I wish there were some way to add touch to blogs as I'd like to talk about the kinds of fabrics we use to stitch on in this post, and it would be nice if you could feel what they were like.
The silks we use to stitch on are the same as those used to make kimono or obi. They come in different weights and can be dyed or decorated in various ways before we start our stitching. Some of the fabrics used by the Japanese Embroidery Center are dyed or woven for especially their designs, check out the link above to their site for some examples.
Great skill is needed to choose the correct weight, type, and colour of fabric which will suit the design. For example if the fabric is too fine to support all the stitching, the fabric will buckle and warp when removed from the frame and many hours of work will have been wasted.
Below are listed a few of the types of silks used for our Japanese embroidery (this isn't a full list):
Habutae - a kimono lining fabric which has no pattern. Available in a variety of thicknesses but we use only the thickest. It can be dyed before use.
Tsumugi - this silk originated with farmers who made use of cocoons left over after they had sold their best silk to market. They collected the floss from the cocoons, span (tsumugi) it by hand into thread and wove kimono for themselves. Tsumugi is generally only used for informal kimono, but it has a lovely surface texture for embroidery. This link will take you to a bolt of tsumugi silk at Ichiroya, or check out the Forest Wisdom design on the link to JEC above.
Chirimen - this is a silk crepe fabric, it comes in different weights and can be used for both kimono or obi. Chirimen at Ichiroya. This fabric is often used for designs featuring fuzzy effect because the weft valley lines are easy to see.
Shioze - this silk is woven in a way which creates more distinct weft vally lines than on chirimen. The Cherry Dawn design from JEC is stitched on shioze.
Shusu - has a very smooth, shiny surface, this fabric is substantial enough to use for designs using a lot of metallic threads. I've only seen this in a black (but it may come in other colours) and it is generally used for our phase 4 piece Karahana. However Carol-Anne from 'Threads Across the Web' is using a red shioze for her phase 4.
Nishijin - in this fabric dyed silk threads and thin gold leaf strips are used. It creates a strong, rich fabric used for the most expensive obi. Bamboo Circle is being stitched on this type of fabric. The picture is an extreme close up of the Bamboo Circle fabric, the gold strips form the weft of the fabric.
Ro - a lightweight fabric used for summer kimono. In ro a space is left in the weft of the fabric forming horizontal bands. For our embroidery it is generally used for more advanced designs. Check out Falling Stars on the JEC site.