Wow, I urge you all to visit the food heaven that is Lyon. I may have to split my recent trip to Lyon over two posts as there is so much to fit in. The main reason I was there was to take a course in couture embroidery. The bonus was the beautiful scenery and the gastronomic delights. (Don’t get me started on the bakeries!)
I’ll take you through the course and what I learned in this post. The course is run by Elisabeth Roulleau. She previously worked with Lesage, who provide the beading and embroidery embellishments for the couture houses. I was already excited. She now teaches these techniques in her studio in Lyon. Her enthusiasm for the craft was infectious and I couldn’t wait to start. Elisabeth has visitors from everywhere, and this time there was one from Germany and another from Italy plus me from Ireland.
After having a look at some of her work (amazing) and previous students work (impressive) we chatted about what I knew and what I will learn. The first step was putting together the frame. After screwing the four beams together, silk organza is stretched and stitch in place. The fabric has to be taut so the stitches have the same tension throughout and don’t pucker or sag the design.
Rather than embroidering with a needle, this type of embroidery is done with a hook. A chain style stitch is formed by hand and hook. Sounds easy enough until you have to change the threading technique with clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on the direction. Elisabeth works at your pace so if you need longer to practice until you feel comfortable to move on, she will wait.
A nice touch was the relaxing music played throughout ranging from Vivaldi and Madonna to Daft Punk and French Jazz. I’ve carried this on at home. The sounds of French being spoken was nice too. I vowed to learn some French before I return as everyone made such an effort to speak English with me.
Every morning, the hands are warmed up with a few practice lines. Practice makes perfect. Once I was confident, beads were introduced. Rather than sewing beads from the front with a needle, the beads are pre-strung onto the thread and each one is fed by hand into each stitch. It takes a while to get used to it and with more practice, I will become quicker.
Once I could stitch in each direction with the beads, curved lines were drawn to follow. This technique was very time consuming but the practice was needed, as a lot of the design involves beads.
After the morning stitching routine, the design template is traced out pencil on the wrong side of the fabric. Pencil wears off after a while and can be rubbed out if a mistake is made. Even though everyone receives the same design, each person can choose their own colours and materials, so everyone’s work is unique. Naturally, I chose pink.
A mixture of the techniques I learned so far were used in different ways on day three. Beads were stitched on the wing-like shapes. Felt was pinned over this and stitched down with metallic thread. This was the most difficult thing for me that week. The mix of delicate thread and tough material was a challenge.
The beads under the felt give the raised effect and the pearl beads give a nice finish. The framing heart shape was laid out in metallic thread and stitched on top with a needle. This was a nice break after fighting with the felt.
Before the days end, I was able to fit in a last lesson in applying sequins. It is done in the same way as the beads but the paper thin sequins need a light and delicate hand.
Both overlapping and side-by-side sequin options decorate the design. The overlapping option uses a lot of sequins for a small space and take a long time but the shimmering effect is worth it.
Small spaces of the design needed to be filled. One way is the vermicelle method I did in gold beads. It snakes around until the space is filled. There were a few gaps here and there which will improve with time so I filled with miniature sequins were added some more colour.
The final day. I didn’t want it to end. I quickly got used to the routine, the people, the music and the food. The last few spaces were filled with a vermicelle stitch in metallic thread with overlapping sequins. It took a long time to fill the small area but it sparkled in the light so beautifully. The final piece was as pretty from the back as the front and the colours gave off an Indian vibe.
Here’s the friendly pooch that greeted us every morning. I’ll miss him.
And i’ll also miss the view.
I’ll definitely be coming back.
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