Visitors of my shop will know that I carry the full range of perle #8 and #12, as well as silk ribbon in 2mm, 4mm and 7mm by House of Embroidery. Apart from the fact that their yarns and ribbons are absolutely beautifully dyed and top quality, their business ethos is great too. "As a fair-trade company, House of Embroidery prides itself on the sustained empowerment of previously unskilled South Africans. The majority of the team comprises of women, many of whom were previously unemployed and who currently serve as the main breadwinners in their respective families." it reads on their website. Great to think that your next shopping spray helps to sustain their excellent work, isn't it?
So here follows a little inspirations on what you can stitch with these yummy threads. My simple wreath of Erica consists of two basic stitches: stem stitch and French knots. Using variegated perle #12 in green and three purple-pink tones, makes this simple design come to live.
I get often asked to give tips and workshops on working with silk ribbon; so here comes a bit of inspiration for that too. Wooden beads can be easily wrapped with silk ribbon provided the hole is smooth and large enough. You can help a bit here by inserting the blade of a pair of inexpensive scissors in the hole and give it a few turns. The hole widens and gets smoothed at the same time. Beads can represent a myriad of things, but are especially suitable for imitating all kinds of berries. Here is a willow wreath in perle #9 (stem stitch) scattered with blue berries, rose hips and clusters of yellow holly berries. The rose hips are made of wooden olive beads wrapped with 7mm silk ribbon, the other berries are small round wooden beads wrapped with 4mm silk ribbon. To dress the willow wreath further, leaves are clustered around the fruits using leaf stitch and 7mm silk ribbon.
And last but not least, present your work in your own hall of fame. I like to use the inexpensive Ribba frames made by IKEA. Their square 23x23cm frames in black and white are very deep and thus perfect for these little embroidery gems. For larger pieces, IKEA has a 50x50 cm version too.
On a different topic. My black work lion skull and a picture of me teaching at the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco features in Lucy Barter's Forever Embroidery Studio newsletter! How cool is that? Lucy trained as an apprentice at the Royal School of Needlework and ran their San Francisco satellite for many years. Lucy now embarks on a new leg of her journey as an independent embroidery school. Apart from being a great teacher, Lucy is really nice too! If you are ever in de Bay Area, do check for embroidery classes. You can sign up for her quarterly newsletter packed with inspiration and tips be sending an email.
On Friday and Saturday, I thought a lovely group of women how to stitch my crewel design Carol's Rose at ArtTextil in Dachau near Munich. We had so much fun that we agreed to do another two-day course at the end of October featuring silk shading. Keep an eye on my website for further details.
ArtTextil is a partner of the Afghan-German Guldusi embroidery project started by textile artist Pascale Goldenberg. Afghan Women in the Laghmani area 60km to the north of Kabul stitch wonderful little gems that are sold through the website and for instance at ArtTextil. This provides the women with a respectable way to earn an income and gives them self-esteem. I've bought my third piece featuring exotic birds. The piece is stitched on old sheets with Madeira yarn. On my piece, embroideress Rana used traditional Bokhara couching, chain stitch, satin stitch and blanket stitch.
Have a look at the Guldusi website and be inspired by the exotic art of Afghan embroidery! The website also features technical information on the types of embroidery practised by these women, as well as background information on the work of this little gem of a charity. Why not buy one of these little gems and incorporate it into one of your textile projects?
Since I spent all of last week analysing medieval animal bone from Middelburg, Netherlands, my hands are quite raw and unsuitable for stitching. However, not only was I rewarded with a lot of interesting butchery waste, the material also contained several bone skates, an awl, two combs and a flute. I'll happily nurse my hands back to good health with lots of nice hand creme in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I'll work on my needle binding skills. Needle binding is not some form of Uri Geller magic with sewing needles. It is one of the oldest techniques to produce textile from fibre.
As an archaeologist, I had known about needle binding (or Nadelbinden in German and naaldbinden in Dutch) for a long time. On medieval fairs, you often see women producing mittens, socks and hats with wool and a large bone or antler needle. Comparable needles are known in the archaeological record since about 30.000 years ago. Since these needles could have been used for other sewing duties as well, it is hard to say if needle binding is as old. The earliest pieces of needle binding so far found, come from the cave Nahal Hemar in Israel and are almost 10.000 years old. The Neolithic had already started in this area and thus these people were making pots, cultivating crops and keeping animals. Nearer to home, fishing nets found in Friesack (Germany) and Tybrind Vig (Denmark) and date to the Mesolithic Ertebölle Culture (due to the Neolithic starting much earlier in the Levant than in Northern Europe, these Mesolithic finds are actually a bit younger than the Neolithic Israeli finds). From the Iron Age onwards, there are a whole host of needle binding pieces preserved from all over the world. Especially the wet conditions of Northern Europe are favourable to the preservation of textiles. As needle binding produces a fabric that is built up like the coiled shell of a snail, it is usually mittens, socks, hats or nets that are found.
So what do modern people need to replicate this ancient technique that is so different from modern knitting or crochet? First of all: good instructions! Go find yourself a nice teacher who shows you the basics. I attended a two evening course with teacher Barbara Samuel at ArtTextil in Dachau, Germany. She was the best! Second: obtain a nice bone or antler needle. They are around €15-20 and well worth the money. Preferably, go and see your needle before you buy. As these are large pieces of equipment and none two are the same, it is important that you and your needle bond :). Added bonus of attending a course: needles to try out. Thirdly, get yourself the book 'Nadelbinden was ist denn das?' by Ulrike Claßen-Büttner. This book is a real gem! It not only explains the technique in a technical textile classification way (important for textile geeks like me), it also has very good step by step instructions and pictures on how to produce the different stitches. And it has a detailed finds catalogue, beginner's projects, advanced ideas and a small picture gallery of modern ideas. If you click on her name you are transported to her very informative website in needle binding. Oh, and yes, you need thick pure wool that felts well.
But, the whole needle binding thing comes with a huge health and safety warning.... It is super addictive. Especially for those people who do not particularly bond well with any hobbies that involve either two needles or a nasty little hook. It is indeed very appealing to those of us who like their needles with an eye. As you can see in the pictures above, after my first evening in class and several trial pieces, I needled myself a colourful round hat. Since my hands are still too rough for stitching, I am now needeling a tapered blue version for my husband. Next winter, he will be the tallest living dwarf on earth :). And after that, it is on to needling mittens. And then the Queen of projects: socks.
What do you think? Did you know about the technique and would you like to try it? Please leave your comments below!
Last week the Mayoress called to let me know that Andreas Baar of the Münchener Merkur paper would come to interview me. After all, a Dutchie stitching traditional Bavarian braces is a bit of a story, don't you agree? So here is Andreas' nice story about me and my folk stitching:
And now I am a bit of a local celebrity... Visiting the post office, my local cake dealer, the bookshop or waiting for the buss is no longer an anonymous activity. People's reactions are heart warming! And it has brought me many new stitching enthusiasts. Last Wednesday, I started a two day class on stitching Bavarian braces. We had a jolly good time at the Gunkelstube. Next month, I'll be teaching monogramming on Bavarian folk shirts. If you are interested, there are still a few spaces available. Please contact me.
On the stitching side of things: here is the progress on my silk shading Hollyhock. It is slow going, but I am looking forward to the finished piece. It will be on display at Nadel & Faden in September. Would you like to learn silk shading? Then why not join me at one of my classes at Nadel & Faden? You can register here.
Last but not least: this is the current view of my embroidery studio. Where has all the stitching go, I hear you wonder. Well, my dear husband brought me some medieval animal bone from Middelburg, Netherlands. I will be analysing six lovely boxes full of butchery remains for the rest of this week. No more stitching. Sometimes a girl just needs to make some money :)!
My guilty pleasure are richly decorated, sparkling chasubles (in the mists of time, one of my ancestors for sure must have been a crow). A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the chasubles designed by Leo Peters when they were on display in the Willibrordus church in Deurne, Netherlands. Peters worked in the style of the Art Nouveau with which he was successful around 1915-1920. His designs are very characteristic and easily recognisable once you have seen one. So here comes a bit of eye candy:
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