Before I tell you all about my collaboration with LoveCrafts, I would like to let you know that I was a guest at the wonderful Friday Night show with Vonna and Gary of FiberTalk. If you haven't already done so, please watch the show and hear what I am doing to help the stitching community through these difficult times. You will also see my dear husband making a guest appearance :). And now on to some design- and thread talk!
The lovely Sarah from LoveCrafts sent me some embroidery threads to play with. And since I am a self-proclaimed thread-addict, I was up for the challenge. Browsing the LoveCafts website, I came across the beautiful hand-dyed stranded cotton by the Roumanian brand Valdani. Now I had heard that name before but never seen these threads, let alone played with them. So I picked some reds and pinks as I already had a design in mind: a Millie Marotta crab. You see, not only do I love her designs, but I and my husband happen to be Cancerians.
These are the lovely variegated threads I picked: 0533 Golden Autumn, 0534 Quiet Fall, 812 Brick, 813 Brick Dark and H204 Nostalgic Rose. Even the two 'bricks' are ever so subtly variegated. These would be perfect for those of you who recreate historical samplers. And what I really like about theses skeins? The wrapper is made of recycled paper. Not those horrible plastic wrappers the more modern DMC skeins have. We all need to do our bit to preserve our planet and I am glad Valdani does their bit.
So how does one go from the intricate Millie Marotta drawing to a stitch-able pattern? In this case, as I approach the whole project as a doodle rather than a thoroughly pre-planned affair, I simply copied the outlines of the crab. I decided upon the size of the project (I like to use a particular brand of frames, so I decided on 14 x 14 cm) and I added some lettering. Apart from wanting to use some Schwalm embroidery on the main body of the crab and simple surface embroidery for all the other parts, nothing was planned. The combination of Schwalm and surface embroidery determined the fabric I was going to use: not too fine, as that would make the cutting of threads for the Schwalm too much of a challenge, but not too coarse either so as not to hamper the surface embroidery. I settled for 40 ct (16 threads/centimetre) Zweigart Newcastle natural coloured linen (now also available in off-white!). As the label says that the Valdani threads are colourfast, I used an aqua-trick marker for the pattern transfer.
And here are my stitching steps:
- lettering 'Cancer' chain stitch with three strands Brick Dark
- lettering dates simple backstitch with two strands Brick
- outline body of the crab in the classic Schwalm way of doing things: chain stitch with three strands of Quiet Fall followed by coral stitch with three strands of Quiet Fall
- preparing the grid for the Schwalm filling pattern by cutting out every fourth fabric thread in both directions
- filling the grid with the Schwalm filling pattern 'Pfauenauge' (from Limetrosen I by Luzine Happel) using two strands of Quiet Fall. I've picked this particular pattern as it mimics the shape of the crab's body
- filling the first segment of the legs with satin stitch using two strands of Brick
- the second segment is filled with fly stitch using two strands of Quiet Fall
- the third segment is filled with Cretan stitch using two strands of Golden Autumn
- the fourth segment on the lower legs is filled with Van Dyke stitch using two strands of Quiet Fall
- the claws were filled with chain stitch using two strands of Nostalgic Rose
- at this point, I realised that the bottom parts of the upper claws would lend itself well to being filled with Schwalm embroidery too
- again I made sure that the Schwalm filling pattern resembled the shape I was filling: 'Rippen nach links' and 'Rippen nach rechts'. I used two strands of Nostalgic Rose
Behold the result: I added two matching beads for the crab's eyes. So what do I think of Valdani stranded cotton? Firstly, I really like the colours of these hand-dyed variegated threads. Nostalgic Rose and Quiet Fall were my favourites. Secondly, I love the more environmentally friendly packaging compared with other brands. Thirdly, each skein holds 10 yards consisting of six strands. That's over a meter more than DMC or Anchor :).
Any disadvantages? Unfortunately, yes. I have found that the single strands of the stranded cotton are a bit more irregular and a bit fuzzier than those of either DMC or Anchor. This was especially noticeable with the darker colours: Brick Dark and Golden Autumn. Although I switched to a bigger needle, the appearance of my stitching is slightly fuzzy. This becomes especially noticeable when you compare the chain stitch + coral stitch edge around the Schwalm filling of the crab's main body. The stitches look dull on the edge, but there is a nice sheen on the filling stitch. As the filling stitch is worked in a grid, friction is much less and the thread keeps its sheen. Furthermore, you definitely can't re-use a thread when you made a mistake and stitches needed to come out. The thread will shred.
What are your experiences with Valdani stranded cotton? Have you used other Valdani threads? I've seen that they do perle and silks as well. How do they compare to the leading brands? Do let me know in the comments below!
Once again a huge thank-you to the lovely people of LoveCrafts.com who were kind enough to let me play with the Valdani stranded cotton! Be sure to check out their website for lots of embroidery threads, embroidery kits and amazing free inspiration.
A couple of weeks ago, I became the 'victim' of #fibertalkmademebuyit. When I checked out the website of one of their sponsors (Fire Poppies), I came across a very pretty cross-stitch and beaded easter egg. Those who follow me on Instagram will remember the drama to get my kit released from customs in Weilheim. Last week, I was finally able to start working on this kit. I am going to tell you all about it in this blog post. Do read till the end as I am having a special offer for all of you at the bottom of this post :).
When I saw a picture of the beaded easter egg on the Fire Poppies website, I was immediately charmed by the pretty design. I had never seen anything like it. When my kit arrived, I found out that the company who makes them is called Riolis from Russia. The actual designer is called Anna Petrosyan. Pardon my ignorance, but I had never heard of either. I do however know that embroidery is huge in Russia and that there are many talented designers living there. I just wished there wasn't such a language barrier!
My easter egg kit came with most of the materials needed to finish the design. I just needed to add sewing thread and beading thread. Fabric, floss, beads, needles and wooden egg were all included. And everything was very good quality too. Fabric came from Zweigart and Anchor supplied the floss. The instructions were very good too. With clear diagrams and an adequate translation into English. Not perfect, but very doable if you are anything other than an absolute beginner.
As always, I started by locking my fabric to prevent fraying. I also wrapped my floss onto some paper bobbins. The actual embroidery was very straight forward working with one strand of floss over one fabric thread (Zweigart Lugana). This explains why the finished embroidery looks so very refined.
When it came to the construction of the actual egg, I had some minor difficulties. The translation isn't very good here. When you follow it to the letter, you will find that one of your seams shifts when you pull your finished embroidery over the wooden egg. The upper and lower seams are only fastened at the central seam at the back. If I were to stitch another one of these eggs, I would prevent this by sticking the seams to the back of my embroidery with the help of some Vlisofix/Bondaweb. Or, more likely, I would only stitch half cross-stitches for the border. When turning the seams, I would fasten them by finishing the border cross-stitches (i.e. put the other half cross-stitch in). This would secure the seams perfectly and would prevent shifting.
The actual beading was great fun! I certainly learned a new skill. And I am very pleased with the result. Not as perfect as the pictures shown in the kit, but pretty good for a first attempt. And being an embroidery designer, I am already thinking of improving the finishing on these eggs (or Christmas baubles?). How about using linen banding? That would eliminate the whole drama with the seams :).
If you would like to stitch your own Riolis easter egg, then please ask Google. The kit was released in 2014 and has sold out on the Fire Poppies' website. The design number is 'B185'. However, I hope my review has shown that embroidery kits from Riolis are high-quality, contain plenty of materials and are well worth a try!
Now, on to something exciting! Please start the video below:
At the beginning of January, I and my husband were lucky enough to be able to visit the embroidery exhibition in Paris. Today I'll show you some stunning pieces from the Opus Anglicanum section. The term for this type of embroidery from the 12th-14th centuries translates as 'work from England' and usually consists of very fine silken split stitches and underside couching. It was greatly valued throughout Europe especially, but not solely, for religious purposes. Therefore, you will find these stunning pieces of embroidery in museums all over Europe. But beware: not all Opus Anglicanum embroidery was actually made in England or by English hands. Medieval Europe was already so well connected that both ideas and people travelled a lot.
The graves of bishops are a great place to search for medieval embroidery. Bishops were usually laid to rest in their finery in a grave with better preservational conditions than Joe Average. Antiquarians from the 19th century knew that too and when these graves were opened for whatever reason, they brought their scissors along. This is illustrated for instance on a pair of liturgical sandals from a grave from the Cathedral of Saint-Front in Perigueux: three different museums own pieces of the same pair of sandals.
Today, many museum visitors turn their noses up when they see these brownish fragments of textile. They are mostly not 'pretty' in the usual sense. But I was very pleased to see that Musee de Cluny devoted a whole display case to these extraordinary finds. For obvious reasons, the levels of lighting were lower than in the rest of the exhibition so my pictures are sometimes a little dark. Nevertheless, look at these stunning patterns of birds and scrolling in very fine underside couching!
Another stunning piece of embroidery on display was the above panel with the martyrdoms of the saints. There is a second panel too with female saints. Both are kept in different museums in Belgium but originate from the same church in Namur, Belgium. It was in use as an altar frontal but might have originally been a vestment. The embroidery on this piece is absolutely immaculate and very fine. I particularly love the different goldwork couching patterns in the background and the immense detail on the horse. Although only the above panel was on display in Paris, both panels were displayed at the Opus Anglicanum exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London a few years ago.
One of the biggest pieces of embroidery on display were the fragments of a horse trapper (a protective garment for a horse in battle or tournament). It was unfortunately impossible to capture all (over 20, many quite small) fragments in one picture. The detail of the goldwork embroidery is amazing. The lion's mane and hairy claws are so full of movement through laying the goldthreads in different directions. In amongst the bodies of the lions are many small human figures in courtly dress. They clearly show how to embroider on such a difficult fabric as velvet: cover it with a thin piece of silk. When the embroidery is finished, cut the excess silk away.
Although this piece of embroidery comes under Opus Anglicanum it does not show any underside couching and only small areas of split stitch (the silken parts of the claws). Instead, the goldwork is all 'normal' couching and the small figures and the foliage are stitched in running stitch (hence you can see the silk that was used to keep the hairs of the velvet at bay when stitching). It is said that in using these two embroidery methods the actual embroidery would take much less time then when split stitch and underside couching were used. I agree when it comes to the split stitch versus the running stitch. The latter is much quicker as it covers more ground with fewer stitches. However, I am not so sure that normal couching is that much quicker than underside couching. I now practice both and the only marked difference for me is that underside couching is harder on your body due to the slight extra force you need to apply with every stitch.
By the way, these fragments have an interesting 'upcycling' story to them. The horse trapper was probably originally made for King Edward III. He was a guest at the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) at Koblenz, Germany, in AD 1338. The horse trapper probably remained in Germany as a royal gift. It was turned into a set of vestments for the Altenberg Abbey. These were dismantled in 1939 to once more show the original horse trapper.
There were many more beautiful pieces on display in this part of the exhibition. For those of you who were not able to visit in person, I can highly recommend the exhibition catalogue. It is packed full with good quality pictures and many close-ups. More on my textile adventures in Paris in further blog posts!
Please note: there won't be a blog post next week as I am away teaching for the Crewelwork Company. Stay tuned as I will name the next two winners of a thread pack in the first blog post after my return!
Browne, C., G. Davies & M.A. Michael (eds.), 2016. English medieval embroidery Opus Anglicanum. Yale University Press. ISBN: 978-0-300-22200-5.
Descatoire, C., 2019. L'art en broderie au moyen age. Musee de Cluny. ISBN: 978-2-7118-7428-6 .
Michael, M. (ed.), 2016. The age of Opus Anglicanum (= Studies in English medieval embroidery 1), Harvey Miller Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-909400-41-2.
P.S. Did you like this blog article? Did you learn something new? When yes, then please consider making a small donation. Visiting museums and doing research inevitably costs money. Supporting me and my research is much appreciated ❤!
P.P.S. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter so you'll have a chance of winning a selection of embroidery threads each month!
When I visited Paris a few weeks ago, I booked a textile tour with the lovely Rebecca Devaney. She is an haute-couture embroideress from Ireland who studied at Ecole Lesage and worked for some of the famous haute-couture ateliers in Paris. In addition, Rebecca has a keen interest in the history of haute-couture and the psychological science behind embroidery and crafts in general. This makes her extremely suited as a tour guide and interesting discussion partner. I highly recommend booking a tour with Rebecca when you are visiting Paris! I for my part discovered some new to me embroidery suppliers. High time; as Brexit is upon us in only a few days time. Trading with Britain and travelling to London will get more complicated and more expensive. Thank goodness for the direct high-speed train connection from Munich to Paris :).
The tour kicked off at Ultramod on the Rue de Choiseul. These are actually two shops: a milliner and a haberdashery on the other side of the road. The milliner was established in 1832 and the haberdashery opened in 1920. The current owners bought both premisses in the 1990s and had the foresight to buy all the vintage stock as well. And what marvellous stock that is! Beautiful velvet ribbons, Duchesse satin from Lyon and buttons galore. The colours are so rich and unparalleled in modern equivalents. In addition: most things on display are no longer being produced.
Ultramod is a truly magical place from a gone by era. No fast fashion here. Instead, highly trained shop staff and craftspeople who developed long-lasting and intimate relationships with their clientele.
Next station of our tour was La Droguerie. This shop occupies the premises of an old butcher's shop. The walls show the typical white tiles and iron meat hooks and the old scales are still in place too. When you enter the shop, you are immediately captivated by all the beautiful colours of yarn on display. But this is not just a yarn shop. Nope. You can get beads by the spoon full. They have a very impressive collection. I bought some tiny real stone beads made of agate, rose quartz and tiger's eye. They also sell buttons of a wide variety of materials. This is a true Ali Baba's cave!
Next up was Mokuba, the famous ribbon and lace makers from Japan. I have never seen so many ribbons in one place in my life. And they are so beautifully displayed. Very orderly and they radiate a great sense of calm. Quenticencially Japanese. All Mokuba products are made in Japan by master-craftspeople. This is certainly a place I will do business with in the future. I was, of course, drawn to the most expensive ribbons in the house. The ones with the real gilt and silver threads :).
And now we come to Stitchers' Paradise: the saleroom of Au ver a Soie. They only open to the public one day a month. But with Rebecca, you are treated to a private visit to this wonderful place. All their silk threads, fine embroidery wools, silk ribbons, metallic threads and embroidery kits are on display. The colours are overwhelming! I left with a good supply of their wonderful metallic threads. They are of the woven or braided type and they are a dream to stitch with as they don't fray easily. I also fell for a couple of spools of silk perle ...
And last but not least, we visited Maison Sajou. The shop displays are really lovely. All products are made in France and ouze vintage charm. Maison Sajou is almost exclusively geared towards cross-stitch embroidery. However, I bought some glazed linen threads to use in underside couching.
I and my husband really enjoyed coming on this tour of the textile district of Paris. Le Sentier is a lovely area of Paris and we can't wait to be back to explore some more. Since we were visiting Paris during the strikes, we were forced to walk long distances between the city centre and our hotel. This meant that we discovered even more of Paris! If you are visiting in the next six months or so, do explore les grands voisins. This former hospital is the home of many creative people before the site gets redeveloped in about six months time. It also houses a fantastic bakery, a chocolatier and a cosy cafe. Well worth a visit! Good food can be had on Rue Montorgueil near all the textile shops. Personally, we went for a bite in a VERY small Lebanese eatery next to Mokuba. The food was amazing :). Can't wait for my next trip to Paris!
P.S. The first donations for the victims of the Australian bushfires have started to come in! If you would like to donate too and have a chance in winning an embroidered coaster, do check out this blog post.
From 12-14 February, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences will host the 15th international conference on medieval and early modern epigraphy. They have asked me to demonstrate the various ways in which lettering can be represented in goldwork embroidery during this long period. I've decided to concentrate my efforts on five different historical pieces: 1) the Sternenmantel of Henry II Holy Roman Emperor, dating to AD 1010-20, 2) the Bamberger Antependium from AD 1300, 3) the Vice cope from AD 1350-75, 4) the funeral pall of Maria of Mangup AD 1477 and 5) a podea (icon cover) donated by Serban Cantacuzino in AD 1671. I have seen all these pieces in the past couple of years and taken my own pictures. However, determining how the lettering was stitched, proved to be difficult. In order to keep a log of my findings and to teach you a thing or two about goldwork embroidery, I am going to write four blog posts on this project.
First up is preparation. Apart from the Bamberger Antependium, all these goldwork letters were stitched on very luxurious silk fabric. So I dressed my slate frame with Zweigart Bergen linen and kept the tension a bit slack. Then I applied pieces of my silk fabrics using herringbone stitch. It is important to orientate the fabric pieces on the grain of the linen fabric. Once the pieces are applied, the frame is stretched to drum taut. In the two short videos above, you'll see slack on the left and drum taut on the right.
I'd like my lettering to be as close to the originals as possible. The first thing to do is to determine how large the lettering in question is. Lighting in the textile department of the Bayrische Nationalmuseum is rather poor and I had to take all of my pictures under an angle. Not suitable. Luckily, I found a perfect picture in a book. It had the whole height of the Antependium on there and since I knew that height in centimetres, basic math led me to an approximation of their size. The word Baltasar measures about 25 cm from B to S. Since the goldwork was stitched directly onto the linen, I used a pencil and a lightbox for the transfer. The original transfer was probably done free-hand: look at the irregular spacing between the individual letters and the irregular shape of the three As.
Next up I tried to determine the size of the gold threads used. Without actually measuring them, this is a rather wild guess. Since the piece is quite old, the gold thread used is probably very fine. But from my memory, it was not as fine as what I recently saw in Bamberg. So I originally went for a gilt passing thread #3 (but had to later change to the even finer gilt Stech 50/60 CS as my edges became too round compared to the original). From the literature, I knew that couching in goldwork embroidery went from single thread to pairs of thread being couched down in one go, somewhere in the 12th century. Since the Bamberger Antependium was stitched around AD 1300, it could well be that this newer and faster method of couching down pairs of thread was employed. And I think the picture above proves this. From the literature, I knew that yellow silk was used for the couching stitches. I went with DeVere Yarns Chamoix #682.
One of the things I can't tell from my pictures nor is it mentioned in the literature: what happened to the tail of the goldthread? Was it plunged? Did they simply secure them on the surface and clip them close? The latter method is used in the orphreys from the 15th and 16th centuries, so I went with that.
The couching pattern used is not our now very common bricking pattern. Instead, it is a slanted line or slash. And since the ground fabric is linen, the couching process becomes a counted thread embroidery technique. I opted for five fabric threads between each couching stitch.
As stated above, I did stitch the first letter twice as I couldn't copy the sharp turns of the original with the ticker thread. The way the letter is shaped also meant that I had to start and stop my goldthreads several times as just bending them would not have accommodated the shape of the letter. Once I was happy with how my R turned out, I needed to stitch a black silken outline around it. As all of the silk embroidery in this piece is done in stem stitch (yup, everything! Rows and rows of alternating stem stitch to fill every design element that's not filled with couched goldthreads), I used stem stitch for the outline too. I used four plies of black Chinese flat silk.
That's all for now! Next week I'll review my textile tour of Paris with Rebecca Devaney!
Durian-Ress, S., 1986. Meisterwerke mittelalterliche Textilkunst aus dem Bayrischen Nationalmuseum. Schnell & Steiner. ISBN 3-7954-0636-6.
Müller-Christensen, S. & M. Schuette, 1963. Das Stickereiwerk. Wasmuth. No ISBN.
P.S. Did you like this blog article? Did you learn something new? When yes, then please consider making a small donation. Visiting museums and doing research inevitably costs money. Supporting me and my research is much appreciated ❤!
Nope, I had not retired for Christmas. Anyone following me on Instagram saw that I am very busy stitching a new goldwork teaching sample for one of next year's teaching jobs. The first version was unfortunately rejected. And whilst my whole body is aking from sitting behind my slate frame and computer for too long, I did learn a lot from the experience. In the new year, I will put together a document with lots of questions and options for needlework business owners who approach me with a teaching request. It will hopefully ensure that they know exactly what I can and can not offer. And I will have a far better idea of what it is they are looking for. In the meantime, I have stumbled upon a lovely small needlework and hand-dye business from Hungary: Barbaral Creations.
Many of you know that I am a huge fan of the FiberTalk podcasts and video shows. Being a one-woman-show, it can often feel a bit lonely. Gary, Vonna, Debby and Arlene are my overseas stitching buddies. Listening to them chatting away on needlework topics and the occassional Big Foot story, makes for good working vibes. Lately, they are sponsored by Stitchy Box. This is a thread and needlework goodies subscription service in the US.
Some of you might remember that I took out such a subscription two years ago with Nordic Needle. I loved it! And I was totally bummed when they went out of business. I have been on the lookout for a replacement ever since. However, ordering these things from outside the EU comes with a lot of customs-hassle when you live in Germany. So I started searching for an alternative from the EU.
I found Barbaral Creations on Etsy. Barbara lives in Hungary near the Rumanian border. She dyes threads, ribbons and embroidery fabrics by hand. Now that has my full attention. I am a self- diagnosed thread-addict :). I bought her Stitchers Subscription Box Winter/Christmas edition. Do click through the slideshow to see what was in the previous editions of these boxes. Be sure to check out here lovely hand-dyed ribbons, silk threads, perle, stranded cotton, trims and fabrics too!
This Stitchers Box contained a cross-stitch embroidery kit for two heart-shaped ornaments. The fabric, stranded cotton and ribbons in the kit were hand-dyed by Barbara. They are slightly variegated and have a lovely vintage feel to them. The embroidery chart was very straight-forward and even comes with thread conversions for DMC. So when the supplies from the kit are finished (which were plenty, by the way), you can still use the patterns using regular DMC stranded cotton.
The kit also contained: a needle, backing fabric, fusible interfacing and toy stuffing. I ended up swapping out the backing fabric for a piece from my stash which was of the exact same colour as Barbara's red-dyed thread :). And I did not stitch the hand-dyed green rick-rack over the seams of my ornaments. They simply didn't need it and I'd rather save the pretty rick-rack for another project.
The pattern and instructions were straight-forward but do assume that you know your cross-stitch, French knots and basic finishing/sewing skills. It took me about two days to stitch both patterns, haul my sewing machine out and finish them into ornaments just in time for Christmas.
What is rather unique about Barbara's Stitchers Boxes, they contain lovely additions besides the needlework. In this case, the box contained a very fine fruit tea called Balthasar. A small jar of honey to sweeten it. And two wooden decorations: a snowflake and a gingerbread man.
I've asked Barbara if she is going to release more Stitchers Boxes and she has confirmed that she will be doing boxes themed: Christmas, Easter, Summer and Halloween next year. This edition was priced at €21 and postage to Germany was an additional €10,90 (this totals at 35 US Dollars or 27 Pound Sterling). In order to be notified in time when a new box is released, be sure to make her Etsy shop one of your favourites!
Goldwork on vestments form the 19th and 20th centuries in particular often incorporates shapes made out of gilt foil. The most common ones are the domes representing grapes or the seals on the book with the seven seals (see picture below). Another common shape is that of a grain which was used to make up a wheatear. It isn't often that you find these pieces for sale nowadays, so I am really pleased that I am now able to offer you a wide selection of these shapes in my webshop! They range from the classic shapes to very finely worked flowers and stars. But first, let's explore their historical uses a little bit with some beautiful ecclesiastical embroidery.
This picture was taken at the 'Goud, zilver & zijde' exhibition in 2011 in Deurne, the Netherlands. It shows a detail of a chasuble by Leo Peters made between 1910-1915. The scene shows the Lamb of God on the book of seven seals of the Apocalypse as described in Revelation. The domed shapes used as seals clearly show the tiny holes in the rim whit which the shapes are attached. Interestingly, the shapes come without holes. They are punched as required by the embroiderer. I use a sharp, sturdy needle and a thimble with a metal piece to punch these holes in. I usually lay the foil to be punched on a large eraser. Working carefully and slowly is key!
And here is a red chasuble (late 18th-early 19th century) from the Church Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, sporting a bunch of grapes. The bunch of grapes is made up of domes of different sizes. The domes are stitched to a piece of gold-coloured fabric before being appliqued onto the chasuble. Each dome is surrounded by fine purl.
And here is an example of the wheatears from a banner from the 'Onze Lieve Vrouw Parochie' in Arnhem, the Netherlands which I photographed in 2011. Holes were punched into the tips of each shape and then attached. The outer holes also have a tiny little piece of purl stitched into them to represent the spikes.
And here is another lovely example of both the grapes and the wheatears. This is also from a banner photographed in the Walburgis in Arnhem in 2011.
If you are thinking of stitching your own bunch of grapes or even a book with seven seals, there are now four different sizes of domes/grapes available from my webshop.
And I can also help with wheatears :)! From the simple to the exotic.
But I like the flowers best! Think of all the possibilities. And those of you not adverse to a dab of glue every now and then can get very creative with even the tinier ones. Just make sure you test your glue first with your chosen fabric.
Which ones will you choose? Christmas gifts to self are allowed :).
Here in Bavaria, the first snow has fallen and everything is dusted in white. Lovely to watch from the comfort of my warm and cosy home :). The view from my studio windows over the lake is amazing. Especially as the swan couple have not yet migrated to the Lech reservoir which will not freeze over in the midst of winter. The swans were recently joined by some funny great crested grebes. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy some extra guilt-free embroidery time. After all, you don't miss out on any warm weather and there is nothing better to do in the garden either :). And I have the perfect snow inspired patterns for you!
First up is my Winter Snowman, the second pattern in my petite needlepoint series (you can read more about the first pattern here). This cute snowman is stitched with beautiful hand-dyed variegated silk threads by House of Embroidery on natural 40 count Zweigart linen. This pattern explores seven different needlepoint filling stitches, whilst also introducing you to some surface embroidery and simple beading. The cherry on the cake is, in this case, a charming enamel carrot from Susan Clarke Originals. Your kit comes with fabric, all the threads, all the beads, carrot charm and needles. Upon purchase, you are given a download link for the instructions (which come in either English, German or Dutch). The Winter Snowman embroidery kit costs €30 and this INCLUDES worldwide shipping. In order to be able to ship cheaply and quickly to you, I omit fancy packaging. That way I can take advantage of a special worldwide flat shipping rate which applies to padded envelopes only. And since this does not count as a parcel, customs is not really interested in them either :).
For those of you who live close enough to my Bavarian embroidery paradise: do come and join me for a winter workshop in which we will stitch the needlepoint snowman. The workshops are held on Tuesday the 14th of January and on Saturday the 25th of January. You can book your place here.
My second embroidery pattern inspired by snow is a series of cross-stitch snowflakes. Or at least I think of them as snowflakes. However, as my ever-helpful husband pointed out, snowflakes have only six dendrites and these folksy patterns have eight. He thinks they are poinsettias instead of snowflakes. I just like them :). My kitchen windows were in need of some new decoration. And thanks to FiberTalk, linen banding is all the rage at the moment. However, I don't like to make things that gather dust; my hobby is embroidery, not cleaning :). BUT, I do like linen banding! So I decided to stitch these snowflakes/poinsettias onto pretty Vaupel & Heilenbeck 28 ct linen banding. If you follow the link, you can buy directly from these traditional high-quality German producers. They have a huge array of different linen bands and their website is in English.
For my window treatment, I used a vintage variegated DMC stranded cotton. The label says it is number 91. I embroidered one of the bands with three strands as that worked best on this 28 count linen. However, I did not have enough of the floss to do that with the second band too. Instead, I used only two strands. And it turned out fine too :). You can find this FREE cross-stitch pattern in the download section of my webshop! Single snowflakes/poinsettias would be lovely as ornaments for your Christmas tree!
Two weeks ago, I delivered the Pope to the Clerkenwell Gallery in London for the first-ever exhibition of the Society for Embroidered Work. It was the start of a fantastic, but exhausting week meeting lots of lovely people and seeing some fantastic embroidered pieces. The gallery space itself was wonderful with beautiful lighting and enough room on two levels for all our works to be beautifully exhibited. I did manage to make three videos:
I do apologize for the poor quality, but I hope you get an impression of the huge variety of works on display. Participating artists were: Cat Frampton, Emily Tull, Lou Baker, Edith Barton, Vivienne Beaumont, Rachel Brown, Rebecca Bruton, Stacey Chapman, Nancy Cole, Deborah Cooper, Claire Cooper-Walsh, Elizabeth Griffiths, Sarah Gwyer, Amanda Hartland, Catherine Hicks, Jacqueline Hockley, Sue Hotchkis, Sarah J. Hull, Aran Illingworth, Heidi Ingram, Lina Izan, Anne Kelly, Angela Knapp, Rowena Liley, Anna Liversidge, Marna Lunt, Christina MacDonald, Reena Makwana, Niki McDonald, Ellen Moon, Claire Mort, Lydia Needle, Sue Nicholls, Julia O'Connell, Vicky O'Leary, Frances Palgrave, Sharon Peoples, Yvette Phillips, Imogen Rhodes-Davies, Christine Rollitt, Holly Searle, Arlene Shawcross, Jo Smith, Sue Spence, Bridget Steel-Jessop, Sue Stone, Dionne Swift, Annie Taylor, Olga Teksheva, Kate Tume, Lilach Tzudkevich, Alison Wake, Maria Walker, Helen Walsh, Joan West, Alison Whateley and Holly Yates.
A huge thank-you to Cat Frampton and Emily Tull for all their hard work in curating such an incredible exhibition. Those two ladies put in their heart and soul to make it all a success. Let's hope we can pull off an exhibition at regular intervals around the world to promote stitched art as art!
When I was in Trento, Italy, a couple of weeks ago, I did also visit the Diocesan Museum. It houses an important and impressive collection of ecclesiastical art. The building itself is the old Praetorian Palace where the Prince-Bishops of Trento lived. From one of the rooms you can actually look down into the Cathedral. Quite a spectacular sight! Although the museum houses many exquisite works of art, my main concern where the embroidered vestments. There are a few very fine examples of medieval goldwork embroidery on display.
The most important pieces consist of a chasuble cross and five orphreys from a dalmatic (vestment worn by the deacon). The sublime silk and goldwork embroidery was executed between 1390 and 1400 in Bohemia. Now part of the Czech Republic, but then an important and independent kingdom ruled by the House of Luxembourg. Charles IV (1316-1378) became king of Bohemia and also Holy Roman Emperor in 1346. He is the founder of the Charles University in Prague, the first one in Central-Europe. This was Bohemia's Golden Age and it is thus no wonder that there were embroidery artists of this skill working within its borders.
The chasuble cross and the orphreys are part of the vestments made for Prince-Bishop Georg von Liechtenstein (reign 1390-1419). He was born in Moravia. Now part of the Czech Republic and bordering Bohemia. Since AD 955 it formed a union with Bohemia. It seems that Georg patronised local Bohemian/Moravian embroidery artists when he moved to Trento in AD 1390. But on the orphreys he had them tell a typical Tridentine story: the vita of Saint Vigilius of Trent. The patron saint and first bishop of Trento. I can see why he used his fellow countrymen to make these works of art: the style is rather distinctive. With friendly round faces and bodies. Once you pay attention, you can spot a Bohemian embroidery before reading the museum caption. Perhaps, similarly today, Czech and especially Czechlowakian postal stamps have a very distinctive style.
Also on display was a chasuble made of white linen and embroidered with silks. I've written an ebook on these particular vestments made in the 17th century in Tyrol. This particular piece isn't made with great skill :). But the patterns and the colours of the flowers are identical to the flowers on the chasuble from the Diocesan Museum of Brixen. However, the Museum in Trento dates the piece much later: first half of the 19th century. But also admits that not much is known about its provenance.
When Trento does not happen to be next door to where you live, the museum published two excellent books (in Italian I am afraid) on its textile collection:
Devoti, D., D. Digilio & D. Primerano, 1999. Vesti liturgiche e frammenti tessili nella raccolta del Museo Diocesano Tridentino, no ISBN. Officially out of print, but available second-hand when you ask Google :).
Primerano, D. 2011. Una storia a ricamo. La ricomposizione di un raro ciclo boemo di fine Trencento, ISBN 978-88-97372-02-8. Ask Google :).
Jessica M. Grimm
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