As most of you will have noticed (my social media channels were full of birthday wishes from all over the world; thank you very much!), I turned 40 recently. And as it goes: birthdays and presents go hand in hand. So when I visited Munich with my parents, we found an unusual embroidery book for my library. Before I'll show you what it is, let me tell you briefly where we found it.
Personally, up to that recent visit, I didn't like Munich one bit. As it is a very wealthy city, I always felt out of place. Although I do like shopping, I avoid big fashion names as I have found my style long ago and want to stick to it; not change every 3 months :). Anyway. This time we ended up in a whole different part of Munich as I wanted to visit a Zero Waste shop aptly named 'Ohne' (without) and my father wanted to visit some antiquaries in search of Feldpost from WWI. Both, and much more, concentrate around the Schellingstraße in the Maxvorstadt. The name Schellingstraße might ring a bell with art, literature and/or history buffs: apart from being Hitler's home turf, Bertold Brecht, Wassily Kandinsky, Rainer Maria Rilke, Lenin, Thomas Mann, Frank Wedekind, Joachim Ringelnatz, Stefan George, Franz Marc and Paul Klee frequented the establishments here in their time. Nowadays, the area is characterised by cosy and hip eateries catering for the whole world, antiquarians and unusual little shops well worth exploring. So, if you ever visit Munich and you are not much impressed by its main shopping streets, head out to the Schellingstraße!
At one of the antiquaries, I found a book named: Stickerei aus Palästina, traditioneller 'Fallahi' Kreuzstich written by Widad Kamel Kawar and Tania Tamari Nasir in 1992. The ISBN of the German version is: 3-927270-03-2 and that of the English version: 3-927270-04-0 (Palestinian embroidery, traditional 'Fallahi' cross-stitch). Unfortunately, the book is now only available second-hand and prices asked for it range between €75 and €281 !!! My mum paid €22 :). A pretty good deal indeed.
So what's this book all about? Fallahi embroidery is a form of cross-stitch embroidery traditionally practiced by Palestinian peasant women (Fallaha) in their villages. The book shows a collection of traditional patterns from the 19th and early 20th century not yet influenced by later Western styles. The collection is subdivided into Palestinian regions: Ramallah, Jaffa, Hebron, Gaza, Beersheba and the Sinai. At first glance, you might think that these are 'just' geometric motives with no further meaning. The book shows you that not only are certain motives characteristic of a particular region, it also tells you their name. For instance, there are date palms from Ramallah, amulets from Jaffa, the Pasha's tent from Hebron, pendants from Gaza and different forms of cypresses can be found in embroidery patterns from all the regions. Once your eye has been sharpened for this, they are no longer 'just' geometric patterns.
What items were decorated with this type of traditional embroidery? The embroidery can be found on the traditional Palestinian female dress: the thob. Depending on the region and the status of the wearer, parts of the front, parts of the back, the sides and the sleeves are covered with embroidery. Furthermore, the bridal trousseau would sport the same kind of embroidery.
What materials do the Palestinian embroiderers use? Traditionally, the embroidery was executed on local hand-woven linen (actually a mix of linen and cotton) or a form of loosely woven cotton. Famous weaving regions were: Majdal, Gaza, Ramallah, Nazareth, Hebron and Nablus. Until around 1930, they would use plant-dyed silk thread for the embroidery made in Syria. Traditional colours would be indigo blue, reds made from roots or insects and ochre for yellow. By far the most popular colour would have been red. Even the shade of red used would point to the origin of the wearer with wine red being from Ramallah and Jaffa, burnt Sienna from Hebron, magenta from Gaza and scarlet- and fuchsia red from Beersheba.
The main part of the book consists of full-page pictures of the stitched patterns (78 in total!). Each pattern has been stitched with European yarn (both DMC stranded cotton and perle were used after the 1930s) onto traditional Ramallah linen. I find this a very nice way of presenting the different patterns. So much more 'lively' than our traditional grid diagrams. And a much more original way of transferring pattern knowledge. Besides the beautiful pattern pictures there are also pictures of women wearing the traditional garments. This part of the book is a real feast for the eyes and your hands start to twitch as you probably can't wait to dive into reproducing a pattern yourself! I've written to the Palestinian Heritage Fund to ask if they know of an online source selling the traditional Ramallah linen. If anyone knows of such a source, please leave a comment!
The book was originally written to present and preserve the original Palestinian village patterns. Due to the Palestinian Diaspora after 1948, traditional village life changed dramatically. And so did the traditional patterns. Thus, in a way, the book also documents the influences world politics has on a traditional form of embroidery.
If you love cross-stitch and traditional forms of embroidery than this book should go onto your watch-list. With its hard-cover, detailed and clear pictures and 144 pages, it might not quite be worth €225, but around €50 would still be a good buy.
On a different note: my Instagram account has been hacked last Thursday. Since Instagram and Facebook have so far not reacted to my requests for help, I went to the police today to officially report the issue. As my hacked Instagram account is linked to my Facebook business page, it is possible that you will see posts that I have not made via both accounts. I am very sorry for that! Until this whole hacking has been sorted out, I won't use my social media. If you would like to stay up to date with my work, please sign up for my newsletter using the button at the top of the right-hand column.
A little while ago, my mailman brought my pre-ordered copy of Yvette Stanton's latest book: Smoyg, pattern darning from Norway. Yvette is well-known for having written several excellent books on historical whitework embroidery and this latest addition is no exception. It is just a little more colourful than the other ones :).
If you are unfamiliar with Yvette's books, this is their general layout: introduction to the technique with plenty of pictures showing historical pieces, a project part and a part detailing the technical side of the technique with step-by-step stitch diagrams for left-handers and right-handers. In this case, the introduction is full of clear pictures showing a myriad of historical pieces from museum collections in Norway. This type of embroidery is found on the folk costumes of the Southern parts of Norway and may date as far back as the Vikings. You'll learn about: skjorte, handaplagg, belte, likkross, brudgomaduk, luve, brystduk, kinnlag, skaut, kasteplagg, forerme and forklebord. The many, many pictures are inspirational for those who want to design their own patterns; both in terms of pattern placement as well as colour combinations. Yvette even provides you with hints if you want to explore pattern darning in other cultures (it turns out that I already have a book on pattern darning from the Mameluke era).
The project part of the book includes a good range of taster projects, medium-sized projects and larger projects that will keep you busy for a while. Especially the jewellry bag, scissor keep and two different pendants are perfect to try out this technique when you only have a few hours to spare. As the poppy pendant was worked on 40-count linen with DeVere yarns #36 silk and I happened to have both in my stash, this is the project I decided to try first. My Dandelyne mini-hoop was slightly smaller than the pendant Yvette sells, but it still turned out quite pretty. I used Zweigart Newcastle linen and the colour of the DeVere yarn #36 silk is called Vermillion. This particular silk is a tightly twisted thread not unlike perle. In general, I hate silk perle; it untwists faster than I can stitch and I thus end up throwing away at least half of my thread. Not so with the DeVere #36! It hardly frays at the end and I decided to order a decent selection of colours after working the poppy pendant. A clear case of #yvettemademedoit.
The colourful needlecase, bookmark and adorable hanging-ornament require a little more work. Whereas the table runner, table centre, cushion, framed square and shirt will occupy your hands and needle for many, many delightful hours. And then there is the gigantic band sampler featuring no less than 22 different colourful patterns. As all these patterns come fully chartered, this is also a candy store if you want to decorate a particular item using this embroidery technique. I decided to use one of the patterns to fill a plexiglass coaster. Worked on the same linen using Algae, Violet and Butter.
The technical part of the book is as good as it gets. Yvette is a left-hander herself and thus she always makes sure that ALL stitchers can replicate her stitching when reading the step-by-step instructions. You might think that, as pattern darning uses only the humble running stitch, there is not much scope for instruction. Wrong. Yvette will show you several ways of turning at the end of a row, how to plan a larger project using tacking, stabbing versus sewing, starting and ending threads, working with more than one colour, using a laying tool and how to best stitch a larger, more complicated pattern. I might just add one more tip: enlarge the diagrams and use a ruler to mark where you are. I have absolutely no problem finding my way around a crossstitch pattern, but using the darning diagrams straight from the book made me go cross-eyed :).
But, my possibly favourite part of the book is its three very last pages before the credits. It is called: appendix of fabric and thread compatibility. Yvette has tested many types of threads (silks & wools) with four types of fabric: 50 count, 40 count, 34 count and 28 count linen. She even states which size of needle to use. This means that most of us will have the appropriate threads and fabric in our stash to start stitching immediately! But beware: it is a very addictive type of embroidery...
Where to find the book? For the moment it seems that you can only order your copy straight from Yvette's website. I paid €43 including shipping. The book is due for general release in the autumn.
Sometimes life gives you lemons. That's ok. But it is not so easy to turn those damn lemons into lemonade without electricity. What happened? Just after breakfast last Thursday, our Vodafone Easy Box died. And it proved not so 'easy' to get a replacement. It meant no land-line, limited internet via mobile and no printing of documents. Routers prove to be quite key-elements in the running of a small business! And when on Monday the new Easy Box finally arrived, we had no electricity... What had happened? We still have a temporary mains after the fire burned down the farm and with it the electricity cables connecting our place to the grid. The temporary mains lies as a thick black cable in our garden. In comes the farmer's grand-son with the riding mower.... Yup, he severed the cable. Luckily nobody got harmed. In came the cable knotters of the electricity company and all is well now!
On with the big news I was hinting at last week: I have been invited to teach and lecture at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China! They wish to learn more about European embroidery techniques and their history. I am going to teach them workshops on crewel embroidery, goldwork embroidery and Schwalm embroidery. And I've even gotten permission from my teacher Verena Schiegg to teach them some Appenzeller fine whitework embroidery. And since I won't be in China for ever, I've videotaped each project from start to finish. After much trial and error, I have found a way to make quite good videos in which you see me stitch and where I'll talk you through the project. It is all low-key: You might hear some background noises (especially snoring cats!) and my hands are occasionally stained from work in the garden :). But I think they might prove to be the solution for those of you who have been gently nagging me about online classes. I will release them in the autumn after I have been to China. How does that sound?
The other big news is that I will hold my first solo-exhibition August next year! The Pfannerhaus Museum in Roßhaupten has been organising art exhibitions for some years now. As my current portfolio does not easily fill both rooms available, I am thinking up new embroidery pieces and will soon start stitching them. I am quite excited about this opportunity to showcase my work!
And now I am going to start a marathon session of making red current jam. My husband is picking them in the garden and will soon bring them in for processing. Note: we don't like the taste of red currants. However, I've found a recipe that explicitly states that the result does NOT taste of red currants. You add a banana and you are left with a very pretty pink jam that tastes lovely. I've been making it for some years now :).
As you can see from the above, I had a pretty varied week at the Lebende Werkstatt Pilatushaus, Oberammergau! On my very first day, I met Beate Pietzsch. As I only ever knew her name (and she mine) without having a face to go with it, our actually meeting was kind of comical :). Ah, you're a stitcher too. What do you do? Japanese Embroidery. Oh, do you know that famous teacher Beate from Cologne? Yes, grin, that's me!
Beate was with an international group of fellow Japanese embroidery teachers. They meet each year at the home of one of them in Peißenberg. Amazingly, that's just around the corner from where I live. They ended up in the Pilatushaus by accident and did not know that it was 'my week' there. We had such a lovely conversation about embroidery, teaching embroidery and the established institutes of embroidery like the RSN and the JAC. Always nice to talk to people who are in the know :). For those of you who were unaware that you can learn Japanese Embroidery in Germany (and the Netherlands!) or if you just want to drool over some pretty embroidery: here is Beate's website.
By the way, I was working on Strawberry Fayre whilst in the Pilatushaus. Since I have given up doing exactely as the instructions say, it is actually quite pleasant stitching. And it will garuentee that I will end up with a unique version of the design. What doesn't help is the fact that I am running out of some of the threads and some of the beads. When Strawberry Fayre is finished, I will let Inspirations know that I find this quite unacceptable for a kit as pricey as this one was.
Next: Brexit. We always get a lot of nice visitors from the UK. That's how I met a lovely couple of British expats. They have been living in Germany for many years and didn't want the Brexit. It is heart-breaking to see how unsettling this whole Brexit is. Especially as no one seems to have a clue where it is heading. For istance: I've asked my pension plan what will happen to the nearly six years of pension payments me and my husband have made whilst living in Salisbury? The pension plan people say that everything will be allright. Aha. Will I need to pay extra fees over my future pension payments? Probably. And you call that 'everything will be allright'? I've tried to transfer the money to a pension plan in either Germany of the Netherlands. That didn't work. The British were blaming the Dutch/Germans and the Dutch/Germans were blaming the British. As soon as I left my native Netherlands, I learned that the European Union isn't there to help true Europeans that need to live in several European countries in order to have a job. No wonder the European Union has so little acceptance amongst 'normal' Europeans.
Then, two lovely elderly nuns visited the Pilatushaus. They were especially enchanted with my large embroidery based on the creation myth of a tribe of Indians from South America. As one of the ladies had worked as an embroideress of vestments, she loved my St. Laurence goldwork piece too. We had a great conversation on embroidery techniques and she was quite impressed with my skills. So lovely to get praise from a peer!
And last but not least, I was visited by two blind women, their female guide and a guide dog. I normally tell people off when they want to touch my embroidery, but in this case it was totally fine. The two ladies had great fun in touching those mini-embroidery hoops made by Dandelyne with the silk ribbon roses. Or touching the beaded strawberries (or raspberries?) with picots on Strawberry Fayre. And they had lots of questions about St. Laurence too. It was a very enriching experience for all of us! Even the dog had a good time sniffing my trestles :).
That's all for now! I have some pretty huge news next week. Two truely amazing opportunities have come my way and I am super excited. If you fear that you won't be able to sleep until my next blog post, you can have a peek at my upcoming events :).
Upon request, I have included the original sampler in my ebook on the early 17th century silk embroidered linen vestments from Tyrol. And to celebrate the release of my ebook 2.0, so to speak, I have put together some great saver packs!
There is the flower sampler saver pack which includes the ebook and all the materials to make your own flower sampler with all 8 flowers.
Then there is the popular Carnation saver pack which includes the ebook and all the materials to stitch your own Carnation. The Campanula saver pack includes the ebook and all the materials to splash out on your own copy of the Campanula! And last but not least, the Tudor Rose saver pack with the ebook and all the materials to make your own version of this timeless classic.
The ebook is a 2-part PDF download for which I will send you a link. The material packs ship for only €3,70 each world-wide. I am also offering two workshops at my studio in Bad Bayersoien where you can stitch a flower of your choice under my tuition. In short: more than enough opportunities to learn this fascinating and beautiful historical silk embroidery technique from Tyrol!
Wow, thank you so much for all who entered my give-away! Seventy comments were left on last week's blog post. The flower with the most votes turned out to be the Carnation, followed by Campanula and Tudor Rose. So glad I asked my blog readers for their favourites as I had never thought that the humble Carnation would win. But, more importantly, who won the give-away and will be the proud owner of a copy of the ebook on 'Early 17th century linen vestments from Tyrol: Historical background, where to find and instructions' and the kit of her choice? Drumroll please!
And the winner is: Jackie Ayres who voted for Viola. Congratulations!
If you weren't the lucky winner, don't fret! You'll find my new ebook for sale in my webshop. One Euro of each sold ebook will be donated to the Museum in Brixen where the chasuble that inspired me to this ebook is housed. You will also find embroidery kits for the Carnation, Campanula and Tudor Rose there.
So what's in the ebook? Besides the historical background on the silk embroidered linen vestments from Tyrol, you'll find a list with museums where you can find these gorgeous pieces of embroidery. In the second part of the ebook, you'll find the eight flowers of the Brixen chasuble as a line drawing and with instructions so that you can stich your own. Furthermore, there's instructions on materials used, stitches used (three youtube videos) and where to find the materials used. Not fond of silks? No worries. The line drawings can be used for other types of surface embroidery too! How about using them in a crewel piece? Or go wild with stranded cotton and all sorts of filling stitches. Anything goes as long as you are having fun with needle, thread and my ebook!
I am beavering away on writing the texts for my upcoming ebook on the linen vestments from Tyrol. The good news is: my sampler is finally finished! And that's where I need your help. I am planning on releasing kits to go with the ebook. After all, you might want to try your hand at one of these gorgeous flowers too. So for today's giveaway, I'd like to know which of the flowers on my sampler you like best. Leave your answer in a comment on this blog post (comments left on other blog posts or via email or any other way, do not count). The winner will get the new ebook and the kit of her/his choice upon release. I will randomly pick one winner on Monday the 11th of June 2018. You must leave your comment before Sunday the 10th of June 24:00h CET.
And here are the flowers you can choose from: Carnation, Viola, Tudor Rose, Tulip, Wild Rose, Tiger Lily, Campanula and Peony.
Thanks for your help! And I'll keep writing :).
As I am working really hard to finish my upcoming ebook on the linen vestments from Tyrol, it's just a short post today. But a rather nice one! First up is a beautiful blackwork tiger by Olga Tempel. She attended my five-day blackwork course earlier this year and recently finished this epic piece. I think she did a terrific job with the shading, don't you agree?
Remember my Millie Marotta fox? He won me first prize in the 'Stitch your Heart out' competition organised by Inspirations Magazine. Fox had been down-under for more than a year as Inspirations promised me to make him into an article. Alas, they finally decided they weren't going to do that after all and I got fox back after a nasty and expensive battle with German customs. During transit the frame got badly damaged. Luckily, I've found a really good framer in nearby Murnau: Galerie Gewehr. I think they did a great job on my fox! It now hangs in my kitchen for all to enjoy.
And last but not least, I managed to finish a commission today: Emilia's baptism gown. I am sure the little baby-girl will look adorable in it!
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Thanks to all who have written encouraging comments on last week's blog post regarding my first successful art exhibition! As you can probably imagine, I am still mulling it all over. Getting rid of self-limiting beliefs I have held dear for nearly 28 years can't be done overnight. And isn't easy either. At least I can pinpoint with ease where my 'I am not an artist' belief comes from. It was firmly ingrained by my first art teacher in college. I've never quite understood why he disliked (or was it even hate?) me so much. But I turned from a very creative kid into somebody who focussed on perfecting techniques instead. Not only did he tell me to my face and in front of all my classmates that my drawing or painting was shitty, he would even tear it up. Now that's a real confidence booster...
Unfortunately, nobody was either able or willing to protect a sensitive 12-year-old from such a bully. He told my mother that he treated me the way he did because I should not think that I had what it takes to go to Art School. Never mind that I had never ever thought of going there in the first place. Fellow teachers I asked for help were merely telling me that art wasn't important enough to make a fuss. Luckily, I had a very different teacher the next year and I briefly enjoyed art classes again. Unfortunately, the rest of my college time I had to put up with the bully again. I skipped classes as often as I legally could and when I was there, I solved crosswords instead. And the rest is history. I became a scientist but wasn't happy as I did not fit the system. When I decided to quit and try to be a craftswoman it took till last week to see I was sending a mixed message. And that made a mess. Time to clean it up. I am aware that this might alienate people as they don't understand, but that's a risk I am prepared to take. Life is too short and very precious!
To end this blog post on a lighter note: the cats. As I am working on two projects at the moment, I've set up two frames. When I came into the studio this morning, both chairs were already occupied. Luckily, I was allowed to sit on one of them after breakfast. Sammie needed to harass some dragonflies and bring me one as a present (no worries, it was undamaged and released into the garden). Unfortunately, this is what happened during my lunch break:
What was I to do? As a good cat-mum, I just couldn't shoo either one of them from their respective chairs and resume working on either embroidery project. That's just not done and would disregard the Geneva Convention on the proper treatment of cats. Instead, I decided to sit behind my laptop and write a blog post :).
Last weekend, I participated in a small-scale art exhibition with a painter and a sculptor. It was my first time exhibiting as an artist rather than a craftswoman. And I made some interesting observations I'd like to share with you. Especially as this art exhibition was a so much more positive experience than the usual craft fair!
We promoted our exhibition through posters and flyers laid out at local shops. In addition, I promoted the event on Facebook, Instagram, my website and through my newsletter. However, the best medium to promote your event in rural Bavaria, is through a local newspaper. We were very fortunate to have two such papers taking an interest. And their articles were lovely. They even managed to take a decent picture of me!
Me and my embroideries took up residence in the sculptor's atelier. Two beautiful rooms with good natural light. I was allowed to hammer nails into the walls where ever I wanted. What luxury! My embroideries where more spaced-out than what is possible at a craft fair. I was able to group similar ones together and to add proper descriptions. Besides naming the piece, I also added materials and year of creation. There was plenty of space for people to mill around and get really close to my work. I also set up my trestles with my slate frame to show a piece of silk shading as work in progress. That proved to be a clever move, as people were very interested in this technique.
Our promotions had clearly worked. The day before I was setting up the exhibition, I was contacted by a buyer who didn't dare wait till the exhibition was officially open. She bought three of my pieces! During the two-day exhibition, I sold two more. In addition, I also sold a few pendants, a food cover and an embroidery kit. Much more than what I usually sell at a craft fair. And so far, I have never sold an embroidered item other than pendants, at a craft fair.
Until now, I have been reluctant to call myself an artist. And I get the giggles when somebody in my presence does. But I think it is perhaps time to make the transition from crafter to artist. For starters: I've been invited on the spot to two more art exhibitions as people where so impressed by my work. These exhibitions have equal low costs for me as this exhibition had. That seems to be the biggest difference between craft fairs and art exhibitions: the costs. This one was exceptionally low: part of the costs of the flyers and two cakes. But the others are very reasonable too: cost of flyers, drinks during the vernissage (if I want such a gathering!) and 5% of my sales. You see, no sales do thus not equal disaster as it does with craft fairs. Who knew?!
What I also found refreshing was the type of visitor. Yes, there were fellow stitchers and yes some made the same kind of silly remarks as they tend to do at craft fairs. But the majority were art lovers. And they are a different tribe altogether. They either like a piece or they don't like a piece. Fine by me, I can deal with that.
And my new tribe was very clear about their tastes and interests: goldwork and silk shading. With copies of local painters' work in canvas (think: my interpretation of Franz Marc's tiger). And since I sold so many pieces, I need to create some more of that in the coming months. Oh joy! But first I'd like to finish my ebook on the linen vestments from Tyrol. Because attending an art exhibition does take time. And with several commissions sitting on the shelves, the ebook is unfortunately lower on the list of priorities... Nevertheless, I hope you liked my report on my first-ever art exhibition. And maybe some of you should transition from crafter to artist too? Still giggling...
Jessica M. Grimm
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