I signed up for a distance class in silk shading with Jen Goodwin. Why did I sign up for this particular class? Well, the design sports a feather with quite irregular edges AND has water droplets. As I have no idea how to stitch droplets, I really like to learn from a fellow pro. It is also another great opportunity for me to see how I could possibly run an online class in the future. The class runs for six weeks and is, at GBP 195/$ 284/€ 229, not cheap. The class should have started on the 20th of January, but due to Jen not being very organised, I actually received my kit on the 23rd and the first instruction email on Sunday morning the 28th. This can happen to the best of us.
My kit contained a colour photocopy/printout of the feather, an outline drawing of the pattern, a piece of tissue paper for the transfer, a piece of dark-navy cotton, 2 #10 sewing needles and 20 skeins of DMC stranded cotton in the most fabulous colours. However, due to the fact that it was shipped in a plastic seal bag, it arrived rather wrinkled and dishevelled. Oddly, there wasn't a note or compliment slip either.
The dropbox Jen uses for her teaching videos also contained a high-resolution original picture of the feather. So before any stitching commenced, I ordered a proper photo printout of the feather. The printout in the kit is, in my eyes, just not very defined and has a green tinge to it. But above all, it is wrinkled. And I don't find it very practical to work from a dropbox/computer screen.
Next thing I did was watching Jen's video's on binding a hoop and tissue transferring a design. I was hoping the videos would be of the same quality as Mary Corbet's 'How to' videos. Unfortunately, they are not. Important things and actions are frequently out of focus, text is sometimes blocking the action, important action is going on outside the video frame and action in the video contradicts the text in the video. I really hope that the actual stitching videos provide enough detail to be able to clearly see Jen's stitching.
Before starting the tissue transfer method, I ironed the piece of fabric and ran the edges under my Babylock machine. I hate disintegrated fabric edges whilst stitching.
I faithfully copied Jen's outline drawing onto the tissue paper and started tacking. About half-way through I came upon an uncertainty and wanted to check on the picture printout... SHIT!!! The outline drawing Jen provided in the kit is a mirror image of the picture we are supposed to stitch... I very carefully unstitched, flipped the tissue paper, traced the lines again and started tacking again. I also immediately warned Jen so she could warn the other students. I really hope they hadn't started. As there is no email-list, forum or group to 'meet' the other students. I have no means of getting into contact with them directly. This is my first ever online-class that does not provide for contact with my fellow students. It is a bit of a shame as I can't learn from their progress or get inspired by them either.
Finally, I was able to remove the tissue paper and to have my feather all set up for my next lesson. I'll keep you posted on my progress. Rather than week-by-week, it will probably be a summary of several weeks in one post. After all, it is not my intention to spill the beans on Jen's project and provide very detailed information so my readers could just stitch the project too from reading my blog. However, if you were thinking of doing an online class with Jen, you will be able to make an informed decision based on the testimonials on her website and my blog posts.
Last weekend, I participated in another crafts market organised by Faszination Handwerk. Markets are held twice a year in differing locations roughly in the Tegernsee-area. This allows for people from Munich to visit without the very high-costs associated with organising such a market in a central location in Munich.
Since we were allocated a corner between two doors, the above became the set-up of my stand. I even managed to eke out a small corner of one of the tables to clamp an embroidery hoop on. Although the lighting was really good, the location was your standard conference building with little to no charm. Since the organisation does not provide tables, we take our own. The above is all our Toyota Auris can hold :). Thanks to your excellent feed-back after last year's Leonhardimarkt, I think I achieved a better overall set-up. My stand was no longer so flat and had more 'explaining' going on regarding time and skill involved. I also added a cheaper category of pendants.
Since the car was really full, I couldn't bring trestles and a slate frame. Instead, I demonstrated some French boutis. I still had the 'heart' kit by Averyclaire. This type of whitework embroidery is both 'large' enough and not too complicated; ideal for demonstration purposes. Unfortunately, people were not at all impressed. Mental note: only bring goldwork.
The show ran for three days and was really well attended. Many of my colleagues reported good sales and/or follow-up trade possibilities. Unfortunately, my embroideries did hardly sell and I did not even recoup my entry fee. I can only hope that there will be follow-up trade this time. Overall feed-back of the visitors was that my embroideries were perceived as being 'foreign' and not of 'local tradition'. Many did not understand what it was all about and were not happy for me to explain. It was generally really hard to get into contact with people about what I make. What they did pick up on was my accent. And some were really not cool about it. I was even asked if I could understand and speak German... I could almost hear grandpa Grimm turn in his grave!
So. I will no longer exhibit at these particular fairs. Costs are too high and I am not a charity. However, I will try to attend at least one local market a year as I do understand that I need to meet the locals. But these markets must have low entry fees. And luckily for me, one such market stood on my doorstep last week! Or at least its organisers did. In May, I will join sculptor Marion Werner and two other artisans at Marion's home at Steingaden for a crafts market. Marion and her husband have been organising these for many years and have built quite a following. I feel honoured that they'll allow me to join them this year! And the entry fee? Two home-made cakes to sell to the visitors. I can live with that :).
Last week, I worked on a fun commission: restoring an antique towel cover. This particular piece is over a hundred years old and has been in the owner's family from the beginning. The cover sports typical symbols known from Dutch and German cross stitch samplers: vases with flowers, pomegranates, peacocks and women in folk costume. The embroidery was executed with cotton perle #5 in only six colours: pale yellow, orange, red, light blue, medium blue and dark blue. Whilst the blue threads are still in perfect condition, the red and orange have completely gone and the yellow has gone in some places too. A stark example of the influence of a particular dye on thread survival!
The fabric is a fine closely woven linen measuring 59 cm from selvedge to selvedge. Peculiarly, the selvedge is still perfect on the right, but starts to fray on the left. Any thoughts on this?
Since the pattern is quite fun and I know that there a cross stitch and sampler fans among my readers, I've transcribed the pattern and offer it as a free download here. Note: the colours stated in the pattern are not exactly the original colours. Rather they are a red, orange, yellow and three blues in Anchor stranded cotton. I mended this sampler using antique threads made by DMC and Schürer. The exact colours were not or no longer available from either DMC or Anchor.
Have fun! And I hope to see you this weekend at the Lichtmessmarkt in Rottach-Egern, Tegernsee!
P.S. just to add to the 'leaving a knot on the back' debate: the knots were the only things remaining when it came to the red and orange threads :)
Monday is my preferred blogging day. However, yesterday was a hilarious day and it messed up my order of work completely. And since it is too funny not to share, I will! So, when I came home from my morning swim, my Bavarian mum needed my help. Since the fire, the whole family moved in the holiday apartments above and beneath us. As she needs to cook for this very hungry family, they put in a new kitchen. Now imagine somebody going from a traditional big Aga cooker to a hyper-modern touch-screen electrical stove... And yesterday this hyper-modern menace had put itself to sleep in the middle of cooking lunch! Now, the farmer has coped very well with the loss of his farmhouse and his cattle, but not finding lunch on the table at 12:30h would have been disastrous. After reading the manual several times and doing exactly as stated, the bloody thing came to live again. Lunch saved!
But, that wasn't the end of my woes. My mum called from the Netherlands and needed help with the settings of her newish mobile phone...
Last time we visited Strawberry Fayre, I had put in the scrolls, tendrils and large flowers on the front and back heart. This time, we are going to talk about the big leaves. I must confess that I have a hard time stitching this project. Although I really liked stitching 'Home Sweet Home', I don't seem to get into a stitching rhythm with this project. Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind stitching to be slow. But I hate it if I don't get into some sort of rhythm. If I need to put each stitch into place very carefully, I lose interest.
But first, what I do like! There are three types of big leaves in this part of the project. And two of them involve beads. Now that's something I am definitely taking away from this project: adding beads to ordinary embroidery stitches. This is tremendous fun! One of the leaves has a beaded version of knotted pearl stitch and the other a beaded version of coral stitch. Both brilliant. You can see the first type in the picture above and the second one in the picture direct below.
The third type of leaf features wheat ear stitch without any beads (see below). To add sparkle to all leaves, high-lights and edges are stitched with a metallic thread by Au ver a Soie. Over the years, me and metallic threads have learned to get along. However, adding high-lights and a double edge in and around tiny shapes isn't for the faint hearted. It all seems a bit much and a bit over-complicated.
The part where I really struggled, is at the tip of each leaf. You are supposed to do a padded buttonhole stitch with one strand of Gumnut spun silk. This is a tihgtly twisted silk and one strand is quite comparable to one strand of stranded cotton. This means there is no 'spread'. It is extremely difficult to get it to sit nicely on top of the padding AND follow the curve of the leaves. Carolyn seems to have solved this problem by making very long stitches. I tried to copy this approach, but my stitches kept sliding off the padding. I also found it very difficult to keep a neat edge where the stitches do not touch the other part of the leaf. Although I used a fine tipped marker to transfer the pattern, due to the fineness of the thread, the lines where still too fat to maintain a clean edge. Furthermore, I am really happy that I choose to stitch the whole piece on a much finer fabric than the one that came with the kit...
So, how will I move forward? I will leave it for now. But, I will probably take out the tips of most leaves and try again. The flow of some of the leaves is just too ugly and way below my standard. Any tips gratefully appreciated! And then, I'll move onto the strawberries. And they promise to be great fun as there is beads involved!
But before all that, I will be stitching two commissions. Of which one involves repairing a sampler that's over a hundred years old. More on that next week!
When I visited the Diözesanmuseum Brixen in Italy last year, I was captivated by one chasuble particularly. It wasn't particularly old or made with extraordinary skill. But to me it just screamed: FUN to embroider. And I had seen this particular technique before on an unfinished sampler in the collection of the Wemyss School of Needlework in Scotland. The particular pieces were made with fibrant coloured silks in a simple couching technique (Bayeux Stitch) and seem to originally date to the 17th century. Then my internet search began.
I proved not to be the first to write about 'Italian couching'. In 2007, Mary Corbet wrote an article about 'Italian Stitching' on her blog Needle 'n Thread. Through the related articles, I found the book Mary had originally consulted: Church Embroidery and Church Vestments by Lucy MacKrille written in 1939. You can download it for free here. If you like goldwork embroidery and embroiderying with silk, you'll love it! And what does it say on 'Italian Stitch'?:
Italian stitch in which stout floss is used for a foundation is the most beautiful of stitches. The floss is stretched across the surface from end to end of the design, care being taken not to twist a fibre, so that when the surface is covered it will be as smooth as satin. The finest gold thread is then lais across the silk in lines one-eight of an inch apart and couched evenly. The beauty of this stitch depends on the glossy smoothness of the floss, the straightness of the lines of gold, and the evenness of the bricking or couching stitches (MacKrille, 1939 p. 27-28).
Hmm, not my 'Italian Couching' after all. The examples I saw in the Museums in Norther Italy were al couched with matching silks, not with gold thread. Could it be that 'Italian Stitch' was actually an Anglo-American invention and not of true Italian origin? Let's check with Pauline Johnstone writing on Italian Embroidery in 'Needlework: an illustrated history' edited by Harriet Bridgeman and Elizabeth Drury from 1978. There it says:
An alternative technique was laid and couched work in colored silks, crossed and held down by spaced lines of gold thread. ... Many vestments of this type are attributed to Napels, where the Kings of Napels and the Two Sicilies held a wealthy and lucurious court (Plate 45). (Johnstone, 1978, p. 143).
So, what does Plate 45 show? Not much in a book from 1978. It is in colour, but a whole chasuble at only 10,2x9,3 cm, doesn't tell a whole lot. Luckily, this particular chasuble is held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. And they have a digital archive! You can find the entry for the chasuble featured in the 1978 book here.
Lo and behold! This is indeed the needlework technique I have seen in a few pieces in Northern Italy and the unfinished sampler in Scotland. And as you can see, the laid silk is couched with a matching silk thread. Not with a gold thread.
So, can you see what happened here? An authority on 'modern-day' church embroidery from America, but who studied embroidery in England, wrote on a couching technique with silks and gold thread she had learned and used in 1939. Later researchers on Italian needlework presumed this was a historical technique used in 17th century Italy. They had a bad photograph from the V&A collection and a brief description naming floss silks and silver-gilt thread. Combining the two into a Bayeux stitch with silks and gold thread.
Now don't get me wrong. The Itialian Stitch embroidery executed by both Lucy MacKrille and Mary Corbet looks absolutely stunning. But it does not seem to have been a historical needlework technique in use in 17th century Italy. However, if you have come across a historical piece made in Italy which does use gold thread as the couching, please do let me know! In the mean time, I'll keep my eyes peeled for more pieces in this fascinating technique.
Yeah, I have re-surfaced after a nice long break over the holidays. And I have big plans for 2018. Actually, some were not only conceived during my lovely break, but put into action as well. So what have me and my husband been up to? For starters, we re-decorated my studio and changed its lay-out. We repainted the walls and ceiling in a pretty blue colour; like the egg of a blackbird. Then I put in a large set of map drawers. Perfect for thread storage, if you have the space for such a monster. This will save me so much time searching for the right threads. And it will hopefully prevent me from buying the same supplies twice... My clever husband installed a professional art gallery hanging and lighting system to display my framed embroideries beautifully. Of course not as easy to install as the instructions claimed, but a bit of swearing sometimes helps :). I am pleased as pie with the results:
Next up: the checkout of my webshop. As not all people seem to like PayPal, I installed a few more payment options. You can now also use your credit card, Apple Pay and Android Pay through a Stripe interface. Unfortunately, my website host Weebly has not enabled SEPA or Ideal in its Stripe interface yet. I keep nagging them about it, so hopefully they will expand the interface in the future.
I've also amended my opening hours. Since my doctor has strongly recommended that I take up swimming to prevent my shoulders and hips from becoming too painful to embroider, I duly dip in the pool three times a week. As the pool is not exactly next doors (and the lake in front of the house frozen over), it takes a few hours out of my working week. Luckily they have great water slides! My new opening hours are: Monday & Friday 13-17h and Tuesday & Saturday 9-17h.
And what's in store for next year? I am planning to keep traveling to see more historic embroideries. There is so much out there! But unfortunately, little is known about it in the wider embroidery community. Not in the least due to language barriers and a false sense of national/regional pride and protectiveness. That's a real shame. My idea is to publish a few ebooks on specific historical embroidery techniques with references to places where you can study the originals. The ebooks will contain pattern drawings and step-by-step explanations so you can try your hand at it too. First up is Italian couching from the 17th century. In essence it is Bayeux stitch using silk instead of wool. After all, the Italians are not known for huge flocks of beautiful sheep :). But they were the first to produce silk in Europe.
That's all for now. Time for a cup of coffee, before digitising some more embroidery patterns. Have a nice week!
It has become a bit of a tradition that my kitchen window participates in our village Adventkalendar. This year we opened on the 5th; that's when the Dutch celebrate St. Nicholas. So apart from my decorated window and large amounts of Glühwein, we also had pepernoten, speculaas and taai-taai.
This year, I decorated my window with the Schwalm embroidery nativity. Having a partitioned window, we ended up with four scenes.
If you would like to know how the figures were made, check out these older blog posts. In time for Christmas 2018, I'll run a nativity workshop on the 8th of December 2018. More information on Schwalm embroidery can be found on Luzine Happel's website (available in German and English).
And since it has been quite the year for us, I am going to take a short break from blogging. In fact, this is my last post for this year. Thank you for your support and have a marvellous Christmas and a happy new year! See you on the 8th of January with a brand new blog post.
This weekend, I had set up shop at the Klosterladen at Ettal Abbey. In the video below, you can see me and my good friend Kathrin working on the needlepoint church kneeler. Later in the day, a young man with his father and grandfather came along. The young lad had a go at embroidery and was really good at it!
Apart from demonstrating stitching a church kneeler, I chat quite a bit with the visitors. That's fun too. But the best part of my 'job' is to observe how people react to monks :).
couple: Are you a real monk?
monk: Do you want to touch? (stretches out an arm)
couple: Do you really live here?
couple: Where exactly?
monk: Oh, madam, I couldn't possibly tell you. I already have so many fans standing under my window at night!
And to prove that we not only laugh our socks off all day, here is a picture of process so far:
Since St. Laurence was grilled to death, I thought the above a fitting blog post title. After almost two years of on and of working on this goldwork piece, St. Laurence can finally be revealed in all his glory. The piece is a near perfect copy of the orphrey held under catalogue number ABM t2107h at the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht in the Netherlands. The original orphrey was made between AD 1520-1525 and measures c. 28.5 x 17 cm. I have covered this project in earlier blog posts too, in case you'll want to read the whole story.
Above on the left the original museum piece and on the right my version. However, last time you saw the piece, I was still working on the background. So let's explore how I assembled all the different pieces.
Apart from the background and St. Laurence, I also worked both columns and the ceiling keystone on the same Zweigart 40ct natural linen. I worked his bbq separately in a small embroidery hoop on a piece of calico. It is in essence a wired slip filled with silver plated Japanese Thread #8. Cutting away the calico between the bars, was challenging! So I used a dark brown textile paint marker to stain the remaining calico fibres.
Then it was time to cut out St. Laurence, the keystone and both columns. I took the whole piece of the slate frame and redressed it only with the background. As you can see in the picture above, I cut the other items out with a bit of a seam allowance. I folded the seam under and laced the back. This worked particularly well for the straight columns. It was less successful for the keystone and proved impossible for St. Laurence himself. So...., I used conservation glue. And it worked a treat! Since you only want the seam to stay put as long as you are appliqueing, you don't need huge amounts of glue, i.e. you are not soaking your embroidered fabric.
Before I attached any of the elements, I made sure my fabric wasn't drum taut. I started with the keystone, then did the left-hand column, then St. Laurence and then the right-hand column. Although I worked my background a little further than needed so it would go under St. Laurence, the fit wasn't perfect on all sides. I figure this is due to the whole piece being worked on a drum taut slate frame and once you release this tension completely, your elements shrink a bit. Note to self: work the background more generously on the next piece!
Appliqueing the elements onto the background was rather straight forward. As you can see in the above picture, I pinned the element in place and then couched around the edge with matching silks. Only for the columns, I used a different method. I noted that my long vertical rows of tightly packed Japanese thread gaped when couched down at the edges. Instead, I sew in a straight line between the last and the before last row of Japanese thread.
With all elements couched down, it was time to add the dark brown edging around all the elements. It adds a sense of depth to an otherwise near flat piece of embroidery. I used four to six strands of a dark brown silk perle. They were offcuts from a weaving project by a fellow local artisan. Don't you love it when you can recycle things?!
My original plan was to mount the goldwork first and then applique it onto the green chasuble fabric. This would support the heavy gold embroidery better. However, I didn't like it one bit. The embroidery was too high up from the fabric for my taste. As I have worked this piece mainly during demonstrations, it did mean that I hadn't been as accurate as I would have wished. The piece is 1,5 linen threads too high on the top left and 1,5 threads too short on the lower right side. This happens when you chat to people and/or work in improper light. No worries, I can perfectly live with these minor discrepancies! However, it did mean that my initial mounting had to go.
I ended up cutting out the whole orphrey with a seam allowance and couching it in place directly onto the green chasuble fabric. It worked a treat! As it should have done, since my medieval counterparts did it the same way. With the orphrey in place, I couched a gilt Twist #3 and a large gilt Roccoco around the edge to hide most of the linen background fabric. Today I mounted the whole piece and weather permitting, will bring it to the framer's tomorrow.
Working on this project certainly had its challenges, but I loved it immensely! During demonstrations and through this blog people from all over the world were able to follow the process. I will certainly make another one in the future! But for now, I can't stop looking at my achievement and enjoy this splendid piece :).
Did you miss me last week? Sorry for not writing a blog post. However, I had a pretty good excuse: another four-day course in Appenzeller fine whitework embroidery with Verena Schiegg. But before we dive into that, I'd like to invite you to listen to my Fibertalk podcast I did with Gary and Christine. What fun we had discussing bones, academic careers and lots of embroidery!
For my four days with Verena, I choose to continue working on my sampler. There are still a few techniques characteristic for Appenzeller fine whitework which I haven't touched. One of them is the 'Figurenstich' or 'Bölsestich'. It is used to fill areas, but it isn't padded (as most of the other elements in this type of embroidery are). It is a very formal stitch, not unlike some of the filling stitches in traditional Chinese embroidery. It creates a brick pattern, and unlike needle painting, stitches aren't split. But you can stitch the drape of clothing with it as you can subtly change the direction of your stitches. You can see the Bölsestich in action on the rosebuds in the picture above.
Second new thing I learned were the 'Böllerli'. A way to create a dot of padded satin stitch. As described in a previous post on this type of embroidery made for international export, it was very important to be economical with your threads. The creation of a Böllerli explains this concept very well. So, how does one create a Böllerli? Not by laying your layer of padded satin stitches in one direction and then, starting from the middle, laying your layer of satin stitches at an angle on top. Far too much waste of material!
Instead you start with a cross-stitch inside the lines of your dot. You execute the stitches in such a way, that there is as little thread carrying on the back as possible. Add a second cross-stitch on top at an angle. Again, as little thread as possible on the back. Now you start your satin stitches on the left-hand side. You work from top to bottom and you angle your first stitch in. Add as many stitches as needed to completely cover your dot. Your last stitch, on the far right, is angled in too. NOTE: in order for you to be able to see what goes on in these pictures, I used perle #8 and worked at two different scales. The original Böllerli in the picture further above where stitched using cotton threads size #55 and are less than 1mm in diameter...
Another big difference between the two ways of stitching a padded satin dot is, that due to all the padding stitches crossing in the middle, the dot is more domed. If you would like to try your hand at a Böllerli, you could use a 2mm circle template and one strand of stranded cotton.
Jessica M. Grimm
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