Japanese needlework is rich in history and, like in many other countries, began as a basic need then grew into a respected art form. Just as Bushido refers to the way of the samurai and Sado, the way of tea, Nuido means, the way of embroidery. ‘The way’ is a constant dedication to quality and spirit. Nuido combines symbolism and time tested techniques which require many years of practice to become proficient at. Designing involves how to twist thread, choosing fabric and selecting colors that represent the season when your work will be displayed or worn.
Nuido is characterized by long stitches made with silk thread. It’s related to the basic satin stitch although the Japanese technique has been refined to include decorative ways of tying down your stitches. In order to maintain the stitches’ integrity, it’s suggested that a strong fabric is used such as silk or more specifically, Kimono and Obi fabric. Variations of these long stitches can create geometric effects. Keep reading and I’ll show you a fun way to do this! If you’re interested in a serious look at Nuido, check out the resources at www.japaneseembroidery.com. They’re passionate about preserving traditional Japanese embroidery and bead work. Their JEC store offers classes, supplies and even e-books if you are an independent kind of learner.
Now, I don’t have any silk and my local craft store doesn’t carry it so I’m going to work on linen instead. Also, I don’t have a fancy frame so I’m going with a plain ol’ embroidery hoop. This certainly won’t be considered proper traditional Japanese embroidery by any standard but let’s play with these techniques anyway.
As you would with the satin stitch, begin at the center of your figure and work your way out toward each end. You can work like this horizontally, vertically, diagonal or slanted depending on the shape of your figure. I’m using a Sublime Stitching pattern from the Sushi Bar set.
It’s OK to use filler stitches when making curved or awkward shapes. Think about the direction of your stitches and get inventive to create a sense of movement within your design. One technique that’s unique to Japanese embroidery is to use a central line of separation and work around it. Leafs are perfect for this technique. Start at the base of your leaf and work your way to the tip and then back down the other side. Bring your needle up at the perimeter of the leaf and down at the spine, or central line of separation.
There’s no good reason to stitch in the sporadic way I’m showing here. I just want to give an example of the direction to work in. It’s interesting to see the form that the cups took based on the direction in which I stitched them. I finished everything else with a regular stem stitch because, well, it looks nice. Kawaii desu! It’s cute!
Traditional Nuido is sometimes uses a technique of tying down threads in geometric patterns and couching. Using only the long stitches I just showed you, lets create a geometric pattern. Other than your basic stitching tools, all you need is some lined paper (raid your kid’s back pack!) I chose a symmetrical flower pattern, but try any shape you want. Find center-ish of your figure and something with a 90 degree angle (I’m using a needle package) and draw guide lines.
Finish each guide line so you’ll have an X in the middle of your figure. Cut out one line of the lined paper as a mini-ruler and mark 1 line width (or whatever size you choose) around your shape in the same fashion we did earlier: starting at the center of each guide line and work outwards, return to the center and work out the other way.
Pick some colors and start stitching! Make 2 passes right next to each other at each mark.
I put pins at my guide lines so I can remember where to start. Keep going, right next to but not quite on top of the previous stitch until you’ve filled in your shape.
For a more perfected look try it with something flat, like ribbon. Pretty!
We can look to tradition to show us about form, patience and dedication to artistry. Embroidery Master Iwao Saito believed, heightening the spirit leads to the most beautiful embroidery. It’s easy to think kimonos, traditional costumes and tapestries when we think about Japanese embroidery. That’s why next month I’ll be writing about hand crafts in Japan today. I’d like to show you a quick project inspired by popular Japanese needlework using basic embroidery and a ‘long/short’ stitch technique that’s also seen in traditional Japanese embroidery.
Ja mata! See you next time!
When she’s not gallivanting overseas (usually to Japan) Madeline is making things at home in the Oregon countryside where she lives with four dogs, a pig and her human family.
You can keep up with Madeline’s endless fiber projects and find her travel blog at www.madelinewonderland.com.