Today I am going to review a lovely little book most of you would probably never have come across: Traditional Icelandic Embroidery by Elsa E. Gudjonsson written in 2006. In only 96 pages, Elsa gives an overview of Icelandic embroidery made during the past 500 years in English (!). Being a rather barren island where almost everything needs to be imported, the embroidery is of a special nature too. Whilst mainland Europe uses silks both for the threads and for the fabrics, Icelanders used wool on wool or linen. Both for ecclesiastical embroidery and for embroidery on folk dress and household items. The use of metal threads is rare.
The book consists of two parts: History & Techniques and 23 pages of original patterns. The later have all been transcribed as cross-stitch patterns with a key for DMC stranded cotton. The book describes several techniques which are characteristic of Icelandic embroidery: Refilsaumur (laid and couched work), Glitsaumur & Skakkaglit (straight darning and pattern darning), Gamli krosssaumurinn (long-armed cross-stitch), Augnsaumur (eyelets), Pellsaumur (Florentine stitch or bargello), Sprang (darned net and drawn thread work) and Blomstursaumur Skattering (floral embroidery). Each technique is explained with stitch diagrams and pictures of historical pieces. I was especially surprised to find whole embroideries worked in long-armed cross-stitch after AD 1550. They remind me of the much earlier embroidered vestments now in St. Paul im Lavanttal, Austria. Interestingly, the name "Gamli krosssaumurinn" means old cross-stitch. Krosssaumur is the modern Icelandic name for cross-stitch embroidery. As for Continental Europe, modern cross-stitch does not feature in medieval embroidery.
Unfortunately, very little is known about Icelandic embroidery in the Middle Ages due to a lack of surviving pieces and an absence in the written sources. Especially the latter is remarkable as there are plenty of sources describing textiles. However, the few sources that exist indicate that women were the embroiderers. There are no instances of men being named as embroiderers. Especially upper-class women and nuns were involved in the production of high-end embroideries for the church. This tradition continued after Iceland became Lutheran in AD 1550.
One particularly saucy embroidery story involves Helga Sigurdardottir. She was the wife (yup, they did things a little differently in Iceland) of the last Catholic bishop of the see of Holar, Jon Arason. In AD 1526 they drew up a contract in which was stipulated that Helga would make embroideries for the church of Holar as long as she was able. She became a set income per year for her service. Helga's work must have been outstanding as she is named in a poem of AD 1594 as one of the most skilful needlework women of her day. Helga probably trained up her grand-daughter Pora Tumasdottir who became a famous church needlework woman herself. And what happened to bishop Jon? He was killed by the troops of the Danish king in AD 1550 when he revolted and refused to accept the reformation of his church.
Where to find this book? I bought my copy directly from the National Museum of Iceland for about €23 + shipping. They also have a second book that might interest you: a facsimile of Icelandic pattern books from the 17th-, 18th- and 19th-centuries. However, that one is quite pricey at €180. Pictures of several pages of these original pattern books are included in the embroidery book by Elsa. I know that these books can probably be had from Amazon and the like. But please consider ordering from the National Museum directly. Museums are hit hard by the pandemic due to closure or greatly reduced numbers of visitors due to the absence of tourists. The Museum shipped my book immediately and it was here within two weeks. The ordering process is easy with a credit card and completely in English.
P.S. Virginia Sullivan won last week's giveaway and has been contacted. The cross-stitch charts are on their way to her. A thank you to all who participated!
After my first review of one of the StitchyBoxes I had ordered, I thought it would take longer for the second one to arrive. However, it came within a week after my first review :). This one took a little over six months to arrive and with shipping and custom's fees, it also cost €114 or $138. This particular box is called "Pacific Northwest Countdown Box" and contained 30 pretty little wrapped goodies. So let's see what they look like unwrapped! And read to the end of this blog for the Give-Away :).
The Pacific Northwest box contains:
- three 8 yards skeins of stranded variegated Flower Silk by StitchyBox (Mountain air, Driftwood and Blue spruce)
- skein of 8 yards of stranded Beaver grey French spun silk "Stitchy Silk" by Stitchy Box (NOTE: the other three silk skeins are spun silk too!).
- 8 yards skein of Colour & Cotton Pine Needles variegated stranded cotton
- skein of The Gentle Art variegated stranded cotton Stormy Morning (StitchyBox exclusive)
- 50 yards skein of overdyed #12 perle by Threadworx (#1015)
- 17,5 x 23 cm piece of cotton quilt fabric for finishing
- 17,5 x 22 cm piece of thick hand-dyed wool felt
- 23,5 x 33 cm piece of hand-dyed 32ct linen
- 23,5 x 42,5 piece of 32ct gingham linen
- 3 gr Miyuki mini fringe beads, 3x 2gr Toho beads 11/0, 1gr Delica beads 11/0, 1gr Miyuki beads 15/0, 15 2mm agate beads, 6 natural 5mm sunstone rounds and 5 Swarovski rose montees.
- four charms, tiny needle minder, wooden pendant, wood slice for finishing, twill tape for finishing and a sticker.
- Pretty little Seattle cross-stitch chart by Satsuma Street and Festive little fobs woodland edition by Heartstring Samplery.
The contents of the second StitchyBox confirms my opinion of these boxes. They are fun, but probably not a good deal if you live outside the USA and have to deal with high shipping costs and custom's fees. I love the skeins of thread and will lovingly add them to my stash. The beads are also a welcome addition to my collection. Less sure about the slice of wood and the sticker. But that is probably me :).
And whilst I love to cross-stitch, the above three designs from my two StitchyBoxes are not things I would ever stitch. This brings us to the Give-Away! If you would like to receive all three designs (Oh Whale by Handson Design, Tribal Sand Dollar by White Willow Stitching and Pretty little Seattle by Satsuma Street) you need to do very little:
1) leave a comment on THIS blog in which you tell us which of the three designs is your favourite (this is to satisfy my curiosity).
2) make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter (this is obvious, I am a business after all)
Please do alert your friends to this opportunity. The GiveAway will end Sunday 28-02-2021 midnight CET. I will announce the winner in the next blog. The designs will be shipped through Deutsche Post with a tracking code. Good luck!
If you like to embellish your embroidery with beads you are a part of a very old tradition. Especially goldwork embroideries have been made even more exquisite by adding fresh-water pearls, beads made of precious stones, coral or metal. Those of you who use beads in your embroidery will know that you need to secure them well or else you run the risk of them coming off. Small wonder that many beads have now vanished from medieval embroideries. However, they have left traces on the original pieces and in contemporary sources. Let's explore!
On the medieval embroideries themselves, you often see these areas of thick white string padding. Sometimes identified in the literature as silk, cotton or linen. Especially fresh-water pearls would have been attached on top of this white string padding. Not only does this mean that texture is added to the embroidery but it also ensures that the light catches the pearls first and makes them stand out even more. After all, when you are spending a lot of money on these extra embellishments you want the onlookers to take note of your generosity.
Another source of medieval bead embroidery forms the many paintings which depict clergy in their finery. Some painters were specialised in faithfully rendering the costly embroideries on vestments. Possibly because they were also the ones who made the design drawings for these embroideries. For instance, painter Mathias Grünewald faithfully painted the pearl embroidered mitre his friend the silk embroiderer Pflock made (Halm 1957).
And our third source is a collection of books written by the monk Theophilus in the 12th-century on a range of crafts: Schedula diversarum artium. You can find a collection of all the known versions of this manuscript together with three translations (Dodwell for English, Ilg for Germand and Ecalopier for French) on the website of the University of Cologne. The English translation of the passage on the use of fresh-water pearls reads as follows: "Pearls are found in shells of the sea and other waters. They are pierced through with a fine steel drill, which is fixed in a wooden shaft and a block of wood [at the top]. On the shaft is a small lead wheel and, attached to it is a bow by which it is rotated. If it is necessary for the hole of any pearl to be made larger, a wire is inserted in it together with a little fine sand. One end of the wire is held in the teeth, the other in the left hand, the pearl is moved up and down with the right, and sand is meanwhile applied so that the hole becomes wider. Mother of pearl is also cut up into pieces. These are shaped into pearls with the file they are most useful on gold and are polished as above." The pearls are so small (1-1.5 mm ), and their holes thus even smaller, that loose pearls can only be reattached during restoration with the help of fine surgical needles (Herrmann 1975).
You can get a better idea of how beads were being made by looking at the drawings of the Hausbücher of the Nürnberg Zwölfbrüderstiftungen. There are three depictions of brethren working a lathe borer to drill beads for a rosary. The oldest one dates from before AD 1414. From the same Hausbücher, we have a depiction of brother Alexander Hohlfelder. He was taken into the almshouse on the 3rd of April AD 1626 when he was 80-years old. Alexander had lost his speech and likely had dementia when they took him in. He died after two more years in the almshouse. Alexander had been a Seidensticker (silk embroiderer) and is depicted with a bead dish filled with what looks like fresh-water pearls.
Halm, P., 1957. Matthias Grünewald: Die Erasmus-Mauritius-Tafel. Reclam, Stuttgart.
Hermann, H., 1975. Die Restaurierung einer spätmittelalterlichen Perlenstickerei, Maltechnik restauro 81 (3), p. 113-115.
Creating a 10-week academic online embroidery course has taken up most of my time. This means that other embroidery projects have been on hold for many months. With the start of the new year, I wanted to mend my ways and make sure that I spend an hour or so stitching on other projects each day. Since 1-1-2021, I was successful on six days. Oops! Nevertheless, I made some progress on the cope hood "On the shores of St Nick" which I started at the end of March 2019 and which lay dormant all of 2020. You can read through earlier blog posts on the project here. Let's have a look at what the project looks like now!
Currently, I am working on filling in the beach around the lettering. I am using the spun version of the silk for most of the beach. This silk is duller in appearance and perfect for dry sand. For the wet sand of the strandline, I am using the shiny flat silk version of the same colour. The effect is quite subtle but forms a nice transition into the blue flat silk of the water.
When all the sand has been filled in around the lettering, I will add French knots around the outline of the letters. It will then look like somebody wrote in the sand. I will probably also add some darker outline on the shadow side of the lettering to make them stand out some more.
And this is what the project currently looks like. You see a 30cm ruler at the top so you have an idea of its size. You probably wonder why I am working right to left. That's due to the fact that I was unexpectedly being filmed whilst starting the project. And since goldthreads are so much more interesting than silk threads, I was asked to make a start on the golden frame. So, when you turn the frame 180 degrees, I was working from left to right. As long as I keep protecting the stitching with tissue paper, I should be alright.
Now let's hope I can show you some more progress when we revisit this project in a couple of weeks' time!
Finally the start of my medieval goldwork course! For years in my head, for months in the making and now at last the first lesson has been released to the first group of students. My husband and I celebrated with pizza and cake for lunch :). But now it is back to work again. As my research is very much ongoing, future versions of the course will require constant updating. Not in the least because certain materials are no longer available or a better alternative has finally been found. I'll share one such update with you below. But first: have s sneak peek at the current course contents in the short video below.
As I want my medieval goldwork course to be as authentic as possible, I search high and low for the correct materials. For some things that's surprisingly easy as the climate crisis leads people to rediscover natural materials. In other cases, it is a bit more trial and error. Take the luxury silken fabrics. Samite is rare as hen's teeth. This is a heavy silk fabric with a marked twill weave. It is a joy to stitch on. God only knows why it is no longer the embroidery fabric of choice. Luckily, I knew where to buy some: Sartor in the Czech Republic. They specialise in the re-creation of historical fabrics. Unfortunately, each run is a one-off. And since I had no idea if my course would be popular and samite is not a cheap fabric, I did not buy a huge amount. This means I can probably run the course twice more as is and then I will at least need to change the design of lesson 2. It will be such a burden to stitch another design on yet another piece of this heavenly fabric :).
Not as rare as hen's teeth is silk twill. You can have silk twill by the shipload. Just not the one you need if you want to recreate Opus Anglicanum :). To stay with the teeth: you have a choice between dentures and the real deal. Lots of dentures out there. You can have very light-weight silk twill in any colour your heart desires. But it is oh so flimsy. Oh, and the colours are very bright and so not medieval-y either. In the end, I went with a madder-dyed flimsy version for the first run of the course. At least it had the right colour. And although it is so very flimsy, it does survive underside couching surprisingly well. But what I really wanted was a firm version of silk twill. And lo and behold, Sartor came to the rescue again.
The lovely ladies who run this excellent fabric business have recently revamped their website. And among the normal silk twill, they now carry two heavier versions too. They arrived on Saturday and I cannot wait to start underside couching on them. Unfortunately, the one my gut feeling says is the right weight, has the wrong colour: petrol. Ah, well. A born-again medieval goldwork embroideress just cannot have it all!
These two examples show that running my medieval goldwork course is not like serial production. Before I announce the next run, I want to be sure that I can actually run it again. And run it well.
Hurry! There is only one week left of my 25% January Sale. Some of you are disappointed that I will discontinue non-unique-to-me products from my webshop. Maybe a few numbers will help: My weekly newsletter goes out to over 900 people. So far, I had 17 sales (thank you!!!) and 60 people who downloaded free content from my website. These 17 sales in 14 days is a high number and something I only achieve with a large discount, DOVO scissors or broche :). The past two weeks have confirmed my feeling that maintaining a webshop with products that can be had from other vendors is no longer the way forward. Every now and then, I grant my readers a peek behind the scenes of running a small embroidery business. Not for want of pitty. Just to show you what it really is like. And to signal those of my colleagues, that feel not represented by the success stories on Social Media (no matter how hard they work), that they are not the only ones and no it is not your fault. So, what is still to be had for 25% less?
There is still a lot of House of Embroidery left. Hand-dyed perle #5, #8 & #12, silk ribbon 2mm, 4 mm & 7 mm, silk thread fine & raw and this beautiful stranded cotton. Perfect for cross-stitch embroidery!
Or how about these antique copper stencils for fine whitework embroidery?
There is also still a good choice of quality embroidery fabric from Zweigart and Weddingen.
There is also a large selection of materials for goldwork embroidery on offer. Here you see some of the more unusual materials: kid leather, beetle wings, silk-wrapped purl, gilt folien and 100% eco beeswax.
Hopefully, I have whet your appetite :). Head over to my webshop and use the coupon code JanuarySale2021 (if it doesn't work, please check your spelling) for 25% off upon checkout. This offer ends 31-01-21 midnight CET. Thank you very much!
P.S. My second StitchyBox has arrived! Will do a review in about four weeks.
Ever since the successful subscription box "Broderibox" by Nordic Needle ceased to exist when the company was dissolved, I have been looking for a replacement. I loved these monthly boxes with a wide variety of embroidery threads and related goodies. For a whole year, I stitched up a small piece each month with the threads at hand (if you click the link above, you see my pieces). It was such a lovely opportunity to try out new threads and to hone my embroidery skills. Alas, the Broderibox is a thing of the past. Then I tried the "Stitchers Box" by Barbaral Creations (read my blog here). Lovely, but not quite the same thing. And these boxes are no longer produced either. And then there was StitchyBox! Back in June 2020, I ordered two. One finally arrived on 30-11-2020 and the other has still not shipped. More on that later. But first: let's un-box a StitchyBox!
So, what is a StitchyBox? I decided to order a countdown box with 30 individually wrapped embroidery goodies that can be opened one at a time each day. My box was called '2020 Oceans Small Batch Box". When you order your box, you have several fabric options. Mine was the lower count (no aida) as the higher count had already sold out. As I did not want to wait too long for my box, I ordered from the "ready-to-ship/ship-date-approaching". In my mind, this meant that these boxes were complete and ready to ship. As I ordered during the pandemic, I was not particularly worried when my box had not arrived after six weeks. Then I realised that I had never received a shipping confirmation. When I checked the website, there was a message that the shipping of the boxes was delayed due to the pandemic. That's when I realised that "ready-to-ship/ship-date-approaching" is not quite what it says. I think Stitchy Box designs a box, takes payment and then orders in the materials that go into a box. That's a valid business model. But does not work during a pandemic when ordering in materials has become a haphazard affair. When I ordered my boxes in June, there was no message on the website saying that there were any problems with getting the boxes ready and out. There was such a message when I checked after about six weeks. Never-ever was I approached by StitchyBox to clear me up on what was going on. Enfin, what did all these lovely paper bags contain?
These are the contents of the "2020 Oceans Small Batch Box":
- 7 skeins of embroidery thread (two variegated Flower Silk by StitchyBox, over-dyed floss by ThreadWorx, Colour & Cotton stranded cotton, Classic Color Works stranded cotton, Stitchy Silk by StitchyBox and DMC etoile)
- 7 small bags of beads (two delica 11/0 seed beads (1 g), Toho 11/0 seed beads (2 g), 10 natural 2mm adventurine beads, 10 2mm agate beads, 10 freshwater pearls and 10 2mm Swarowski glass beads Vintage Gold).
- 8 charms (Swarowski crystal, real shell, stone fish, glass penguin, ceramic seahorse, plastic seastar, metal seastar and metal crab).
- half a yard of blue twill tape, a length of variegated gimp, 6 shell buttons and a sticker.
- two cross-stitch charts.
- two pieces of linen ( 32 ct 35 x 24 cm Zweigart light-blue and 28 ct 32,5 x 23,5 hand-dyed linen).
Whilst I love the skeins of embroidery thread that are in the StitchyBox, I am not sure about some of the other contents. For my taste, the box is a bit heavy on charms. So what about the costs? This particular StitchyBox costs $80 with $25 shipping to Germany. Where it will cost you an additional €16,65 to have it released from customs. This amounts to €114 or $138. As shipping costs are much lower within the US and there are no additional custom's charges, you get a better deal. However, with the high shipping costs to Europe and the additional charges, the price for a StitchyBox is a bit steep.
As the message on the StitchyBox website currently states that all outstanding boxes will be shipped out during January and early February, I will probably receive the other box in March or April. As I couldn't really find anywhere what was in these boxes when I ordered mine, I conducted this experiment so you would have an idea of what it is you are potentially missing out on. Will I order from this company again? Probably not as I don't like the fact that they did not contact me when the shipping of my boxes was severely delayed. Taking payment is easy. Good customer service is hard work!
Do you have any experiences with StitchyBox? Do you feel that they are good value for money? Please leave your comments below! As I was unable to find recent reviews online let's make this blog post a reference for those seeking more information.
P.S. My January sale ends on 31-01-2021! Use the code JanuarySale2021 at checkout for 25% off your order. Price reduction ceases after 31-01-2021. Apart from "unique-to-me-products", products will not be restocked.
Happy New Year to you all! This year is going to be an exciting one with my new online course on medieval goldwork embroidery starting in a few weeks. When all goes to plan, I will do a re-run in the Autumn. This will leave enough time to tweak the course, order in supplies and ship out the course kits. That these margins are necessary proves the fact that one course kit is still in transit. Just like the other 14, it was shipped on the 20th of November 2020 ... As I am pretty sure that I will not be allowed to teach in-person this year, I also hope to be able to develop a new, shorter course on medieval stumpwork. What else do I have in store for you?
Apart from writing my weekly blog posts, I hope to do new videos with the Acupictrix. I acquired two antique books on embroidery that are well worth sharing with you. Embroidery-wise, I have started work again on my ridiculously large cope hood: On the shores of St. Nick. You will soon see an update. And I have ordered a Stitchy Box and received it after months of waiting. Always wanted to know what is in these? Stay tuned for an unboxing blog post.
And now to my January Sale :). As you probably have noticed by now: international mail is really slow. So far, I have been lucky that only two of the many orders I shipped have so far not turned up. It meant that I had to spend many an hour on chasing up German mail and USPS to track delayed shipments and deal with (very) upset costumers. Updating stock for my webshop has become problematic too: many manufactures cannot deliver on time and/or products have become more expensive. And then there was Brexit. I now have to fill out lengthy custom papers for orders to the UK too.
All in all, I have two choices: grow so that I can order in bulk, get a better price (stay competitive) and increase the volume of orders to earn a living. This would mean that I need to turn a larger part of my studio into storage and that teaching and embroidery take a back-seat. Or reduce the number of articles on offer and concentrate on those that are unique to me (patterns, kits, eBooks, jewellery and original artwork). As I am really keen on keeping embroidering myself and on teaching high-quality online embroidery courses, I am going the second route. Therefore, I am offering you 25% off everything in my webshop till the end of the month! Small items can be shipped worldwide for €7,20 (tracked). Larger items will need to be sent priority to most countries outside the EU at the moment. This is your chance to scoop up beautiful hand-dyed silk ribbons from House of Embroidery, high-quality wooden slate frames, linen embroidery fabrics and whatnot. Just use the code JanuarySale2021 at check-out. What's gone is gone. Happy shopping :).
We have no contemporary eye-witness accounts of the first Christmas. Still, quite a few of the nativity scenes in the Western world look very much the same. How did that happen? And how does this relate to a group of almost identical embroidered vestments made in Germany in the second half of the 15th-century? What technological innovation was made to ensure near-identical serial production? A perfect story to explore in the last days running up to Christmas 2020!
As said, conventional knowledge has it that none of the witnesses of the first Christmas left a written and signed account of the events. But through the ages, some people have claimed that they were transported back in time and witnessed the scene. They had a revelation. For Western Art, the revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden (AD c. 1303-1373) are very important. Saint Bridget describes the scene as follows: Mary is a bare-headed blond-haired woman who together with Joseph kneels in prayer over the infant Jesus who radiates divine light. Saint Bridget became a bit of a celebrity during her life and her revelations were turned into images that went viral in most of Europe. It successfully replaced earlier conventional pictures of the nativity where Mary is reclining on a bed (still popular in Orthodox Christianity). You can see an example on the chasuble from St. Paul im Lavanttal (at the top on the back; the scene with the red background).
The images of the revelation of Saint Bridget were so popular, that they were also reproduced in embroidery for the orphreys found on chasubles. These orphreys are so similar that their designs must have a common source. Printing on paper with the help of woodcuts and metal engraving was invented in the first decades of the 15th-century and quickly became popular to cheaply spread imagery. Research into the composition of the design lines on some of these orphreys has shown that these designs were likely printed onto the embroidery fabric too. If you click on the pictures of the pieces from the MET and the Wartburg, you can explore further pictures on the institution's websites.
And here is a fragment kept at the Bayrische National Museum (Inv. Nr. T297) with the singing angels. Although these embroideries were made in serial production, slight variations do exist. Not only in the colours used, but also in the number or arrangement of the figures. In this case, a more pleasing composition was achieved by adding a third angel. There are quite a few other examples out there, but I don't have pictures of them that I am allowed to publish. If you would like to dive into the topic a little further, please explore the literature.
Fricks, J. von, 2010. Serienproduktion im Medium mittelalterlicher Stickerei - Holzschnitte als Vorlagematerial für eine Gruppe mittelrheinischer Kaselkreuze des 15. Jahrhunderts. In: U.-Ch. Bergemann & A. Stauffer, Reiche Bilder. Aspekte zur Produktion und Funktion von Stickereien im Spätmittelalter, Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner.
Wetter, E., 2012. Mittelalterliche Textilien III. Stickerei bis um 1500 und figürlich gewebte Borten, Riggisberg: Abegg-Stiftung.
The German publishing house Schnell & Steiner has a number of interesting books on medieval vestments in their programme. Discounts are applying until the 23rd of December. So if you are thinking of adding books to your library, this is a good time! However, it is a German publishing house and the books are in German. And one, in particular, might look like a good idea, but maybe isn't. That's the one I am going to review here. Don't get me wrong, it is a great book! But as it is the result of a multi-disciplinary conference with theologians, philosophers, art-historians, Germanists, archaeologists, anthropologists and philologists, it isn't for everyone.
Paramente in Bewegung (paraments in movement) is an edited volume of 17 papers published in 2019. These papers have one thing in common: they are all theoretical. Only one author started out with a practical apprenticeship in tailoring. All others are academics through and through and they write for an academic audience with German as their native language. Although I am fluent in German, I had to look up many words in the theological and philosophical papers. And even then I was often left wondering what the author was saying ... However, a couple of papers helped me to better understand the context the embroidery I admire so much functioned in. So, from the point of view of an academic researcher into medieval embroidery, this book is a must-have on your shelves.
Jürgen Bärsch writes about the liturgy and the church building in the late medieval period. Even those who have attended a modern Catholic mass will soon realise that late medieval mass was quite different. Taking communion was rare and instead the elevation of the host was the pinnacle of each mass. Believers would hasten through the church building to attend multiple elevations as masses were not only held at the main altar but also at the many altars belonging to wealthy families, brotherhoods or guilds in the aisles. And as Stefanie Seeberg explains in her paper, the paraments used during these sacred performances all stood in relation to each other and to the building they were functioning in. Similar scenes were repeated on the vestments as seen in the architectural decoration of the church building (wall paintings, leaded windows, sculpture). Most people couldn't read nor understand the Latin the priest was using. But by constantly seeing the same images, the Christian message was understood by all. Additionally, an interesting observation was made. As the priest becomes part of the whole scene, he as a person is no longer important. However, as we nowadays see these splendid vestments in isolation, we often draw the opposite conclusion: the wearer must have stood out.
For the two papers on the theological and historical explanation of vestments (Rudolf Suntrup and Dina Bijelic), there is a better alternative available in English: Clothing the Clergy by Maureen Miller. I've reviewed this book a while ago.
The papers by Britta-Juliane Kruse and Tanja Kohwagner-Nikolai explore paraments in the reformed convents of Lower Saxony. They are commonly called Heideklöster as they are located on the Lüneburg Heath. They escaped the dissolution but changed from Catholicism to Lutheranism. They are famous for the large medieval embroidered tapestries stitched entirely in Klosterstich (Bayeux stitch). The papers attest to the high level of education in these convents. The daughters of the nobility were able to decode the complex stories on the paraments. They had read the classical literature and knew how these motives related to the Christian faith. Studying the actual embroideries also reveals that the ladies themselves stitched and designed these tapestries. And they were proud of their excellent work: later pieces are signed.
Stefan Michel and Evelin Wetter write interesting papers on the perception and use of vestments after the Reformation. Whilst the more radical Calvinists objected to the continued use of the Catholic vestments, Luther actually saw nothing amiss with the practice. As long as people did not worship the depictions. The special clothing was only there to support the sacredness of the mass. We now often think that all depictions were radically removed from every church that became reformed. This is true for most churches in the Netherlands, Scotland and Switzerland as they followed the teachings of Calvin. However, large tracts of the Germanic lands followed the teachings of Luther. And they often continued using, repairing and replacing their splendid medieval vestments.
Imke Lüders' paper on the use of images of skulls and bones on burial vestments makes for an interesting read too. And Klaus Raschzok's paper on the re-discovery of paraments in the Lutheran churches shows that this movement was particularly influenced by the 19th-century Gothic revival in the Catholic church. This movement had started in England with the influential publication by August Welby Northmore Pugin: "Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume". You can download this publication for free and marvel at the beautifully hand-coloured designs in the second half. En passant, the paper goes into the question of who should make fitting paraments for the reformed church. One movement wanted to go the professional route by educating deaconesses both in theological design and in the needle arts. The other movement emphasised that each godly woman should help make paraments for the church instead of using her needlework skills to frivolously decorate her own home ... Don't you love it when men discuss how we should use our skills?
I hope the above book review helps you to decide if this book is for you or not. Very soon, three volumes will be published on the medieval gold-embroidered vestments from Bamberg by the same publishing house. As soon as they arrive, I will review these too. They look very promising!
Röper, U. & H. J. Scheuer (eds), 2019. Paramente in Bewegung. Bildwelten liturgischer Textilien (12. bis 21. Jahrhundert), Schnell & Steiner: Regensburg. ISBN: 978-3-7954-3338-3.
P.S. In an attempt to do my bit to break the data monopoly of Google and Facebook, I have transferred all my videos to the video platform Vimeo. Please give me a follow! And in order to have more time for embroidery and researching embroidery, I have decided to close my Instagram and Pinterest accounts. No wonder I have suddenly time to read whole books and a newspaper :).
Want to keep up with my embroidery adventures? Sign up for my weekly Newsletter to get notified of new blogs, courses and workshops!
Liked my blog? Please consider making a donation so that I can keep up the good work and my blog ad-free!