all the blocks, and will also be reading you through the block and strip sizes for the quilt, so have a notebook to hand when you watch!

Friday, 18 September 2020

New QH sashiko panels in stock online

These are some of the gorgeous new panels that arrived this week from QH Textiles. They are designed by Hitomi Fujita and printed in Japan. Now listed in my online shop, click each photo to go to the individual panel listing for more info. They have been selling like hot cakes ('Maiko Bloom' has just sold out) and I hope to be able to get more, but I'm not 100% sure how much the manufacturers have in stock now - I've just heard that they wouldn't be able to get any more of the 'Season's Greetings' panels to me in time for Christmas this year, once I sell out of these.

I'm planning to stitch the green version of the lovely 'Season's Greetings' panel for myself. Although Christmas is not the major midwinter holiday in Japan that it is in many other countries - the big Japanese holiday is New Year - it is celebrated by many people and there are amazing Christmas decorations all over the place, especially in shopping malls.

The 'Wagara' ('Japanese') panel below has a LOT of stitching in it, and could be made up into a lot of Christmas presents - if you can bear to give it away. I love the way the designer has floated various family crests over geometric backgrounds for the 10in squares, and the other panels would make great 'stand alone' designs too.

The next set of panels are smaller 12in (30cm) approx 'hanafukin' size, printed on 'greige' (natural unbleached) Sarashi cotton. Designed by Ky Fujita and only just released. I want to stitch the Art Nouveau 'Purity' lily panel with bright orange for the lilies though, to look like the wild flower lilies on Mount Chokai!

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Sashiko sampler stitch along - let’s get started!

I have finished stitching the first set of blocks for my sashiko sampler stitch along, using the ink black versions of my sashiko panels (A2009 and C2009) and an assortment of bright colours from the 20m sashiko thread range, which were chosen to coordinate with Philip Jacob's 'Black Ming Embroidery' fabric from the new 'Silk Road' range. I set out all the thread possibilities above, but I didn't use the full range I had selected! I used the following shades (from left to right) - #72, #6, #51, #1,#16, #21 & #12, plus #73 instead of #53 (the lilac tones in #73 were great for the wisteria block below and the pinks worked for the small cherry blossom block too) and #76 (also chosen to give me lilac, purple and blue for the iris and Chinese bellflower blocks). 


So, in the end, I only used ten skeins instead of 15, as I added #96, shaded neutral grey, because I needed a colour for the branches on the plum, moon and snowflake kamon below. My first choice, #12 dark red, did not work at all - it was far too close to the parts of #76 I selected to stitch plum blossoms.


I unpicked the #12 thread really carefully (easy to do by snipping the starting and finishing knots) and managed to reuse the salvaged thread along with #21 and #76 to stitch the komezashi (rice stitch) variations hitomezashi (one stitch sashiko) smaller blocks! The photo below shows the sashiko stitch marks after unpicking. Some of the white print has rubbed off a little, but there was enough to see to mark over the lines again with a Clover White Marking Pen (fine).


I used the sashiko thread singly to stitch the branch. There was enough contrast with the black background to show this up well.


These are the hitomezashi blocks. The first set of running stitches (vertical) were done in #12 dark red, and the second set (horizontal) with #21 bright pink on all the blocks. They are very close in light/dark value, so it gives the stitching a little extra interest. I used #76 for the diagonal stitches on the second, third and fourth blocks. I will be writing separate blog posts, with step by step photos and some video clips, for ALL the blocks later, so you'll be able to see exactly how to stitch these if you haven't tried hitomezashi already.

These are the other two blocks where I used #96 grey - the crane and the pine tree. As cranes have black feathers as well as white, it was a way of suggesting the different plumage. Although I could have used a brown thread to represent branches and tree trunks, there are no browns in the coordinating print and I didn't want to introduce any earth tones in this sampler, keeping to the bright, clear colours instead. I don't often use such bright colours in my work, so it was a fun challenge working outside my usual comfort zone!



It is much easier to stitch anything as smaller pieces of fabric rather than a big panel - so much easier to handle for sashiko or any other stitching - so I cut up my sashiko panels before starting to stitch. Any fabric that is easy for stitching sashiko will have a lower thread count than patchwork cottons and therefore more tendency to fray while you are stitching. Ever since I made my earliest sashiko pieces, I have always 'overlocked' or zigzagged the fabric edges on every piece before I start stitching. I don't use my overlocker for this, I just use a 'fauxlock' stitch on my Bernina 153QE - number 16 - narrowed to about 3.5 and lengthened to 3. Before I had this machine, I just used a narrow zigzag. So long as the stitching is right over the edge it will stop fraying, and it needs to be narrow enough to disappear into the quarter inch seam allowance when the pieces are sewn together as patchwork.

I find the basic machine foot is just fine for stitching over the edge. I stitch one side of each block, then move on to the next block, like 'chain piecing' patchwork, rather than stitching all four sides of each block and turning the stitching at the corners, because I find the latter tends to make the corners bunch up very slightly. So, stitch the first side of the first block, then the first side of the second block, and so on, then repeat for the second, third and fourth sides. I will add a photo showing the blocks chain pieced together when I fauxlock the next batch for the next sampler - they end up looking like block bunting until they are cut apart.

I have finished all the sashiko on the blocks for the first sampler and will be writing up posts for those soon, but I also started stitching sashiko for the second sampler (I was away a few weekends ago and knew I'd finish off the black blocks so I prepped the next set!) The next sampler will combine kamon crests and geometric blocks. I could have stitched the geometric blocks as full squares of pattern, which I will do for another sampler -

But for this sampler, using the russet brown panels, I wanted to try out a different look. The russet panels were a limited edition colour of the kamon crest and geometric panels published in 2019, so I didn't have the option of using either two kamon or two geometric panels, unless I combined them with standard colours from the 2020 range. I will combine two different panel colours in a future sampler, but for this one, I wanted to use just the russet panels, but to do something a little different with the geometric ones.

I decided to turn the geometric panels into circular designs, in a similar style to the way Japanese printmaker Hokusai showed the new geometric patterns in his 'Shingata Komoncho' (New Forms of Design) pattern book in the 1820s. This is so easy to do and I think it will look great on the sampler to have both the kamon crests and the geometric designs in circles. I used an 8in circle template to draw a circle on each geometric block. If you don't have a circle template, you could use a plate or any other circular item for this. Check it is centred on the block by measuring the relationship between the circle and the edge of the block at the top, bottom and side edges, and slide the circle template around until each measurement is the same.  If you are drawing your patterns on the blocks yourself and not using the printed panels, I would recommend drawing the patterns as an all over design, then marking the circles the same way.

Draw around the circle (I used the Clover White Marking Pen (fine)), and stitch only the parts of the sashiko design that are inside the circle. I used two different 20m sashiko threads for each block - #17 turquoise and #27 bright mid blue. #27 is almost exactly the same as my coordinating fabric's background colour and the intense blue is quite dark against the russet Kofu Tsumugi fabric, which I thought would give quite a subtle effect, despite #27 looking very bold as a skein of thread. #17 was used to add extra interest to each block, hinting at how the sashiko pattern is stitched and creating a secondary pattern too.  Here are yamagata (mountain shape) and kagome (bamboo basket) stitched.

Once the blocks are washed to remove the printed pattern, you are left with the sashiko design appearing to float on the background.  In the finished quilt, I will hand quilt the circle again around each area of sashiko, which will add definition to the shape.

Sorry - this photo is slightly blurry!

As I am using some panels which were printed last year (the samples of the panels which I kept for reference) and some which are newly printed, I have noticed a slight colour difference between the two. However, alternating between the two sets of blocks in the sampler layout will balance this out visually. The original 2019 black kamon panel from last year  is shown at the top of each photo below, and the 2020 panel at the bottom. Both designs newly printed would be a perfect match. I have a few of the 'old' panel colours left on sale, and the difference is most pronounced with the black and light grey (taupe) colourways. I will make sure the colours match on any panels ordered at the same time - unless you request otherwise!

So, please prepare your panels and we will be ready to start stitching asap! I am going to post about how I stitched each block, and I think I will alternate posts between geometric and kamon crests, because I know some people may be beginners so stitching the geometrics first is best, while there will be other stitchers following this stitch along who already more experienced with sashiko and wanting to stitch the kamon crests first. And there will be some samplers that are all kamon and others that are all geometric... so many possibilities!