Lately, I've been asked repeatedly about re-stocking embroidery hoops made by Klass & Gessmann. For those of you who have never heard about Klass & Gessmann: they were a German company who probably made the best quality embroidery hoops and stands in the world. This is no exaggeration. The hoops and stands are very well made with a high finish. This means that they will probably last you a lifetime if you look after them properly. Other than, for instance, Elbesee, the hoops by Klass & Gessmann do not have any plastic parts. Just beautifully turned beech wood. They are really the Rolls Royce amongst the embroidery hoops and favourites with Mary Corbet (read Mary's review) and Yvette Stanton.
I've always stocked Elbesee hoops and changed relatively late to the Klass & Gessmann hoops. Why? Well, there's the price. You can have an Elbesee hoop with either clamp or seat frame for about €25. The Klass & Gessmann hoops start at €32,10 and €44,95 respectively. This is partly due to the fact that wages are higher in Germany than they are in the UK. But more importantly, this is due to the fact that the Klass & Gessmann hoops are so much better quality. When I used the Elbesee hoops during my workshops I host in my studio, they wouldn't last long. They lost their 'grip' and stability really quickly resulting in a hoop that 'drops'. Although I tell people to always loosen-up the wingnut screw before flipping the hoop to work on the back of their embroideries, who does so consistently? In contrast, the Klass & Gessmann hoops have so much 'friction' you can only flip the hoop without loosening-up when you use brute force. This reminds you to do use the screw :) and results in a hoop that lasts!
To my dismay, Klass & Gessmann was sold and moved to Bulgaria a couple of years ago. This seems to happen to all good quality companies that sell for a fair price and thus can't keep up with cheap competition in our throw away society. The new owners did not really stay in touch with us buyers. The website disappeared. Postage got up. The hoops became more expensive. Communication became troublesome as they did not speak German and only a little English. Due to all this, I had made the decision to stop stocking the Klass & Gessmann hoops. Especially as I was afraid that the quality might suffer due to the move to Bulgaria. Prejudice rearing its ugly head...
Then I hosted a workshop and people were asking me where to purchase a good embroidery hoop. By that time, I had only one Klass & Gessmann hoop left... High time to search for an alternative. Easier said than done. My search was unsuccessful. The best hoops out there are made by Klass & Gessmann, period. But as they no longer have a website, how does one contact them? I decided to use the last email address I had for them and see if they are still in business. Thank goodness they are! So I placed a large order and hoped for the best. When the hoops arrived last week, I was a little apprehensive: would they still be of the same high-quality? Luckily they were!
I've re-stocked my webshop with embroidery seat frames, embroidery hoops with table clamps and loose hoops on a stick that will go with either. They are available in six different sizes: 155 mm, 185 mm 215 mm, 250 mm, 275 mm and 305 mm. To celebrate the re-stocking of the 'best hoop in town', there is a 15% off coupon in this week's newsletter! No, I won't do coupons every week, but this is rather a special occasion and a big relief :).
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With the craft fair looming and my family descending upon us from tomorrow onwards, I thought that one blog post at the end of this week and none next week, will carry you all safely over till week 21 :)! Sincere apologies to those of you now in despair. Let's talk about mounting your finished embroideries properly and at the end of this post I'll introduce a 'new' embroidery hoop.
I finally finished a pretty cross stitch kit by Lanarte. This has been my 'easy-to-take-with-me' project for a long time. Not very complicated so that I could even politely converse with people whilst stitching. Ideal for those spare moments when you can just slip in a moment of tranquil stitching. Now, some of you will probably be surprised that 'somebody like me' still does cross stitch. Yup. And I love it! Especially something so lovely like these birds by Marjolein Bastin. I grew up with her magnificent nature drawings and her whimsical stories about Vera de Muis (Vera Mouse). Do check out her website.
But what to do with the finished embroidery? Well, eventually I want it as a framed picture on the wall. And since I have known myself for nearly 39 years, the fastest that is going to happen, is to mount it immediately. Fold it away into a drawer and it will probably be found by my niece and nephew when they clear mad-auntie Jessica's apartment in 2098.
So, I started with giving the finished embroidery a good hand-wash with Woolite, followed by a thorough rinse. I let it dry a bit and, whilst still damp, I ironed it face down on a towel. The fabric was not unlike Jobelan and thus not at all prone to wrinkles. Then I cut a piece of thick museum's quality mount board. In Germany, this is available online from Klug Conservation. Covered the mount board with a piece of thick wadding, then glued on calico, sow on my embroidery and finished the back with a backing fabric. The result now proudly sits on my bookshelf. Eventually it will get in the way. And since it does not fit into the afore mentioned drawer anymore, it will then be dropped off at the framers :). If you would like to know the ins and outs of properly mounting your finished embroidered masterpieces, then you'll find instructions for download here: English & German.
And last but not least: a newbie in my webshop! This beautifully crafted embroidery hoop with table clamp from Klass & Gessmann is the latest addition to my ever-growing array of high-quality embroidery tools. These frames are plastic-free and only have wooden and metal parts. And best of all, I now have the separate hoops on a stick back in stock. These hoops range from 15,5 cm to 30,5 cm and go with the Klass & Gessmann table clamps and seat frames also available. Personally, I think they are the Rolls Royce amongst the embroidery hoops!
A couple of months ago, I wrote about antique monogram stencils produced by Johann Merkenthaler. In the meantime, I started experimenting with using these stencils. First, I wanted to use some sort of water-based paint as was used originally. Although, you should be able to wash-out watercolours by Caran d'Ache, my experiments weren't satisfactory. When fresh, the marks do wash-out, but not after they have completely dried and are a few weeks old. Now, I am a fast stitcher, but you can't always predict how soon you will be able to finish a project! By the way, you can find my original blog about the stencils here; it includes a free download of an old Merkenthaler catalogue.
So, what to use? In comes the best invention since sliced bread: the aqua trick marker! I had thought of using a marker before, but dismissed it in my head as some of the lines in the stencils are soooooo tiny. However, I was getting desperate. Out came the marker, fine white linen, the stencil and some masking tape. But first things first, iron your linen flat until it resembles a sheet. Tape it onto a surface using masking tape. Position your stencil sheet and tape that too. Now you are all set to go! The stencil sheets are so waver-thin that you CAN easily trace those tiny lines with your marker. Remove the masking tape and the stencil.
One of the things you need to remember, is that these stencils mostly don't produce continuous lines. For reasons of stability, most elements produce an interrupted design line. I've marked some of the interruptions with red arrows in the left picture above. In comes your handy marker again! Look carefully at the original stencil and complete any breaks in the lines. It can take some getting used to in order to be able to read the design correctly. Especially with very elaborate and floral script. You can see the enhanced design in the right picture above.
And this is the embroidered design after rinsing. I used one strand of stranded cotton throughout. The initials are stitched using rows of stem stitch. The flower heads are made up of a central larger lazy daisy flanked by two smaller lazy daisies. The stem is also stitched in stem stitch and the leaves are satin stitch over a split stitch border. A pretty design just right for spring!
Want to stitch your own monogram using these antique stencils? Check out my webshop to see if I stock your monogram. Don't forget to not only check, say JG, but also GJ as that can often be used too. I also stock single letters. Fine linen, aquatrick markers and needles can also be found in my webshop. Looking forward to your order!
P.S. I've made some new beaded pendants. They are now available through my webshop! My flirt with Etsy wasn't a lasting one as it is really hard work to stand out from the crowd. I love my craft too much to spend most of my time behind a computer screen thinking up another flashy marketing strategy ;).
One of the perks of becoming a member of local artisan groups is that you learn of other master craft people living locally. Not only is this very inspiring for my own artistic development and discovering new ways of marketing my products, it also means that I can tap into a vast pool of makers. And they can, of course, make lovely embroidery tools.
These beautiful wooden thread spools are made by a local wood turning master. He used local timber and oiled the finished product. It results in an incredibly smooth surface with a nice touch. Each spool can store up to six different threads and each thread end can be secured into its own groove. A perfect way to stitch in style. You can order your spool here.
I am also in the process of changing suppliers for my embroidery hoops and stands. Germany has its own renowned company of masterly crafted embroidery hoops: Klass & Gessmann. They were started in 1877 and have kept the tradition going all these years.
From now on you will find their beautifully made wooden seat frame in my webshop. You can read a review of this seat frame on Mary Corbet's website. This particular seat frame is more sturdy than the previous one I sold and especially the hoop is deeper which will help with maintaining proper tension of the fabric. Over the months, as my old products sell out, I will add more of their sturdy and well-crafted embroidery hoops to my webshop. Equally, more products of the master craftsman will turn up too.
The coming week will be an exciting one as the first of a series of week-long embroidery courses will take place in my studio. You'll read all about it in next week's blog post.
Jessica M. Grimm
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