My Japanese Embroidery Phase VII- Camellias posted on January 13 2015 in Japanese Embroidery 173 Comments

I am really excited to share with you today pictures of my new Japanese Embroidery project, Camellias, a phase VII piece from the Japanese Embroidery Center.  To risk sounding sentimental, Camellias was my first aspirational Japanese Embroidery piece.  

Put in other words, when I saw this piece on the JEC website in high school, I decided that I wanted to study Japanese Embroidery.  For this reason, it means a lot to me that I finally got to this place in my study of Japanese Embroidery, and along the way I've picked up a few other aspirational pieces :) 

Without further ado, here are the pictures of my Camellias!

Title: Camellias
Design: Japanese Embroidery Center
Instructor: Deborah Bowers
Stitcher: Yours Truly

Camellia #1.  I was quite happy with the final coloring of this Camellia.

Camellia #1 Detail.

Camellia #3.  A white camellia with persimmon red streaks. 

Although the flowers are the focal point of the piece, I found that the most challenging part of this piece is the fifteen or so leaves in flat silk foundation.  It required a deep concentration to lay down the flat silk in an orderly manner and then holding down the flat silk with an even short stitch holding (to avoid fraying and stabilize the flat silk when stitched in long stitches).  Really not the sort of thing that you can do while playing something in the background (at least for me). 

Camellia #3 Detail.

Camellia #2. 

A Bud. 

White Camellia in half bloom shaded with gold metallic thread towards the heart. 
Another notable part of the piece is the negative space at times required on the flower petals.  I think it was easier to stitch out a camellia fully than to decide which negative space to leave out, for example, on this half open white camellia towards the heart of the flower.    

As framed in my apartment: 




Summing up 2014 posted on December 30 2014 in Chinese embroidery, french embroidery, haute couture embroidery, Japanese Embroidery 2 Comments

For the last post of 2014, I thought I would share with you images of the projects I completed in the last year.
Hope you like the photos!  I have some cool projects planned for next year, so hopefully I will be able to get them done as well. 

Eternal Grace (Phase VI Design from the Japanese Embroidery Center)

Eternal Grace (Full View)

Reproduction of 18th Century Pattern

A Paradise Catcher


Reproduction of 18th Century Pattern

Detail of Cuff



A Wheel Motif

Giverny Top and Red Organza Skirt

Flower Bouquet (Phase I Design from the Japanese Embroidery Center)

Interior Shot

 Last Project of the year.  Phase VII design from the Japanese Embroidery Center. I will post about this in the New Year once it comes back from the framer!




Merry Christmas! And a Fabulous Gold Embroidered Court Dress! posted on December 24 2014 in 19th century fashion, haute couture embroidery

 It would be nice if Santa came down the chimney tonight in this 19th century red court dress of German origin with elaborate gold embroidery from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

According to Gail Marsh in her excellent book "18th Century Embroidery Techniques," metal-thread embroidery became a popular form of embellishment in the 18th century, as it would "catch the eye and the light from shimmering candles and mirrors at any ball or banquet."  Sounds pretty beautiful to me. 

Merry Christmas! 




Front Bodice

Amazing Gold Embroidery

I believe, for the most part, the embroidery here is realized by folding the gold ribbon back and forth in a zig zag fashion and securing with couching stitches.  There seems to be two kinds of ribbon, one the shiny metallic and the other looks more woven in the picture.  

A Voluminous Elaborate Metallic Trim.  For a price, you can still find trims similar to this in the garment district in New York or at Tinsel Trading Company (now located on the Upper East Side).  

More Gold Embroidery


A Holiday Gift Guide posted on December 16 2014 in dolls, french fashion doll


If there happens to be a French fashion doll about 17-18 inches tall on your holiday list...

 I have a feeling that she would approve of any of the following items:

Sac de Voyage (Available at Mary Ann Spinelli)

White Rabbit Opera Cape with Green Silk Ribbon Ties (Available at Carmel Doll Shop)

A Two-Tone Crocheted Hammock with Tassels (Available at Carmel Doll Shop)

A Box of Toilette Items Including Comb, Powderpuff, Perfume Bottle (Available at Carmel Doll Shop)

These dainty Red Leather Slippers with Scallops and Black Ribbon (Available at Mlle. Bereux)

A Papier-mache Chinoiserie Tray (Available at Carmel Doll Shop)

And Finally, a silk lavender Pagoda shaped parasol complete with an ivory handle (Available at Mlle. Bereux)


My Chinese Paradise Flycatcher posted on December 11 2014 in Chinese Embroidery


A few months ago, after approximately forever, I finally finished the motifs on this embroidery frame, and thought it would be fun to share with you the different stages of this project! 


Originally, my Chinese embroidery teacher, Pearl, suggested that I attempt to do the following watercolor painting from a book of paintings by her late colleague who spent her career creating artwork exclusively for embroidery.  


However, before I actually started on the real piece, which I have already outlined on white silk taffeta, Pearl thought it would be best if I practiced the motifs first on another piece of fabric.  So I first completed the little bird sitting on the magnolia branch,


And then moved above to the red maple leaves, which at times seemed endless


And finally started on the paradise flycatcher to the left.  


To me, the most challenging part of the paradise flycatcher was its elongated tail feathers. I was trying to convey the lushness of the tail feathers but at the same time preserve a sense of lightness lest the feathers appear stuck, or glued, together.  I also redid a few times the feather stalks, as it was harder than I thought to do a line with some curvature that appeared also straight and even. 

Here is a picture of a real paradise flycatcher.  One thing I noticed is that it seems like the tail feather of a real paradise catcher is stiffer than what the painting would lead one to believe...

Here's another close up of the bird.  In general I was happy with it.

Here's a picture of another real paradise flycatcher that I thought roughly had the pose and coloring of my bird above.  Maybe next time I should put in the little whiskers around the beak. 

A Final Pic :) 


Chanel Fall 2014 Haute Couture posted on December 02 2014 in Chanel, haute couture embroidery

To kick off the holiday season, I wanted to share with you the spectacular embroideries from Chanel's Fall 2014 haute couture collection.  The gold and white palette of the embroideries, and their baroque design, evoke an enchanting winter wonderland, inhabited by the likes of Queen Elsa, and, not to mention, create some of the most exciting haute couture looks I've seen this year!  

Do scroll down to the end to see the magnificent embroidered train of the Robe de Mariée (wedding dress), the traditional grand finale of the show!



Apparently model Ashleigh Goode was seven month pregnant here!

The magnificent train.  

Another View



Happy Thanksgiving! posted on November 26 2014 in My Dollhouse, Thanksgiving 4 Comments



My Japanese Embroidery Phase I: Flower Bouquet posted on November 19 2014 in Japanese Embroidery 5 Comments

As some of you know, I've been studying Japanese Embroidery for several years.  I recently finished this piece, and it just came back from the framer, so I thought I would share the images with you! 

As you can see, the subject of the piece is a bouquet of flowers in a wrapper.  This was stitched under the instruction of my Japanese Embroidery teacher, Deb Bowers of Hyde Park, New York.  I've been studying with her for several years and her class is very informative and a lot of fun!  The design is from the Japanese Embroidery Center from Atlanta.  I kept everything the same except I switched out a few stronger colors for more muted versions.

Here's the embroidery when it was still on the frame.  

And here is another shot of the piece in my dining room/library.

Detail of Iris

Detail of Pinks 

Detail of Valerian

Detail of Chrysanthemums


 For the flax leaf metallic lattice on top of the silk foundation of the bouquet wrapper, I struggled a bit because my originally planned gold or silver didn't have the effect I was imagining.  Luckily, I found this metal thread in Deb's collection and she graciously let me have some.  I would describe it as a nutty gold color with some flecks of metallic dark brown.  


A word about the frame. The framer suggested this red oak frame finished with silver mica powder paint.  I think the medium tone of the finish works really well with the lavender of the iris and the medium toned greens used throughout the piece.  


I love how the grain of the wood still shows on the frame and I think it kind of complements the nature theme in the embroidery.    






Best of Show-Philadelphia Miniaturia posted on November 11 2014 in Dollhouse Miniatures 1 Comment

Every first weekend of November, I try to make it to Philadelphia Miniaturia, the largest miniature show on the East Coast.  Here are some of the coolest miniatures on offer this weekend!


A Christmas stand by Carl Bronsdon


Another Christmas stand


Shoe display by Doll's Cobbler

Raincoat and other shoes

Flowers by Artistic Florals

Love this arrangement

Patisserie scene by JoAnne Roberts

Alice in Wonderland Scene by JoAnne Roberts


Old lady doll by Fern Nasi

Her needlepoint


Finally, here are my purchases at the fair (photographed in their new home, aka my dollhouse):

Pink Galoshes from Doll's Cobbler

A mint whistling kettle

The old lady doll to the right.  I love her black lace veil.

And the fabric cameo

And her gloves, black pocket book and engagement ring

And here's another picture of her walking with a pram and one of the two dogs of the house, Gossamer


Hope you like these!


Wedding Part II: My New Project! posted on November 06 2014 in french embroidery, haute couture embroidery, Lesage, weddings, Yves St Laurent

This past Saturday I attended the lovely wedding of my family friend at a seaside resort in Hawaii. Under blue skies and swaying palm trees, she and her fiancé said their vows and my family and I were delighted to be part of the event! 


For this event, I attempted a new challenge: embroider and make my own dress for a formal event. The embroidery design on the front bodice came from an embroidery course that I took at Lesage, a school in Paris. The design is called "Giverny," after Monet's garden, and depicts blooming red poppies in a lush green garden. Here's a shot of the embroidery:

Shortly after the course, I came across this picture online from an old Yves St. Laurent collection and instantly fell in love with it.

Since I didn't think I could improve upon the design, I decided to try to replicate it, with a lot of guidance from my sewing teacher Ute, and I think in general it worked out!

On the beach after the ceremony

At our table with the lovely Coco Pai!

Here are a few other snaps from the production process:

The design was intended to be a rectangular shaped painting (you can see the black lines above).  I adjusted the upper part of the design to allow for the shoulder straps and arm holes.  The poppies are embroidered with red silk organza and little red and black beads.  

The assembled top prior to binding the bottom edge.  I mounted the embroidery on top of sheer blue organza and a medium blue crepe de chine that were flat felled as one piece.  The back was the same blue organza over crepe de chine.  


 After the wedding.  The skirt was red silk dupioni with a sheer red organza overskirt.  The waistband has a double bow made out of the same materials.   

Finally, just for fun:  

Claude Monet- Poppy Fields

Poppies in front of Monet's house in Giverny  


Weddings (Part I) ! posted on October 28 2014 in 18th century fashion, balenciaga, Carolina Herrera, Chanel, Charles Frederick Worth, Christian Lacroix


As some of you know, I am attending my good family friend's nuptials in Hawaii in the coming weeks, so with weddings in the air, here are some images of wedding dress embroideries made over the years, from 1763-2014, to be precise.  


Wedding Dress of Mary Chaloner (1763)

Wedding Dress of Edwige Elizabeth Charlotte Holstein-Gottorp (1774) Detail  

                        Wedding Dress (1828)

Wedding Dress of Alice Wade Everett by Charles Frederick Worth (1879)


American Wedding Dress (1887)

Stern Brothers Wedding Dress (1890)


Wedding Dress by Balenciaga (1957)

Philomena de Tornos y Steinhart, Christian Lacroix (2009).  The embroidery is allegedly inspired by the drapery in Marie Antoinette's bedroom. 

Carolina Herrera (2011) (Actually this is my wedding dress!)

Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2014


Choupette and Other Famous Felines posted on October 14 2014 in Suzhou Embroidery


I love these two pics of Choupette, the pampered white Siamese cat of designer Karl Lagerfeld.  Given to Lagerfeld by model Bapitiste Giabiconi as a Christmas present, Choupette boasts a superb collar of white fur,  a penchant for Louis Vuitton luggage, and the attendance of not one, but two lady's maids, who in addition to being at Choupette's beck and call, also keep a daily diary of Madame's moods and ennuis.  Choupette has inspired fashion collections (her deep blue eyes being cited as an inspiration for Chanel's spring 2012 couture collection, which consisted entirely of shades of cornflower blue), collaborated on a make up collection with Shu Uemura and this Fall, there is a book out exclusively on Choupette. 

So, given the above, I think it is fair to say that Choupette is at least one of the world's chicest cats, if not the chicest. 


Love that pillow

I've been there...

To return to the main subject of this blog, Chinese embroidery has also had its share of famous felines.  In the 1950's, embroidery artisans in Suzhou, China, such as Gu Wenxia (顾文霞) and Yu Fuzhen (余福臻),  developed a now iconic style of cat embroidery that has spawned a thousand and one imitations.  From what I can recall, my seven or eight year old self was also first drawn to the art of Chinese embroidery by a photograph of an embroidered double sided cat extending its paws into a bowl of gold fish that I found in a tourism book on China's old canals.   Here are a few favourites:




 A Pair of Cats (雙貓).  This piece is actually by my Chinese embroidery teacher. 


White Cat's Frolic with a Grass Hopper (白猫戏螳螂)

White Cat's Frolic with a Grass Hopper (白猫戏螳螂)


Gu Wenxia (顾文霞)

Yu Fuzhen (余福臻)



Ciao! posted on September 30 2014 in Amal Alamuddin, Gimbattista Valli, Givenchy, haute couture embroidery, Lesage, Yves St Laurent 2 Comments

For my first post in a long, long time, I had been planning on writing about something else until I saw the new Mrs. Clooney walk out of her hotel this weekend...

The dress is 2014 Giambattista Valli couture with sprawling embroidered branches of coral and purple blossoms on a macrame lace background.This kind of three dimensional floral embroidery is one of my favorite embroidery styles, and called to mind some of the most fantastical couture embroidery creations of all time. 

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent 

Yves Saint Laurent

Jackie Kennedy in Givenchy

Givenchy (Embroidered by Hurel with silk floss, silk ribbon, and seed pearls)

Detail shots from the Museum of Fashion in Bath
And Finally, another lovely gown of the weekend (albeit the embroidery is of a more abstract nature)!  

Emily Blunt in Crystal Embellished Emilio Pucci


THE EMBROIDERY PROCESS posted on May 30 2013 in Chinese Embroidery

The embroidery fabric is mounted and stretched taut on its frame, which consists of four wooden bars, two stretching the fabric in the warp direction and the two others in the weft direction. The design is traced onto the fabric with a calligraphy brush.

After discussing and agreeing upon the techniques for the selected design, the embroiderers sit down to stitch. During the 20th century, embroidery in the Jiangsu area developed into two major branches: traditional fine embroidery and criss-cross stitch, or random stitch, embroidery. Typical subject matter for traditional fine embroidery include florals, birds, cats, gold fish and ancient paintings, while criss-cross stitch embroidery has proven to be exceptionally suitable for portraits, oil paintings and photography, such as the Mao portrait in the illustration.

The frame is dismantled and the completed piece is removed from the frame for further finishing.