They're done! After 174,5 hours of stitching, my traditional Bavarian braces/suspenders were picked up by a very happy costumer yesterday. I used 82 skeins of DMC and Anchor stranded cotton and 18 TPI brown canvas. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy:
This is the total length of them: 115 cm. It's a tall lad :).
And a close-up of the re-drawn antique pattern used.
And the breast piece with the coat of arms of the village of residence. Now my embroidered 'raw material' goes to the saddler to get its leather backing and matching corded trims. Time to get one of my other embroidery projects out!
My head spins with creative ideas for yet more embroidery projects. I wish my hands were faster... So, let's check in with progress on my Bavarian Hösenträger (suspenders)!
Here they are, just before I rolled my slate frame. This is about a quarter of the total length of 112 cm. Right now, I've progressed to one third of the total length and that has taken me 51.5 hours. Apart from these two 'lengths', I also need to stitch a breast piece, or the Steg as it is called.
This year, I am also attending a course on wild herbs. I love to know what is edible and/or has medicinal uses. And I've discovered that some of our local wild herbs can even be used for dying. However, since Bad Bayersoien lies at 850 m above sea level, I need to be patient for spring to really kick in. But then I will be out and about collecting wild herbs!
And as part of my course portfolio, I need to make a 15 plant herbarium. Now that got my creative juices flowing big time! How about a stitched version? I am thinking silk shading the plants, mounting them, adding a pocket on the back for the pressed herb and a sheet with botanical information, and then turning the whole thing into a leporello. That would be fun, wouldn't it? Can't wait to start :).
On a personal level, my husband finally comes to live with me. Ten more days and he will be here! So far, we haven't been able to find him a new job. However, he has secured many short-term free-lance projects. Not the security one wants, but it is a start! As we will have to move his stuff from his accommodation in the Netherlands to here, we will be on the road in a couple of weeks' time. I will try to keep my blogging going, but life might take me out...
Yes, I know, 2017 should have been the year of my casket. Things never go to plan, do they? Luckily, I have a very pleasant interruption: a commission of another pair of traditional Bavarian braces. Today, I'll share with you how I go about such a commission.
Since I have stitched several of these braces to date, I now know that it will take me 150-200 hours to complete one. When you work on larger projects, it is always a good idea to keep track of your stitching hours and the materials used. After all, it is nice to be able to tell people who ask, how long it took you to create the masterpiece. Especially if they want one too and would like to commission you.
Next up: what does my client want? I have several books on Berlin woolwork. For instance, books by Raffaella Serena feature beautifully detailed antique patterns. The Antique Pattern Library has some of these hand-painted patterns too and there seem to be new ones added all the time. Browsing the books, my client can then pinpoint what he or she wants. When I have my client appointment, my table is also laid out with all the DMC skeins in order. This enables us to match colours and patterns. And they love the visual feast!
Then it is time to cut and paste a new pattern from the old ones the client wants me to use. This makes it a new and unique pattern. I only use this new pattern for this specific client. There are far too many exactly the same Hosenträger in Bavaria already. I use computer software to draw the new pattern: Cross Stitch Professional platinum. Not cheap, but very good and unmissable if you do this job regularly.
As subsequent turning my embroidery into a Hosenträger with a leather back, corded edges and buckles is a rather harsh process, I use sturdy embroidery materials: 18 TPI Antique Canvas and DMC/Anchor stranded cotton. The stranded cotton is used as is; no stripping of threads. Maybe not the prettiest thread to use, I would love to use a perle, but it is tradition :).
Then I send a computerised picture of the pattern to the client for approval. Once approved, I set up my frame and stitch one repeat pattern. I photograph that again and send it once more for approval. In this case, the guy commented 'unbelievably horny'! Yup, that's what he said :). Isn't German a fantastic language? So now I am all set to stitch the other 15 repeats :)!
You may probably have heard that we had rather wet weather conditions here in Bavaria. Luckily, apart from some damage to the plants in our vegetable plot, nothing major happened. In fact, perfect weather to work on some commissions.
First up, two traditional boy's shirts needed monogramming. They are made of a sturdy linen fabric and are a joy to stitch on. All be it a little hard on the hands as you partly go through four layers of fabric. I use DMC perle #8 for the monogramming. This ensures that the shirts can be washed at high temperatures. Not unimportant as they are going to be worn by teenage boys :). For the fatter parts of the lettering, I used Hungarian braided chain stitch petering out into stem stitch for the thinner parts.
Next up is the breast piece (Steg) of a pair of traditional Bavarian braces. The pattern comes from Wolle42. It took me 16 hours to stitch this particular piece. It is stitched with a whole strand of Anchor stranded cotton onto 18 TPI canvas using tent stitch.
Although it was nice to be stitching indoors guilt-free, I am looking forward to real spring/summer! I want to be able to dine on my balcony and make long hikes through the alpine foothills. After all, our native orchids are in bloom at the moment! (they seem to be pretty waterproof...)
My studio seems to be flooded with commissions at the moment. There might be a causation with the fact that Christmas is only 5.5 weeks away... A major milestone was reached today upon finishing the lengths of another pair of Bavarian braces I started quite a while ago.
Both lengths are 107 cm long and five centimetres wide. It took me 173 hours to stitch them. They were stitched using a full strand of DMC floss. I've used 22 colours on 18 TPI brown canvas. The pattern was adapted from an old Berlin Wool Work hand painted pattern. So, for the moment at least, there is no one with the same pair of braces in all of Bavaria :). I love to stitch unique patterns and I will not use this pattern again as long as it is still worn. The only option to obtain the pattern is to sit quietly behind the wearer in church with a piece of graph paper...
I've also spent some time today on designing the breast piece. It will feature the coats of arms of Bad Bayersoien flanked by two fearsome lions. Hope to finish that in the next couple of weeks too. Along with a couple of traditional shirts which need monogramming.
Regarding my refugee ladies crafting group; we laughed our socks off (a picture of my husband proofed to be very popular with the ladies!). In between the laughter, I even learned a new stitch from Ukraine. Never seen it before and I will make a tutorial once all the commissions have safely left the building. A huge thank you to all who left words of support and encouragement on my website or otherwise. The donations received will be used at a later date. The coming weeks, we will do some paper crafting to produce Christmas decorations to be sold at our local Christmas market. Every little helps.
Last week the Mayoress called to let me know that Andreas Baar of the Münchener Merkur paper would come to interview me. After all, a Dutchie stitching traditional Bavarian braces is a bit of a story, don't you agree? So here is Andreas' nice story about me and my folk stitching:
And now I am a bit of a local celebrity... Visiting the post office, my local cake dealer, the bookshop or waiting for the buss is no longer an anonymous activity. People's reactions are heart warming! And it has brought me many new stitching enthusiasts. Last Wednesday, I started a two day class on stitching Bavarian braces. We had a jolly good time at the Gunkelstube. Next month, I'll be teaching monogramming on Bavarian folk shirts. If you are interested, there are still a few spaces available. Please contact me.
On the stitching side of things: here is the progress on my silk shading Hollyhock. It is slow going, but I am looking forward to the finished piece. It will be on display at Nadel & Faden in September. Would you like to learn silk shading? Then why not join me at one of my classes at Nadel & Faden? You can register here.
Last but not least: this is the current view of my embroidery studio. Where has all the stitching go, I hear you wonder. Well, my dear husband brought me some medieval animal bone from Middelburg, Netherlands. I will be analysing six lovely boxes full of butchery remains for the rest of this week. No more stitching. Sometimes a girl just needs to make some money :)!
My current embroidery project consists of a pair of Bavarian braces which will be worn at first communion by Maxi. The straps are nearly finished and then there is only the breast piece (Steg) to be stitched. These braces are part of the Bavarian folk costume and were first seen in the early 18th century. From what I have seen, the oldest surviving ones are from about the mid-19th century. These were stitched in tent stitch on a linen background. The patterns are the same as for Berlin Wool work: mainly roses and other flowers, as well as animals and foliage. Me and my husband find a lot of inspiration in the old patterns. It is great fun to use new colour combinations and introduce new flowers. Maxi's pattern consists of a rose, followed by a cornflower, a fuchsia and a pansy. The Steg will feature the coat of arms of Bad Bayersoien. We use Crossstitch Professional Platinum to design our patterns. It easily allows us to adjust colours and to shift or flip design elements about.
Nowadays, mainly canvas is used instead of linen. I am working on brown 18 count mono canvas made by Zweigart and I use a whole strand of DMC or Anchor stranded cotton. As the background of the braces are covered with black stitches, I have found that on occasions white canvas shines through. Please don't be tempted to remedy this by 'painting' your white canvas black with a thick marker pen! These inks are not stable. The embroidery will be steam pressed at high temperatures when the leather backings are put on and you don't want black ink spoiling your lovely pink roses. Another thing to avoid is the thin double canvas. It is not sturdy enough and may rip during the construction process.
As tent stitch is a repeated stitch in one diagonal direction, there is a heightened risk of the straps becoming askew. To avoid this, I use a slate frame. As an added bonus, my posture whilst stitching is better too. Quite important as only the straps have taken 101 stitching hours so far. It also allows me to work with both hands and to 'automatically' start and finish my threads. This speeds up the work enormously. First: working with two hands. My slate frame rests on two adjustable standers. For this kind of work, I like my frame tipped slightly towards me. As I am right handed, my right hand stays on the back of the frame, whilst my 'weaker' left hand is guided by my eyes on the front of my embroidery. With each stitch I pass my needle from my left hand to my right hand and back. Much more economical movements then when I would only use my 'good' right hand and would have to move my whole arm forwards and backwards.
Secondly: automatically start and end threads. This method was such a huge eye opener when I studied at the Royal School of Needlework in London! And now I am met with a lot of 'aha, that's genius' when I pass the skill on as a tutor. Have a look at the picture above. You might think my embroidery has a bad hair day, but that is not the case (the same can unfortunately not be said of me...). Every tail of thread you see is either the start of a thread or the end. When I now continue stitching these threads are caught on the back and secured. Once I reach one of these tails, I can snip it off knowing that it is indeed secured on the back. For this method to work, it is paramount that pattern and background are stitched more or less simultaneously. The practice of firstly stitching the flowers and then fill out the black background in one go is not only tedious, but also adds the risk of differences in thread tension. Occasionally, I do unintentionally pull up a fibre of a starting or ending thread. No worries, I just pull or push it back. With practice, this occasional annoyance becomes less frequent.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my current embroidery project. Soon, I hope to post some pictures of the end result. In the meantime, if you would like to learn how to stitch traditional Bavarian braces in a small friendly group. Then why not join me at the Gunklstube in Bad Bayersoien in March!
Jessica M. Grimm
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