Category: Vintage

Bunka Embroidery

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Bunka is a style of embroidery from Japan using a tightly-woven polyester backing and a four-ply rayon yarn (chainette). The yarn is unraveled before punching it into the canvas with a punch needle. Unlike other punch needle projects I’ve done, the goal isn’t to cluster many loops in a small space; rather, the threads can be extended up to about a half-inch. They lay flatter against the surface, although there’s definitely a dimensional result that’s fascinating to look at. The kinks left in the yarn after unraveling keep the loops secure on the backside of the fabric. Because bunka is stitched face forward after tacking it on a frame, it feels much more like painting on a canvas. However, the final product is not sturdy like a punch needle or hooked rug or even stitched embroidery. In fact, I think a bunka painting is meant to be just that–a painting.

I bought a vintage bunka kit off Etsy. It came with a design on the backing–a lovely woodcut by Hokusai–the bunka yarn, and a small printout, one side with a color painting and the other with a lined drawing of the project with numbers written in that correspond to the yarn colors. It’s exactly like a paint-by-number kit. With instructions in Japanese and only a handful of instructional videos available on Youtube, however, I’m fumbling my way through this, but I’m enjoying it tremendously. The wavy rayon thread and synthetic backing give the piece a unique shimmery, dimensional feeling. I love the look of bunka.

Bunka gained popularity in the 1960s but it may have seen its heyday, although there are a few companies out there as well as an organization or two devoted to it. I’m on the hunt to find supplies in order to try a few designs of my own.

Norwegian Pick-Up Bandweaving

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My new favorite book is Norwegian Pick-Up Bandweaving by Heather Torgenrud (2014). It focuses on everything I like about weaving: the history, the color, the texture, and the process. Plus, there are dozens of patterns. If you have an interest in weaving Nordic-styled pick-up bands, well, here’s your book. Using a rigid heddle with a backstrap setup, this style of weaving produces sturdy, vivid, and cheerful bands which were once used around the house for things like belts, shoe laces, baby swaddling, package ties, and clothing decorations. Heather Torgenrud’s book is that type of reading that gets to the heart of an important style of weaving, a delightful discovery for someone like me, the weaver who likes to know.

I’ve had an interest in this style of band weaving ever since, over four years ago, I discovered a treasure in an antique shop, a Norwegian rigid heddle, or bandgrind:

norwegianloom1

Isn’t it gorgeous? Hand carved, it may have been a traditional courting gift from a young man to a young woman. It was most likely used with the decorative top hanging downward although I’m not positive about that. At the time, I wasn’t certain what it was other than a little loom, and it took some research to come across the explanation. Although you can use a band loom on a regular frame loom, they were normally used with one end of the warp tied to something sturdy like a doorknob and the other end secured around the weaver’s waist, backstrap style.

I love the portable nature of band weaving, and currently I’m looking forward to receiving a “slotted” rigid heddle, which is useful for weaving patterns. Although I love my antique band loom, I don’t dare use it, so in the meantime, I’ve been using my small Ashford Sampleit loom for some practice. Here’s a seven-thread band with embroidery and crochet cottons:

Pickup Band Weaving

 

 

Finished (Finally!): Tapestry Weaving

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It only took me about ten months to finish this 4″x6″ weaving. Honestly, the Lightning Weaver is an awesome loom and I’ve used it for several small tapestries, but quite awhile ago, I wished I hadn’t started this type of a project on it. I used embroidery thread and needles to weave it. At 12 epi, it was pretty fine. My goal when I began was to work in more curves and colors. You can tell I jumped into “finish” mode where the lines start traveling from selvedge to selvedge. I went back to shapes near the end.

The Lightning Weaver has little hooks on either end, which makes it impossible to weave up until the edge. So, I’m left with some white threads poking out, but that’s okay. Throughout the weaving, I overlapped where I started and stopped threads. This keeps the back very tidy. Any loose threads can be safely trimmed away.

Tapestry Experiment

Tapestry Experiment

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Tapestry Experiment