Sumi-e Embroidery with Whitney Meredith

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Combine the art of Japanese sumi ink painting with simple embroidery techniques to create a decorative textile—no hoop required! Use sumi ink to create watercolor-like floral designs on aida cloth, then use basic embroidery stitches to add highlights and pops of color. You don’t have to be an expert...

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  1. Cut aida cloth to desired size.

  2. If using a template, print the image and place behind the aida cloth. The open weave of the cloth allows for images to be traced by simply holding the material against a sunny window.

  3. Tape all sides of the cloth to a drawing board or sheet of cardboard. This will prevent the piece from warping while it is being painted.

  4. Sumi ink is exceptionally strong in color and will need to be diluted. Gather 3 cups for the sumi ink and a large glass of water to dilute. In the first cup pour a small amount of ink, and add water. Pour half of the mixture into a second cup, and dilute with water. Repeat once more, using the second mixture of diluted ink and dilute with water. The first mixture will be the darkest, while the last will be the lightest, as it has the most water. Use a piece of scrap paper to test the ink mixtures, adjust levels of ink or water as need.

  5. Begin by painting with the lightest wash, but do not oversaturate the aida cloth. If the piece is starting to seem too wet, take a break and allow it to dry before beginning again.

  6. Use the mid-tone sumi mixture to highlight darker areas. If using the templates, focus on areas like the flower stem and the outside of flower petals and leaves.

  7. Finally, use the strongest sumi ink mixture to focus in on the same areas.

  8. Once dry, fine details can be added with a felt tipped marker. Remove the piece from the cardboard support.