Japanese Bunka-Shishu Embroidery – a fun alternative to cross stitch!

For those of you not familiar with Japanese Tokyo Bunka Shishu punch embroidery, this traditional craft dates back approximately 100 years.  Bunka-Shishu has the appearance of an oil painting and has a special art status in Japan.  It’s fairly simply to get started with only a few tools needed.  Just a wood bunka frame, an N-3 Bunka Punch Needle, tacks and a kit will get you going.

The thread used is a silky rayon that is worked on a soft tight polyester gabardine fabric that is printed with a numbered thread placement design (similar to the paint by number kits of your youth).  The needle used is unique to Bunka, resembling a hollow tube through which the floss is threaded.  Stitches are punched through the fabric rather than looped with small kinks in the thread keeping the work from pulling out.  It is necessary to tack the fabric down tightly to the frame to be able to work the picture successfully.  The thread will not stay in if the fabric is too loose.

Before using the threads, they are frayed slightly, but not pulled to tight as you need some kinks.   You stretch and fray as you work (not too much at a time).  As an example, basic running stitches are approx. 1/2″ long,  placed close together to cover the canvas fully and blend with different colors.  You will use variations on this technique to create flower petals and smaller areas.  This basic YouTube Video from Tokyo Bunka is excellent and very helpful to get you started:

The Tokyo Bunka kits include your printed fabric, numbered threads, color photo and in general, basic instruction in Japanese.  As this is basically a paint by number, it should be easy for our English speaking customers to work the kit.  You will find some excellent instruction on how to work the stitches in this Bunka video and we have a basic Cd available for purchase.

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