Last week I ran my last five-day embroidery workshop of the year. No worries, I'll run five more next year and you can find the dates here. Due to my trip to China, I had to move some students to this new date. I thus ended up with one person doing crewel embroidery, one person doing canvas and one person doing goldwork. And that was actually really nice and varied! Let's have a look at what the ladies worked on. Unfortunately, my good camera gave up the ghost in China, so I had to take these pictures with my phone. Today my good camera was returned to me all cleaned and with a brand new diaphragm. Can't wait to shoot with it again!
First up is Elena from Switzerland. She worked a design from an older RSN book. As she is originally from Russia, the copy of the book is in Russian too. Luckily for me, the names and sizes of the gold threads were not being translated. In the original design, the petals and leaves are coloured in with aquarelle pencils. We opted for silk appliques instead. Unfortunately, the picture does not really do justice to the very elegant feel of this design. I can't wait to see it when it is finished!
Anja L. worked a crewel embroidery design from a book by Hazel Blomkamp 'Crewel Twists'. It was her first encounter with embroidery since primary school. Getting to grips with the fact that this type of embroidery is not very productive, took some time. But she persisted and I think we have our latest convert! It will be lovely to see Anja develop her own style when she gains confidence in her own stitching abilities.
And then there was Anja D. from the Netherlands. She worked on her first canvas piece and really loved it. And so did we all! Once completely stitched, the beech trees will form a stark contrast with the beautiful autumn background. Instead of blending each colour shade in the needle, we opted for the variegated threads by House of Embroidery. This brand just happened to have such beautiful autumny colour combinations that it would have been a waste of time not to use them. Knowing Anja, we will soon see the finished piece appear in the student gallery (hint: her lovely blackwork woodpeckers are already up there!).
And last but not least, you can watch my talk on historical embroideries I held at the National Silk Museum last month. As the whole talk is being translated into Chinese, I really needed to stick to my text so as not to throw off my lovely translator Clover. Pretty quickly we established a good rhythm and the whole presentation went rather smoothly. Enjoy!
For those of you who didn't scroll to the bottom of last week's blog post or who missed the post altogether, I am going to talk a bit more about my new online embroidery classes. What will you get for your money and how do they work? But first things first. Currently, there are four online classes you can choose from: Goldwork, Crewel, Appenzell fine whitework and Schwalm embroidery (also a whitework technique, but this time counted). Below is a short video with a clip from each online class so you can really get a sense of what it is all about.
Apart from eight or nine instruction videos (depending on the technique you have chosen) you also receive a material pack with fabric, threads and needles. The shipping cost is already included in the class fee :). Don't forget to provide shipping details when booking a class!
Once you have placed your order and paid for a class, I will start assembling your material pack. I will also transfer the design for you onto the fabric. I will either use an aqua trick marker (Appenzell, Crewel & Schwalm) or a pencil (Goldwork). I will usually ship it the same day. Delivery times depend on where you are in the world, but as the kits are small and can be 'disguised' as a letter, it will be quick.
Immediately after checkout, you will also receive a download link for a PDF hand-out. The hand-out contains the access information for the instructional videos. But that's not all! You will also find useful background information and free online resources, a material list, the pattern and a stitch plan. So even if it takes a little while for your material to arrive, you have plenty to explore!
Once the material pack arrives, you can work through the videos at your own pace. Presently, I can guarantee access until 15-09-2019. That's when my Vimeo plan is up for renewal. Depending on how well these online classes are received, you might have access for much, much longer (fingers crossed!).
If you have questions or you get stuck during stitching the project, you can always contact me through email. And once you have finished the piece, I would love to receive a picture!
I hope this blog post has answered the questions you might have had regarding my online classes. If things are still unclear, please do leave a comment and I'll answer as soon as I can. You can book your online class here.
Jetlagged and with a nasty cold, but full of wonderful stories about my recent teaching trip to China, I sluggishly slump behind my laptop. To add insult to injury, my dearest coffee machine died on me when we got home from Beijing on Saturday night. I nearly killed someone this morning who carelessly suggested that I could easily survive on instant coffee until my beloved machine gets repaired... Let's talk of happier things, shall we!?
Packing my 24 days in China into one blog post might be a little too much :). Instead, I will write several posts in the coming weeks on my adventures in the far East. We'll start today with the actual teaching. I arrived a few days early in Shanghai and was picked up by Edith, a textile enthusiast from Hong Kong, who had organised the workshop. We immediately got on really well! We decided to take the bus to Hangzhou; my first taste of the excellent public transport services in China. After being dropped off in the centre of Hangzhou, we took a taxi to the hotel situated near the famous West Lake. As Bad Bayersoien - Hangzhou takes nearly 24 hours, I was ready to slip between the covers in my lovely hotel room.
After a delicious breakfast the next morning, we crossed the street to visit the National Silk Museum. The museum is quite large with several buildings housing different exhibitions related to silk. The buildings sit in a beautifully landscaped park. Exploring the ground floor of the silk road exhibition alone took me about two hours! In the afternoon, I decided to take a walk and explore the famous West Lake. As it was the weekend, many Chinese holiday makers had the same idea. The place is famous for getting your wedding pictures taken and the whole area is an important inland holiday destination. I ended up visiting a Buddhist temple, the tombs of some revolutionaries and ended with Jasmin tea overlooking the lake. As there where not many other Westerners, the Chinese looked upon me with great curiosity :).
On Sunday, we prepped the classroom for the workshop starting on Monday. I met my assistant and translator Clover who has studied weaving in London. She did a great job translating my English into Chinese during the workshop! And in between, we ate :). Not only breakfast was a treat, the local eateries were fabulous too! Me using chopsticks for the first time was hilarious and I must confess that I don't miss them...
On Monday, the teaching started. The group of students was very divers. I had museum staff, art teachers, fashion designers and even two craftsmen from Tibet. They were all very eager to start!
Although the official classroom was in the basement, we decided to use the lovely weather and stitched outside a lot. Sitting in front of an old sericulture farm was a favourite with all of us until the mosquitos found out about it too... We strung a line and hung up the result of the previous day to talk about the experience. I was very impressed with my students as most of them had finished their projects overnight! However, getting them to critique their work publicly or express their experiences with the particular embroidery technique, wasn't easy.
Other favourite stitching spots were the cafe...
...and the gallery of the fashion building. Those large windows were fantastic.
When teaching the goldwork leaf on Thursday, I discovered a mistake with the scale of the leaf. Oopsy! Time for a last-minute change: add some chipping to the original design and all was well again. It shows that no matter how well you prepare, mistakes can always happen. Adapt and carry on! We ended the day with a Chinese high-tea organised by the students. They had brought all sorts of delicacies for me to try. Yummy!
The schedule on Friday and Saturday changed a little. We had the opportunity to pair my talk on medieval embroidery with that of a local master embroiderer on Friday. We had all hoped that she would talk on the techniques she used in her embroideries or the thought process that went into them. Unfortunately, she didn't. It was more a sales talk. However, some of her work was really nice and unusual. It showed that she also experienced difficulties with branding her work as art.
My talk went really well. The museum did record it on video and as soon as I know where it is available, I will let you know. If it does not become available, I will put up the original presentation and let you know where to find that. However, it is much more fun to hear a Dutch person talk in English and have that translated into Chinese by Clover :).
As one afternoon of the original five-day workshop was high jacked by the presentations, we decided to meet again on Saturday morning (in the original plan I would have given my presentation on Saturday). I was completely blown away by the fact that quite a few students had completed all four projects! That's the best praise a teacher can get. It shows that they really enjoyed themselves and loved the tasks I had set them. Those six days were immensely gratifying and I really had a blast! Seeing people figuring things out and going on helping others is such a great experience. I really hope they can implement the things they have learned in one way or the other.
If you would like to work one or several of the projects I taught in China, all four are now available as online classes. Each project comes with a PDF download detailing how to get access to the instruction video. Furthermore, you'll receive a materials pack with everything needed to complete the project (fabric, threads and needles). Shipping costs are already included in the cost of the class. Choose from crewel embroidery, Schwalm embroidery, Appenzell fine whitework or goldwork embroidery. I truly hope that this format answers the prayers of those who have reminded me over the past years that they would love to do a class with me, but simply live too far away. If the new format proves to be popular, I will definitely come up with further classes! But for now, I am going to make myself a litre of bedtime tea in the hope that my jetlag can be persuaded to not wake me up at 3:00 am...
Before I am going to tell you what the above entails, I want to say a huge thank-you to all who responded to last week's blog post! There were some great suggestions and I was able to implement one straight away: I became a member of the Society for Embroidered Work by invitation. How cool is that? Do visit their website and follow the links to all the amazing embroidery artists on there! And one more laugh about the craft-tradition-art debate: I picked up the embroideries I had displayed at the Pilatushaus in Oberammergau. It is end of season and I didn't want them locked up until the spring. I was told by a fellow member of this organisation that nothing had sold. The reason given? I needed to understand that embroidery had no great tradition here... Strange! Only a few villages down the main road, I had just been told the previous week that I couldn't join the artist society BECAUSE embroidery had a strong craft tradition here!
Once a year, there is a textile fair not far from where I live. The buildings of the monastery of Benediktbeuern are filled with 140 textile related businesses. Always fun to have a walk around. Most is sooooo exclusive that it is way out of my budget, though. Each year me and my husband catch up with Thomas und Marianne Held who sell books on textiles. We met them one year in Osnabrück at Nadel & Faden where we were neighbours. They are such fun and generous people! This year I bought two books on textile collections held in Germany. Do visit their website as they really do have a great selection on hard to find second-hand books on textiles.
Apart from this happy re-union, I stumbled upon Christine Asböck of 77°Nord. She makes beautiful bracelets with something which looks like very fine pearl purl. I immediately fell in love with the pretty braid patterns and bought a bracelet. The combination of reindeer leather and silver thread is so classical. I watched Christine work on a new bracelet and was amazed that she braids first and then sews the whole braid down using very fine nylon thread. I also learned that this type of craft is called Tenntrådsbroderier or tin thread embroidery. It has been traditionally practiced by the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia as a winter craft to earn some extra money.
I was especially curious about this Tenntråd, which looks like pearl purl. It was easy to find a Swedish supplier and so I ordered a variety of silver plated, gilt and coloured threads in various thicknesses. Contrary to pearl purl, this thread has a textile core. It cannot be stretched like pearl purl. But it is still great fun! It can of course be used in the traditional way to make a braid and use it in goldwork embroidery. It can also be used as is in goldwork embroidery as a substitute for pearl purl. However, you would need to use the very fine nylon thread to be able to sew it down invisibly. You cannot pull the thread between the coils as the thread does not like to be stretched. As this particular supplier has a wide range of coloured thread, I am sure I will order some more in the future and get creative!
P.S. My teaching trip to China is fast approaching. This means I won't be able to ship any orders between 18th of October and the 11th of November. Anything ordered during this period will ship on the 12th of November.
Wow, where did the summer go? We had a lovely 26 degrees yesterday and only 6 this morning... We will even see the first night frost this week! Time to re-home my lovely flowering tropical plants from the balcony to the windowsill :). The cooler temperatures are also a perfect excuse to stay indoors and start a new embroidery project. As I really want to be recognised as an artist instead of a crafter, I need to start making original artwork again. For the past months, I have been thinking about a theme for my upcoming solo-exhibition in August 2019. I seem to be rather good at getting brilliant ideas in the middle of the night :). Luckily for me, I am pretty good at getting back to sleep after these nightly strokes of genius. My husband has a far harder time. After all, I have to tell someone, right?
I am planning to make a few embroidery pieces in the style of St. Laurence. Using 16th century goldwork embroidery techniques and artistic language. But addressing modern-day issues like immigration, climate change and consumerism. All unmistakably linked, by the way. First up is Pope Francis. Ever since his disarming 'Buona Sera', I have been fascinated by this man. But what probably fascinates me even more, is how we all seem to project our hopes and dreams on this one man. Francis should address climate change, the role of women, homosexuality, world peace etc. And 'pronto', please! The inconvenient truth however is, that one man, even when he is the pope, cannot accomplish this on his own. Are we willing to help him?
To show how our projections tend to make Pope Francis larger than life, I've given him a few extra arms. Like many Hindu Gods have. Two arms and hands form what is called the 'Kanzlerraute', the typical 'everything will be all right' posture Angela Merkel often shows. The background will be closely modelled after an orphrey from a chasuble made between AD 1520-1525 in the Northern Netherlands and now held at the Catharijne Convent under inventory number BMH t2911. I am very grateful for this museum to have given me free access to several high-resolution images of this magnificent piece.
That's all for now. I will spend the rest of the afternoon transferring the design onto 40ct natural linen by Zweigart using a normal lead pencil. This is the preferred way of transferring embroidery designs in the Late Medieval period.
P.S. This week's newsletter has a code of 15% off high-quality embroidery scissors by the German-based company DOVO. You can sign up for my newsletter in the right-hand column! You can read a review by Mary Corbet on these lovely scissors here.
Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the exhibition 'The embroidered Heaven' at the Church Heritage Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania. I also met with Lithuanian embroideress Agne Zemkajute. Discussing pieces in the exhibition with a kindred soul is pure bliss! And Agne proved to be a very knowledgeable guide and fellow cake eater :). As we both have a love of church textiles and love to recreate them, this was certainly not the last time we have met. For those of you not living within two hours flying time from Vilnius, I will try to pack this blog post as full as I can with impressions of the exhibition. And at the end of this lengthy post, I will pass on details of the lovely catalogue produced by the museum.
The exhibits were displayed chronologically from the Late Medieval period until the 20th century. Due to the fact that the Lithuanians were the last peoples in Europe to convert to Christianity in AD 1387, there aren't any really old vestments. And Lithuania's turbulent recent history with 100 years of Tsarist rule, two World Wars and the Soviet Occupation, didn't help in the preservation of what once has been there either. Nevertheless, there were two chasubles and a cope hood on display which dated to the Late Medieval period.
One of the Late Medieval chasubles was 'restored' using paint. Its iconography of saints sitting under an architectural arch is well-known from many other embroidered vestments and paintings dating to the same period.
There were many more chasubles and related vestments on display dating to the 17th century. Contrary to earlier vestments who told a biblical story, vestments from the Baroque period feature large floral motives and an excessive use of gold threads. The height of the padding on some of these pieces is mind-boggling! These vestments were meant to dazzle you and to clearly show you who held power.
Although I am not a fan of the Baroque period, I do admire the skill needed to produce these magnificent pieces of highly-padded goldwork embroidery. Today, this style of embroidery is still in use in the embroidery ateliers of Spain. One of the people teaching this type of embroidery and blogging about it, is Cristina Badillo.
Playful 18th century Rococo with its elegant floral motives is much more my cup of tea. Especially the cope displayed above. Does this not remind you of Jacobean crewel work? However, this is made with silk and silver passing thread. I have never come across a piece like this and I would love to hear from my readers if they know of a comparable piece. Agne and I discussed the piece at length as we can't quite discern how the flowers have been stitched.
In fact, we have so many questions about this piece that we will have no choice (how horrible!) than to try and recreate some of it. Just determining if it is best to stitch the silk before the metal threads or the other way around was just not possible from looking at the piece. We even took pictures if the blown-up detail pictures on display to get a grip on the stitching process...
This chasuble from c. 1909 reminds me of the chasubles made by Leo Peters, a Dutch artist, around that time. It has an Art Nouveau feel to it. And the padding underneath the figure of Jesus and the cross is just amazingly thick.
And I really liked this early 20th century piece as well. I don't remember seeing vestments using panels of needlepoint before. There is even some drawn-thread work in this one.
Apart from the many embroidered vestments on display in the exhibition, the museum also has a few vestments on permanent display. And, best of all, they have a large set of drawers on the organ gallery. Each drawer contains a vestment. They allow you to browse through them and have a good look at them without the hindrance of glass!
Please note: the exhibition 'The embroidered Heaven' will end on the 15th of September 2018. However, the Church Heritage Museum sells a wonderful catalogue, hard-bound, and with full-page detailed pictures of all the vestments held by the museum. Although the regular text is in Lithuanian, there is an excellent summary in English in the back. The catalogue has 222 pages and costs only €15. You can contact the museum here.
Last year I made a trip to the Benedictine abbey of St. Paul im Lavanttal, Austria. The abbey houses two important medieval vestments. The friendly monk on duty was happy for me to take pictures without flash. Unfortunately, upon returning home, the first 30 or so pictures were lost during the transfer from my camera to my computer. Luckily, I am going to visit these beauties again in the next couple of days! And, as only the first pictures were lost, I can introduce you to the younger of the two pieces: a beautiful cope from the 13th century.
Although these pieces are now housed in an abbey in Austria, they were originally made for the Benedictine abbey of St. Blaise in the Black Forest (Germany). During the dissolution of the monasteries in Bavaria in 1806, the abbot moved his convent and the treasure to St. Paul im Lavanttal and thus preserved them. Amongst the treasure were three medieval vestments: a cope from the 12th century (now in St. Paul), a cope from the 13th century (also in St. Paul) and a chasuble from the 13th century (now in the Österreichische Museum für angewandte Kunst in Vienna).
The cope from the 13th century is stitched with silks and gold threads. The main stitches used on the cope are long-armed cross-stitch and brick stitch for the silk and underside couching for the gold threads. However, details are also worked in other surface stitches like chain stitch and split stitch. The silk used for the brick stitch is untwisted, but looks softly twisted and thicker for the long-armed cross-stitch. Originally, no linen background fabric showed; the whole cope was covered in stitches! During conservation, it became clear that the cope had been sown together from loom-width strips of linen before the stitching commenced.
Depicted on the cope are the hagiographies (legends of the saints) of St. Blaise on the one side and St. Vincent of Saragossa on the other. Both saints were the patron saints of the abbey church. Scenes of the hagiographies are depicted as medallions as would have been the norm for stained glass windows in the 13th century. Each scene is accompanied by a few words to aid identification.
There are two possibilities regarding the maker of this excellent piece of medieval embroidery in the 13th century. It is quite possible that the cope was stitched by the monks of the abbey of St. Blaise. But it is equally possible that this cope was stitched at a professional workshop. Either way, it is highly likely that the person who made this was a man rather than a woman. A fact I love to "share" with male visitors to the Pilatushaus who exclaim that my stitching is a "mere female past-time they are thus not interested in" :).
Who provided the capital needed to produce these 'top-end' liturgical vestments? The St. Blaise abbey belonged to a reform movement in the Benedictine tradition. A movement highly endorsed by the nobility. Not only were many of the monks of noble birth, but noble families would endow the abbey with cash, lands, rights and works of art. These vestments were far costlier than the golden monstrance on the altar. Not only were the materials needed to stitch one quite costly, the countless man hours invested made the end-result VERY expensive. Another 'fun fact' for my visitors at the Pilatushaus who exclaim that the price tag on St. Laurence means the piece is unaffordable. I pleasantly inform them that in the Middle Ages they, as the commoners they are, would not have come this close to such a work of art :). Oh, you should see their faces! Truly priceless :).
If you are ever in the area, do visit St. Paul! They have many embroidered liturgical vestments on display. Everything is quite well lit so that intricate details are visible. Essays on the art historical background of the pieces and the conservation of two of the three pieces can be found in: Braunsteiner, M. & H. Kaindl (1998): Historische Textilien aus dem Sakralbereich (=Schriften zur Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte des Benediktinerstiftes Admont, Band VII), ISBN 3-901810-02-1.
Before I am going to feed you with some more embroidery eye-candy, I want to thank all readers who commented on last week's blog post. It seems to be that it is indeed possible to create these pieces on a loom and work the ends in. A picture of a woman weaving such a particular piece was posted on this topic in Mary Corbet's Facebook group. Equally, a comment with a link to a Swedish blog showed a similar piece being made on an embroidery frame. Pieces like these can thus be created by weaving or by pattern darning. That's fascinating, don't you think?
On a different note: I became a shipment of House of Embroidery perle, silk, stranded cotton and silk ribbon today! I've stocked up the webshop and almost all colours are back in stock. If you were waiting for a particular colour, grab it before it is gone again :).
And just one final shout out before we go back to Crete: I am participating in an art exhibition next weekend. Please come and visit me at Marion Werner's Studio in Steingaden. The exhibition is open on Saturday 12th of May 13-19h and Sunday 13th of May 11-19h. Entry is free and there is cake and coffee too!
One of the best places to find beautifully presented embroidery, is in the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion (www.historical-museum.gr/eng/). There is a small display of richly decorated Orthodox vestments. These were made at the Asomaton Monastery and look similar to the ones from the Monastery of Arkadi. Do you see the fine embroidered lettering running vertically along the embroidery on the left? That's where it says who made this particular piece. In this case: 'the present was restored by the monk Methodios and the deacon Anthimos on the 1st of October 1854. The patron was Abbot Joseph'.
And then there is a whole floor (!) dedicated to the ethnographic collection. And oh joy, that is mainly textiles! The pieces themselves where lovingly displayed. But the main advantage were the detailed descriptions about them in English. The pieces were grouped according to life's rituals: religious holidays, marriage, birth, death, etc. Such a joy to read about the different textiles and their context of use! Seldom seen such a well-made exhibition. Here are some of the beautifully embroidered pieces:
A richly embroidered towel, probably from Ierapetra.
There were many examples of Ottoman-style embroidery and of Cretan embroidery.
And last but not least, I found the above text very moving and much in line with my own drive.
Are you ready for another trip to beautiful Crete? This time we are going to visit the Monastery of Arkadi. This place is famous for one of the many tragedies which befell the island during Ottoman rule. In 1866, 943 Greeks, mainly women and children, had sought refuge at the Monastery. After three days of fierce battle with the Turks, they decided to rather kill themselves by igniting barrels of gunpowder, than to fell into the hands of the Turks. It is quite impressive to walk into the ruined gunpowder magazine. You can read more about the tragedy and the monastery's history here. Not mentioned anywhere, the monastery used to house a famous workshop for the embroidery of ecclesiastical textiles for the Greek Orthodox church! And these beauties have recently returned to Arkadi. Freshly conserved and beautifully presented. Officially, you are not allowed to take pictures. However, I explained to the guard that I am an embroideress myself and that I re-create historical vestments. It was then ok for me to take as many pictures as I liked!
But first things first. The embroidered vestments of the Orthodox Church are very different from the ones we are used to in the West. We mainly have chasubles, copes and dalmatics, they have epigonation (rhomboid piece of luxurious material suspended from the waist at knee-level), epimanikia (detachable cuffs used to bind the wide sleeves of lower vestments), epitrachelion (stole), orarion (narrow band of cloth wound around the upper body of the deacon) and phaelonion (chasuble) with polos (medallion applique sewn onto other vestments). Yes, that's all Greek to me too :). Secondly, these vestments date to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Thirdly, the monks who made them, signed their work. How amazing is that?
The style of the embroideries and the techniques used, differ from Western European goldwork embroidery of the same period. But there are parallels. Especially the use of floral motives is seen in both traditions in this period. Apparently, the use of padding is also a Western influence as the Byzantine tradition does not make use of it. Apart from fine gold and silver threads, the embroiderers also used semi-precious stones and silk in their embroideries. Crimson silk was preferred for the background. Faces were stitched by appliqueing a lighter silk and subtly stitching facial features on top.
Moni Arkadi is well worth a visit for embroidery enthusiasts! The embroideries are well displayed in good light and have excellent caption texts in Greek and English. Besides, there are larger texts on the recent conservation and style of the embroideries. And best of all: the museum shop sells a booklet on the matter! The booklet is in Greek, English and German and has pictures and descriptions of all the embroideries on display, with a basic introduction. Pictures are ok, but not always splendid and the booklet is a little outdated regarding the current display. However, it is a good booklet for reference and at €3,00 it won't break the bank for most of us. The title is: Drandakis, N.V., 2000: Ecclesiastical embroidery at the monastery of Arkadi, ISBN: 960-86722-0-1.
P.S. If you liked my blog post on the embroideries of Moni Arkadi then please consider making a donation! Unfortunately, implementing the new GDPR regulations regarding European Data Privacy has doubled the costs of running this website as I needed to get legal advice.
P.P.S. If you run a website, blog, Etsy store or the like and you have visitors from Europe, you better read up on the matter too. Legally, it does NOT make a difference if you run these things as a hobby or you make money from them. As soon as you register your European visitors in any way or shape (think statistics, IP addresses, sign-up forms, blog comment sections, social media icons etc.), you are bound by the new regulations which take effect on May the 25th 2018. For instance, if you use MailChimp to send your newsletter, you'll need to sign a paper contract with them regarding data privacy and mail it back to them. If you want an idea of what is required, do click here to see my new policies which hopefully cover my back. They are not complete yet, but I am working on it!
Since St. Laurence was grilled to death, I thought the above a fitting blog post title. After almost two years of on and of working on this goldwork piece, St. Laurence can finally be revealed in all his glory. The piece is a near perfect copy of the orphrey held under catalogue number ABM t2107h at the Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht in the Netherlands. The original orphrey was made between AD 1520-1525 and measures c. 28.5 x 17 cm. I have covered this project in earlier blog posts too, in case you'll want to read the whole story.
Above on the left the original museum piece and on the right my version. However, last time you saw the piece, I was still working on the background. So let's explore how I assembled all the different pieces.
Apart from the background and St. Laurence, I also worked both columns and the ceiling keystone on the same Zweigart 40ct natural linen. I worked his bbq separately in a small embroidery hoop on a piece of calico. It is in essence a wired slip filled with silver plated Japanese Thread #8. Cutting away the calico between the bars, was challenging! So I used a dark brown textile paint marker to stain the remaining calico fibres.
Then it was time to cut out St. Laurence, the keystone and both columns. I took the whole piece of the slate frame and redressed it only with the background. As you can see in the picture above, I cut the other items out with a bit of a seam allowance. I folded the seam under and laced the back. This worked particularly well for the straight columns. It was less successful for the keystone and proved impossible for St. Laurence himself. So...., I used conservation glue. And it worked a treat! Since you only want the seam to stay put as long as you are appliqueing, you don't need huge amounts of glue, i.e. you are not soaking your embroidered fabric.
Before I attached any of the elements, I made sure my fabric wasn't drum taut. I started with the keystone, then did the left-hand column, then St. Laurence and then the right-hand column. Although I worked my background a little further than needed so it would go under St. Laurence, the fit wasn't perfect on all sides. I figure this is due to the whole piece being worked on a drum taut slate frame and once you release this tension completely, your elements shrink a bit. Note to self: work the background more generously on the next piece!
Appliqueing the elements onto the background was rather straight forward. As you can see in the above picture, I pinned the element in place and then couched around the edge with matching silks. Only for the columns, I used a different method. I noted that my long vertical rows of tightly packed Japanese thread gaped when couched down at the edges. Instead, I sew in a straight line between the last and the before last row of Japanese thread.
With all elements couched down, it was time to add the dark brown edging around all the elements. It adds a sense of depth to an otherwise near flat piece of embroidery. I used four to six strands of a dark brown silk perle. They were offcuts from a weaving project by a fellow local artisan. Don't you love it when you can recycle things?!
My original plan was to mount the goldwork first and then applique it onto the green chasuble fabric. This would support the heavy gold embroidery better. However, I didn't like it one bit. The embroidery was too high up from the fabric for my taste. As I have worked this piece mainly during demonstrations, it did mean that I hadn't been as accurate as I would have wished. The piece is 1,5 linen threads too high on the top left and 1,5 threads too short on the lower right side. This happens when you chat to people and/or work in improper light. No worries, I can perfectly live with these minor discrepancies! However, it did mean that my initial mounting had to go.
I ended up cutting out the whole orphrey with a seam allowance and couching it in place directly onto the green chasuble fabric. It worked a treat! As it should have done, since my medieval counterparts did it the same way. With the orphrey in place, I couched a gilt Twist #3 and a large gilt Roccoco around the edge to hide most of the linen background fabric. Today I mounted the whole piece and weather permitting, will bring it to the framer's tomorrow.
Working on this project certainly had its challenges, but I loved it immensely! During demonstrations and through this blog people from all over the world were able to follow the process. I will certainly make another one in the future! But for now, I can't stop looking at my achievement and enjoy this splendid piece :).
Jessica M. Grimm
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