When I went on my epic road trip by train a couple of weeks ago, I ended my trip in Dresden to visit the Rüstkammer (click the link for short YouTube videos of the exhibition and an online catalogue of the pieces). Although my husband lived in Dresden for about a year, I wasn't into embroidery back then and thus never visited this museum. How times have changed! However, the museum houses the largest collection of Renaissance clothing in the world. And this clothing was often elaborately embroidered. Due to the foresight of the royal family of Saxony, the clothes were collected instead of worn up or placed in the graves. If you study Tudor embroidery, Elizabethan embroidery or 17th-century stumpwork embroidery, this is a collection you absolutely want to visit. And whilst there is no paper version of the museum catalogue, there is an online one (just click the link a little further up and scroll to the bottom of the page). Both the museum website and the captions in the museum are also available in English. As I fully understand that not everybody can travel to Germany, I am going to introduce you to some spectacularly embroidered pieces. Enjoy!
Although there are very many beautifully embroidered pieces on display, the above mantle blew me away because of its sheer size and whimsical embroidery. It was made in 1611 for Johan Georg I of Saxony by Dresden embroiderer Hans Erich Friese. It was given to him by his mother Sophie of Brandenburg as a Christmas present. The embroidery on the cloak shows Dresden and the surrounding countryside. The cloak was part of a whole matching outfit and Johan Georg must have looked splendid wearing all those matching pieces.
Here you see a close-up of the embroidered seam. On the left, there is a lady in a red dress milking a cow. In the middle, there is a herdsman and towards the left, there is a man in red with a couple of swift hunting dogs (Johan Georg was an avid hunter). There are all sorts of watercraft on the river Elbe. And on the opposite river bank, there are wild animals standing on the hillocks beneath the trees.
As you can see, parts of the scenes are being repeated along the seam. Here we have another milkmaid on the right. The main scene consists of the bridge that connects the old part of town with the new part of town. The rectangular raft approaching the bridge has so much detail in it. And do you see the little red man with his fishing rod? I can just imagine how embroiderer Hans Erich Friese enjoyed himself and kept adding whimsical characters like these. There is so much to discover!
The embroidery itself consists of many techniques which can be found on 17th-century embroidery from England (think caskets!). Many elements have some form of padding. And Hans Erich also cleverly incorporates the background silk to form the sky and the river. And I think that the canopies of the trees are made of over-twisted silk.
As said, the embroidered blue cloak was part of an elaborate outfit. Hans Erich Friese must have embroidered for several years with a dedicated team of embroiderers in his Dresden workshop.
And look at the gorgeous hat! There are even pink dolphins swimming in the river Elbe. Not sure the water was clean enough for these animals to enjoy a swim in the river in the 17th-century ...
Do click on the provided links as there are many more pictures online for you the explore. There are also matching trousers and a lovely hunting bag.
It is with great sadness that I inform you that we had to put our cat Sammie down on Friday morning. We brought him, and his brother Timmie, home from the animal shelter in 2012 after returning home from teaching in San Fransisco for the RSN. Just before flying out to San Francisco, our 'third-hand' cat Stimpy had to be put down at the ripe old age of 21+. When we passed an animal shelter in San Francisco and studied the cat pictures in the window display, we knew we were ready for a new cat or two. It was actually a struggle to get five-year-oldish Timme & Sammie as the animal shelter wasn't sure we were the right match for them as both were severely traumatised. But, after hiding under the couch for a couple of days, they bacame the most sociable cats one could have hoped for. In recent years, they even started to greet visitors. Some of you had the 'priviledge' to open the balcony door repeatedly whilst sitting at your slate frame :). Seeing Timmie grieve by hiding under the couch again and by searching for his brother is a touching reminder that animals are far wiser than we often think.
Please note, that I am taking my creative break until the 31th of August. The next blog post will be published on the 5th of September!
New project and website changes
Some of my students are great enablers! During last week's goldwork workshop in Glentleiten, Mina showed us a neat idea of a stitched heatmap in the form of a tree. I was intrigued. As the whole concept of stitching a heatmap was new to me, I did a Google when I was home. Oh my! Some of these heatmaps are very clever indeed and produce beautiful art. You guessed it: I needed one. As I loved the more abstract varieties best, I decided to buy my pattern from Tanglewear on Etsy. As I am not afraid to customize a project once I've bought the basic idea, I am going to show you what I did. It is going to be very colourful and fancy. And something else: You might have noticed that my website now comes in three languages: English, Deutsch and Nederlands. More on that at the end of this post!
What is a stitched heatmap and how does it work? It basically is a sequence of colours in the order of the rainbow that corresponds to the daily maximum and minimum temperature for your chosen location. A piece of nifty software or code translates these two data points into an embroidery cross-stitch pattern. There are abstract heatmap patterns and non-abstract heatmap patterns (the leaves on a tree, for instance). No two stitched heatmaps are completely alike (unless you live in the exact same spot and do it for the same timespan). It is the perfect project to stitch on every day. The best thing: you have no idea what the pattern will look like when you stitch 'in the now'. After all, I don't know yet what today's maximum and minimum temperatures are going to be. Your personal mystery stitch along!
As mentioned: I love to break the rules a little and customize materials to my taste. Raina of Tanglewear provides a pattern based on DMC stranded-cotton. However, once you get your head around the principle, changing this to a thread range you like is very easy. I spend the best part of a day coming up with a colour range in DeVere Yarns silk (#6). They all lived in my stash and this is a lovely project to work in silk. In the short video, you can see all the colours I picked in order. That alone looks pretty yummy to me!
Above is a list of all the DeVere colours that will be in my heatmap. And next to it is the first week of my heatmap (the 11th of July on the left and the 17th of July on the right). I am stitching on 48ct linen (Sotema 30L Ricamo colour Candido). As DeVere silk #6 is very fine, I go over each stitch of the cross-stitch twice. This is in effect stitching with two threads but without the hassle of trying to keep correct tension on two very whispy silk threads :).
As I am living in the foothills of the Alps, we get quite erratic weather. This will translate into a pretty striped heatmap with lots of colour changes from day to day. Stitching each day is no big deal: 84 crosses. That's all. So I am thinking of stitching back into the past as well. This would produce my own documentation of local climate change. Something that has been on my mind a lot since really freaky weather started to happen here a couple of years ago and continues to happen ever since. If I have inspired you to produce your own (epic) band sampler of local weather, please do let me know in the comments!
But that was not all the workshop at Glentleiten sparked! Maria told me that it is really hard to find me on the internet when you use a search engine with German keywords. When I started to look into this, it soon became clear that this is due to the algorithm of the biggest search engine of them all. Google favours content written in German when searched in Germany. No matter how relevant the English content is to your search, you are probably only shown lesser fitting results that are available in German. Bummer.
The easiest solution is to create a website with multiple language options. No small feat for a person as dyslectic as I am ... I decided to bite the bullet and hire a Weebly website developer to implement the structural changes. Vladimir was insanely quick and fantastic to work with. All subpages on my website are now available in English, Deutsch and Nederlands (it is a very basic translation at the moment, but it will be cleaned up over the next couple of months). You can switch between these languages at the top right. Unfortunately, Weebly does not allow you to translate the webshop part of the website. That needs to stay in English. For the moment, I am not translating the blog into Deutsch or Nederlands either. However, you can sign up for a monthly newsletter in either Deutsch or Nederlands in which I will summarize that month's blog content and English newsletter content in either Deutsch or Nederlands. The first monthly newsletters are planned for the end of July.
When interest in either or both of these newsletters gains traction, I might decide to start translating the blog as well. This means that when you want to read the blog content in Deutsch or Nederlands, use the button below to sign-up for the monthly newsletter in either Deutsch or Nederlands!
Goldwork Workshop Glentleiten
Last weekend, I taught a goldwork embroidery workshop at the Open-Air Museum Glentleiten near Munich. I set up class in the living room of building 61 (click here for some lovely pictures). This building was once a farmhouse built in 1566 (with parts of an older building dating to the late 15th century!) in the county of Altötting before it was transferred to the museum. The living room has lovely windows and is generally bright enough to embroider in when you sit near one of these windows. However, I made sure each student had a magnifier lamp too. My idea is to do at least one of these workshops in Glentleiten each year. So let me show you what such a workshop looks like. Maybe I'll whet your appetite :).
For my courses and workshops, I'll take a maximum of 10 students. This assures that you'll get plenty of my attention. As the museum has many spaces to choose from, the number of students determines which building I will set up the classroom in. Classes run from 10 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon. As the museum does not close until 6, you'll have plenty of time to explore the other buildings in the beautifully manicured museum park. Each day, we'll break for lunch at about 12:30 and resume stitching at 13:30. The museum has two lovely cafes where you can get a cooked lunch, sandwiches, soups, cakes and some old-fashioned local foods. You either eat in a historical dining room or in the beer garden. However, it is perfectly fine to bring a packed lunch and find yourself a nice spot to eat.
And this is the 'workstation' each students gets equipped with. I'll loan you a Lowery Workstand and a magnifier light. There is thus no need to bring these heavy items with you to class. As I am on a bit of a mission to get everybody stitching on a proper slate frame (it is okay to do certain types of embroidery in hand or use a hoop, but goldwork embroidery is generally not suited), your embroidery kit contains a proper slate frame for you to take home. All future designs will fit this particular slate frame. My 'travelling' classroom can be set up almost everywhere. If you are interested in booking a workshop for your venue, please let me know.
In this particular case, I had transferred the design onto the embroidery linen for the students. I've used the prick-and-pounce method with iron gall ink and a fine brush. These are methods that would have been known to medieval embroiderers. Dressing the slate frame was done in class. Students have access to videos in which both the transfer method and the dressing of the slate frame are shown. This means that you can fully concentrate on the stitching whilst in class and that there is minimal need for jotting things down.
And these are the results after about 10 hours of tuition! I will make sure that you have stitched every technique during class (bar some minor very simple things one really only can do once most of the embroidery is finished). As I perfectly know that life is busy for most of us, students are usually unable to continue stitching when they get home from a workshop. That's why I provide full video instructions of all parts of the workshop.
This year's goldwork embroidery workshop at Glentleiten was a great success! Visitors were able to watch the stitching and ask questions. I was able to give out my business card to those interested in attending a workshop in the future. Visitors remarked how much they appreciated to encounter 'life' in the museum building.
A huge thank-you to the museum Glentleiten who do not charge me for using their building. The only money they make comes from the entrance fees of the students attending the workshop. That's a rare deal these days. I am looking forward to seeing 'my ladies' again next year. If you are interested in joining us, make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter!
After I originally published my blog post on certain similarities between some orphreys held in Museum Catharijneconvent and the orphreys on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece, an interesting discussion developed with Andrejka of Štikarca needle at work (do visit the website for beautiful embroidery and an interesting blog!). Although Andrejka does not agree with my observations, she did mention a third set of orphreys with a similar architectural background. Reason enough to explore the topic further. And please do chime in with your observations and opinions as they are very much appreciated!
To clarify why I think the backgrounds of all three sets of orphreys are related to each other, I have made line drawings of their canopies (this term was coined by Dr Beatrice Jansen in 1948; more on her work later). The squareness of the front of the canopy with the two open 'triangles' of the buttresses above the arch is the same in all three pieces. The actual vault differs a bit. In the pieces from the Museum Catharijneconvent and those from the collection of Sam Fogg, it is a rib vault typical for the Gothic period (either a single one or a double one). The orphreys on the cope of the Order of the Golden Fleece display a barrel vault. Although barrel vaults were known in antiquity, they were re-discovered in the Renaissance. Interestingly, the colour scheme for all three is the same: red/orange for the inside of the arch, triangles and columns and blue for the vaults.
Strangely, the Sam Fogg catalogue does compare their orphreys with those of ABM t2107 and ABM t2165, but not with ABM t2114, ABM t2215 or BMH t622, although they are in the same museum and are much more identical to their own pieces. For me, the form of the canopy of the orphreys held by Museum Catharijneconvent, Sam Fogg and the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece stand out from all the other 'Dutch' canopies out there. Interestingly, Dr Beatrice Jansen was also not able to assign these to one of her 'canopy groups'. She sees BMH t622 as a stand-alone design (she was clearly unaware of ABM t2114 and ABM t2115).
The origin of the ABM t2114 and ABM t2115 is given as Northern Netherlands and the date as AD 1490-1500. However, BMH t622 is seen as originating in the Southern Netherlands and dating to c. AD 1490. The vestments of the Order of the Golden Fleece were made in the Southern Netherlands between AD 1425-1440. Sometimes the diaper patterns can help further pinpoint the likely place of origin. The diaper pattern seen in the orphreys from the Sam Fogg collection is one I had not seen before (it is a basket weave with four linked squares in the middle and all lines are worked double). ABM t2114 also sports an unusual chevron pattern behind Andrew the Apostle. Currently, there are only six other pieces in my database. Unfortunately, these pieces date from AD 1400-1599 and were made in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and possibly England. The orphreys on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece do not sport diaper patterns.
And then there is this strange practice of showing some figures turned away from the viewer. In ABM t2115 it is Phillip the Apostle. On the Sam Fogg orphreys, it is a male figure with a scimitar (Middle Eastern sword). Some figures on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece are also turned away from the viewer. The figures on the orphreys from Museum Catharijneconvent and those in the collection of Sam Fogg are stitched completely in a form of silk shading. Those on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece are stitched in or nue.
Clearly, there is a big difference in quality between these three pieces. The copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece are the most elaborate and best-worked pieces. The pieces of the Museum Catharijneconvent differ a bit in quality. Some are very well made; others were clearly stitched by a less-experienced person. Nevertheless, they are all of better quality than those in the collection of Sam Fogg. My idea is, that the makers of the orphreys held at Museum Catharijneconvent and those in the collection of Sam Fogg might have been located in the same city in the Northern or Southern Netherlands at the end of the 15th-century. Maybe, one of them saw the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece and took some of the design elements, adapted the embroidery style to suit his client's purses and created new orphreys. What do you think?
Garrett, R. & M. Reeves, 2018. Late Medieval and Renaissance textiles. Sam Fogg, London.
Jansen, B.M., 1948. Laat Gotisch Borduurwerk in Nederland. L.J.C. Boucher, Den Haag.
Leeflang, M., Schooten, K. van (Eds.), 2015. Middeleeuwse Borduurkunst uit de Nederlanden. WBOOKS, Zwolle.
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