Tadadada! here is my finished advent window. We celebrated its opening on the 16th with mulled wine and minced pies (self-bought in Salisbury :)). In the end, I managed to stitch up twelve Santas. Until Christmas Eve, each day another window will open. And all windows stay open until the 8th of January. Perfect for a winter walk. And, just a thought, wouldn't this be a perfect way to showcase embroidery projects from your embroidery or crafts group? The get together each evening is so much fun!
I am leaving you to your Christmas preparations with this wonderful view from my balcony this morning:
First of all, thanks to you all for the many supportive comments regarding my husband's job hunt! So very kind of you. We'll keep working on it and I am sure somewhere a door will open again.
And secondly: I received my prize today from the Stitch your heart out competition of Inspirations Magazine. The lovingly wrapped parcel contained a copy of the book 'The redwork circus' by Jenny McWhinney, one of my favourite embroidery designers and the ONLY book I didn't already have by her on my shelves :). Furthermore, the parcel contained the 'Robin' embroidery kit by the very talented Nicola Jarvis. And to top it off, I also received a packet of postcards and a tea towel with the 'Frosty Garden' design by Nicola Jarvis. It really felt like Christmas. The fox itself is still down-under enjoying the warm sunshine. Inspirations is planning a really wonderful thing for you all; fingers crossed it will come to fruition!
Thirdly (this is the last point, I promise): I've opened my own Etsy-Shop to sell my hand-stitched pendants. Normally, I sell these when I demonstrate embroidery at the museum in Oberammergau. However, as the museum is closed during the winter months, I figured I might as well try to sell them online. A permanent link to my Etsy-Shop can be found on my shop page.
So, let's now explore the main objective of this blog post, shall we?
As many of you know, I love exploring different embroidery techniques. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about French boutis embroidery and my good friend and fellow embroidery tutor Marina Berts from Switzerland suggested that I'll give Glazig embroidery a go. When you say Glazig you say Pascal Jaouen. He is a designer and embroiderer from France who developed historical Glazig surface embroidery from Brittany into a vibrant modern art form. Do explore his website as the beautiful pictures of his haute-couture creations are stunning!
So, as I really liked his designs and was up for a new challenge, I ordered one of his kits. Thanks to Google translate and my very rusty school French, I managed the ordering process just fine. A couple of days later, my shiny kit arrived. Now I had to tackle even more French :).
The kit contains a piece of linen with the design screen-printed on. I am not a huge fan of this as it means that I'll need to cover all the lines and can't adapt the design much (in fact, when I started stitching I soon noticed that there are design lines on my fabric, that are not to be found on the photograph of the design...). It further contained a piece of thick woollen cloth, a needle, a crystal cabochon, pre-cut silk #12 perle threads and instructions. All prettily packed in a super handy tin.
I started by translating the instructions. There isn't much there. Apart from a short note on Pascal and Glazig embroidery, it only tells you that you shouldn't use a hoop, you should baste the two layers of fabric together, keep your threads short, start with the chain stitches and don't wash afterwards as the wool will shrink. And that's it. On the back of the instructions is a clear picture of the finished design (the one that doesn't exactly exactly match the lines on my pre-printed fabric) and a working sketch detailing which stitches go where. The instructions to the 10 different stitches used in the design can be found on separate cards also packed into the kit. This is of course a clever solution to keep your kits, and especially your instructions, economical.
And this is how far I've come after I sorted the threads and cut them to the recommended length. And yes, I do use a hoop :). The fact that I can't wash the piece after I've embroidered it, made me decide to use a hoop. This will mean that I am not exactly following Pascal's instructions as apparently you stitch the chain stitches only through the linen and not through the wool. I can't quite envisage this, not even when I would hold the piece in my hands. I suspect that you do scoop up some wool every now and then.
The wool is a mystery to me, to be honest. In the instructions it says that the wool prevents puckering and gives a dimensional effect to the embroidery. Hmmm, actually, the non-puckering and the dimensional effect exclude each other, in my opinion. And looking at the picture of the finished design, it doesn't quite work. What I suspect is that using the linen onto the wool recreates the original feeling of stitching on traditional clothing. Glazig embroidery was used to adorn the men's clothes of the Quimper region in Brittany.
And see all the thread tails hanging on my piece? Although the instructions say that you should start with the chain stitches and then commence into the more complicated stitches, I could tell from the picture that one and the same thread was used in going from one type of stitch to the next. So, I will finish all my chain stitches first, but will still be able to continue into the next type of stitch with the same thread. And I do like the stitching! The colours are so vibrant and the design is so much fun. I can't wait to start some of the stitches specific to this type of embroidery! I'll keep you posted on my progress in a further post.
Meanwhile, would this kit be for you? Not being fluent in French isn't a problem as Google translate provides you with a decent enough translation. However, if you are used to step-by-step instructions, this kit doesn't provide that. You have to figure out a lot for yourself and fix a few flaws here and there. So, if you like Pascal's vibrant designs as much as I do, you love an interpretational challenge and you are prepared to fork out between €35 and €75 plus pricey shipping, then go for it! In the meantime, I would love to hear if you know of other embroidery designers offering kits in a special 'old' embroidery technique. Please do leave a comment below!
Me and my husband had a wonderful time visiting London and Salisbury. I bought some lovely silks at the Silk Society and browsed the speciality threads and beads at the London Bead Company. However, we both enjoyed our trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum with the Opus Anglicanum exhibition the most. As not all my readers are in the luxury position to hop over to England to visit this outstanding medieval embroidery exhibition, let's review the excellent exhibition catalogue!
The exhibition catalogue 'English Medieval Embroidery Opus Anglicanum' weighs in at a staggering four pounds, has 310 pages with many (and I really mean MANY) high quality pictures. In my opinion, the pictures are the real gem of this catalogue. Not only are they so detailed that you can see the individual stitches, they are also much better in conveying the detail and the vividness of the embroideries than the originals in the exhibition. Because, as always, ancient textiles need protection form light and thus the levels of lighting in the exhibition are nowhere near to those used when they photographed these objects. In addition, many more objects are illustrated in the 7 chapter's texts than were present in the exhibition! Especially those residing in other parts of the world. So who knows, maybe you are living near to one of these gems and you could easily go for a visit!
The first chapter details the technical part of the Opus Anglicanum embroidery and when it was in use. It describes the silk split stitching of the figures and the underside couching of the gold threads for the background. I was most surprised to read that medieval gold thread makers were able to make a kind of gilt Japanese Thread only 0.25-0.30 mm thick!
The second chapter describes the use of the different embroidered vestments in the Roman Catholic church. It pinpoints Opus Anglicanum embroideries held in museums and churches ranging from Hildesheim in Germany, Vienna in Austria to Chicago in the US. This diaspora has helped the survival of these medieval embroideries after the Reformation.
The lives of London embroiderers and the details of their trade are described in the third chapter. Interestingly, in the older records from the 13th and 14th century, women make up the majority of the work force. Then men start to push them from the documentary record. Maybe this had something to do with the craft becoming better organised and the establishment of a guild? A surviving bill shows that women embroiderers were paid far less than men...
Chapter four shows that English embroideries were very popular with the papal curia in continental Europe. Examples can be found in the Cathedral treasuries and museums of Italy and Spain. However, by the 14th century, Opus Anglicanum starts to become less fashionable and embroideries from Italy take over.
The fifth chapter places the art form of embroidery in a wider artistic context. Many parallels between paintings and embroideries are illuminated. Whereas chapter six looks at the changing embroideries on vestments dating from the second half of the 14th century up to the Reformation. The trade becomes more fragmented with prospective buyers assembling the parts of vestments from different sources. Embroidery is increasingly appliqued onto a background.
I best enjoyed the seventh chapter which placed the English embroideries into a wider mainland European context. This greatly enhances my knowledge of embroidery on medieval vestments; particularly from more central European countries like the Czech Republic. The remaining part of the book is devoted to a thorough catalogue of all the pieces in the exhibition. Beautiful detailed pictures provide a rich banquet of eye candy! The best of the best? The Toledo cope from AD 1320-30 covered all over with saints, scenes of the life of the Virgin and wonderfully detailed birds. This is my absolute favourite; don't you agree?
The catalogue is widely available through online sources like the V&A shop and Amazon and comes at a price of 35 GBP or about $ 75. And then there is another brand new book on the topic, also available from the V&A: The age of Opus Anglicanum. It contains nine scientific papers on the subject, mainly written by the people who also contributed essays aimed at the general public to the exhibition catalogue. I haven't read it yet, but if you are also, like me, interested in a more thorough covering of the subject, this might be worth its 89 GBP or $ 143. However, the quality of the pictures is much better in the catalogue. More interesting however, is its promise written on the inside sleeve: 'This volume, the first to appear in a series on English Medieval Embroidery...'. Yeah, bring them on good people of the V&A!
So, for a number of you, my dear readers, it is now time to prompt Santa to make sure you find a copy of the exhibition catalogue under your Christmas tree :).
On a more personal note: sadly, upon our return from England, my husband was told that the company he works for closes its archaeological department. Not the sort of Christmas' present we wished for, I can assure you. As I now help him in finding a new job, it will undoubtedly impair on the time I can spend on my own embroidery endeavours, but I will try to keep my weekly blog posts upright!
Jessica M. Grimm
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