This weekend, I taught a goldwork class at my studio. It meant that I spend last week updating the class model and translating the instructions from Dutch to German. Why update a class model? Well, we embroidery tutors are mere humans and it sometimes turns out that what we think is a good idea for an embroidery class, in fact isn't. My old pomegranate model used Japanese Thread #12 to fill the pomegranate halves. It works up quicker as the finer Japanese Thread #8, but is a pest to get around the tight corners neatly. So I swapped that out for the finer version.
Furthermore, the old model had a red core out of long-and-short stitch in red silk. It is a smallish area and thus no problem for intermediately experienced embroiderers. But wrapping your head around the concept of long-and-short stitch when you are a new hand: not so easy. So I swapped that for a piece of red silk attached with Vliesofix. And I updated the leaves, just because I didn't like the old ones. And last but not least, I threw in a bit more sparkle by adding spangles for the pomegranate seeds. What do you think?
Want to try your hand at creating this pomegranate? I am teaching this at ArtTextil in Dachau on 12th of June and from my home studio on the 17th of September. I am also offering a five day goldwork course were you can work your own design or recreate something you saw in a book or on the internet. This course takes place from the 28th of March till the 1st of April. Only two places left, so hurry! And for those of you not near, but still very dear, to me: would you be interested in a download of the instructions and/or a full kit? Please leave a comment below.
One of Saturday's students brought with her a book she wrote a contribution for: Mit Leinen leben by Ernestine Reisinger-Brüger. It is a really nice coffee table style book on linen furnishings. Beautifully photographed and the texts are full of useful snippets of information on how to choose the right kind of linen and how to care for linen. At the end of the book is a list with suppliers of good quality European linen as well as a list with white work embroidery teachers in Germany.
The book isn't an embroidery book with instructions. However, it is packed with pure inspiration. If you like cross stitch and white work embroidery and you generally love the feel of a well-made book with superb photography, then this is for you. You can order the book through the author or on Amazon.
Last week, the mailman delivered this to my door. My parents had found it in an antiquity shop in the Netherlands and they were told that it came from Switzerland. It is partly cut out and partly has a temporary seam. The thread used is white and has lost is sheen in some areas. As the whole piece was quite dirty with rusty stains, I decided to gently wash it. I soaked it in detergent and rinsed it thoroughly. Steaming it brought back some plumpness to the embroidery. Although not really visible in the pictures, the piece greatly improved!
I will take the piece with me to Appenzell next week and hear what my tutor Verena Schiegg has to say. I'll keep you posted on this one.
This weekend another chapter was added to my pursuit of learning Appenzeller whitework. Let me introduce you to the Möggler. The Möggler is a filling stitch used in drawn thread work. As always, cutting out threads makes your fabric weaker and is therefore left till the end. In this particular case it meant that I had to finish all the Blatten areas (padded satin stitch), seeding and my Löchli (eyelets).
And then disaster struck. Had I only paid head to Trish's good advice: Embroidery forever, housework whenever. I made a wrong move whilst cleaning the bathroom and since then my left shoulder has been sore. It is getting better, but I can't use my left arm for longer than about 30 mins. when stitching. Oh, pooh.
This meant that the above is not perfect as I simply didn't have the time to take stitched areas out that weren't up to my usual standard. On the other hand, this is a sampler and a lot of the designs have repetitive areas. So I just strived to do better on the next element. And I can see myself progress nicely in this particular part.
The other thing I had to come to terms with was the Spengen (padding). The Appenzeller way of padding is a really wild one. Or that's at least how I perceive it. For starters, there is no split stitching the contours of the element you want to pad. Then there are no neat alternating layers of satin stitches. The embroideress just bangs in stitches until she has reached a satisfactory amount of padding. In the process, she takes care to have only a minimum amount of thread on the back (this saves thread when adding the satin stitches as they have to go around less 'bulk' on the back). This was not for me. As, due to an eye condition, I live in a 2D world, I have no way of telling when this 'satisfactory amount of padding is reached' and, more importantly, if the result is even. No even amount of padding, no smooth satin stitching on top. So, I reverted back to the 'orderly' way of padding and am a much happier bunny now.
What did I add? Four areas of drawn thread work in the tulip-like flower heads. For each tiny area, I cut two threads and left three threads standing. In both directions. Every other 'hole' was filled with a Möggler using a thread approximately half the thickness of the thread used for the satin stitches. As the filling area is of irregular shape, it was a bit of a puzzle to put my Möggler in. And as the final flower head was worked at the end of the day with the light fading, I will have to do it again sometime in the future.
In two weeks' time, I will attend a four-day course with Verena in Appenzell. I've decided to focus more on these filling stitches. Using them in tiny irregular spaces was a big challenge as you never come into a comfortable rhythm. So next time, I will start a sampler with neat rectangles.
Want to try your hand at the Möggler? Have a look at Luzine Happel's website on Schwalm embroidery. The same stitch is known as Rosenstich in Schwalm whitework and is also used in Hardanger embroidery. Here is the step by step explanation in german and in english.
And for those of you coming to visit, you are now greeted by a shining sign. Hope to see you soon!
Last week saw the launch of my first five-day embroidery courses new-style. Students can either bring their own design, make one up using my extensive library of embroidery books or simply pick a ready-made design from one of those books. Equally, they can choose to work a small design in an embroidery hoop or opt for a more professional approach and use a slate frame. I've also moved away from the very formal approach of my training at the Royal School of Needlework. Good as it was, it has proven not to be suitable for copying one to one for mainland Europe. So, what did we do?
Ellen from the Netherlands decided to create a design out of pictures she had found on the internet. It works really well to copy bits of designs you like, re-group them and amalgamate them into a new design. And then the fun part comes: choosing colours. Although traditional crewel embroidery involves a woollen thread on linen, you can equally use embroidery floss, perle and the like.
Elizabeth from Augsburg had brought with her a magnificent wall paper she wanted to recreate in stitch. An exotic jungle view with nice vivid colours. As both projects were quite big, and will last them well beyond the five days we had, they both opted to work on a slate frame. For larger projects that are not table cloths or the like, this will always be my preferred option to work with. OK, it takes some time to set up, but it will keep your fabric drum tight for a long time and give you a lovely overall stitching experience. Soon you will find a new breed of slate frames in my webshop. I'll keep you posted on that.
The ladies had so much fun experimenting with different stitches and colour combinations. Pomegranates with silver plated spangles and deep red beads added extra interest. As did a magnificently colourful bird with its many feathers.
And these were the results after five days of hard work, yet relaxed stitching. I think they did marvellously, don't you think? We all agreed that we could have added another week. If you would like to join me for a week of stitching, you will find all the details here. The next course is a goldwork course and runs from the 28st of March until the 1st of April. Hurry as there are only two spaces left!
One of the perks of becoming a member of local artisan groups is that you learn of other master craft people living locally. Not only is this very inspiring for my own artistic development and discovering new ways of marketing my products, it also means that I can tap into a vast pool of makers. And they can, of course, make lovely embroidery tools.
These beautiful wooden thread spools are made by a local wood turning master. He used local timber and oiled the finished product. It results in an incredibly smooth surface with a nice touch. Each spool can store up to six different threads and each thread end can be secured into its own groove. A perfect way to stitch in style. You can order your spool here.
I am also in the process of changing suppliers for my embroidery hoops and stands. Germany has its own renowned company of masterly crafted embroidery hoops: Klass & Gessmann. They were started in 1877 and have kept the tradition going all these years.
From now on you will find their beautifully made wooden seat frame in my webshop. You can read a review of this seat frame on Mary Corbet's website. This particular seat frame is more sturdy than the previous one I sold and especially the hoop is deeper which will help with maintaining proper tension of the fabric. Over the months, as my old products sell out, I will add more of their sturdy and well-crafted embroidery hoops to my webshop. Equally, more products of the master craftsman will turn up too.
The coming week will be an exciting one as the first of a series of week-long embroidery courses will take place in my studio. You'll read all about it in next week's blog post.
Jessica M. Grimm
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