Kogin Projects Feed

Some feedback

I got some lovely feedback from one of my students, who is also a fellow tutor and judge and who's work I greatly admire.  Alana sent me an image of a piece she had stitched in an advanced class I taught on Kogin using one of my own designs.

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I had stitched it in the traditional blue and white but I just love the pink addition here.  Then she took the pattern and turned it into her own original design in yet another colour way.

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That is the ultimate compliment for me.

Kogin Project - The first step (1)

Charting a new design is the easy part I find.  It is the breaking down of the why and how you come to decide on a project that takes the time.  This Kogin project will be a teaching class for 2020.  It's name will be "From Little seeds".  So, not only do I have to design the project I have think out why it will act as a teaching vehicle and what is the best way to present it so that students learn the techniques and enjoy the experience. Thinking about our thinking (metacognition) is a really important step when you are trying to impart knowledge, but it takes time and effort.

  I have choosen this name because nearly all of the patterns seen on the antique clothing actually began with a small pattern.   One pattern is even called 'rice seed'.  The class will begin by stitching this basic design.  But there isn't any point in just stitching the design and not using it on some article and what that article might be?   My first thought was a scizzor keeper which in turn made me think of how I could use the bigger design, maybe a needle book and the full design a sewing bag?  All good possibilities that embroiderers like to make.

I find it helpful to keep a record of everything I do on each project so that I can look back at my process.  As you can see below, I made the pattern even smaller than I first thought because as a scizzor keeper it was 'clunky'.

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This then meant I had to make a prototype. Stitching the pattern was easy.  It is the finishing that causes the headaches and it is the finish the makes or breaks to final result.   As I have said before hemp is a difficult fabric to work with.  It frays like made, hates bending and is bulky.   This little keeper is about 1" square.  I tried gluing it over the template I had cut.   Hopeless.  Then I decided to lace it over the cardboard template.  Not bad.

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But two layers of this would be terrible.  Solution.  Take a piece of folded fabric and stitch this over the back of the hemp piece.  This seemed to work well enough.  But I had forgotten about the tassel and the cord!  I should have made these first.  Then the edges looked rough, I stitched the edges again with a red contrast thread in Van Dyke stitch.  Good result but it needs to be refined.

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I think the solution is to start again.  Mount both the hemp and backing fabric over separate pieces of board. Make the tassel and cord in advance and sandwich between each of the pieces then join the two together.  I only used 3 strand of thread for the Van Dyke stitch I might need to make this 4 threads.

This has taken 2 days so far.  It took me ages to get my mind back into Kogin stitching mode.  (i.e. calm and considered)    Might be a couple more days before I finish the next one.

New piece

The desk is clear, I have out my reference books and I have started on a new Kogin project.  I do not have access to that many books but I have a set of black and white photocopies of pieces from some old Japanese books from a Museum.  These were given to me by Phillis Maurer and to whom I am eternally grateful.

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The work she has done for Ethnic Embroidery Arts is outstanding.  Do follow the link to her site, it is a treasure trove of embroidery techniques.  All her booklets are available as downloads from Nordic Needle.

I have decided to start with a part of a pattern from an old jacket.  As you can see it isn't that easy to see how you would chart this.

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But there is a close up that gives more detail.

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And from this I am able to work out the pattern.  It is defining just what the basic pattern is in all this detail.  But once this is identified the pattern repeats .  On close inspection you can see mistakes and how they were worked into the pattern.    I find that the Japanese patterns are assembled in a program that is hard to follow if you are new to this techniques.  It is like a cross stitch pattern but doesn't show the threads.

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I have re-charted my patterns so that you can see just where the needle goes into the fabric.  A lot of work but it does make stitching easier.

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So away I go.  There is a lot of computer work to do before I can start to stitch.  I will keep you posted on my progress.



Frustration reins supreme.

And because of that I have been taking more steps backwards than forwards.

My Kogin bag is now finished.  As you might remember I wanted to incorporate leather into the finished bag but after many attempts I had to admit that I just couldn't sew it on a domestic machine.  The hemp fabric is too stiff and the thickness of it and the leather were just too much.  So, I then tried to insert a zipper but to no avail.  I am not giving up on this idea but it will be for something else.  I ended up binding the top edge with a heading tape and using a hand made button with a loop closure.  As this is a class sample I had to also consider just how students would construct the bag.  This I think is a good compromise and "doable."

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With all the baby sitting and stress I have been stitching cross stitch like mad.  I am still behind but I have managed to get quite a bit done.  The thread and fabric contrast even better than I thought they would.  But, one draw back with stitching with silk thread is you have to be extra careful not to make mistakes that require unpicking.  The silk complains terribly and then dies!  (the screams are quite off putting.)

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I didn't watch nearly as many videos as I would have liked yesterday and of those I did I think there are a number I am considering going back to purchase.   There was a great introduction to Watercolour painting, and all the rest I looked at were on photography. 

"Sucked in Carolyne!!"

One of the classes concerned "Product Photography at Home".  I immediately re-photographed my Kogin stitched Xmas cards.  What a difference from last week?

The first one is a new design using a bit of extra bling I have been working on.




I have also set to and designed my next "Peace" embroidery.  I thought I was a month behind but looking at the wall I see I have 8 completed pieces and there is still the rest of September left to get this one stitched.  I want to use a circular frame again so did a drawing in a circle and then pasted the text into position around it. 

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I am going to embroider the text and haven't decided just what method I will use to applique the dove.  Needle turn would be nice but just look at all those curves and my applique fabric is a batik.  I think I might have to machine it into position.  So while I am thinking I have started on the text embroidery.






All my efforts have been focused on getting this Kogin sample finished, and it is finished.  Although I think that I will switch the beige curtain fabric to a beige hemp.  It will make the bag sit better.

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I wanted it to be a scrappy fabric bag and used fabric pieces given to be by friends brought back after their trips to Japan.  Everytime I look at it I will think of them.

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In the scappy theme I used old fabric swatches that I had kept from my days as a Buyer (1970's) .  There are not Japanese but they are a light voile which was the fabric weight I wanted.  A bit of a surprise when you look inside the bag!

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Because the fabric on the top edge of the bag is on the bias I put a strip of fabric on the straight of grain to stablise it.  Then I copied the top edge from that on an antique rice bag that I own.  It is a great way to thread the cord and the top of the bag shuts up tight.  As well as a teaching sample I aim to use it to hold some of my quilting equipment.


Monday Morning

It's Monday and I don't know what I have done over the past few days.  Oh, I know, I was gardening and have managed to put my neck out.  When I was a kid I was knocked down by a car on a pedestrian crossing.  It was a surreal experience.  I don't remember seeing the car before it hit me but I must have because I jumped up into the air and didn't go under the wheels.  I do remember being in the air and thinking,

"you are going to do a backwards flip, you have never been able to do one of these before.  You are going to come down on the median concrete strip, tuck your head in and roll.  Also, I'm going to wreck my school blazer and my Mother will kill me."

All that in just a few seconds.  I did tuck my head in and roll but I fractured my skull and cracked a bone in my neck along with hurting my leg.  Now that I am getting older these things are coming back to haunt me. My neck is the worst and I am usually pretty careful but I got carried away with a new hoe I bought at the hardware store.  

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The soil in my garden is terrible.  Someone must have put down a plastic layer and then added lots of gravel in an attempt to break up the heavy red clay.  I need to break it up and get the plastic out.  As we live by the sea I also have to contend with the wind and salt air.  Behind the house is sheltered but over run with ferns.

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  I have more I want to do in the garden but will have to put it off for a bit while I recover.  I think pots will be the best option. 

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I now actually have some flowers I can pick from the pots.

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So I have been stitching.  Some samples for a new "Introduction to Kogin" class. 

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One thing a teacher has to have at the forefront of their mind when teaching beginners is that you have to think like they would.  Now, once you reach a certain level of compentancy this isn't easy to do.  We all remember that Math teacher who couldn't understand why we couldn't see it.  He couldn't explain it at a beginners level. Technically what happens  is that our learning has switched into the automatic, like when you know how to drive a car. We don't have to think about it we just know.  But the beginner hasn't got here yet and is still at stage 1.  It is not easy to switch your brain out of that automatic mode.

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  So, that is what I have tried to think about when planning this project.  I am trying to keep it simple but have some challenge in there as well.




Language difficulties

It is so difficult to view a Japanese site using Google and I have to use Google so that I can have them BADLY translated.  I came across a reference to a Kogin stitching competition that was held this month (I think).  From what I can gather it will be in the Amuse Museum in Toyoko.  All that aside, there was a reference to the work of a "Mr Kamata Hikariten" and some illustrations of his work.  Lots of curves.

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And the other images show some fantastic work.

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It is so frustrating just getting glimpses of this work and not being about to find out more.  I suppose that's how the other 80% of net users who do not speak English feel as well.

The month of experiments

This month is turning into 'The Month of Experiments'.  I have lots of ideas that I want to test out. 

I haven't used any of the Hishi Sashi patterns in my work for a while and in another piece I am designing I thought the smallest, 11 count patterns, would work well.  The only draw back is that there are a limited number of designs in this count.   Because they are small it takes time to cover the fabric.  It has taken a day to finish this small swatch. 

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Then I had to deal with the limited number of designs. Queenie sent me a comment about my last post on swatching that got me thinking.  Maybe it would be alright if I 'adjusted' some of the designs I had to expand the range of designs available.  So I did.  Oh the guilt I felt!  Just shows how 'brainwashed' I am about following rules and regulations.  All those years as a school teacher had an effect.


Straight lines & Curves

I have thought of a new design for my next Kogin project but I am finding it difficult to realise it.  The problem is that Kogin embroidery is all about straight lines.  All the designs are mainly based on a diamond pattern.  There are some patterns that are used as borders and again these have straight edges.  My pattern is about curves.

I have drawn out a template of the curve and then tried drawing this using my computer program.  It looked fine but experience has taught me that what might look fine on the screen might not translate to the fabric.  So I have been 'swatching' and I can see that the bottom edge of that curve needs some tweeking.  I may have to look at stitching through a thread.

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The other problem to be solved is that the design has to go across a seam.  I have drawn this so that when the seam is sewn the missing parts of the design on the left of the pattern will be stitched in.  This part of the pattern will appear on the far right of the printed design.

One of my goals for this year is to get the first draft of my book on Kogin Embroidery completed.  I have this project on track.  But the more I think about it I am understanding that my experience of this typed of embroidery is very coloured by my Western Culture.  My Embroidery looks like the traditional technique but the experience of stitching it is totally different.  Trying to use curves where there are usually straight lines just highlights this.