Rhonda, our Workshop Instructor

At last year's seminar, I was impressed with how happy the students from one class were - those taking Barbara Gilbert's Sashiko class.  While the rest of us were looking a bit frazzled at times, these ladies appeared so happy, stress-free and pleased with themselves.  This was enough to make me want to learn more about this elegant Japanese stitching technique.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be among those who took a workshop on Japanese stitching techniques, through the Calgary Guild of Needle & Fibre Arts, from Rhonda who was one of Barbara's Seminar students, and we learned about both Sashiko and Kogin

Sample of traditional Sashiko pattern

Sashiko, which translates literally into "little stabs", is a form of funcional embroidery from Japan.  Sashiko was traditionally used to reinforce garments and provide extra warmth.  Now this running stitch technique is used for purely decorative purpose and the white cotton thread worked on indigo-dyed fabric creates pieces with an elegance unlike any other.  The stitches are an even size which resemble grains of rice.

Traditional Kogin Design
The other half of the workshop was dedicated to learning about Kogin.  Kogin is a another traditional Japanese stitching  that was born in the Northern area of Japan and is also considered one of the Sashiko stitching techniques.  The purpose of this technique is also believed to have been used to add warmth and strength to clothing.  The designs are unique in their symmetry and resemble pattern darning in the way they are worked up.  The work is simple  but the finished designs are very elegant in appearance.  Traditionally, blue threads are used on white background when working Kogin.

We are fortunate as EAC members to have chances to take workshops and classes such as this one which introduce us to new stitching techniques.  Sometimes it is a technique you end up embracing and sometimes it turns out to be something you will not do again.  The important thing though is that we continue to learn and grow in our art and get inspiration from new techniques and viewpoints.  Stretch and grow!
You can find many sites online for information on these stitching.  Here are a few to get you started:
Links for more information on sashiko:
Links for more information on kogin:
Kerry Leslie
I must start my blog off with showing you a picture of my round robin sampler which our Guild just completed.  We started in January with 5 ladies completing their first row and passing the sampler on to our Chapter President who monitored the rotation.  We had each sampler for a 2 month period and then passed it on.  Some chose themes and some just let the sampler flow as it may.  I chose Hallowe’en/Fall and am thrilled with how it came out!  We had everyone write down which row they did and if they used a pattern, where that pattern came from and any other pertinent info which I will attach in an envelope to the back of the piece once I have it framed.  It was amazing to see all the finished pieces which I may post at a future time.

On another theme altogether, I decided last year that it was time to take matters into my own hands when it came to finding someone to take over my ridiculously large stash of stitching supplies down the road.  I signed up 4 of my great nieces and 3 other young ladies, daughters of friends as Youth Embroiderers for a year to see if it is a path they may want to follow or at least sample.  Today on facebook I saw a picture of one of my great niece’s first stitchery.  I am very proud of her first attempt and hope it is only the first of many.  I still remember my first stitched piece.  It was a needlepoint kit, a gift I received for Christmas when I was 13 years old.  I had no idea how to do it, but my mum guided me and I followed the instructions and have never looked back.  That piece hung in my parents’ house until mum passed on and I now have it back.  Writing this blog made me think of it so I dug it out of the closet.  I have included a picture of it here, the needlepoint deer.  As I looked at it I realized I likely did not follow any of the proper protocol for mounting and framing such a piece as there was no matting so the stitching rested right against the glass, but it seems not to be too much the worse for wear.  I think sometimes we get very worked up about preserving our pieces for posterity and although I am very proud of this piece for my first try, it is not likely to pass any further than myself.  I will attempt to reframe it though with at least some matting.  I am tempted to wash it and stretch it to properly mount it but am kind of afraid of how it would react after 40 years in this position.

So many people I talk to about stitching at our displays and shows say they wish they could stitch but think they could never do it.  That is why I think it is so important to expose young people to stitching.  If they do some of it when they are young they know it is not some mystical, magical thing.  Many times over the years life has gotten in the way and I have hung up my needle and thread for a while but I always find my way back.  I am a firm believer in getting children to use their creativity as much as possible.  I always remember being so excited to receive something to do for special occasions like birthdays, Easter and Christmas.  It may have been a colouring book, paint by number, jigsaw puzzles, doodle arts, etc but it was something to sit down and physically do once the excitement of the occasion was over.  It was likely just a very smart parenting skill of my mother’s to try to have a moment’s peace while preparing the meal, but I firmly believe it has led me down the path I have taken in life, loving all things creative.  I even still have a stack of colouring books in my book case which I use for such things as gallery glass, embroidery and even knotwork pictures like the pumpkin trading card attached.  As I have mentioned in a previous blog it is also what led me to start a new project every Christmas.  I wrap up all the necessary supplies and give it to myself Christmas day to start something new no matter how many projects I already have on the go or how busy the day is, it is my gift to myself to start out on a new creative adventure.  It still gives me that contented feeling I remember from so long ago.

So I challenge everyone to foster the creativity in a youth.  Spend some time with them doing something creative and fun for their age and attention span level.  Show them the possibilities of what they can do with their own little hands.  Let’s overwhelm the Youth Director with potential new stitching Picassos (sorry Linda…lol). 

Kathy Taylor

This week, I have three things to tell you about.  You may already be familiar with one or all; if so, that’s good!

First, EAC now has a cyber chapter called EAC Virtual Threads.  It runs like a regular chapter but everything is done online.  The chapter is just getting going so everything is very new to all of us.  The plan is to have challenges, workshops, projects, and discussion groups (like regular chapters).  The membership fee is $10.00, and if you would like to join EAC Virtual Threads, please send a cheque or money order to its membership coordinator, Dianna Thorne, whose address can be found in the back of EC Magazine under Treasurer.  Currently, there are about 85 members.

Second, the EAC board is planning two online auctions for 2014, one of which will be in January, and the other in June.  We are asking the membership for donations of needlework or related items for these auctions.  Our plan is to have eight to ten items of various prices for each auction. If you would like to donate a finished piece, a kit, a pattern, or a needlework book please contact me for details (Sue Thomas – and my address is in the back of EC Magazine under Past President).  All funds raised from these auctions will go to the Memorial Scholarship Fund.

And last, but not least, I’d like to recommend a favourite book: Zen and the Art of Needlecraf by Sandra Detrixhe.  I first read about this book in Inspirations Magazine, and Carole Van Die of Books for You got it for me.  It explores the reasons why we stitch and why we stitch at different times in our lives.  Specifically, it looks at how to employ beginner’s mind with every new project, the Zen philosophy behind gifts, and the sisterhood of stitching, knitting, or quilting groups.  I pick this book up frequently to reacquaint myself with this way of thinking about stitching.  Try it; I think you’ll like it, too.

Sue Thomas
I received some fantastic news this past weekend and I want to share that news with my stitching friends.

My son, Devin, has been with the most wonderful young woman for the past few years. This past weekend he proposed to Deja and gave her the most beautiful engagement ring. Deja has become part of our family over the years and we are all thrilled that it is now official. I hope and pray that their life together will be as enriched and full as mine. I am fortunate to have Deja as my daughter.

I also wanted to list some of the people in my life that have made it enriched and full. With Thanksgiving coming up so quickly, I thought this would be the best time.

To my husband, Bruce, of 42 1/2 years. He has been a rock for me to lean against, my best friend and the best companion I could have on life's journey. He has supported my enthusiasm for stitching and is always ready to critique my work and help with solutions when the design isn't working. I couldn't be where I am today without him.

To my two wonderful sons, Jeremy and Devin. They have brought laughter and love. Sometimes I think I've learned more from them than I taught. I can't conceive of my life without them. I thank God every day for letting me raise them and be their mother.

Finally, to all my stitching friends. You have all given me ideas to stitch, laughter and fun. At the annual Seminars, I have improved my embroidery skills, renewed my enthusiasm and received memories to savour throughout the years. I think I would have abandoned embroidery a long time ago if it wasn't for the passion I see in each of you. Thank you all.

Linda Brenner
Find out more at the Embroiderers' Association of Canada website.
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About EAC

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The Embroiderers' Association of Canada (EAC) is a national non-profit educational organization whose purpose is to have a fellowship of persons who enjoy needlework and wish to learn and share their knowledge; and thereby to work towards maintaining higher standards of design, colour and workmanship.

Our aim is to preserve traditional techniques and promote new challenges in the Art of Embroidery through education and networking.

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