Let's start with a joyful 'Happy Easter' to you all! Then we talk a bit about embroidery. And at the bottom of this blog article there will be, very aptly, naked bottoms. I won't judge you if you scroll :).
Let's kick-off with my canvas lion who somehow reminds me of Lenny Kravitz. So now the piece is referred to as Lenny the Lion :). Early April, I received another broderi box from Nordic Needle. This time filled with pretty golden, yellow and rustic red threads. When I saw the threads, I knew they would suit a lion well. Luckily for me, Millie Marotta has issued a new colouring book called: Wild Savannah.
It took me quite a while to get Lenny's face right. I wanted to use a single colour and only generate some definition through the use of different stitches. I used an amber coloured 100% silk called Autumn Orange by Vineyardsilk. I so love this twisted spun silk with a pretty lustre! It is such a well-behaved thread.
For Lenny's manes, I ran riot with stitches and threads. So much fun! I used a variegated rustic red cotton thread called Chili of the Wildflowers range by Caron. And a dark red velvet thread by Rainbow Gallery. Also from them is the yellow thread aptly called 'Fuzzy Stuff'. I feared the worst, but you can actually stitch with it :). Also in my broderibox and thus in Lenny's manes: Londonderry Linen thread 'Maple Sugar'. Quite nice to stitch with and a real 'calmer' in the manes-craze.
But best of all, was a spool with a metallic thread called Bijoux 'Tiger Eye'. Since my family widely believes there are magpies in our ancestry, it is no wonder I like threads with a sparkle! I finished Lenny by filling in the African sky behind him with a thread from February's broderibox: Tropic Seas from the Watercolours range by Caron.
As you can probably guess by now, I thoroughly enjoy my monthly broderiboxes. It is the perfect way to learn about new materials. And in order to prevent these lovely goodies from cluttering up my stash, I've set myself the challenge of using them straight away. So far, I stuck to my plan!
Let's move on to the pansies, shall we? Last week saw three women stitching away in my studio. They took part in my silk shading embroidery retreat. Personally, I think silk shading is an embroidery technique which you either love or hate, you can or you can't. It is deeply personal and progress is slow. My lovely ladies worked from a picture of a large blue-violet pansy. After five days of stitching diligently, eating lots of cake and laughing until our bellies hurt; you can see Elena's pansy on the left, Sabine's in the middle and Monika's on the right. I think they did a great job! Hopefully, I get to see the finished results upon their next visit.
Now: THE naked bottoms! As probably many of you know, my husband is a Catholic and I am a Protestant. Since we live in a predominantly Catholic environment, I sing in a Catholic church choir and worship in the same church. Although both Christian denominations, there are some differences and I am not always getting it. I usually blame that on John Calvin :). However, this Easter Mass, I wasn't the only one who was confused... This is what happened:
Due to a severe lack of priests, we got the 'monk-who-never-smiles' on loan from the local abbey. So far so good. However, he compared integrating the Lord's resurrection into our everyday lives with an ad for the protection of the environment. And you guessed it: This ad featured naked bottoms on a bench. With his ever-straight-face he even described these naked bottoms as being: Greek, Roman or of such making that they 'needed a little more space'... This left us very, very confused!
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...
Another Bavarian Hosenträger
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 :)!
Canvaswork or Needlepoint
Like most of my dear readers, I love thread! The ordinary everyday threads and the speciality threads, monocolour, over-dyed, variegated. You name it; I'll drool. So, when Mary Corbet talked about the BroderiBox 2017 by Nordic Needle, I signed up. Full well knowing that this would mean a monthly trip to the customs office in Weilheim. Ah, what one does for a good thread!
So when, early February, I was finally 'invited' to pick up (and pay for!) my January box, I was ecstatic. Quite to the bemusement of the customs officer... Back home, I gleefully inspected my threads and was delighted to find a few I had never encountered before. Since they were all green, I decided to stitch a quick turtle on canvas. I think canvas (also known as needlepoint) is a great embroidery technique to experiment with speciality threads. Anything goes!
Just the green turtle on bare canvas was a bit..., well, bare! So I decided to give turtle swimming lessons. The background was stitched using a House of Embroidery perle #5. A single thread has exactly the right thickness to cover 18 TPI canvas. How clever is that?!
Speaking of House of Embroidery. I have decided to now also stock their stranded cotton and the above mentioned perle #5. This means that my webshop is now your one-stop-fix-all place to shop for these wonderfully hand-dyed variegated threads and ribbons. The only House of Embroidery product I don't stock is their rayon thread. The January BroderiBox included a rayon thread. While stitching with it, it happily reminded me why I don't stock rayon. What a #*$§*#@ material!
As you might know, House of Embroidery products come in a wide range of different colours. You either get two related 'versions' of a (variegated) colour or even three. And these are then available in ribbon sizes 2mm, 4mm & 7mm, perle #5, #8 & #12 and two silk versions: raw (mat finish) and fine (shiny). Think of all the possible combinations you can make, both in colour and texture! So, get your canvas out, browse the internet for ideas and stock up in my webshop :). Since threads and ribbons are rather light and small, I can fit a whole lot of them into a padded envelope and send them around the globe for just €3,70 postage. Yup, you've read that correctly.
What else do you need for your stitching comfort? Right! Good, fine-tipped scissors. I had been looking into stocking scissors, when Mary Corbet (I can spot a pattern here :)) mentioned German made DOVO scissors on her blog. They are the gold standard when it comes to scissors. Yes, there are other equally good brands, but I love the fact that these are made in a smallish traditional family business in the East of Germany. They have invited me to visit their premises to see how they make their products. Can't wait for the snow to completely disappear so that I can make this wonderful trip!
Don't like canvas embroidery? No problem; I have a fix for that too! Now available from my webshop are the Summer Sampler stumpwork kit and the Indian Peacock goldwork kit. They are either available as pattern downloads or as full kits. As usual, my instructions are available in English or German and contain many detailed photographs and diagrams.
So what will you be stitching this week?
Before I'll tell you about two upcoming course possibilities here in Bad Bayersoien, let's take a look at some 'work in progress'. Remember Ellen and Elisabeth who did a crewelwork embroidery course way back in January? They have graciously allowed me to share their progress with you all.
First up is Ellen her piece. The design was made up of all things 'crewel' Ellen came across and liked. Eclectic, colourful, vibrant and fun. Perfect for trying out many different stitches and colour combinations. The shading on the green leaves of the pink and coral flower has been worked very nicely!
Next up is Elisabeth's piece. She used a designer piece of jungle wall paper as her design source. Her piece takes a modern approach on Jacobean crewel as she incorporates stumpwork elements and beads. Below is a detail of the pomegranates.
I love both pieces and think the ladies have made great progress! Five days are too nearly always short to finish a piece of embroidery. This blog is a great way of keeping track of each other's progress; especially as both ladies live 675 kilometres apart.
Want a bit of embroidery bliss yourself? Then why not join me for one of my upcoming courses? From Monday the 5th of September until Friday the 9th of September I'll run a canvas (needlepoint) course. During the course you will create a colourful masterpiece on canvas. You will have the choice between creating an embroidery with different threads, ribbons and pearls using many different stitches. Or would you rather stitch a classical Berlin Wool piece using tent stitch? One way or the other, the result will be a true eye-catcher. Nice too: this course is well suited for newbies!
From Monday the 31st of October until Friday the 4th of November I'll run a stumpwork course. True to the motto: "anything goes", you will create a three-dimensional embroidery with freestanding elements, needle lace and textured stitches. Use unusual materials and be inspired by the naturalistic pieces created by Jane Nicholas from Australia or 17th century originals.
There are many accommodation options available locally. During lunch break, I'll put bread, spreads and a hearty soup on the table. Wouldn't it be lovely to join me and others for a week-long relaxed embroidery adventure? As bookings are coming in and places are limited, do book your place today!
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.
Art Chain Challenge: day 2
I've been challenged by my dear friend Marina Berts to participate in an Art Chain and publish my artwork five days in a row in my blog. Challenge accepted! So here is the second piece:
This piece is also part of my Royal School of Needlework portfolio. During one of our family holidays to Bad Bayersoien in the early '90s, I was introduced to the work of German expressionist Franz Marc (1880-1916). I particularly like his bright colours and the 'graphical' feel of his work. My favourite piece is 'Der Tiger', so I decided to stitch that one first. This year, I hope to start work on his 'Füchse'. You can find more on Franz Marc and his work on Wikipedia. See you tomorrow for part 3 of the Challenge!
Folk costume: Bavarian braces
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!
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 or becoming a Patron so that I can keep up the good work and my blog ad-free!