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 five 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 :).
Some of you will know that I don't have a tv. Instead, I watch interesting documentaries (and highly necessary series like 'The Great British Bake Off`) directly on my laptop. One of my favourite channels is 'Arte' a French-German co-production. During this weekend's browse, I found a five-part series on the artisan production of fabric in Asia. Very beautiful and informative! The one on India zooms in on an embroidery atelier in Mumbai directed by the Italian professional embroiderer Maximiliano Modesti. He employs 600 embroiderers. All male, 98% muslim. Women do embroider, but not in a professional setting. This made me wonder how things were done in the 15th and 16th centuries in the Low Countries? After all, my favourite style of goldwork embroidery that I use as a basis for my artwork was made during this time. Would master embroiderer Jacob van Malborch have employed me if I had also lived in Utrecht in the first quarter of the 16th century?
Someone who has done extensive research during the '80s and '90s into the organisation of professional embroiderers during the late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Times in the Low Countries is Prof. Dr. Saskia de Bodt. She extended and corrected the earlier attempts of Dr. Beatrice Jansen executed some 40 years earlier. In more recent years, art historian Dr. Marike van Roon researched the Dutch embroidery ateliers active between 1830-1965 extensively. As far as I know, more recent research into the role and organisation of medieval embroiderers is not available for the Low Countries. Note: It seems that the above-named scholars started their careers researching embroidery, but soon gave up in favour of more 'real' art history like 19th-century paintings or ceramics. Even in research, embroidery seems to have an image problem ...
After going through many written sources such as the financial records of churches and towns, baptism records, marriage registers and death records from the 15th- 17th century located in the Northern Netherlands, Saskia de Bodt concludes that the professional embroiderer was a man. Only the men, like Jacob van Malborch and many others, are named. If a woman does show up in the records it is not under her own name but only as huysvrou van (housewife of) followed by the name of the master embroiderer. However, women were not explicitly excluded from the guild either. On the contrary. When the embroiderers of Utrecht formed their own guild in 1610, the guild ordinance speaks of meestersschen (female masters). The guild of embroiderers in Leeuwarden probably only consisted of men as the ordinance only mentions meesters and inwoonderssonen (masters and sons of poorters). But in Dordrecht, the embroiderers split from the St. Luke guild in 1487 as a result of a feud between the women ...
So would master Jacob van Malborch have taken me on as an apprentice? Possibly. Would someone have written down my name? Certainly not in the Low Countries. Female embroiderers are known from the written sources in other European countries. So I could have learned the ropes with master Jacob and then, after fretting over not making it into the written record, emigrate to Cologne or over the seas to England. But that's stuff for a further blog post.
Bodt, S.F.M. de, 1991. Borduurwerkers aan het werk voor de Utrechtse kapittel- en parochiekerken 1500-1580, Oud Holland 105, pp. 1-31.
Bodt, S.F.M. de, 1987. De professionele borduurwerkers. In: S.F.M. de Bodt, M.L. Caron et al, Schilderen met gouddraad en zijde, Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht.
Jansen, B., 1948. Laat Gotisch borduurwerk in Nederland, Boucher.
Last week I was finally able to visit this magnificent embroidery exhibition in the Castello Buonconsiglio in Trento, Italy. It is on until the third of November and I urge you to visit if at all possible as it is as important as the Dutch exhibition in Utrecht in 2015 or the Opus Anglicanum exhibition in London in 2016. And yes there is a wonderful catalogue, but just as the Dutch did, the Italians thought it a brilliant idea to publish the scientific papers on these extraordinary pieces in their own language. At 423 pages, it will take me aeons to translate ...However, it is packed full with stunning pictures of the embroidery. Including many close-ups. Together with the 400+ pictures I took during my three-hour visit, it will be a treasure trove for years to come! You will hopefully understand that I can't publish all the 400+ pictures in this one blog post. Instead, I will concentrate on three (well actually four) extraordinary pieces that were on display.
First up is a chasuble made in the middle of the 15th century in Venice. Why did I pick this particular one to show you? If you are used to the orphreys from the Low Countries, these Venetian examples look very different. They show the same main principle: saint in front of some fancy architecture. But the embroidery techniques used are somewhat different. The examples from the Low Countries use much more gold thread for the architectural backgrounds. And their linen background is fully covered with embroidery. Not so in this piece: the background is stitched on green silk. They look airy and light; a typical sign of the art of the Renaissance. The examples from the Low Countries are in comparison much stiffer and heavy.
The figures themselves are also embroidered in a different way than the majority of the pieces from the Low Countries. As in the Low Countries, the figures are embroidered onto a linen base. However, the embroidery technique used is a form of shaded laid-work using untwisted coloured silk for the undergarments. Simple couching of pairs of fine passing thread for the cloak and fine silk shading for the faces and hands. The figures in the orphreys from the Low Countries are mainly done in splendid or nue. Unfortunately, the stiffness of the linen base in comparison to the lightness of the green silk makes the piece pucker. Not easy to photograph!
Most incredibly, this chasuble is still worn every 3rd of May on the feast of the Apostles Philip and James!
Next up is an example of a chasuble which fascinates me hugely. This is serious stumpwork made at the start of the 16th century somewhere in the German-speaking parts of Central Europe. You come across this type regularly in this part of the world (there are in fact two more in the exhibition), but this is an exceptionally stunning piece with highly sculptured figures. The faces are incredible! And look at Jesus's curly hair.
A theory put forward by Aleth Lorne (2015, p. 99-102) to explain these highly sculptural pieces is that the embroiderers and the woodcarvers in the German-speaking parts of Central Europe influenced each other in their search for the three-dimensional rendition of the world. Both craftsmen were often part of the same guild and probably used the same designs made by yet another craftsman. These pieces were so well-known that they are recognisably depicted on paintings from the same period, but not necessarily from the same area. People were clearly fascinated by these pieces. Particularly good examples further adorned with thousands of fresh-water pearls can be seen in the treasury of the Basilica of Mariazell in Austria.
There is just one thing about this chasuble which I do not understand. See the bottom? Someone brutally cut through Saint Joachim when the taste in chasuble shapes changed from wide to a violin-case. This probably happened in the 17th century (Stolleis 2001, p. 29). I hope the scissors wore out :).
And last but not least, I am going to show you two dalmatics (vestments worn by the deacon) made in the Netherlands at the start of the 16th century. These new acquisitions by the museum lead to this exquisite exhibition. They are displayed in the last room together with three other chasubles. And the best thing is: they are not behind glass! You can get up close and personal with them :). The orphreys on these dalmatics are of the typical type seen on vestments from the Low Countries from this era (you now clearly see the difference with the first chasuble I showed you which was made in Venice). Completely covered in embroidery and featuring beautiful or nue on the figures. The pieces are quite similar to the vestments made for David of Burgundy, bishop of Utrecht in the 15th century. They are in fact so similar that I for a moment thought that they were the ones made for David.
The vestments made for David were probably embroidered by an atelier in Utrecht. These slightly later dalmatics could either be embroidered in Amsterdam or indeed Utrecht. I got the giggles when I saw that the museum Castello Bonconsiglio thinks that Amsterdam and Utrecht are situated in Flanders. Not quite. But close :).
Dal Pra, L., M. Carmignani & P. Peri (2019): Fili d'oro e dipinti di seta. Velluti e ricami tra Gotico e Rinascimento. Castello del Buonconsiglio.
Lorne, A. (2015): Borduurwerkers en beeldhouwers in de Nederlanden en het Rijnland in de late Middeleeuwen. In: M. Leeflang & K. van Schooten, Middeleeuwse borduurkunst uit de Nederlanden, Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht, pp. 95-103.
Stoleis, K. (2001): Messgewänder aus deutschen Kirchenschätzen vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, Regensburg.
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In time for the official start of autumn, I present to you my latest embroidery kit and accompanying classes! It has been quite a while since I offered a new embroidery kit or indeed day-classes. Mainly because there were so many other exciting things going on in my embroidery life. However, one of the things I was asked by quite a few people, who came to my exhibition in August, was if I could offer day-classes again. I heard you and I listened (some will say this is rare, so take advantage!). And since these requests were mainly uttered by embroidery novices, I thought it a good idea to start with something not too complicated. Something remotely related to the well-known and beloved cross-stitch: needlepoint, also known as canvaswork or tapisserie in both German and Dutch.
Many of you will know that in this part of the world cross-stitch is by far the most popular form of embroidery. And that's okay! I love to do cross-stitch myself. In fact, I have several cross-stitch projects on the go. They usually don't require as much concentration as my other embroidery projects. And they are usually small enough to get out when travelling or sitting with company. They are just perfect for that! As are small needlepoint/canvaswork/tapisserie projects. Unfortunately, unlike in the US where they are hugely popular, they have a far harder time in this part of the world. Mainly because they are perceived as being not refined enough. I tried for years to warm my students to the type of canvaswork taught at the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) with little success. However, those who took a course became as hooked as I became after my first encounter with this technique at the RSN.
Since the main remark regarding traditional canvaswork on 18 TPI antique canvas was that it is not fine enough and therefore not pleasing to the eye, I needed to shrink it. How about using Zweigart 40 ct natural linen and hand-dyed silk threads? People love the background of 'On the shores of St. Nick' and are surprised to find out that these are indeed canvaswork filling stitches worked in fine silks. As an added bonus they get to work with various speciality threads. Something which blew my mind when I visited the US in 2012 and entered a needlework shop where the walls were covered in whole series of speciality threads. IF you are able to find a needlework shop in Germany or the Netherlands these days, you are very lucky if they carry at least some DMC/Anchor perle alongside the stranded cotton. Finding any silk threads in the wild is very rare indeed.
And since everything just becomes better when you add some sparkly beads; I added some sparkly beads :). The finished design measures only 8,7 cms square. That's pretty refined me thinks!
The whole kit is packaged in such a way that it can be shipped worldwide in an all-paper padded envelope. Over the past years I have tried to minimise packaging materials and the use of plastics. My website now proudly sports the green badge by BioBiene, my German packaging supplier. However, I sometimes need to use plastics. Mainly because the goods are delivered to me in plastics. It doesn't make sense to re-package them in paper. Or the bio-plastic bags I use. I bought a large amount of them years ago when they were marketed as the 'green' alternative to oil-based plastics. They are not. I now know that and will switch to a paper-based alternative once these are out. Although I do enjoy luxury packaged embroidery kits, I feel switching to minimal packaging is the way to go to do my bit for a greener future.
As the last of the threads going into this kit are going to arrive in the next few days (the boys and girls at the customs office in Weilheim are playing with them at the moment), you can pre-order your kit here. The instructions in either English, German or Dutch are available for direct download. Once your payment has come through, you will receive an email confirmation with a download link. As soon as the last threads arrive, I will ship the materials to you. The kit costs €30 and INCLUDES worldwide shipping. Would you rather like to stitch this design as part of a day-class? Then sign-up here for Saturday 5th of October or Tuesday 5th of November. Classes run from 10h till 16h and cost €80. This includes materials, coffee/tea and lunch.
Let's see how many of you I can tempt into giving needlepoint/canvaswork/tapisserie a go!
Jessica M. Grimm
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